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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. DAW

    So much good information. Thanks. Any comment on Kith cabinetry? Saw it at Ram in West Chester and finally a brushed gray shade I love.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      My comment would be …You are spending a lot of time on our web site, live and in our area, and are not working with us when we are inexpensive, the most experienced, and get the best reviews? Sort of odd reasoning.

  2. Kjohnson

    You’ve been at this for a long time, and I’ve read almost everything on your blog. We are contemplating a kitchen redo, and have only started getting quotes. We went to a designer who quoted us for canyon creek cabinets, and I’m not all that impressed and don’t really want frameless cabinets. We looked into Forevermark, KraftMaid, etc. no quotes yet. We really favor on the side of RTA cabinets to save some money. Any suggestions?

  3. John Holmberg

    Do you have any thoughts on Koch cabinets? They’re not on your 2017 list. We’ve actually been on a tour of one of their production plants and were impressed with the quality. They have the upgraded features you talk about (plywood boxes, soft close drawers etc.)
    We used to like Kraftmaid cabinets, but have noticed that their dovetail joints have been getting rougher and rougher. We have used dovetail quality as one of our quality guides. Is that appropriate?
    Thank you.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Looks like their Imperial Line with Upgraded “everything” is a good cabinet. The Classic and Express lines with particle board options and without full extension soft close drawers and soft close doors are not good investments.

  4. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

    Hi Anastasia,
    You could try buying cabinets on line from CliqStudios. They are well made but have limited door styles.

  5. Anastasia

    Thank you so much for the info. I just read your entire blog and feel much better informed.

    Any chance that you can recommend a dealer in Palm Beach County? The closest one you have on that link is two hours away from me in Miami.

    Also is is OK to go with a framed cabinet with a slab door? I know you say it looks better in frameless but framed is more durable.

  6. Anastasia

    I am looking to buy kitchen cabinets with slab doors in a dark chocolate color. I am getting conflicting advice from each designer I sit with regard solid wood (Kraftmaid, Shuler) versus Mdf with veneer (American Woodmark, Thomasville). I’m in South Florida and many are pushing for the Mdf vs solid wood slab will warp with all the humidity, even saying warranty won’t cover warping. But my instincts is to go solid wood

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      I would recommend that slab doors be a veneered wood over MDF if the finish is paint or a stain. Solid MDF will be be too easily damaged. Solid wood will either warp or look striped if stained and is a waste of money. Quality cabinetry is important with veneers.

      In can tell from the questions though that you need better help than you are getting at the home centers you are using now. Try a dealer we recommend in your area. List below:

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

  7. lacey

    We are trying to make a decision on kitchen cabinets. I have a quote from cliqstuidos ($22,000) for inset shaker cabinets and one for McItyer ($28,000) which is too expensive so they have suggested a stock cabinet using Wolf their York line ($17,500). Do you know anything about these three companies. The prices vary quite a bit. We want a quality cabinet that will last but all quotes seem very expensive.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      I would never buy an inset cabinet from a relatively inexpensive but well made line like CliqStudios. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Inset cabinets are too difficult to make cheaply. Get the full overlay styles from Cliq or spend more to get the real thing.

  8. Mary Lynn

    Hello!
    Our designer was suggesting the Belmont cabinets for our 2 bathrooms, (I posted about 10 days ago), and you weren’t impressed with their website or construction. Of these other lines that she represents, I was wondering if you could tell me your thoughts: Ovation, Medallion (framed),and Design Craft (frameless). I haven’t been able to find too much online about these companies, other than Medallion and Design Craft are Elkay, which also sells a Home Depot line called Innermost. We aren’t looking for lots of bells and whistles, mainly good construction and a good finish on a standard drawers and doors bathroom vanity. I know you don’t do bathrooms, but I trust your judgement on cabinet lines. Would one of these lines have what we need without charging for the ability to customize and have fancy do-dads that we don’t want? Thank you for your help. Your blog is so educational.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Bathrooms take much less stress than kitchens and there are usually no wall cabinets which required better construction. Any cabinet line upgraded to plywood construction and dove tail drawers will be fine for a bath. Medallion is the best line you mention but they will be more expensive.

