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Posted by pmcalary


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.

Kitchen cabinet buyers need reputable, professional assistance for many reasons including safety (see link: ), 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.

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





  1. Don Beechler, April 12, 2014 at 7:42 pm:

    I am in the market for a complete kitchen. We are looking at craftmade cabinete and custom made cabinets. We live in calif where they only use water base finishes. Is kraftmade finishes better than water base? And are kraftmade 3/4 plywood.

  2. pmcalary, May 4, 2014 at 9:37 am:

    If you mean Kraftmaid their finishes will be water based since they are made in the US. You can upgrade to 3/4 plywood as far as I know. We do not carry Kraftmaid. They are sold at Lowes, Home Depot and independent showrooms. They will be on average 20 to 40% less than custom cabinets and their finishes will be less attractive then the larger manufactured custom made brands.

  3. Terri262, June 18, 2014 at 4:07 am:

    Schrock/Diamond have 1/2″ sides, top, and bottom. The backs are 3/8″. Not sure if this has changed. Thanks for the tips on cabinet buying.

  4. pmcalary, June 18, 2014 at 9:05 am:

    Hi Terri,
    I amended the blog. You are right! Since it was posted in 2011 many of the Masterbrands cabinet lines have switched to 1/2″ inch sides that if you upgrade to plywood should be pretty durable even with 3/8″ backs. Thanks for reminding me to make the update.

  5. tania, February 7, 2015 at 4:28 am:

    So what is a good kitchen cabinet brand I should consider?

  6. pmcalary, February 7, 2015 at 1:46 pm:

    Hi Tania,
    What price point you are in and what cabinet lines are available to you from dealers close by and competitive in price determines the cabinet line that is best suited for you. Home centers are near everyone so if you are at Lowes or Home Depot The best cabinet for the money is certainly Kraftmaid. Lower in price but still well made and not a rip off would be American Woodmark at Home Depot and Shenendoah at Lowes. Stay away from re marketed cabinets like Thomasville and Martha Stewart.

    There are hundreds of cabinet lines though that are well made. All the lines we carry are well made. We carry In order of price: Fabuwood, 6 Square, Bishop, Wellsford, Village, and Bremtown.

  7. tania, February 18, 2015 at 4:14 am:

    Thank you, just saw this. I am building a house and the builder is offering Yorktowne and Wellborne

  8. tania, February 18, 2015 at 4:16 am:

    I forgot to add I live in Wheaton Il, near Chicago

  9. Susan, March 27, 2015 at 10:50 pm:

    I made the mistake of going with Home Depot and Thomasville cabinets. It is now 7 months since I ordered and my kitchen is still not done. The cabinet sides are mismatched pieced together fiberboard, wrong cabinets are ordered, delivered products are damaged, workmanship is shoddy. And there’s no end in sight.

  10. Betsy, April 1, 2015 at 4:09 pm:

    What is your opinion of Aspect cabinets?

  11. pmcalary, April 1, 2015 at 4:40 pm:

    I had never heard of them but I looked them up. They are an inexpensive line with particle board sides and shelves. I would say better made than RTA particle board cabinetry or IKEA but there will be less expensive lines that are all plywood construction that I would think were a better value. However they will have Asian made doors which I think is fine but some people will object to. We sell 6 Square and Fabuwood, but there are many alternatives at this pricepoint. Armstrong is a well known line that might be similar in price and is also All Plywood construction.

  12. Betsy, April 4, 2015 at 1:14 pm:

    Thank you so much for your input!

  13. Camille Vaccari, April 6, 2015 at 5:15 pm:

    What is your opinion on Design Craft and Art Craft? Also, for a humid client do you recommend MDF doors for a painted cabinet? Thank you!

