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If You Are Buying Kitchen Cabinets, Beware!

Recalling a time when the cabinet industry was less transparent. If you are buying kitchen cabinets this blog originally from 2011 is a valuable read.

Note:  Since posting “If you are buying kitchen cabinets, beware” in 2011 many of the Masterbrands cabinet lines changed. They 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 a more recent bog below that reviews current cabinet brands:

Kitchen Cabinet Ratings for 2021. Reviews for the Top Selling Cabinet Brands.

Here is the original blog from March 2011

Kitchen cabinet buyers need reputable, professional assistance for many reasons.  Top concerns are safety (see the blog below) and good design.  And . . . there’s probably no less blunt way to say this. . . to avoid being ripped off.

Is Your Kitchen Designer Going to Kill You?

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 (and again many times after) Consumer Reports was completely duped.  They continually publish cabinet reviews in which they compare cabinets that are actually the same product.   And they always review these identical cabinet brands differently.  Ikea duped them as well – – garnering top ratings despite durability and construction flaws. These flaws only a few years to become problems.

Blue Island Kitchen. While the kitchen shown is a quality cabinet brand consumers should beware when buying kitchen cabinets

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.  However, even the most expensive frameless lines such as Poggenpohl are nowhere near as durable as any well-made framed cabinetry.

When buying kitchen cabinets, it’s important to know that 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. Very little resources go into the cabinet’s construction.  These lines include:  Aristocraft, Schrock, Diamond, Yorktowne, and Kemper.

 

Kitchen with post on the end of the island These are Brighton Custom inset cabinets. Beware when buying kitchen cabinets in lesser made brands

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. Nor do they know much about cabinetry because they do not sell cabinetry.

white kitchen with island and column posts. These are well made Bishop cabinets. When buying kitchen cabinets online or elsewhere always be careful
Bishop Collegeville PA Kitchen

The best Kitchen Designers explain as much about buying kitchen cabinets and kitchen 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 when you are buying kitchen cabinets.

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

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

  1. Rob

    Great blog! I have quotes for Echelon cabinets and Kraftmaid Vantage line cabinets. Kraftmaid Vantage is sold only through dealers and boosts all plywood construction. We want a painted recessed panel style door. Kraftmaid has many poor reviews in reference to quality control and customer service. What thoughts can you offer? Thanks

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Rob,
      Below is a link to our blog on the subject of why Kraftmaid gets bad reviews. Kraftmaid is a much better constructed cabinet than Echelon. The reviews that cabinet companies get has more to do with the dealer than the cabinet line. Good designers and dealers make designing kitchens and buying cabinetry less frustrating and you spend your money knowingly and wisely. Not getting experienced help almost guarantees that a kitchen renovation costs more, is disorganized, poorly designed, and has surprises you weren’t prepared for. The surprises and unplanned “discoveries” you might see on HGTV are made to be dramatic. A well organized kitchen renovation should run smoothly and result in everyone – contractors, designers, and homeowners all being happy with the outcome.
      Link below
      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/hard-compare-kitchen-cabinet-brands/

  2. Melinda

    Can you help me find a mid-priced company who makes a door style similar to Snaidero? I’m looking at Kemper’s Purestyle Laminate, White. Using the All Pywood Construction. Can I get your thought, Please

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Melinda,
      Masterbrands doesn’t show on line how Kemper is made and we don’t carry the line so I know little about it. Not showing how your cabinetry is constructed on line is usually a bad sign. The Fabuwood Prima Doorstyle that we carry would be a better selection I would guess and also cost less.

  3. Melinda

    On the Kemper Products, is this the Kemper or Kemper Echo. My brochure show 1/2 Thick I-Beam Braces, 1/2 Thick Sides, Top & Bottoms. Dovetail Drawers and 3/4 Thick Shelving. And, they say they have ” Kemper Cabinetry warrants the original consumer purchaser for as long as they own their home that the Kemper Cabinetry products will be free from defects in material and workmanship under normal use.” If I had the budget, I’d do Snaidero. I want this high gloss look. Kemper has a Laminate that fits the look. Your suggestion would be appreciated.

  4. Kim

    Hi, I have read your blog many times. Thank you! We are looking for a stained shaker cabinet and have quotes for Schrock (which I already ruled out), Kraftmaid, Decora, and Starmark. All had very similar designs and upgraded to all-plywood.. this is our forever home, is it worth the additional cost for the Starmark (median price quote) over the Kraftmaid? Also where would Wood-Mode fit in with these lines?

    Thanks, Kim

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Starmark just has some nicer finishes than Kraftmaid and a greater ability to customize. If you aren’t using the customization in your design and don’t like one finish better than the other then Kraftmaid is a slightly better constructed cabinet.

  5. Jason

    Hello,

    This blog has been a great source of info, so thanks in advance.

