Main Line Kitchen Design
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3) Kitchen Cabinet Comparison Posts

The cabinets you choose will bring out character and warmth in your kitchen while also providing essential functionality. Learn more about what to look for and what to look out for when shopping cabinets.

Main Line Kitchen ranks the best selling cabinets in the US

All the designers that gave us input on the cabinet lines below have greater than 20 years experience in our industry. When possible all construction specifics were double checked on the web sites for each cabinet line.

Main Line kitchen design acknowledges that we are dealers for the following cabinet lines: Wellsford, Bishop, Brighton, Fabuwood, 6 Square, and CNC.  We could be prejudiced towards ranking these lines more favorably, but we have tried to be impartial. However, since the cabinet lines we carry were chosen specifically for their construction quality and value, our ranking them well should not be a surprise. 

Below is our comprehensive list of the top selling cabinet manufacturers in the United States and how they rank for construction quality and  for value considering the price point of each cabinet line. Price point is rated from 1 to 6 with 6 being the most expensive cabinetry on the market.

 

We rate cabinetry assuming each line is upgraded to the top level of construction available. A grade of A for construction quality will not be equal across different price levels, as the more expensive price point cabinets will have far nicer finishes and construction options.

 

The value grade we give is not a rating about the quality of the cabinetry but a rating of how good an investment a cabinet line is considering it’s cost. For example, many of the most expensive well made cabinet lines receive lover marks on value even though as designers we think the cabinetry is the best in it’s class. These lines receive lower grades on value simply because there are competitors offering the same quality at slightly lower prices.

 

Note: The highest grade for Quality in any frameless European style cabinet line is a B. While frameless cabinetry is easier to access and is sleeker looking, it is also less durable than the best made framed cabinetry.

 

FOR PEOPLE OUTSIDE OUR SERVICE AREA OF WITHIN A TWO HOUR DRIVE OF OUR BALA CYNWYD PENNSYLVANIA OFFICE, BELOW IS A LINK TO RECOMMENDED DEALERS IN OTHER AREAS. GOOD DEALERS CLOSE TO YOU CAN BETTER ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT’S AVAILABLE IN YOUR AREA:

https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/recommended-kitchen-designers-cabinet-dealers-outside-service-area/

 

Cabinet line                   Price level 1-6     Quality     Value
6 Square 2 B+ B+
American Woodmark 3 B C+
Aristocraft 2 C C
Bertch 4 A A-
Bishop 4 A A-
Bishop Frameless 5 B B+
Bremtown 6 A+ C
Brighton 4 A A+
Brookhaven 4 A B
Cabico 4 B B
Candlelight 4 A A
Canyon Creek 3 B B
CNC 1 B+ A
Collier 5 A B-
Crystal 5 A+ A
Decora 4 A A
Design-Craft 4 B B
Diamond 4 B B
Durasupreme 5 B+ B
Durasupreme frameless 3 C C
(Omega)Dynasty Frameless 4 B C
(Omega)Dynasty Pinnacle Framed 5 A B
Fabuwood 2 A A
Fabuwood Frameless 3 B A+
Fieldstone 4 A B+
Grabill 6 A+ B
Haas 3 B B
Hanssem 1 ? C
Homecrest 3 B+ B
IKEA (frameless) 1 C C
Innermost framelss 3 B B
Kabinart 3 D D
Kemper 3 B C
Kitchencraft Frameless 3 C B
Kith 3 B+ C+
Kountry Kraft framed 6 A B
Kountry Kraft frameless 6 B B
Kraftmaid 4 B+ A
Legacy 3 B+ C-
LifeArt 1 C+ A
Marsh 2 B+ B
Medallion 5 B+ C+
Merillat 2 C D
Mid Continent 2 C C
Mouser 5 A A-
Mouser Frameless 5 B A
Ovation 4 B C
Plain and Fancy 6 A B
Poggenpohl frameless 6 B C
QuakerMaid frameless 4 B B
Rutt 6 A+ A
Schrock 3 B B
Schuler 5 B+ C+
Shenandoah 3 B C+
Shiloh 4 C C
Showplace 3 B+ B-
Solid Wood Cabinets 1 A A
Starmark 4 A B+
Thomasville* 4 B- C-
Timberlake 3 B C+
Ultracraft Frameless 2 C C
Village 5 A A
Waypoint 2 B B
Wellborn 4 A A
Wellsford 5 A+ A+
Wolf 1 B+ B+
Woodharbor 4 B+ C
Woodmode 5 A A-
Yorktowne 3 C D