  9. Annie

    Wow, lots of information.
    My question-I’m getting ready to build an apartment bldg., it’s my first project so I have little experience in choosing cabinetry. My GC is a dealer for Aristocraft/Kemper and highly regards them. I am looking for cabinetry to be proud of. Obviously best price, long lasting, non off gassing. I’ve been researching for months and so much is conflicting. I do believe plywood is better than MDF for a ‘Green’ feature. I’ve gone to a few showrooms that have Aristocraft door styles but not any constructed cabinetry by Aristocraft. They are members of the Environmental Stewardship program, for what it is worth. Reviews are not great and I am at a loss with so many other types to choose from. Would you suggest any of your cabinetry for my situation of have any suggestions due to the fact that I will be making a large investment?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Aristocraft and Kemper are not a good value or well constructed. Being Members of the ES program is not worth anything more than being a member of the KCMA …ie just about zero. It only means you have the money to belong. I’d use our 2017 Cabinet reviews if you need help. Link below:
      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-2017-reviews-top-selling-cabinet-lines/

  10. Jane

    Thank you so much! I’ll check that link and talk more about it with our designer. I appreciate your help!

  11. Paul McAlary

    Hi Jane,
    Well your answer also is reassuring. It sounds like you are in good hands. With your color choices and inset cabinetry and expensive countertops the choice here is tough. Plain and Fancy might be the better investment. But I don’t know the colors that are standard in Candlelight. Sometimes a line like Candlelight can be a great value but sometimes the custom colors you are choosing along with other customisations raise the price of a line like Candlelight almost to the Plain and Fancy pricing. I would defer to your designer that knows his lines and pricing better than I do.
    Here is a link to our ratings for different cabinet lines:
    https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-2017-reviews-top-selling-cabinet-lines/

  12. Jane

    Thank you! This is so helpful and reassuring. We are currently working with a designer and our experience with him so far ticks all the boxes you recommended in your blog post about choosing a designer. He is addressing the space by removing some doorways and adding others to create uninterrupted work spaces and kid-safe areas, as well as an entrance/exit flow. The cabinets will be inset, but not beaded, and painted in an ambiguous greenish navy with walnut countertops. With those cabinet specifications, do you think a more expensive cabinet would be noticeable or can we get away with less expensive cabinets?

  13. Jane

    Hi Paul – I’ve spent hours reading through your blog and all the helpful questions/answers. You’re providing an amazing service to those of us who are looking for professional, unbiased information. Thank you!

    We are redoing our kitchen and my question relates to setting a cabinet budget. We want to put an appropriate amount of money into our kitchen based on home value. Is there a percentage or calculation you recommend for setting a kitchen budget relating to home value? Or are there certain cabinet lines you’d recommend for certain home values like $250k, $500k, $1m, $1.5m?

    We’re currently considering Plain and Fancy, but the showroom also has Candlelight which I was told is 12-15% less. However, our kitchen requires some custom work that P&F designed for me in less than a week. I’m quite impressed so far, but want to make sure it is an appropriate investment for our house value. Many thanks and happy new year!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Jane,
      This is a great question and one that comes up all the time. The answer is more complicated then a simplistic percentage formula could ever express. What is a good investment on a kitchen and an appropriate amount to spend on it actually has less to do with how much you are spending and more to do with what you are spending it on. Well made cabinetry doesn’t need to be expensive, solid surface countertops like granite can cost only a little more than Formica, and expensive appliances while very nice will seldom determine whether a home sells or not. However the layout of the first floor and the kitchen of a home and how attractive and functional it is can completely determine whether the home sells in a day or languishes on the market for years. Changing the layout and floor plan of a home to make the kitchen look and work better is almost always a good investment. So spending money on moving or removing walls, doorways, windows, plumbing, and other mechanicals is usually money well spent if it makes the space a better place to live.

      Buying very expensive cabinetry like Plain and Fancy or as splurging on 50K in professional appliances and level 10 countertops will never be a good investment even in a 5 million dollar home unless FIRST the best layout for the space has been created and then that the expensive selections that you are splurging on can be appreciated buy the next owner.

      For example, on the most popular cabinet finish and style (painted white shaker full overlay cabinets) customers can’t tell the difference between the most expensive cabinets we carry and the least. So spending double or triple the money on that particular finish and style is almost certainly money that will not be appreciated by the next homeowner because the difference in quality is almost undetectable. However inset cabinetry and stained finishes look incredibly better the more expensive the cabinet line is. Plain and Fancy for example has beautiful furniture stains and beaded inset cabinetry will never look quite right unless the cabinet line is a custom line.