    Based on your comments here, I’ve been seeking a 6 Square dealer in our area. Pending that, I see that Cliq Studio is the same.

    Are they actually the same company and product, or some other type of hybrid affiliation?

    It seems like you stand by 6 Square as a good buy for semi-custom quality, but I’d hate to inadvertently wind up with something inferior via Cliq Studio.

    Thanks!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Jason,
      Product is the same but the help you get from a local designer is usually what gets you a good design.

  6. Jeannette

    Hello, this is by far the best blog I’ve ever gone thru. Thanks so much for your dedication in continuing to answer for so long. Here’s my question: I have three (3) options to chose from, each quoted by different places. In order, beginning with least expensive, is Fabuwood ($7300), then Shenandoah ($9100) and finally Starmark ($12,800). The prices range significantly, and I’m just wondering what you think of each make… I’m thinking of choosing the Shenandoah, just because it’s mid-point pricing. Would that be a wise choice? I don’t want to regret this decision… I’ve waiting 10 years for my kitchen upgrade and want to look forward to another 10+ years in my new kitchen. TIA, Jeannette

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Jennette,
      If you upgrade the Shenandoah and the Starmark to all plywood construction then all three lines meet our criteria for a well made cabinet. Assuming you are getting full overlay doors and so styles being equal, the Starmark will have the nicest finishes by far. However most non kitchen designers can’t tell the difference so the expense isn’t appreciated. Many of our customers pick the less expensive finishes as being the higher priced when we show them samples to compare. The Fabuwood might have a nicer looking finish than the Shenandoah but the Shenandoah will be made out of maple most likely instead of birch and so the stain or paint will be slightly more durable. If you are rough on things in general I might go for the Shenandoah if not I’d save the money and go with the Fabuwood.

  7. Ella

    Hello, this is very helpful information. We have begun looking at cabinets and have been shown Ultracraft, Luxor, and Birchcraft. Are you able to shed any light on these brands? Thank you.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Ultracraft and Luxor are both frameless lines so not a line I would recommend. Birchcraft I have never heard of and they seem like a tiny company with no information on their web site. Whoever you are working with would not be my choice as a designer as they have very different cabinet recommendations then I would and that can be telling.

  8. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

    They seem like a fine custom cabinet line although they don’t tell you how their cabinetry is constructed on their web site. I would avoid their frameless cabinetry.

  9. Melanie

    Hi, What do you think of Signature Custom Cabinetry? How is the quality? Thanks

  10. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

    Once a cabinet line meets the requirements we believe makes a well made cabinet then cabinet construction becomes a non issue. That level of construction is a minimum of a solid 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ thick face frame, 1/2″ plywood sides, solid wood 3/4″ hanging rail or a 1/2″ plywood back. 3/8″ back is OK but not preferred. With solid wood dovetail drawers and Blumotion tracks and soft close doors if desired. After meeting these construction minimums which many expensive cabinet lines do not, then it is the differences in a cabinet lines finishes and their ability to customize that makes the difference in a cabinet line.

    Some custom cabinet lines have furniture grade finishes and high end semi-custom lines can have beautiful distressed finishes or brushstrokes in their glazes and paints. But most of these distinctive finishes customers can’t even recognize as superior. While Inset and Beaded Inset doors can be recognized as custom cabinetry, the vast majority of customers select full overlay doors.

    The main cabinet lines we carry, Fabuwood, 6 Square, Bishop, Brighten, and Wellsford, we selected because they are all well made cabinets and all also do more customization than other cabinet lines in their price point. This makes them a great value. Which line is best? Well of course the most expensive full custom one Wellsford, Can our customers recognize the difference between Wellsford and the least expensive line we carry Fabuwood? Certainly most can not.

    However add to this that almost all our customers prefer and can recognize a well designed kitchen and that most of the designs we see done by other designers are poor and it becomes obvious that customers should be focusing on finding good kitchen designers first and splitting hairs on cabinet lines second. As long as the cabinets they are buying meet the minimum construction requirements we mentioned.

    To answer your other question the Bishop frameless line has the best selection and produces the best frameless cabinets we carry. But ALL frameless cabinets don’t meet the minimum requirements of a well made cabinet. So unless you are getting ultra modern door styles and finishes that are only done in frameless cabinetry why get poorly constructed cabinetry. Frameless cabinetry isn’t even less expensive except in Europe where hardwoods aren’t readily available. This is why Europe and Australia began producing frameless cabinetry. Their cabinetry is all particle board and MDF except in their most expensive custom lines.

    The best well constructed framed cabinetry can last hundreds of years while a frameless line is lucky to make it to 25 years without cabinetry sagging delaminating and falling apart. Think IKEA. Do you believe your IKEA furniture will be looking and functioning well 25 years after you assemble it? All frameless kitchen cabinetry gets more use than furniture and is made nearly identically to IKEA kitchen cabinetry and IKEA furniture.