* Note: Home Depot can change who manufactures this line although Masterbrands has been manufacturing the line under the Thomasville name for over ten years.

 

Remember that choosing the designer, the cabinet dealer, and the installer you are working with is just as important as the cabinet line.

The updated rankings for these cabinet lines and an additional 30 popular cabinet lines are included in our

Cabinet Rankings for 2018  

The link below is to a more general review of cabinetry from 2015 explaining types of cabinetry construction:

https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/2015-popular-kitchen-cabinetry-brand-comparison/

 

Hoping you make all the right choices . . . .

and of course . . .

Bon Appetit!

Main Line Kitchen Design

Paul, John, Stacia, Ed, Tom, and Julie

 

 

 

Main Line Kitchen Design compares Kitchen Cabinetry Brands Circa 2015

 

 

There are two basic ways cabinetry is made. Cabinets can be Framed Construction or Frameless Construction also called European or Easy Access Construction.

Frameless Construction

Framed Cabinet Construction

 

Almost all frameless cabinetry is made similarly with either a 3/4″ thick plywood or particleboard box.  A plywood box is superior construction wise but will not work with some of the high gloss laminate and foil finishes that are popular in the European style cabinetry. With these finishes only particleboard sides are possible.

 

Knowledgeable cabinet professionals usually agree on a few things. First, that the more streamline frameless cabinetry looks better with modern door styles because of how close the drawers and doors are. This is due to how the European hinges operate. Second that Traditional and Shaker style doors look equally well in both framed and frameless cabinet lines. And thirdly, that a well made framed cabinet is a much more durable cabinet.

Example of a Frameless Kitchen

Example of Framed Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a framed cabinet the frame holds the cabinet box square and each solid wood cabinet front is screwed to the ones next to them adding considerable strength.  Also the hinges and drawers are attached to solid wood in framed cabinetry as opposed to the particle board in most frameless lines.  A well made framed cabinet will last almost forever and simply become scratched and possibly out of fashion with the passing years.  Frameless lines require designers to consider the frameless cabinetry’s construction limitations  and to keep door widths and drawer widths to a minimum to avoid undue stress on the cabinetry. Even designing this way, the average lifespan of a well made frameless line is probably 20 years, especially if you are hard on things in general.

 

With frameless cabinetry lines since the construction is nearly identical from line to line the construction quality difference between each European line is negligible.  Expensive lines will have better drawer options but if the drawers are upgraded to at least a solid wood box and blumotion tracks the longevity of each cabinet line will be very similar whether you are buying inexpensive IKEA or very expensive Poggenpohl cabinetry.

 

Popular frameless cabinetry lines are:

IKEA, KitchenCraft,  Poggenpohl, Merit Kitchens, Pedini, UltraCraft Cabinetry. Design-Craft and most Merillat and Omega styles. The majority of the cabinetry coming from Europe and Canada is frameless.

 

All Main Line Kitchen Design’s frameless cabinetry is upgraded to the best construction possible. Frameless construction is available in our Bishop, Wellsford and Fabuwood cabinetry lines.

 

With framed cabinetry there are many variations in construction. To make framed cabinetry durably you need several construction minimums or the construction advantages of a framed cabinet are lost. Cabinet fronts are always 3/4″ solid wood. All plywood box construction is far better than having any particle board. Cabinet sides, tops and bottoms must be at least 1/2″ thick. Base cabinets can have plywood tops or I beam construction.  Drawer tracks should always be upgraded to either Blum’s Blumotion tracks or the equivalent and drawer boxes should be solid wood dovetail drawers with a captured plywood bottom. Soft close doors are a nice feature as well as full depth shelves.