      Great kitchen designers understand this and help customers spend their money on the things that matter more. Unfortunately there are very few good, practical, and knowledgeable kitchen designers because understanding what is the better layout and investment for a particular space takes talent, creativity, and many years of experience in our business.

      So my best advice is not to shop for the cabinets but to shop for your kitchen designer. If you pick a great designer and listen to them they will help you pick the layouts, styles, and materials that are better investments and which should make your home sell for far more than the money you invested in your renovation.

  14. Mary Lynn Crandall

    Hi,
    We are at the very beginning stages of a renovation project for our bathrooms that involves new cabinets. I thought I had chosen the right person to help us, but after reading your blog, I’m concerned that the line she mentioned to me for cabinets is Bellmont, which only make frameless cabinets. I’m beginning to feel like I need to take cabinet making 101 to make the best informed choice for our cabinets! It’s very complicated! Could you look at the construction page on their website and tell me what you think?
    https://www.bellmontcabinets.com/resources/construction-details.html

    I’m not sure what it means when they say the boxes are made of melamine, with a real wood veneer over the exposed parts. We do live on the coast, and she said melamine boxes are better than wood because of the moisture here. What is your opinion of that?

    Thanks for your help.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      For a bathroom that takes much less stress than a kitchen a frameless particle board cabinet is probably fine.

      But you are buying overpriced IKEA cabinets. Any frameless cabinet is certainly not as durable as a well made framed cabinet. And on the coast makes no difference. A bathroom gets a lot of moisture in every home.

      Wood is always better than particleboard in any setting. Unfortunately in the cabinet and countertop world the companies that tout how green they are are usually selling overpriced junk by trying to appeal to uninformed single issue buyers.

  15. Paul McAlary

    They are a “ready to assemble cabinet line” As far as I know everything is shipped flat packed unless they now also assemble them.

  16. Michael

    What do you mean put the JSI together? They are not delivered assembled?

  17. Michael Mastrocola

    I am deciding on kitchen cabinets for 6 rental properties between Cliq Studios and JSI Cabinetry. In your opinion which company has a better product. JSI was $6000 less.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      You will have to put the JSI together and they are not anywhere near as nice,

  18. Lance King

    Wow! What a wealth of knowledge you have. We are redoing our kitchen and have narrowed it down to Kemper versus Kraft maid. The dealer selling Kemper is helpful, knowledgeable and inspires confidence. Kraftmaid at Home Depot and Lowe’s does not. So we are thinking the Kemper Kingston line in whiskey black. But we are still debating cherry versus alder wood. Thoughts?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Here is our 2017 ranking for cabinet lines:

      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-2017-reviews-top-selling-cabinet-lines/

      We rate Kemper far lower as a line than Kraftmaid. However the designer is as important as the cabinet line. How about finding an independent dealer that carries a line that we rate higher than Kemper? Kemper could have improved their cabinet construction of late but we wouldn’t know because like many of Masterbrands lines their web site doesn’t tell you how the cabinets are made. This lack of transparency is one reason we are extra skeptical of Masterbrand lines. Decora is certainly the best line Masterbrands makes. Possibly your Kemper dealer also sells Decora?

  19. Kim

    First thank you so much for all this information
    We are stumped between kraftmaid and schrock. Which one in your opinion is better

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Upgraded they are both fine. Kraftmaid Advantage is a good buy. I’d pick the color and doorstyle you like best between the two lines or most importantly the designer that you think is better.

  20. renee hernandez

    After house flooded during Harvey, i’m looking at American Woodmark Leesburg with Painted Linen. The specs show 1/2 structural Hanging rail with a 1/8 hardboard substrate captured back. Want to make sure this is ok per your suggestions and also is this a framed cabinet as I am totally brain dead after fighting with FEMA. Are these good cabinets? thank you for your time.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Renee,
      We like Woodmark upgraded to all plywood construction. They meet our construction requirements and are an inexpensive US made line. Some Asian produced lines will be better values at the low end of the cabinet market but there is also some safety in buying a kitchen from Home Depot. Even if the designer is less experienced the company will pay to correct the mistakes. Sorry about the flood!