    To sum it up we recommend getting a well made framed kitchen cabinet line and finding a great kitchen designer to help create a space that is as beautiful, proportional and functional as the imagination of that designer can create with your input working together.

  11. Sandra

    Hi,

    If “it’s not that we love Kraftmaid”, do you mind me asking which cabinet company you love the most? Is it one of the companies you carry. Which one of your cabinet company (or other company) is best in making frameless cabinets. Thanks!

  12. Brian Yorks

    I have been looking for a new bathroom vanity and today I thought I was set in an Aristakraft but now I’m not sure it’s just a 36″ vanity with 4 drawers in the right. I also was considering Costco’s Tuscany which appear to be better quality such as 1/2 sides but it was about 50% more exspesnive. The cabinet is going to be in a corner so only one side will be exposed. Would Aristakraft still be a bad way to go? I’ll check out Kraftmaid tomorrow pricing at Home Depot but I suspect it’s till going to be up there in price. Being a bathroom vanity I didn’t want to spend too much. Even such as initially wanting cherry I decided I’d save a few bucks and gibeith birch as the finish I want it wasn’t noticeably different unless you knew what to look for.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Lowes carries some well made inexpensive vanities from Bertch

  13. Melanie

    Looking at white shaker cabinets. Which is a better quality line, Kith, Woodland Cabinetry or Waypoint?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Melanie,
      Zero for three in these cabinet lines, they are all pretty junky. We carry Fabuwood and 6 Square (also sold on line as Clique Studios) both of which are much better made cabinet lines and not much more expensive. There are even cheaper RTA cabinet lines that are better made than Kith, Woodland Cabinetry or Waypoint.

  14. Pamela Jones

    Hello, and thank you – we’ve relied heavily on your blog for cabinet selection. We’ve narrowed it down to 2 for our kitchen: Legacy Debut (Executive build) or Decora Harmony Maple Pleasant. Both have similar box construction. Legacy Debut came in at half the price of Decora. Curious what would be your preference, Legacy or Decora? Also, one question about the backs: Decora has 3/16″ plywood backs on base and wall cabs; Legacy Debut offers 1/8″ plywood back. Neither offers the minimum 1/2″ as you recommend. Can you comment on this? Thank you again.

  15. Jenna

    Hello, we are looking at Fx cabinets, they are from China, very inexpensive, what do you think of this line? Thank you

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      While the cabinetry coming from China is improving quickly, especially with the US companies that are having their cabinetry made in China, there is a big difference between the top import lines and the lower lines. FX is a lower line. You spend so much money on a kitchen with appliances, flooring, countertop, instalation etc that building your kitchen around truly the bottom of the cabinetry barrel with FX, Solid Wood Cabinets, Kitchen Cabinet Kings, or even worse spending more money and getting IKEA makes no sense unless you are redoing the kitchen to sell your home. Since most home buyers can’t tell good cabinetry from bad saving any money in that case can make sense. Otherwise poor construction and the rough finishes that get dirty quickly and only save you 20% on cabinets make no sense. Spend an extra $1000 and get better made import cabinetry that will last. It will still cost 50% less that the better made semi Custom US lines.

  16. Gabriella

    Hello! We are looking at both Fabuwood and Cliqstudios for white painted cabinets. Fabuwood uses birch and Cliq has maple doors. Fabuwood has 1/2 inch backs but Cliq uses 3/8 inch. What is your opinion between the two? Are they both good options or is one much better in terms of quality? Cliq offers a longer warranty and they actually received more positive reviews online than Fabuwood. Thanks!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Gabriella,
      We sell both lines. Fabuwood is slightly better made because the back is 1/2″ thick but 3/8″ is OK just not the best. Clique Studios (sold by dealers as 6 Square) is about 15% more expensive and they offer many more finishes. For a painted white shaker cabinet the Maple doesn’t matter over the birch so I’d use the Fabuwood. For a stained cabinet I’d use the Clique Studios. The warrantee shouldn’t matter and the reviews are going to be much better not because the CS cabinet is better but because Fabuwood is sold through a lot of small inexperienced dealers. You can’t go wrong with either line as long as you have a good designer and installer. Without those it won’t matter if your cabinetry is well made.