 

Main Line Kitchen Design only sells cabinetry with all these features. Our framed cabinetry brands include Fabuwood, 6 Square, Bishop, Brighton and Wellsford.

 

Berwyn PA Kitchen after

Berwyn PA Kitchen after

 

Even some more expensive framed cabinet lines will need to be upgraded to this minimum level of construction quality. Examples of more expensive lines that need to have their construction upgraded to meet these minimums are DuraSupreme and Medallion. Often if you can’t find out on a cabinet company’s web site how the cabinets are constructed it is because they don’t meet these minimums. A company’s web site might highlight their cabinetry being green, carb compliant, or American made but if they are avoiding showing you how the cabinetry is constructed watch out!

 

One of the largest cabinet distributors in the United States is MasterBrand Cabinets. Up until a couple of years ago all of the popular lines that they carried with the exception of their Decora line fell short on construction quality. They have since upgraded about half of their lines.

 

The popular framed cabinet lines below CAN NOT be upgraded to this level and DO NOT meet these minimums:

Yorketown, Aristocraft, Armstrong Cabinets, Showplace Cabinetry, Marsh, and Mid Continent Cabinetry.

 

Many builders use these lower quality lines as the standard cabinetry in their homes. The added cost for better made cabinetry is usually no more than 10%. When a builder uses these inferior lines I wonder where else they are cutting corners.

 

One important fact that consumers should be aware of is that both Consumer Reports and JD Power publish inaccurate cabinetry ratings based on customer satisfaction. IKEA and other lesser made cabinet lines always do very well in these reports because customer satisfaction is rated immediately after the cabinets are purchased. Consumers buying less expensive cabinetry have lower expectations which are easily met and the cabinetry hasn’t had time to develop the problems caused by poor construction.

 

Kraftmaid, the best made cabinet offered at both Lowes and The Home Depot, consistently does poorly in these reports despite being easily upgraded to the best framed construction. This I believe is due to the much higher expectations of the consumers buying a home centers “top” brand and to the fact that home center designers are usually less knowledgeable and are have less time to explain the properties of the cabinets that they sell.

 

Both Consumer Reports and JD Power also rate the same cabinetry being sold under different names at different places completely differently. Cabinet professionals know that these reports are misleading and consumers should be advised not to consider them when evaluating the quality of cabinetry. 

 

Here are some of the other relevant blogs we have on this topic:

Kitchen Cabinet ratings for 2017. Reviews of the top selling cabinet lines.

If You Are Buying Kitchen Cabinets, Beware!

What kitchen cabinet brand is the best for me?

If you have any questions about the cabinet lines we carry or about any other cabinet lines please feel free to contact us.

… and of course just as Julia Child wished her audience we wish you…

Bon Appetit! 

Paul, Ray, Tom, Mary, and Julie

Main Line Kitchen Design

And some of their quality rivals US-made kitchen cabinets,

Japanese and then Korean cars were at first considered to be of lesser quality than American automobiles. Eventually, many consumers considered them to be of equal quality and a good value. Chinese cabinetry may be on the same type path.

Main Line Kitchen Design carries 5 US made cabinet lines and I am familiar with dozens of others and the Chinese made Fabuwood line we carry I believe is equal to or better constructed and finished than many American made lines that sell for up to 15% more. Sure, when I saw the first Asian cabinetry offerings at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show they were very rough. But now I suspect that the cabinet industry is about to be hit by a tidal wave of less expensive Asian cabinet lines that will soon include high quality products.