  14. pmcalary, April 6, 2015 at 5:32 pm:

    Hi Camille,
    Both cabinet lines are frameless so as the article mentions I far prefer a well made framed line. If you are getting frameless cabinetry IKEA is inexpensive and essentially made the same as other European lines so I would save the money and just get IKEA. Modern slab doorstyles do look better in frameless but traditional or shaker doorstyles look great in framed and the cabinetry can be less expensive and better made as well. For example our least expensive line is an Asian import called Fabuwood that is less expensive and far better made.

  15. joan, June 3, 2015 at 6:55 pm:

    Hi I have been pricing diamond and Keller cabinets. I was told are the same. Upgraded to all plywood box. Still wondering if they are good cabinets or whet you suggest

  16. Ruth, June 20, 2015 at 10:03 am:

    I am considering Aspect or Waypoint. I just read your comments about Aspect and I hadn’t seen that information. What do you know about Waypoint? Thanks.

  17. pmcalary, June 20, 2015 at 1:42 pm:

    Hi Ruth,
    I have never heard of either the Aspect or Waypoint brands. Neither brand shows you how their cabinetry is constructed on their web sites which is almost always a bad sign.

  18. pmcalary, June 20, 2015 at 1:49 pm:

    Hi Joan,
    Sorry I missed your comment and just noticed it now, I hope this is in time to help. I believe both Diamond and I think you mean Kemper cabinets are Masterbrand cabinets with similar construction. Lowes sells Diamond for about the same price as Kraftmaid and I prefer the Kraftmaid. As long as Diamond is upgraded to 1/2 inch plywood sides it is a well made cabinet but as I mentioned I do prefer Kraftmaid in that pricepoint.

  19. Remodeler, July 25, 2015 at 8:45 am:

    I am looking at schuler cabinets for my kitchen. Do they have 1/2 inch plywood sides. How do they compare to kraftmaid

  20. pmcalary, July 25, 2015 at 10:20 am:

    Schuler cabinetry from Lowes is the same cabinetry as Medalion from independent dealers. You need to upgrade the cabinetry to at least Platninum plywood sides. They used to only have 3/8 inch sides and I just looked on their web site and it doesn’t say so that makes me cautious. In general the company focuses on great finishes and not on construction quality, much like their parent company Elkay that makes nice sinks but most are 18 gauge and not the thicker 16 gauge. Schuler cabinetry is more expensive than Kraftmaid and certainly not better made than upgraded Kraftmaid. I am also not a fan of buying expensive cabinetry from home centers. Designing in more expensive lines like Schuler is more difficult and the home center designer will be less familiar designing in that line. If you are going to pay more for cabinetry it’s smarter to pay a little more and get a great designer instead and they will be harder to find at home centers, but not impossible. At Lowes I would stick with Kraftmaid.

  21. Vincent, August 16, 2015 at 4:28 pm:

    Have you heard of Kith Cabinets? Their construction and pricing seems to be pretty good compared to Thomasville quote I got from Home Dept.

  22. pmcalary, August 16, 2015 at 6:02 pm:

    I have not heard of Kith. But Thomasville is way overpriced. Home Depot bought the right to use Thomasville Furniture’s name and they sell lesser quality cabinetry under that name. If you are shopping at The Home Depot buy Kraftmaid, Home depot sells them too, and they are the same price and a better cabinet.

  23. Vincent, August 16, 2015 at 6:17 pm:

    Thanks for the info. I don’t have a set price, so I want to make sure I get quality but also don’t want to overspend. Kith is made in USA and they tell you exactly how their cabinets are constructed on their websites. Are they any brands that you particularly like when price isn’t exactly the biggest limitation? I don’t have a million dollar home that need custom built cabinets, but I would pay the extra money for quality and longevity. Thanks again for the info.

  24. Gig, September 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm:

    i was told that Diamond and Thomasville are the now the same company,is this true.
    If so do they manufacture the cabinets the same? You do not like Thomasville what do you think of Diamond? I am looking for white Shaker with a conversion varnish but here in Calif no cabinet maker can do it. What company make a good quality white Shaker?