  17. Sandra

    Hi,

    This is a fantastic blog. I learned a lot about the cabinetry companies. Thanks for the questions and answers. I am in the process of building a new home and looking for a good quality and value semi-custom cabinetry company. Of course, it is not easy, there are so many out there. I looked through all the posts here. I got an impression that you really like Kraftmaid cabinetry. So, at one point, I said Kraftmaid is the one for me based on your comments. But, I just did some googling, came across this website http://kraftmaid.pissedconsumer.com/. There are 112 complaints about them, more than any other cabinetry companies. It is alarming. Now, I have to go back to the drawing board. Any other recommendation? Thanks!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      It’s not that we love Kraftmaid it’s just that they are a quality cabinet line if upgraded to all plywood construction and available everywhere so that they come up a lot. There are many, many, well made cabinet lines. For example we carry 6 lines all well made and several are significantly less expensive than Kraftmaid. I read the complaints on your link and they can be explained by the blog below:

      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/hard-compare-kitchen-cabinet-brands/

      As a kitchen designer we hear complaints about things that customers should expect if they were knowledgeable about the product they purchased. Maple cabinets with grey spots, these are called mineral streaks and should be expected. Small holes in cherry cabinets called pits that are the common. Stripes on doors because the customer paid extra for the center panel to be solid wood instead of a less expensive veneer. And we hear what customer’s “feel” such as “I feel that I’m paying to not have any of these issues”. Buying a kitchen is like buying dozens of pieces of custom furniture. You are not buying a toaster. It is the kitchen designers job to prepare a customer for what they should expect and sadly many of us don’t and even when we do many customers just don’t listen.

  18. Steve

    Hello, great blog. Just wondering if you heard of woodland semi custom cabinetry? If so, how would you compare to Bremtown. Lastly, is the Bremtown 700 series worth the additional cost?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Steve,
      Never heard of Woodland and their we site is pretty rough and doesn’t say how the cabinets are made which I think is a bad sign. There are so many well made lines that are less than Bremtown that unless you have an almost unlimited budget I wouldn’t be in a line that was so elegant as well as expensive. The style and color of the cabinets is important in determining what line is the best fit for you. For example, if you are getting a full overlay solid color painted door style then any custom cabinet line makes little sense. The fine finishes or inset doors that make Bremtown stand out above the rest you are not selecting in that case, so why pay extra for your cabinets?

      I try to say it in every response that the design itself is what matters most and since most of the designs we see are poor I’d fix the design first with the help of a good designer before splurging on cabinetry or professional appliances. If you were working with a great designer they would be able to steer you towards the product that fits your needs best and they would also be able to answer any and all questions. That is in fact the defining characteristic of a good designer.

  19. Pier L

    I have quite a disparity in quotes from the Kemper line. Are there levels, i.e. Good, Better, Best within the Kemper line? And is Kraftmaid a better choice over Kemper?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Pier,
      There are upgrades in most cabinet lines. And yes Kraftmaid is a better cabinet than Kemper. Upgraded Kemper has a 3/8″ plywood back which is OK but Kraftmaid’s upgraded all plywood construction is better. The Kraftmaid cabinet back has a 3/4″ solid wood hanging rail.

  20. MAKitchen

    Considering candlelight vs fieldstone for large new construction kitchen – white painted finish, inset shaker, thoughts please?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      If you upgrade just to all plywood construction Candlelight is a better made cabinet since the back panel is 1/2″ plywood vs Fieldstone’s very poor 1/4″ back panel. However Fieldstone has the option to upgrade to a 3/4″ back panel. You MUST do this if you decide on Fieldstone. I think a 1/2″ panel is sufficient and both cabinet lines have nice finishes so I would get the cabinet that the kitchen designer recommends since he or she will have experience working with both companies. I have sold Fieldstone and they were fine to work with but nothing special. I know less about Candlelight although the company has a good reputation in the industry.

  21. Kevin M.

    Thanks for a great blog and sound advice. We’re redoing our kitchen in NJ and we’ve got an estimate for Kabinart from a dealer that also sells Fabuwood. I skimmed the blog but didnt see Kabinart mentioned. Do you have an opinion? I’ve seen some negative reviews, esp about customer service, damages upon delivery, and plastic hinge inserts. Any professional insights you can offer would be much appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Kevin

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      We carry Fabuwood so we like it as a product. I don’t know Kabinart well but the product looks equally well made on line. Of course a good design is the most important thing especially if you are selecting from 2 well made lines.

  22. Paul

    Have gotten estimates on Norcraft, Bishop and Decora and Diamond. Have seen some reviews on all but Norcraft. Of these, does any one stand above the rest?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      The Bishop Framed line and Decora are the better cabinets. As always upgrade the cabinetry to all plywood construction and soft close drawers.

  23. Eva

    Great response, thank you. Another question, please. We are looking to purchase good value cabinets, environmentally friendly if possible (low to no VOCs. Do you have any thoughts on that (i.e., was looking at PureBond Plywood but can’t find cabinet mfrs. that use this in Phoenix area. What should we be looking for? We will be focusing on many of the recommendations in your blog (upgraded plywood, non-frameless, etc.).