  21. Paul McAlary

    Unfortunately we find it funny too when we get sent designs customers intend buying online. The designs have never been anything but terrible and they nearly always have serious mistakes in them. Examples we see over and over again are using 42″ high wall cabinets in a room 8 feet tall, not leaving enough space for the kitchen table, and all the mistakes you can find on our blog below:

    https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/is-your-kitchen-designer-going-to-kill-you/

    The mistakes above aren’t funny because they are so dangerous. Many people treat buying a kitchen like buying a toaster. They research forever about cabinets like they do with their appliances but overlook the complexity of the project and the need for a good kitchen designer, The video below is truly funny and makes this point:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJgxCeeNTo&t=4s

  22. DENISE

    Paul,

    I found your comment a bit humorous although probably not intended as such. Your point is well taken. You’re the expert here and I can appreciate that this is not something you would ever recommend.

  23. Denise

    Great blog! You made comments early on that you do not recommend ordering cabinets online and I appreciate that advice. Having said that, using your guidelines for a well made cabinet, I wonder if you might comment again on those sold by Cliquestudios. I am also curious about Deerfield cabinets from cabinets.com. Cliquestudios cabinets have 1/2″ plywood sides and 3/8″ backs. They do not use a hang rail system. Deerfield cabinets have 1/2″ plywood sides, 1/4″ birch backs and 1/2″ plywood hanging rails. I thought Deerfield was owned by Kith which you did not like in the past. Both claim to be American made although I’ve also read comments that they may be made in Asia. Would you know if the manufacturing has changed over the years and would either meet your qualifications for a well made cabinet? Is it better to have the hang rail?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      If you must order cabinets on line assuring that no designer measures and that the designers are inexperienced, order from Clique Studios. They give you the best chance of avoiding the most serious mistakes.

  24. Camille

    First you are an amazing resource Paul, thank you. I’m considering a few brands in my champagne taste beer budget renovation, J&K, Waypoint, maybe Forevermark and now All Wood Cabinets through Costco since they have a 25% discount. All wood had an MDF center with a birch frame door 3/4″ thick solid MDF 3″ wide Shaker frame wall and base doors with 5/8″ thick solid MDF recessed center panels, Soft close doors and Fully concealed hinges. Is MDF inferior in this door construction? Should I eliminate Costco’s All Wood? I plan on hiring a kitchen designer, but would like to be economical with quality carb compliment cabinet choices. Can you compare the choices please. Thanks in Advance.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Camille,
      MDF on a recessed panel is actually a good thing on a painted cabinet. I don’t know the Costco line though and all discounts in the cabinet world are phony. No one sells cabinetry for list price. For example some of our lines we sell for 52% off or 48% of list.

  25. monica richtsmsier

    Love your blog. have just moved into a home with Laminate cabinets – YIKES. Am looking for painted cabinets. Have you any experience with Forevermark? Or Cabinets.com deerfield line? I am also looking at Diamond from Lowes. Am on a super tight budget.
    Thanks in advance for your advice…

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Foevermark is a very inexpensive line but there are way better inexpensive line. See our reviews of cabinetry here:

      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-2017-reviews-top-selling-cabinet-lines/

  26. Liz

    Hi! As others have said thank you for keeping this blog going and for continuing to answer questions. I’ve reference your site many times while researching cabinets and have ruled out some designers because I didn’t think the cabinet lines the offer will last us 20+ years in a heavily used kitchen. We are looking to improve our current layout and have met with several designers and are down to 3. One is recommending Kraftmaid Vantage, another Honey Brook Custom cabinets, and the 3rd Brookhaven. I am concerned about Kraftmaid’s 3/16″ for the bottom of the drawers. In the past, it’s been the drawers that have not held up for us. My neighbor has Brighton and I can definitely see a difference between their shaker style door and Kraftmaid’s door. The Brighton shaker seems much more substantial. The price for the cabinets – Kraftmaid vantage vs Honey Brook, are pretty close in price. We have not gotten a formal quote for Brookhaven yet. Any advice or insight into these cabinets and how they stack up against one another (Kraftmaid Vantage, Honey Brook, Brookhaven, and Brighton)? Also, do you recommend a door with a vaneer center panel on a recessed style door? We plan on having a mix of white cabinets and stained cabinets.

    Thanks!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      I don’t know Honeybrook well. The other three are great choices. We carry Brighton because their finishes are so furniture like and because they do inset, beaded inset, and color matching so reasonably. If you are considering a custom painted finish or are getting inset cabinetry then the Brighten pricing will be tough to beat. If you are getting a full overlay door style then I go with the color and style I like best. That assumes the designers are all equal. In reality the designer is more important than any cabinet choice among these lines.

