If You Are Buying Kitchen Cabinets, Beware!

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 more recent bogs below that discus similar topics:



Here is the original blog

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

Blue Island

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 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.

Wynnewood PA Kitchen

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.

Collegeville PA Kitchen
Bishop Collegeville PA Kitchen

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!

Main Line Kitchen Design

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

Join the conversation

  1. 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”

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.