Below is one of our Fabuwood kitchens:

 

We Discuss Kitchen Cabinet Quality Between Small & Larger Kitchen Design Shops

When most kitchen designers talk about custom cabinets, they are referring to cabinetry made in large production facilities with the ability to custom make individual cabinetry pieces and to modify cabinetry as desired.  These large custom cabinetry plants are fine furniture manufacturers able to mass produce durable consistent finishes on all their kitchen, bath, office, and furniture pieces.  Most custom cabinet companies that make framed cabinetry (the more durable way to manufacture cabinets) specialize in inset, beaded inset and lip cabinet doors. These are door styles where the cabinetry specifications need to be the most precise.

Often people shopping for a new kitchen don’t understand that a small cabinet shop or an Amish furniture maker is not what  kitchen designers are referring to, or what customers are seeing when they go to a kitchen and bath showroom and see a “custom” cabinet.  Small and what most kitchen designers refer to as “homemade” cabinet makers have a wide range of skills and abilities.  However, most of their cabinetry doesn’t compare with a higher end, larger manufacturer’s.

Homemade cabinetry makers aren’t large enough to afford the ovens needed to bake and dry cabinetry and finishes.  Their equipment and the shop conditions can’t produce consistent quality cabinetry and finishes.  Their warrantee is also less valuable because they are individuals who can die, get sick, or change professions.  Cabinetry warrantied at a traditional showroom or at Main Line Kitchen Design is warrantied by both the selling company and the large cabinetry manufacturer.

The construction specifications at small shops can be the same as those at larger cabinet companies.  In fact the hinges, drawer tracks and all the cabinetry hardware will most likely be identical in all these lines.  But, because of the differences in available equipment, the finishes on the cabinetry from smaller cabinetry shops usually doesn’t approach the quality level of even the lower level semi-custom cabinet lines.

This difference in finish quality is the main reason why kitchen and bath showrooms don’t sell this type of cabinetry.  Kitchen designers can see the difference instantly and, were the cabinets side by side in a showroom, consumers would be able to as well.

Occasionally we get a customer that takes our designs and brings them to a small cabinet maker or friend to copy what we designed in a high-end semi-custom line or custom line for around the same price.   In their desire to get themselves “a deal”, they end up paying the same money for an inferior product, without a reliable guarantee and from a home furniture maker far less knowledgeable about kitchen cabinetry and design.  These customers often become our best referrals when problems eventually arise.

Wishing everyone a great fall and of course as Julia said……….

Bon Appetit!

Paul

All photos for this article are of Jim Bishop Danbury Cabinetry.  Kitchen designed by Ray Gardner – Senior Designer  Main Line Kitchen Design.  Installed by A.J. Ahrens of Amberwood Builders.   Photographed by Bob Graham Jr. – Copyright  Bob Graham Jr. Photography.

 

With Kitchen Cabinets, There’s No Reason To Sacrifice Affordability for Quality

Cheap kitchen design ideas

 

Many of our customers are using www.houzz.com and http://pinterest.com to show us the cabinetry and  floor plans they like.

Houzz.com has a wonderful collection of photos of every type and style of kitchen.   And, thousands of new photos are being added  to this massive collection, daily.  Pinterest.com is a personal online bulletin board where anyone can post the the photos of the kitchen designs, floor plans and cabinetry selections they would like to save.  We are finding more and more Main Line Kitchen Design customers  taking advantage of one or both of these sites to assembled entire kitchen albums sometimes complete with even the type of trash can pull out they prefer.  And they never leave home to do it.

As our company tag line says: “The World of Kitchen Design is Changing …”.  But in this information age it is changing so quickly that it surprises even me.

Just a few years ago, I worked for a company that had 28 employees with only 10 of them kitchen designers.  Those 10 designers had to sell enough cabinetry to pay themselves and the 18 other company employees.  We needed to generate enough revenue to pay for a 5,000 square foot showroom and it’s continued update, maintenance, property taxes etc.  Not to mention the management of the company 10,000 square foot warehouse, trucks, and their upkeep.

How can that business model compete against a company like Main Line Kitchen Design?  We have 5 designers in two states with no showroom, office staff, maintenance staff, or any of the tremendous overhead associated with that showroom/warehouse business model.  The answer is–  in most of the areas that matter to customers, the showroom/warehouse business model can’t compete with our more cost and time effective operation.