  27. paul mcalary

    Never alter your cabinets you will void the warranty from the manufacturer and experimenting with finishes should be left to serious professionals

  28. Dee

    Thank you for your response to my questions. If we go with painted cabinets, will putting on a tough sealant coat over the painted cabinets while new, help to protect the paint from chipping or will it change your paint color? Meaning putting a sealant over the finish they already put on over the paint. Thank you.

  29. Dee

    We are looking at either Bertch or Great Northern cabinets. Have read some negative comments on the Bertch and am concerned although there are some positive comments too. Can you tell me anything I should be aware of with either of these brands or any of the positive features? Our new cabinets will be painted and wonder if there is anything to be aware of with this too. Thank you.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Paint is less durable then stain. Here is our ratings for the most popular cabinet lines.
      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-2017-reviews-top-selling-cabinet-lines/

      I would disregard customer reviews of cabinets on line as most customers complaints are over cabinet properties they should have expected but were poorly informed. Such as all paints will chip and be damaged more easily by water especially farm sink cabinets.

  30. Dee

    Thank you for your quick response! And as far as finishes go, I appreciate your comments that a lot of consumers barely notice the difference in finishes. I read someplace on your website that we can find soemone to refinish cabinetry in the future if the finishes really needed updating. I feel like you gave a specific company name but I can’t remember it. Also, my quote was for all MDF doors (I realized this later) instead of wood doors. Is it possible to refinish MDF doors? And would the paint look different on the MDF portion vs. the wood portion over time since it’s white? Just trying to decide whether I should upgrade to wood doors, which I’d be happy to do. Thanks again.

  31. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

    Waypoint has gotten better over time and the durability of the finish shouldn’t be an issue although the look of the finish could be a little sloppier. Plywood sides are OK and the Grass glides are OK but APC and Blum are better. Since we don’t carry them it’s hard for us to really know. If the dealer thinks it’s OK and they have a good reputation I’d listen to them.

  32. Dee

    Thanks so much for all the information and for answering our questions. Deciding on kitchen cabinets feels very overwhelming. I’m wondering if your opinion on Waypoint has changed over the years? It seems in some comments you think they’re junk and some seem okay. Moreso, you seem to be fine with Shenandoah and American Woodmark when they’re upgraded, and I’ve heard that Waypoint is the dealer equivalent of those lines. I got a really good quote from Waypoint, and a similar quote for Diamond at Lowes was $5,000 more. I’m getting white shaker and Waypoint can satisfy my customizations. I’m concerned about the finish on it because I’ve heard there are issues with their finish. I just don’t know if I should be that concerned with it. My dealer says for white shaker with little customization there is no need to go to a more expensive cabinet. Waypoint has plywood sides but I could upgrade to all plywood (dealer doesn’t think this is necessary). They also have Grass undermount glides instead of Blumotion. Any thoughts on the Grass glides and whether it’s worth it to go with Diamond vs Waypoint. Thank you!

  33. Tracy

    Thank you for the incredible information provided on your blog. I have received quotes for kith cabinets and wolf cabinets. Have seen your reviews on both. I am now with a designer who is suggesting cafe series by NAC or Countryside Cabinetry. NAC looks to be frameless. Do you have any information on either of these brands? Thank you!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      No I don’t know those brands and I would recommend framed cabinetry other than for very modern door styles. The wolf is inexpensive with good construction at least at the top of their line. I don’t know their line in too much detail.

  34. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

    The sides of the cabinets are not wood when they are made of particleboard they are plastic pictures embossed on wood that fade and look terrible after a short time. But as I said different people have different levels of both how hard they are on cabinets and how picky they are on quality. If you were happy get them again. We wouldn’t be nor would most of our customers.

  35. Jeanne

    thanks for your reply.
    For the record: there is no sagging, any light-wood finish will yellow over 20 years, and “peeling” is an exaggeration–one 6-inch strip of laminate is loose, but I’v just been too lazy to apply a little glue. And the hinges have not been a problem. So I’m still as confused as ever as to why this type of cabinet is so undesirable. Like I said, the remodel is not at all due to cabinets wearing out–the dishwasher leaked and damaged things.
    Oh well, thanks anyway.