  25. pmcalary, September 8, 2015 at 6:19 pm:

    The reason I don’t like Thomasville is that Home Depot is misleading people and making them believe that Thomasville furniture is making the cabinetry and charging more because of it. If you upgrade Diamond to 1/2″ plywood sides they are well made, So assuming you you are right and Thomasville is now being made by Diamond and not American Woodmark you would need to do the same in Thomasville. But Kraftmaid is the better made cabinet of the three and is also sold at Home Depot so why not design your kitchen in Kraftmaid? It should be around the same price. Decora is also a well made cabinet and I think some home Depots carry Decora. I don’t know much about the new Asian made lines Home Depot carries.

  26. Gig, September 9, 2015 at 3:21 pm:

    thank you so much for responding.

  27. Dave, September 10, 2015 at 12:01 am:

    Have you heard of cabinet brands J&K Cabinets, Cabinet City, and FX Cabinets? I believe they are california based prefabricated cabinets, probably being made in China. They seem to be priced well below Diamond and Kraftmaid. Any thoughts?

  28. Dave, September 10, 2015 at 12:06 am:

    Have you heard of Grand JK Cabinets, Cabinet City, or FX Cabinets? They are priced lower then the Diamond and Kraftmaid cabinets. What are your thoughts?

  29. pmcalary, September 10, 2015 at 7:53 am:

    No I haven’t heard of those brands. But 6 Square sold in private dealers and also sold as Cliq Studios on line is a well made cabinet at least 30% less than Diamond. Upgraded they are made identically to upgraded Diamond but even with the un upgraded soft close drawer tracks they are fine.

  30. Trent, September 12, 2015 at 2:50 am:

    Can you offer your opinions regarding Jim bishop cabinets?

  31. pmcalary, September 12, 2015 at 7:11 am:

    We are Dealers for Bishop Cabinets so we like them, and the people at Bishop are great to work with. Among their cabinetry advantages are that they are a very well constructed cabinet when you upgrade them and upgrading is inexpensive compared to most other US cabinet lines. They also will do more customization then any other brand I know of around their price point. For example, if I can draw it they pretty much will make it, they do custom colors and will customize all their doors. And they do inset and beaded inset cabinetry. Their down side is that I find that their stained finishes aren’t as beautiful as some similarly priced lines but this is something that customers usually aren’t able to differentiate. Also if any pieces happen to come damaged or defective getting replacements made correctly can take longer than some other cabinet lines. This can frustrate customers. All in all though Bishop cabinetry is a great value and we are proud to carry them.

  32. Michael, October 4, 2015 at 10:48 pm:

    Hi – I was wondering if I could get your input on the cabinets. I currently have a price from one local dealer on Schrock and Decora cabinets. We liked the Decora a lot but the price was almost 40% higher than Schrock and much more than we were hoping to spend. Are both cabinets 100% American sourced and made? Should I be concerned about Schrock? Currently waiting on prices from Home Depot on Decora and Kraftmaid cabinets (they have taken forever to get back to us) and also a local dealer is going to give a price on Starmark and Fabuwood. I’ve read only positive reviews about Starmark but I think the price will be high. I found out Fabuwood sources the materials from China – should this be a concern? I’ve found that going to the local kitchen places has been a much better experience than Home Depot and another Home Center. I’m curious about the price HD will give on Decora compared to the local dealer. Thank you.

  33. pmcalary, October 5, 2015 at 9:23 am:

    Decora is a better cabinet then Shrock. Never buy a cabinet with 3/8″ sides. Kraftmaid is a well made cabinet equal to Decora. Starmark will be more expensive than the others and is a little over priced and you must make sure you get 1/2″ sides at least. The Fabuwood will be far less than any of these other choices and it is made better than Shrock and is Carb 2 Compliant so no worries that this American company is getting parts from China. There is far less ability to customize sizes and designs in Fabuwood, but since most kitchen designs don’t take advantage of the customization in the more expensive lines it is sometimes a waste spending more when you aren’t taking advantage of the very reason these lines are more expensive. Local dealers can vary greatly in price. Some will be about equal to home centers usually with better service and more knowledgeable designers, and some will also be way over priced. Independent dealers that sell Kraftmaid are often a safe bet to work with since they have to compete with both Lowes and Home Depot who sell Kraftmaid they can’t be over priced.