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Eva,
      We carry Fabuwood which is an inexpensive line with quality construction that is Carb Compliant. Always get Fabuwood cabinetry from a dealer and assembled in the factory. Or Cliq Studios sells Carb compliant cabinetry on line that is well made and reasonable. Dealers like ourselves sell the same line under the name 6 Square.

  24. Eva

    I have a few questions. What criteria should I look for when selecting a designer? When I look at kitchen cabinet reviews I find that the reviews are all over the place. For instance, you like KraftMaid; however, reviews are not consistent at all and even poor in many instances. How do we know what reviews should be discounted or believed? I looked at QualityCabinets today. I determined that I won’t buy them; however, I saw that they only have a 2-year warranty. How important is the warranty and what would constitute a reasonable warranty?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Eva,
      I love this question because the answer makes me crazy. Here goes:

      Kitchen design and cabinetry is complicated. And because customers are always looking to price compare and steal the design work done by kitchen designers we intentionally make it very confusing to shop for cabinets. So the same cabinet companies have different names at different locations and even in the same cabinet line like Kraftmaid doors and finishes have different names at different locations.

      Consumer Reports and other review sites don’t ask professionals to rate cabinets they ask consumers and the reviews are written by staff reporters that know nothing about cabinets. Customers that complain about a cabinet line are often complaining about something that they should have expected in the style and finish they picked but they weren’t educated as to what to expect from their designer. Here are the two most extreme examples:

      IKEA is constantly reviewed favorably by everyone except professionals here’s why: IKEA cabinets are inexpensive, easy to purchase, customer expectations are low and the finishes that IKEA carries are simple and don’t vary much. So if the instructions are not frustrating people are happy that they got a new kitchen that initially looks good. No one follows up 20 years later and sees the kitchen that is falling apart and even if they did they would need to compare it to the same kitchen in a better made product to understand what the difference in longevity is. As a professional I see that kitchen 5, 10, 15, and 20 years later when I am called upon to replace it.

      Kraftmaid (which we don’t carry but is a perfect example) consistently gets bad or mediocre reviews by consumers. This is because customer expectations are much higher and they are purchasing the more expensive cabinet at the home center or showroom they are working with. The types of wood they are buying and the properties of the finishes can be inconsistent because they are supposed to be. And the complexity the kitchens that can be designed in a high end semi-custom line can make mistakes easy. Since Home Centers like Lowes and The Home Depot carry Kraftmaid and their designers are less experienced in general and because the environment in a home center is loud, confusing, and interruption filled, problems are guaranteed. Also home center customers are cheap that’s why they are shopping at the home center in the first place so they don’t pay for needed upgrades and may not even be told that they should be getting them. This is a recipe for consumer dissatisfaction.

      10 years ago, at the same time that IKEA was rated tops and Krafmaid much lower by homeowners and consumer reports Kraftmaid was on a 7 year winning streak for the best value in cabinetry as rated by professionals. Those same professionals would agree for the most part that IKEA was just junk.

      Today Kraftmaid is less outstanding a cabinet line but still well made and still subject to the same review issues.

      The Warranty on a cabinet line actually doesn’t mean that much as some well made cabinet lines have the industry standard 5 year warranty and IKEA has a 15. A lifetime Warranty doesn’t mean much either as all are limited lifetime warranties, and actually don’t cover that much, and some terribly made cabinets offer limited lifetime warranties. The reputation of the dealer you work with is the most important thing to check out.

      To find a kitchen designer 10 years experience should be a minimum requirement. And since it is a complex profession I think a bright well educated person beats anyone with design degrees or certification. Some of the best kitchen designers I have met are on second careers or never studied design in college. However they all are very bright people with great spacial relations skills and a willingness to learn and to teach. Educating customers about what to value and expect is the sign of a great designer. If you learn a lot from a designer in a short time speaking with them then that is a great indicator. And if they tell you a few ways you can save money, that shows that they also are looking after your best interests.

      Hope all that helps.
      Paul

  25. Valerie

    Hi What do you think about using IKEA boxes and pairing them with all wood doors? Some companies, like SemiHandmade, make wood doors that are an exact fit on IKEA boxes.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Ikea cabinets are considered overpriced junk by any knowledgeable kitchen designer or contractor. There are many Asian lines and other framed RTA lines that are less expensive and better made. 10 years ago if you had no money they were your only choice. Now they really only make sense if you definitely want a frameless less durable cabinet in a modern style and don’t need it to last past 15 years.

  26. kmdc

    Hi- new construction large kitchen in MA- do not plan on selling. Feedback on choosing btw the following semi-customs: (1) omega dynasty, (2) fieldstone, (3) Brighton? All inset, simple shaker doors, white paint finish? Top priorities are durability of construction/function, finish durability. And should these be similar or differently ranked price points? Thanks!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Sorry I didn’t see this post. Brighton is the best of this bunch construction wise. We just started carrying their product so I don’t have a lot of experience with it but we selected it because it was better made than the other lines you mention.