  36. Jeanne

    One more question: I am just learning the difference b/t frameless and framed. I looked and realized that my 20-year old maple cabinets are frameless. They’ve held up quite well, I have to say (in one place the laminate strip was coming loose) 1/2″ particle board boxes and 1/4″ MDF backs, no plywood that I can see. The door fronts are solid wood. But no dovetail joints. (Nor soft-closes–I am glad that seems to be standard these days.)
    After reading your site, it appears these would be less-desirable cabinets, yet they have stood up for a long time, and , but for being outdated, still look no worse for the wear overall (though yellowed with time and light). We are redoing the kitchen due to damage from a dishwasher leak. I am glad of a style update to be sure, but the cabinets themselves are in good condition generally.
    So I guess I have to ask, what is so bad about frameless construction and the other aspects I mentioned above? I see that the frame serves to strengthen the whole, but then access is limited too, right? I see where “frameless” is also called “full access”.
    Considering the longevity of these old cabinets…is it just that they don’t make cheap frameless cabinets like they used to? LOL 🙂

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Many people would want cabinetry to last more than 20 years and yours are peeling, yellowed, and I’m sure sagging in many places. Some people are harder on things than others too and it doesn’t take much to pull the hinges out of the side of a frameless cabinet and if you do there is really no good way to repair it.

  37. Jeanne

    Wow your answers are a trove of information, thanks! We are redoing 20 year old kitchen. Passed through Home Depot and picked up the magazines for KraftMaid, Thomasville, Martha Stewart, and American Woodmark. On first glance, I liked the looks of Thomasville and MS, also partly because they offered toe kick drawers, which I hadn’t seen before and I love the idea.
    I see from reading your comments that Kraftmaid is better quality. is there something inherently bad about using the toe kick space for a drawer? Kraftmaid doesn’t seem to offer that as an option.
    Also I am thinking I want a navy or slate blue island, and only Thomasville shows that as a color option.
    I am very new to this arena, your comments are very educational. Where do I go to find a good kitchen designer? I’m in the Salt Lake area btw.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Thomasville is rebranded by Home Depot and a poor value. Toe kick drawers are a bad idea for many reasons. If we were working with you we could explain but these explanations can be lengthy.

  38. Kenny

    We have a “moderate” budget ($10,000+) and are considering Wolf..both Classic and upgrade to Signature, as well as Waypoint and 6 Square. Which do you think has better “finish” and overall better quality? Or, are we better off spending a little more (15%??) and going to Kraftmaid??

    Also..was not aware that the chinese import that you carry-Fabuwood- is CARB compliant. Are you sure that their materials (including the plywood), meet all Calif environmental guidelines?? Thanks

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Upgraded to all plywood construction or at least plywood sides Kraftmaid should be 40% more than Wolf or Waypoint and 20 to 30% more than 6 Square. Finishes will be similar durability wise – it’s all about the looks and you need to be the judge. Most customers can’t tell the difference.The Fabuwood and 6 Square line we carry are both Carb compliant. By the way the 6 Square parts are also coming from China as are Wolf and Waypoint. You can no longer get a quality cabinet inexpensively unless that’s the case.

  39. Jo Ann

    Hi, I have looked as Wolf, Waypoint and like the prices and options with the full upgrades. I gave also looked at the tried and true Kraftmaid. Is there something in the middle . the rankings you provide are helpful but I just can’t pull the trigger on the purchase just yet.

    Plus is it true that while a cabinet company offers a limited lifetime warranty, some states have laws that limit the lenght if the warranty??

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Jo Ann,
      Warranty length is most often meaningless. Even though we give all the cabinetry we sell a limited lifetime warranty it is a marketing decision and we find no correlation between quality and warranty span in the cabinetry we sell.

      There is not much construction or finish durability difference between the less expensive cabinet lines you are considering and Kraftmaid or even custom cabinet lines. However, there is a large difference in the ability to customize and the richness in the stained and glazed finishes.

      Surprisingly most customers not only can’t tell the difference between finishes, they often prefer less expensive finishes. And sadly most consumers don’t understand the value of good design. They just want to buy the cabinetry they, their contractor, or another less skilled person designed.

      So for most people once the cabinet line is better constructed the advantages of a higher priced cabinet line is wasted. However in the skilled hands of a great kitchen designer the higher priced cabinetry can be breathtaking.

