If You Are Buying Kitchen Cabinets, Beware!

699 Replies to “If You Are Buying Kitchen Cabinets, Beware!”

  1. Victoria

    Doing a complete renovation of my home. Considering -wellborn, candlelight, medallion silver line, and Yorktown. White cabinets and black island. Near water, but not on the water. Prices are similar, which is best choice?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Victoria,
      Yorketown and Medallion are now pretty much the same cabinets as they are made in the same plant. Wellborn has several lines. Their top construction would be similar to Yorketown and Medallion. All these lines are similar so I think the company, the designer, and the design itself are most important here. And that the cabinets are upgraded to all plywood and soft close everything.

      When people ask about cabinet brands, particularly brands that are so similar, getting a great design is far more important. We see very few good designs when people call into our podcast and help line. So, I would recommend letting us look at the design to find the issues before selecting a brand. The design you received from different designers is often telling as to who knows what they are doing and who doesn’t.

      Here’s one of our podcasts to get an idea of how they work.
      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/calls-with-paul-the-kitchen-design-podcast-episode-15/

  2. Mary Lagerblade

    I had Cherry Tree Kitchens replace the doors and reface the trim with wood . The refacing glue is drying and pieces of it are popping off.
    The doors are very disappointing. Any place where water or any liquid has landed on the drawer tops the paint comes off and the finish “opens up”
    . See photo. Do I have any recourse with Cherry Tree?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Mary,
      We do not recomend refacing cabinets. I don’t know if the water damage to your painted cabinetry is normal, but all painted cabinets are easily damaged by water and should never be allowed to have water sit on the finish. You should call Cherry Tree, at least the veneer should not be “popping off”

  3. Vandana Dommaraju

    Hi, we are building a new house and my builder is offering cabinets boxes with MDF for interiors back, sides and shelves.
    Cabinet doors are maple with MDF flat panel for painted cabinets. I am debating if we need to upgrade to all plywood construction for interiors? Appreciate your response! Thank you!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Vandana,
      You should definitely upgrade to plywood. Mdf panel for the door is OK. To determine how well the cabinet is constructed requires more information.

  4. Diana K

    What are your thoughts on Waypoint cabinets? I see you gave them a straight B score. Are they well made and durable? I am remodeling the master bathroom and leaning towards white cabinets.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Diana,
      For a Bathroom they aren’t bad. Of course painted cabinets in a bath can be problematic if you don’t have good ventilation, as paint and water don’t mix.
      There are better choices for the same money, though. See the other brands in the same price point with higher scores.

  5. Laurie

    Did Showplace cabinetry improve from last year and earn a better rating from you? I may be mistaken, but I thought last time I saw your cabinet rating chart, they were only a “C” for quality and now the have an”A” grade. I’m interested because our dealer is recommending Showplace or Candelight for painted cabinets. If construction for the two lines is good/similar, we would go with the one with a better paint finish. Which would you recommend? Do you know if both lines will do an MDF recessed panel door? The dealer recommended an all MDF door, but I know you’ve posted they are easily damaged, so was planning to avoid that. Thanks for any input you can give.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Laurie,
      I’m away so I can’t check on some things but I believe showplace is now being made by a different company hence the rating change. Recessed center panel in MDF is fine. Having a dealer recomend MDF for a whole door, without a warning, is troubling. I think the paint on the cabinet brand here will not be important. However I would consider a different designer. What other bad advice are you getting?

  6. Hilaire Quinn

    Just received an order for Thomasville Classic cabinets for a bar area in our diningroom. Home Depot couldn’t have messed up the order more so it all needed to go back anyway, though they are trying to make it right. Really what I wanted to mention is that this line of cabinets still only uses 3/8 inch (we upgraded to ply)backings to attach to the wall. How is this going to support any weight and not just fall off? Luckily, we have 3/4 wood plank walls, but still, I am concerned. I would also like to note that the dovetailing on their drawers is absolutely horrible. I wish I went with a better cabinet maker.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Hilaire,
      As long as the sides are 1/2 ply a 3/8″ solid back is OK. Not as good as a 1/2″ back but we give that type construction a B+. I think the real problem here was having someone less qualified design your space. They can try all they want to make it right but if they don’t know what they are doing due to inexperience, getting thigs right a second time is far from certain. People shop for cabinets – they should shop for designers first and cabinets second.

  7. ML

    Hello, we are choosing between the cabinets listed below. Any insight in to who makes the best cabinet to last a lifetime?
    Bertch, Decora, Starmark, Fieldstone.

    Thank you!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi ML,
      Upgraded these are all good cabinet lines. So no matter which line you choose you can’t go wrong. HOWEVER almost every design that people send us is terrible. Focus on getting a good designer that will direct you. Preventing customers from buying the badly designed kitchen they want is a full time job in of itself for most kitchen designers. Consider calling into our podcast on a Friday 2-4 EST with your design read to email. We almost never get sent a kitchen without many mistakes that are easy to make you aware of.