  27. Alex Zaroulis

    Hi
    Considering Decora vs Kraftmaid vs Medallion. What would you choose?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      All good choices. Upgrade all three to an all plywood box. Decora and Kraftmaid are better made and less expensive and Medallion has nicer finishes. Personally, I would select the style and finish I liked best in either the Decora or the Kraftmaid line, as they are a better value. Of course the design itself is most important of all and most designs we see are unprofessional.

      Shop for a great kitchen designer and not a cabinet line and you will get the best kitchen. Focusing on the cabinets you are buying, and even asking this question on our blog can mean that a customer doesn’t trust the advice that their designer is giving them. This is a very bad sign and can signal that the design that they are contemplating is poor because their kitchen designer isn’t inspiring confidence.

      Another bad sign is if you or your contractor came up with the design. It takes many years to become even a competent kitchen designer, so the efforts of non kitchen designers will always look amateurish to any good professional.

  28. Jennifer

    Love my Home Depot Decora Cabinets

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Both Decora and Kraftmaid are well made cabinet lines sold at Home Depot. However, often the most important thing needed to get a great kitchen is not at a home center. And that’s a great kitchen designer. While there definitely are some very good designers working for both Lowes and The Home Depot, they are the exception to the rule.

      Also Home centers place restrictions on designers that make their jobs more difficult to do well. For example:

      Home centers don’t want their designers moving load bearing walls or moving doorways and windows. The environment inside a home center can be distracting with many interruptions and noises. And many home centers won’t even allow their designer to measure and see the kitchen they are working on. These issues make it very difficult for even a good kitchen designer to be effective working in a home center.

      Because of these chalanges, working as a kitchen designer at a home center can be a trial by fire. I have found that some of the best kitchen designers spent the early part of their careers learning in that crazy home center environment before they were able to move on to more prestigious jobs in the private showroom world.

  29. Paula

    So glad I found this thread! I am looking to remodel an outdated kitchen in an older home with shaker style white cabinets. The kitchen designers I have talked to have suggested Kraftmade thermofoil cabinets and Kemper Purestyle cabinets. Another is suggesting cabinets made locally by Byler. Any opinions on thermofoil or Purestyle? I have read concerning things about both.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Yikes! I would never get thremafoil cabinets for a kitchen. They are out of fashion and junk quite frankly. Kemper is also an inferior line. I don’t know Byler but the first designer I would stay away from.
      Here is a blog that relates to this topic:

      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/much-return-get-new-kitchen-investment/

  30. sdowling

    We are remodeling an old ranch style house. Looking at cabinets at Lowes Shenendoah vs. Wellborn Cabinets. I don’t have a price yet from Wellborn (designer there working on it) but am wondering if they are more expensive than the Lowes cabinets? Which brand is better? We did opt for all plywood construction from Lowes but the price is still so high!!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Wellborn is a way more expensive and better cabinet.

  31. Laura Clougherty

    Hi – We are putting together plans to renovate a small beach-front condo in Florida. I am working with a women over the phone (I live in Boston) on a kitchen design. She will price out both Kraftmaid and Bremtown for the job. I see you sell Bremtown. They look beautiful, but I am not able to find them in the Boston area. What are your thoughts — looking at shaker white style.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Bremtown will be much more expensive then Kraftmaid. They are great cabinets but in a painted shaker cabinet there won’t be much of a noticeable difference, unless you got inset cabinetry.

  32. aphome

    Do you have an insight into Mouser Cabinets (http://mousercabinetry.com/)? We are considering Mouser vs. Starmark Cabinetry.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Mouser looks slightly better constructed than Starmark but upgraded both will be good lines. Starmark is known for their finishes. Mouser I know less well.

  33. lisa

    Another couple brands that would like to question are wellborn and wolf? Do you have any idea about either and price point comparison? Have seen and look nice but have not priced out. Have seen JSI and it is a chinese made cabinet. Builder uses and customizes it all to look better. Quality is decent with few things to question with rollouts and smoothness. Look very nice with some glazing. Trying to compare the three mentioned and price. Thanks.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Wellborn is a high end Semi Custom line that from what I see at trade shows has some very nice finishes and is well constructed. It could be 60% more than the cost of Wolf. Wolf is made in China and assembled in upstate PA. I like it better than the Aristocraft that Wolf also sells but it is not one of the better made Chinese/American assembled lines. Lots of similar lines at the same or better price points and also better made. Fabuwood would be one that we sell. Solid Wood cabinets are even better made than Wolf, but the designers there pretty much guarantee you get a badly designed kitchen.