Traditional showrooms can never devote the time Main Line Kitchen Design designers can spend with our customers and the contractors we work with.  And we come to them, saving customers and contractors valuable travel time.

Furthermore,  traditional showrooms understandably need to charge more for the same cabinetry, and need to pay their designers less.  Most traditional showrooms obtain additional income by receiving commission or charging customers directly for  appliance, flooring, tile, counter-top, and lighting fixtures selected elsewhere.  In addition to increasing costs this can delay customers from getting prices for the products they are considering until  the showroom has received pricing for the selections and marked them up.

Main Line Kitchen Design refers our customers directly to suppliers so that they will receive immediate, discounted, markup free pricing along with any information they need directly from the salespeople and experts for each product.  Again, the Main Line Kitchen Design model is about expertise and effectiveness.  Why would we insert ourselves in a transaction that we know less about.  We’re the kitchen design and cabinetry experts – we know who is more knowledgeable about other areas and we want our customers to have access to them and not pay a markup for the service.

The Best isn’t Always the Most Expensive…….

It’s Just The Best!

 

Learn About The Many Benefits of Shaker Door Styles

The most popular door style in the Delaware Valley is, by far, a Shaker door style. And, for several reasons.
Also called “Arts and Crafts” a Shaker door style is so popular because depending on the counter-tops, hardware and fixtures it is used with, it is equally appealing and effective in a traditional or modern kitchen and many styles in between.
Here are two very traditional kitchens employing a Shaker inset door style:
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There are many versions of this door style.  The doors can be inset, or more commonly full overlay but never standard overlay (the streamline look of the door style would be lost ).  The stiles and the rails (the outside frame of the door) can be 1 ½ “ wide which is traditional or wider.  The recessed panels can be plywood or the more expensive and preferred reverse raised panels.  The door can be  any species of wood and either stained or painted but never glazed (glazing such a simple door would only make it appear dirty).
Simply switching to a full overlay Shaker door style with modern style handles, fixtures, tile and counter-tops makes it an ideal selection for a very modern kitchen like the one below:
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Shaker style doors fill such a broad range of design looks that they are the selection of choice when considering the resale value of a home.  The style appeals to more prospective home buyers than a truly ultra modern door style or an ornate French Country  door style.  And because it is such a popular style, every cabinet company will make a shaker door in every wood species and finish they have available.
Finally, although it isn’t the least expensive style door, neither is it as expensive as most mitered door styles, and the added expense of glazing, distressing, or burnishing the cabinetry doesn’t really make sense for such a simple style door.  This makes Shaker an affordable look and so even more popular.
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One question I get asked by a large percentage of my customers is “will my kitchen still be fashionable in 10 years or longer?”  Although  no one can predict the future to a certainty, my reply is always the same.  If you select a style that has been popular in one form or another for hundreds of years and don’t do anything radical to it, your kitchen will always be tasteful.  It surely won’t be the cutting edge of what’s trendy in kitchens in the future, but only a rare kitchen that is now won’t look silly in 10 or 15 years.  The high gloss thermofoil rage of 13 years ago was just such a trendy style and it is now considered quite out of date even by less informed consumers.
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So here it is in all its glory:

Get Inset Cabinet Doors At No Extra Cost

Main Line Kitchen Design is now offering inset cabinet doors for the same price as full overlay doors through Jim Bishop Cabinetry.  Above is just one of the six inset doors available from Bishop Cabinets. All available wood species including Cherry, Rustic Cherry, Oak, Rustic Oak, Maple, Rustic Maple, Hickory, and Knotty Alder are available in all the beautiful Bishop stains, glazes, and paints.   Inset doors are priced the same as full overlay doors and beaded inset doors are just a 7% upgrade.  If you are planning on a painted finish you can select any Sherwin Williams color for a nominal extra charge.

Recalling a time when the cabinet industry was less transparent.