  8. Keith Hamel

    Hi folks,

    Building a new home in New England and looking for your thoughts on Candlelight Cabinets. Considering painted MDF as we are near the coast. Meeting with rep shortly so any advice is appreciated. Great site and refreshing.

    Best regards,

    Keith

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Keith,
      I would not get all MDF doors on cabinetry as they would be very easy to damage. Having a MDF recessed center panel on a door would be a good idea, all MDF would be a problem.
      Here is our cabinet rankings for 100 brands (we rate Candlelight well):
      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-for-2020-updated-reviews-for-the-top-selling-cabinet-brands/

  9. Kathy

    Dealership. Horrible experiences with Holiday Kitchens. Can understand extended lead times. The quality they have been shipping is unimaginably terrible. 60+ negative reviews on Houzz. Unlike any other mfg’s recent reviews. Very poor management. Any advice on a replacement line? Already a Showplace dealership in my area.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Kathy,
      If Holiday is having problems now I would recomend taking on two lines if you only carry Showplace. A less expensive well made line like Fabuwood and a more expensive high end custom line like maybe Plain and Fancy. Then you would have all price points covered. And three separate cabinet Reps all of who will carry other brands to consider should you get in a bind again.

  10. paul mcalary

    Hi Harriet,
    Unfortunately, all painted cabinets are damaged by water and no painted cabinet brands are warrantied against water damage which is probably what is causing your cabinet’s finished to be damaged. So were you to be able to contact Hanssem, I doubt they would cover the damage. You need to either repair the finish or replace the cabinet with one that doesn’t have a painted finish.

  11. Harriet

    Do you know anything much about Hanssem cabinets? I purchased those for a bathroom remodel four years ago from a cabinet dealer. They supposedly had a five-year warranty. We noticed the painted finish failing on a couple of drawer fronts. Since it’s still in the warranty period, I went back to the dealer who’d sold them to me. Turns out they don’t sell Hanssem anynore, and refuse to help me with the warranty claim. I then tried Hanssem directly with no success. Calls go to a full voicemail box so I can’t leave a message; no one ever picks up at that number; and I get no response from the only email that I have for them. What’s the point of a warranty if neither the dealer who sold them won’t help with a warranty claim, and if there is no response at all from the manufacturer? I’m left wondering if Hanssem is even operating at this point – do you know?

  12. paul mcalary

    Hi Laurie,
    No they are probably the same paint, with the same durability. The more expensive line might have a slightly smoother finish due to extra sanding on the door.

  13. Laurie O

    Hi Paul,
    Thanks for your response. One quick follow up, for white painted cabinets,do you think the paint finish on Candelight is better than on Teddwood?

  14. paul mcalary

    Hi Lauri,
    Tedd Wood has amazing stained finishes but on a solid white painted cabinet You could probably not even notice a difference in finish and durability between Fabuwood (one of our least expensive lines) and Ted Wood. Both Tedd Wood and Candlelight will do most customizations. A 21 1/2″ wide cabinet wood be silly with two doors and sets off alarm bells with me on who your designer is. They should know better.

  15. Laurie O

    Hi Paul,
    Thank you for your great blog! We are looking for white painted cabinets that can be customized. Our dealer recommended/priced out Tedd Wood, however, he mentioned Candelight has a superior finish, but is more expensive. The finish is very important to us. Would you recommend Candlelight over Tedd Wood for overall quality as well as the paint quality?

    We noticed you rated Tedd Wood a 5 and Candelight a 4 for price. Tedd Wood includes customization in their price. Do you know if Candelight doesn’t, which might explain why if we make changes they could end up costing us more?

    Also, would you say a 20 1/2″ wide upper cabinet is too narrow to have two doors? Thanks for any advice!

  16. Hope

    Our designer, who is independent, apparently has a relationship with Shiloh – but no showroom. With the pandemic, and the lack of a place to see anything finished, I’m having a hard time making a decision, or wanting to go look at other options. I also see a lot of mixed comments about Shiloh or Shiloh Eclipse – I did Brookhaven frameless in my prior home about 8 years ago, and loved it, though I know they had a bankruptcy last year. Is Shiloh comparable?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Hope.
      I’m not a fan of independent designers as what they offer cabinet dealers offer for free, and are usually better at it. Shiloh makes nice looking cabinets but both their framed and frameless cabinets are engineered poorly. See our cabinet reviews here:
      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/category/kitchen-cabinets/

  17. Amanda

    Am considering Tedd Cabinets, Plain & Fancy, and Brookhaven/Woodmode for kitchen and baths. I had never heard of Tedd until recently. Am wondering about how to rank these in terms of quality of construction. Would love to know if anyone has had experience with the Tedd lines, too.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Amanda,
      I know that Tedd Cabinets makes a great product. Exactly how it stacks up against Plain & Fancy I don’t know since we do not carry either line and only know them from trade shows and from online information.

      Woodmode I would stay away from. They were a great cabinet but they have been a combination of bankrupt, out out business, and needing refinancing twice in a couple of years. Who knows how stable the new company will be?