      Don’t underestimate the most important thing needed to get a good kitchen at a good price. A good designer! And if you think you don’t need a designer then your over confidence will almost certainly get you a poorly designed over-priced kitchen.

  34. lisa

    Hi. I have seen a few post here about JSI and Kith cabinetry a while back. You hadn’t heard much about either line and was wondering if you know anything more since prior posts. Thanks. To the people, “Amy” and others that asked, have you selected Kith or found out anything more. Thanks…..very helpful blog!!!!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Looked them up on line and Kith is pretty much junk and JSI tells you nothing about how the cabinetry is made that I can find, so that is troubling.In this price point Fabuwood is one of the best lines out there, which is why we carry it.

  35. Joe in Minnesota

    Wow, am I confused. We almost went with Thomasville at Home Depot but when we looked at reviews on the internet it was discouraging. We are operating on a budget but can afford mid range to higher end cabinets. Your site is awesome in regards to helpful info but now we are so confused we don’t know who to trust or not as far as cabinets go. Any help on cabinet brand references What brands do we look at with some confidence that we are going to be happy.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      If you are working with a Home Depot designer why not Kraftmaid. It should be a similar price and it is a better cabinet.

  36. Ronnie Ward

    I am considering Omega Dynasty and Brookhaven by Woodmode for a large, new home project. The price for Omega is better, but after reading reviews on different sites, I’m worried about making a wrong choice. Since so much is at stake, do you have any advice? Should i risk going with Omega, or spend a lot more money for Brookhaven?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Brookhaven is a better cabinet and Woodmode is a better company. There aren’t any other options? How about a compromise cabinet line like Kraftmaid? Kraftmaid is made identically to Brookhaven. The Kraftmaid Plant actually made 1/2 of the Brookhaven line at one point, I’m not sure if they still do but the cabinetry is close to the same animal and less expensive. Always upgrade to plywood sides or all plywood construction at least on the exposed cabinetry and on the wall cabinets. It’s simplier to do it on all of them to avoid mistakes.

  37. Sandra McKenzei

    What is your opinion on Rona Cabinets, Westwood or Euro-rite. They are canadian made.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      I don’t know much about these lines. I tried looking up the first two and found that Rona appears to be a Canadian retail company that sells cabinets. They look less qualified than Lowes and Home Depot at first glance. Westwood looks like a tiny custom cabinet manufacturer and so I know nothing about them. They could be great but I have no way of knowing, and their web site is little help. Euro-rite from the name tells me that these are European frameless cabinets. I prefer framed cabinets to less durable frameless construction so they wouldn’t be my pick. Are you in Canada? is that the reason for all the Canadian lines. Canada is not known for making mass produced framed cabinetry economically. They have some fine custom cabinet companies but most larger Canadian cabinet manufacturers specialize in frameless cabinetry.

  38. Amy

    Hi, considering Kith cabinets versus American wood mark. Which would be more durable? And are both made in the us?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Both lines look like they are US made for the most part but these inexpensive lines all are beginning to use Chinese made doors for some styles. American Woodmark is the better made cabinet especially if you upgrade to all plywood construction. However in inexpensive cabinet lines I think that the Asian made and US assembled cabinetry is less expensive and superior in quality. A company like Clique Studios is less expensive sold on line everywhere in the US and better made than both these lines and the on line designers actually seem to be better than the ones you now find at home centers. Of course having a local designer measure your kitchen and help you select a design and cabinet line is the best option but in the lower priced lines the designers are often inexperienced.

  39. Wendy

    We are looking at Kabinart vs. Waypoint cabinets. Any comments?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Kabinart is a better constructed cabinet. Both cabinet lines are reasonably priced and better made than some more expensive cabinet lines, but the I beam all plywood construction of the Kabinart line gives it the edge. If you don’t plan on living in your home for decades, then since both lines are fine, I’d get the door style and finish I liked best and not give any weight to the better construction.

  40. Sheri Saldivar

    What do you think of cabinets.com Deerfield? They say they are made in the US…anything I should watch out for?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Sheri,
      They are ready to assemble or built in the US but I’m sure made in Asia. Not that that is a bad thing. It is why they are so inexpensive. They look comparable to the brand Solid Wood Cabinets. Pretty well made but very inexpensive cabinetry probably with less selection and less attractive finishes. All that being said, most people can’t tell the differences between a good finish and a bad one. If you are selling your home in the next 5 to 10 years, then probably a fine pick on a budget. If you are in for the duration spending 20% more on cabinetry might get you a nicer finish and also a better designer to work with. Who helps you designing your kitchen and orders it can be the difference between money well spent and money wasted.

  41. Kim

    Thank you for the response. I noticed you are in PA. We are building east of Scranton PA. How far are you located from there and would your company come out to Hawley PA?