      All good kitchen designers are frustrated when customers spend money on expensive professional appliances and expensive cabinetry and yet the kitchen design they or their architect insists on is amateurish. Thankfully I can now pass these projects on to the other designers in our company. Usually everyone is then happy since the other designers are easier going and the sale is often greater as well as less time consuming.

  40. Jessie

    Hi Paul,

    Do you know if J&K Cabinets and ProCraft Cabinets are good cabinets?

    Thanks!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Not a fan of RTA cabinetry unless it is assembled in the factory and has detailed specs. Nor Frameless lines unlessthe style demands it.

  41. Lynn

    Hi. I’ve been looking at cabinet makes as my new house builder emails me suggestions, one of those was Conestoga. Would the 1-year warranty concern you if cabinets were purchased in the premium line with all the upgrades? Thanks

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Conestoga is known for the doors they make and I know very little about their RTA cabinetry. RTA cabinetry can be well made but it should be assembled by the manufacturer which I don’t believe Conestoga does. I don’t like RTA cabinetry that is built on site. This means that someone with very little experience assembling cabinetry will be building your cabinets. The warranty is not the problem.

  42. Heather

    Can you please list your top criteria for choosing a cabinet dealer? After reading through all of the information you’ve shared here, it’s clear that choosing a great dealer is right up there with choosing a great kitchen designer. But what should I be looking for?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Heather,
      Great question. Here is what I would look for in a Dealer:

      1) A documented great reputation. Google the dealer and check their reviews on Google, Houzz.com, The Better Business Bureau and other sites. Established companies will have reviews and even reading the bad reviews will give you insights. Bad reviews mean the reviews you are reading are real and if the complaints are petty or sort of nutty you can dismiss them and rely on the better reviews as a good indicator.
      2) Good dealers will represent several cabinet lines with different price points and different styles. Selling only one or two lines means you can’t have your customer’s best interest at heart. Not everyone wants or needs the same cabinetry.
      3) Knowledgeable designers. Good companies won’t have apprentice designers helping customers. Competent kitchen designers should have at least a decade of experience in the industry.
      4) Does the company insist on measuring your kitchen? Good companies will insist on measuring an existing home and poor ones will take any measurements they are given just to expedite a sale at the customers expense.
      5) BIG sales. Big sales with expiration dates are not a good idea. Reputable kitchen dealers shouldn’t be pressuring customers to buy cabinetry before the project is completely thought out. This is how mistakes happen and how customers might not even understand exactly what they are buying. Sales from manufacturers are OK. For example a cabinet company might offer a free glaze or a free upgrade. I still don’t like the concept but the dealer is not responsible for a cabinet company’s sale. However if the dealer is having a sale that means they are over charging to begin with.
      6) Does the company you are considering respond to your phone calls and emails promptly? We all get busy but a dealer should be able to respond in one or at most two business days to any inquiry. Even if it is to say that they are busy and won’t be able to answer your question or look into your issue for a few more days.
      7)The Vibe. I am a firm believer in trusting your instincts especially if you are skeptical by nature. Don’t embark on the most expensive home renovation you are likely to undergo in your lifetime if you don’t have a very good feeling about the people you are working with.

  43. Jennifer

    We recently got a quote for merillat classic line and schrock cabinetry…wondering if these two lines are comparable. Also what other manufacturers would be comparable.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      These are not lines we think are great values or particularly well made. Schrock upgraded is the better of the two. See our 2017 review. Link below:
      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/

  44. Cindy

    I was wondering if you know anything about Tru Cabinets. I am in Baltimore and working with Kenwood Kitchens.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      No I know nothing about them and they give no information on construction on their web site. Due to the different species of woods that they carry on simpler door styles they are probably all US made. The doors look nice but inexpensive all US made can also mean poor construction. Especially when you are keeping your construction a secret. Bragging that they comply with the KCMA’s very low standards is not encouraging. No cabinet line offered in the US isn’t so bragging about that is misleading at best and “alternative facts” at worst.

  45. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

    Connestoga makes great doors and is one of the two suppliers to most major American made cabinet companies. All those companies will use a conversion varnish as far as I know. I sense from your question that you are considering having your cabinets made by a small custom shop. Here is one of our blogs on that type of cabinetry:

    https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/custom-cabinets-handmade-or-homemade/

  46. Cindy

    Thanks for your input. Can you comment on the quality of Conestoga maple doors? Also is pre-cat lacquer a good finish or should I stick with companies that use conversion varnish?