  34. Michael, October 6, 2015 at 12:51 pm:

    Thank you very much for your response – this was helpful.

  35. Maureen, October 13, 2015 at 2:40 pm:

    Considering Showplace or Yorktowne. I would welcome your opinion. We are planning to go with white painted cabinets

  36. Liz, October 13, 2015 at 7:07 pm:

    We are replacing the kitchen cabinets in our beachfront condo, and want to use American-made cabinetry. We prefer Shaker style, white. What brands do you recommend? Also, what is the difference between framed and unframed? Thank you.

  37. pmcalary, October 13, 2015 at 8:06 pm:

    Just a couple of warnings:
    First, truly “American made” cabinetry that is equal to the best of the cabinetry sold by U.S. companies selling cabinetry made mostly in China will cost at least 25% more. And second, that it is getting difficult to tell what is made in the U.S. and what is not. As many doors styles on American made cabinetry now come from China.

    That being said American Woodmark sold at The Home Depot, Shenandoah sold at Lowes, and Timberlake sold in private showrooms is an inexpensive and well made choice. I would upgrade to plywood sides and full extension drawers. All three lines are made in the same factory and are simply sold under different names.

    Clique Studios is a US company that sells very well made Asian cabinetry on line for at least 20 % less than these choices should you want to compromise on buying strictly American.

  38. pmcalary, October 13, 2015 at 8:15 pm:

    Yorktowne is a poorly made cabinet in my opinion. Showplace doesn’t show on line the thickness of their cabinets sides or how the back of the cabinet is constructed which worries me. Usually if the cabinet is well made the company brags about it. Hiding things usually means 3/8″ sides and poorly made backs.

  39. Joni, November 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm:

    Which is more expensive schrock or aristocraft ?

  40. pmcalary, November 2, 2015 at 11:37 am:

    Schrock. Although I don’t like either line.

  41. Jen doering, November 11, 2015 at 8:56 pm:

    Do you have any opinions on the legacy debut line, the estimate I got was significantly below the others but now I am wondering if they are just a good value or if they are poor quality? ( the other cabinet lines we had looked at are Merillat, kemper and wellborn). My head is spinning right now do any help you could provide would be incredibly helpful!

  42. pmcalary, November 12, 2015 at 8:15 am:

    If it is upgraded to the Presidential or Executive construction cabinet box then Legacy Debut is a better made cabinet then Kemper and Merillat. Wellborn is a more expensive cabinet line with greater ability to customize and with nicer finishes. So it can be worth the money if you are selecting stained wood finishes which will be more furniture grade or if your kitchen design requires the greater ability to customize. Most people however don’t get creative designs and don’t take advantage of what makes a more expensive cabinet line cost more. And if you are getting a painted finish most non designers don’t appreciate the subtle differences in the finish quality. Here is another link explaining about cabinet construction.
    A good kitchen designer helps you understand what you are paying for and whether your design really takes advantage of the better quality cabinetry. Both the Upgraded Legacy and the higher end Wellborn cabinetry will last essentially forever. Whether the cost difference between the two is worth it to you I can’t say. We tell our customers that “it’s all the same money” and while some customers will spend 50K on appliances and 15K on cabinetry or visa versa it is the creativity of the kitchen design and how the designer uses the space that makes the biggest impact on how beautiful a kitchen is. Sadly poor designs are done with very high end appliances and expensive full custom cabinetry all the time.

  43. jen doering, November 12, 2015 at 11:05 pm:

    Thank you so much for your advice. It really helps to get the advice of an impartial expert. Sadly we are not in your service area or else we definitely be considering main line kitchen since your blog is so helpful.

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