 

Note:  Since posting this blog in 2011 many of the Masterbrands cabinet lines have switched from 3/8″ sides to half inch sides. Possibly due to better consumer awareness. Instead of removing or editing the blog I am keeping it posted as it was to mark the time and place our industry was at in early 2011. We also have three more recent bogs below that discus similar topics:

Kitchen Cabinet ratings for 2017. Reviews of the top selling cabinet lines.

2015 Popular Kitchen Cabinetry Brand Comparison.

What kitchen cabinet brand is the best for me?

Here is the original blog

Kitchen cabinet buyers need reputable, professional assistance for many reasons including safety (see link: http://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/is-your-kitchen-designer-going-to-kill-you/ ), good design, and . . . there’s probably no less blunt way to say this. . . to avoid being ripped off.

For example, many cabinet companies sell the same product for different prices by having multiple cabinet line names.  Even in the same cabinet line, exact same door styles and finishes will have different names at different locations. In 2004 Consumer Reports was completely duped — publishing cabinet reviews in which they compared cabinets that were actually the same product and reviewed them differently.  Ikea duped them as well – – garnering top ratings despite durability and construction flaws that take only a few years to become problems.

Here are some examples of advice Main Line Kitchen Design professionals share with our customers:

  • Frameless cabinets are much less durable than framed cabinets. Frameless or European Cabinetry can definitely look sleeker and are better suited to the most modern door styles because of of this, but even the most expensive frameless lines such as Poggenpohl are nowhere near as durable as any well made framed cabinetry.
  • The worst way to make a framed cabinet is with 3/8″ sides and backs. Quality framed cabinetry has 1/2 or 3/4″ sides and backs with solid wood hanging rails.  Watch out for Masterbrands — They are the largest cabinet conglomerate in the US and produce most of their cabinetry with the less durable 3/8″ sides and backs. Many home builders including Toll Brothers use these type lines because more money goes into the door styles and finishes and very little into the cabinets construction.  These lines include:  Aristocraft, Schrock, Diamond, Yorktowne, and Kemper.
  • A cabinet by any other name…. Thomasville, a fine furniture company, sold the right to use their name to Home Depot to sell kitchen cabinetry.  Home Depot’s “Thomasville” cabinets are actually 3/8″  constructed cabinetry with the Thomasville name.  At one point Home Depot actually had Mills Pride their least expensive cabinet line making half of the Thomasville line.
  • Thicker plywood sides, solid wood hanging rail, Ibeam or plywood tops, along with dovetail drawers and Blumotion tracks can be had for less. Higher end framed custom cabinets differ in finer finishes and in the availability of custom pieces  —  not construction and durability.  Kraftmaid, Woodmode Brookhaven and Main Line Kitchen Design’s Jim Bishop cabinet lines for example can all provide the same quality construction as higher priced custom alternatives.
  • Selecting a Kitchen Designer is just as important as the cabinetry you select. Unfortunately accreditation in the kitchen industry is fairly nebulous.  Going to the most expensive showrooms doesn’t assure you of getting a good designer or one that has your interest at heart.  Architects are also generally less capable designers because they spend so much less time designing kitchens and therefore have so much less experience doing so.
  • The best Kitchen Designers explain as much about cabinetry and design to their customers as time allows. When you know what you are buying, and why and what the negative and positive aspects of your design are, you can make an informed decision about what matters to you most, and where you want to spend more and or less.  Kitchen Designers also add NO COST as the design costs are included almost everywhere in the cost of the cabinetry.

Getting a great kitchen requires one big investment that many customers have a hard time making.  The investment of their own time.  It always surprises my customers when I tell them that we would prefer them to take more rather than less of our time making their decisions.  It is only the customers that invest too little of their own time that are ever unhappy with their selections.

Watch our very funny video below to see why you need a kitchen designer.

The Main Line Kitchen Design team wishes everyone a wonderful new year and the best kitchens possible  …… and of course Bon Appetit!

Paul, Ray, Tom, Carol, and Julie

 

 

 


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