  47. Cindy

    Thank you for running a very informative forum. Four companies have come out to measure and give us a design. The designs are all very similar so I feel that we probably have settled on a design that uses the space in the best possible way.

    One of the companies is a small custom shop that builds a very good cabinet (based on the criteria you list on your website)for a very reasonable price. He buys his doors from Conestoga and sends them to another fabricator that specializes in the finish coats. He uses Grass glides and Blum hinges. Are these quality doors,glides and hinges?

    The second is Kraftmaid from Lowe’s. The third is Waypoint from a local kitchen center. The fourth is Dura Supreme.

    I plan on going with a medium color stain (as our kitchen is not very bright) and light colored granite countertops.

    A couple questions:
    I love the grain in cherry and prefer it over maple but am concerned that I could end up with drastic color differences within each door (very blonde streak next to a darker piece as it ages.) Kraftmaid and Waypoint dealers say they have no control over this. Dura Supreme says they only use premium wood, not sapwood so this won’t happen and if it does they will replace the door. The guy who uses Conestoga says he hasn’t had any problems with that and would replace a door if it happens. Can you offer any insight here?

    I also have an “unusual” space where I really want to have a 21″ wide corner base cabinet clipped at a 45 degree angle. Dura Supreme and the custom guy can do this. Kraftmaid and Waypoint just insert a 9″ tray cabinet and a 12″ corner angle cabinet (much less desirable) in order for me to get that angled corner. The Kraftmaid gal at Lowe’s seems inexperienced and I was wondering if it is possible to get a semi-custom cabinet from them?

    I know you like Kraftmaid and don’t care for Dura Supreme but can you comment on/compare the quality of the door finishes of the 4 companies? The cabinets will be framed, full overlay.

    Thank you.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Cindy,
      DuraSupreme has nice door finishes but we have found them dishonest and they have lied both to us and our customers as well as not replaced cabinetry their own representatives found defective. You will be buying a kitchen from them at your own peril. Waypoint isn’t in the same ball park as the other lines you are considering. The corner base you want clipped sounds odd. Often unusual solutions to space considerations are short short sighted and changing the space itself or simpler solutions look and function better. Not knowing your custom company and the exact hardware I can’t really make an informed evaluation of their product.

  48. Mark

    Paul,

    Thanks for the response. Conestoga RTA specs can be found here: http://www.cabinetauthority.com/Cat_Designer/3.0_Specifications.pdf. More info here: http://www.cabinetauthority.com/catalog_access.php.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Mark,
      Sorry it took me a while to look at the specs. The Plywood Conestoga box is well constructed. I’d make sure I upgraded to soft close doors and drawers.

  49. Randy

    Hello Paul,
    Very generous of you to provide this valuable advice. Our house has some non-standard features requiring 19″ deep base and 14″ deep wall cabs (or we knock out walls and closets). Going with painted shaker style. You’ve convinced me on 1/2″ plywood and Blumotion drawers and probably MDF door panels for durability and better ability to handle weather extremes (we live in WI). No kids in the house and our kitchen is used lightly. In light of our basic door design, paint finish, and the need for custom depths are there any brands that stand out to you? Have shopped Medallion, Schrock, and am looking at Kraftmade and Shenendoah today.
    Again, thanks for your willingness to share.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Randy,
      Based on your email I think you really need to be think through what you are planing on with a good kitchen designer. While almost all semi custom cabinet lines will make wall cabinets 14″ and base cabinet 19″ using these unconventional depths will create challenges and costs that would almost certainly leave you with a less functional and more expensive kitchen than you would get doing extra construction work and using standard depth cabinets. This is where most less experienced designers error. Knowing how much more you are spending to create custom sizes and the problems that creates, such as having wall cabinets in your face when you are trying to work at your countertops, versus how much moving a wall would cost is what good kitchen designers help you weigh. When you have unusual spaces you need very experienced designers.

  50. Paula Beatty

    Have you heard of Merillat Cabinets? Considering them for our kitchen. Price comparison cam in considerably less than other cabinet ps we have priced.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Paula,
      We give them pretty bad reviews in our 2017 cabinet review.
      Here’s the link:
      https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-2017-reviews-top-selling-cabinet-lines/

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