  42. Kim

    We are building a home and are considering cabinetry. We know of someone who is a Diamond distributor so they would not be coming from Lowes and they have an in house design person. Not sure if these cabinets will be the same quality as Lowes. Also considering Wellborn. Your thoughts on these brands would be appreciated.
    Thanks for your time.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      As long as the Diamond cabinets are upgraded to 1/2″ Plywood sides you should be fine. Wellborn will be more expensive but is a very good cabinet line.

  43. Diane

    How can a girl find out which kitchen cabinets are truly made in America? As in, all the plywood box parts and doors are american sourced and American processed and finished followed with American assembly. This should not be esoteric information, yet I am finding it oddly difficult to discern. Perhaps because so many of the parts are asian processed and currently in disfavor with consumers, hence hiding the info? I would love a nice spread sheet with parts & assembly origins for cabinets.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      In General the more expensive semi custom and custom cabinet lines will be made in the US but as doors become better made and less expensive even some expensive lines will outsource some mitered doors from Asia. Less expensive cabinetry made 100% in the US is inferior to the less expensive cabinetry assembled in the US but with parts made in China.

  44. Pat

    what do you think about Wolf cabinets.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      I like Wolf Cabinetry better then Aristocraft, the line Wolf distributed before they stabbed their sales partner in the back and came out with a line competing with the line they distributed for over a decade. But it is still the cheapest of the cheap. Solid Wood Cabinets I believe are lower in price and of equal quality. The Fabuwood line that we carry is close in price but superior to both in the quality of the cabinetry and the finishes. I was disappointed with our Governor because I thought that that business move was slightly unethical and must have been in the making during his time with the company.

  45. Paul Mcalary

    Hi Megan – you can email me directly at Paul@MainLineKitchenDesign.com

  46. Megan

    Hi Paul – would it be best to email you through the website or is there a direct email?

  47. Silvergirl

    Thank you! Cost wise, does it make sense that upgrading to plywood sides would be an additional 5% and to all plywood box would cost an additional 12%?

    Have you heard of any problems of quality with either brand?

    And what about KraftMaid – how does it fit in with Bishop and Candlelight?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      That is the reason we carry Bishop. They don’t charge very much more for the all plywood construction. I assume Candlelight has the 5% and 12% upgrade. Bishop should be about 5% more for an all plywood box. Kraftmaid is a good cabinet line too but will probably be at least 12% more for an all plywood box.

      If the finish you are getting is a solid color paint I would use Bishop, and get an all plywood box. You won’t see a difference in the finish comparing line to line, and I’ll bet Bishop is still less than the other two with an all plywood box. If you really like a particular stain, or glaze or another finish (like a paint with brushstrokes) that you can only get in one of the other lines I guess I wouldn’t pay the extra 7% for the all plywood box and I’d just get plywood sides.

      Remember the design itself is far more important than your choices here in cabinetry (since they are all good ones) and a great designer will give you a far better looking kitchen then you could ever imagine. If the design you are shopping around was something that you or someone less experienced came up with then it is a certainty that a good kitchen designer could improve the design and would probably change the layout. Most of our customers believe they know the design, color, and style of the cabinets that they want when they come to us. But when we show them better layouts and less expensive door styles or finishes that they like equally well they choose those. Their finished kitchen looks far better designed by an accomplished professional and costs them less. When customers shop for cabinets instead of shopping for kitchen designers they usually get an amateurish design especially if the design came from their architect or builder.

  48. Silvergirl

    Good morning — my contractor offers both Bishop and Candlelight Cabinets. Can you provide any insight and guidance on these two manufacturers and what is a good choice with each? Many thanks!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      I like both lines. I would think that the Bishop would be less than the Candlelight. So it would depend on the door style and finish you were getting whether it would be worth it spending more money to get the Candlelight. We carry Bishop so we like the line and I think it is a good value. Allways upgrade any line to all plywood construction and soft close drawers and doors if they hinges are concealed.

  49. J. Lopez

    Any feedback/comparison between Omega and Recod Cucine?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      When you are getting high end Frameless European style cabinetry you are sacrificing construction quality for style. All these high end European lines are made very similarly and you couldn’t get a framed cabinet to look as contemporary and modern as a European frameless cabinet even if you wanted to. So when selecting from good European lines I just pick the modern door style and finish I like best and if two lines carry it, I just go with the less expensive one. If you decide on getting a more traditional door style I would switch to a framed line.

  50. curious

    Any thoughts on Starmark Cabinetry?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Starmark and Fieldstone were last I checked made by the same people and have much the same construction, door styles and very nice finishes. Upgrade to 1/2 plywood sides and Blumotion drawers and they are very nice. I think Fieldstone sells usually for slightly less than Starmark.

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