  18. Micki

    We odered the JSI cabinets from Home Depot. Most of the cabinets have a Hampton Bay label in them and only one is stamped JSI. Do you know why that might be and if this happens often? Should we be concerned about a difference in quality?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Home Depot and Lowes often re-brand the cabinets that they sell. For example Home Depot’s Thomasville is in fact Diamond from Lowes and a Masterbrands cabinet possibly made in the Schrock plant. American Woodmark at Home Depot is Shenandoah at Lowe’s and called Timberlake at private dealers. Hampton Bay is a re-branded name so it is obviously actually JSI which I didn’t know. I wouldn’t be concerned about the branding mix up. They are both the same animal I’m sure.

  19. JEF

    Going back and forth between Tru and Kith….Leaning toward Kith simply because they make the hood for the stove whereas Tru, we have to get that custom made and custom painted….it will get on my nerves if the paint does not match exactly.
    We were originally quoted Merillat but I have seen terrible reviews for them so I eliminated them, but honestly, the cabinet color scheme was my favorite out of the three…but construction and durability is more important. Need to make a decision this week and am struggling…. I can’t find many reviews on Kith on line.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Jef,
      I would use our cabinet rankings, see link below, to select a brand. As always the designer you work with is equally as important as the brand you select and most often under appreciated.

      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-for-2020-updated-reviews-for-the-top-selling-cabinet-brands/

  20. Dena Hamilton

    Hi Paul.
    We have seen great reviews on Lilly Ann cabinets. Do you know anything about them?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Dena,
      Lilly Ann Cabinets are apparently Clique Studios, A company that went bankrupt 3 months ago, brought back to life.

      I do not like buying cabinetry on line and I worry about online companies especially in a tough economy. Several inexpensive brands have already failed and more will soon. Customers lose their deposit money when cabinet companies go bankrupt.

      I would recommend working with a reputable local cabinet dealer that sells several different cabinet brands. Putting all your eggs in an online basket that failed once and could fail again is a bad idea.

  21. Lora Brady

    Three years ago, bought a house with laminate (formica) kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, all with granite tops. The cabinets are original to the house, built in 1984, and in almost perfect condition. Unfortunately, the kitchen and baths need updating. I have had wood cabinetry before, both stained and painted, and there were always dinks and scratches needing repair. Does anyone make laminate cabinets anymore? Much thanks!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Lora,
      Nearly every European frameless cabinet line will make laminate slab doors. Expensive brands might also make acrylic or parapan doors to.
      There will also be foil doors in slabs available.

  22. Jacob Smith

    Thanks for sharing this information

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Thank you Jacob for the compliment. One of our blogs that you might find just as useful is this one:

      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/price-comparing-kitchen-cabinets-and-why-it-is-a-bad-idea/

  23. Chris

    Thank you so much for this comprehensive response. Appreciate it very much!

  24. Chris

    Thank you for the information that you provide on your site. We are looking at Tru Cabinetry shaker style wood stained kitchen cabinets for a remodel. Looking at their catalogue it appears they use 1/2 inch plywood on the sides and base of the cabinet but the back is 3/16 inch. How much of a concern is the thinner back panel? We were told these were similar to Fabuwood, but they offer more door/color options. Fabuwood is a bit less expensive, but did not have a similar color stain that we liked in the Tru Cabinetry line.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Chris,
      Tru cabinets actually has a 1/2″ plywood hanging rail so where you are screwing the cabinets to the wall it is 11/16″ thick plywood. This is still not nearly as well made as Fabuwood but would get a solid B for construction from us assuming that the hanginging rail was at least 3 1/2″ high. The reason you like their stains better is that they are on Maple and not Birch like Fabuwood. This is also why they are more expensive. Tough call depending on how much more they are, how much more you like the finish, and how long you plan to stay in your home.

      If the cost of TRU is 20% more than the Fabuwood than there should be a lot of other cabinet lines that will be very well made and have the colors you like around that price. For example the Wolf Designer series, or for a tiny bit more Legacy Presidential. Home centers would sell American Woodmark at Home Depot and Shenandoah at Lowes. However remember our mantra “the kitchen designer you work with is more important than anything else”.

      So if for example you created your design yourself, or your contractor did, or it is the same as it was before we can be certain that you haven’t worked with a good kitchen designer yet. And that is what you should be researching to find first.

  25. Noah Katz

    OK, thanks again, Paul.

  26. Paul McAlary

    Hi Noah,
    Generally buying RTA cabinets does not save more than 20% off the cost of inexpensive well made assembled cabinetry, And the Better made imported assembled cabinetry will come with free design help as part of the price. You won’t have to assemble it, it will be a better cabinet, and free design help means the alternative makes little sense.

  27. Noah Katz

    Thanks, Paul, very informative.

    On a more general note, I’ve been shopping for RTA cabinets online, which looks like it could save me 1/2 to 2/3 based on prices I got from a few local dealers.

    I’m also suitably chastened by your many convincing articles on getting a kitchen designer.

    Anything wrong with hiring a designer and procuring the cabinets myself?

    I’ll be doing the installation so there are no contractors involved.

    Thanks very much.

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