What Cabinet Brand is the Best Value?

Main Line Kitchen Design gets asked this question almost daily. Below our response from a recent question on our most popular blog. Link to that Blog here.

Hi,

We have worked with a recommended kitchen designer on a kitchen/dining room remodel. We really like and appreciate her design which includes things we wouldn’t have thought of. We chose the Signature line of cabinetry while in her showroom. I see Signature rated A+ on your list. The price quote is higher than we hoped. As an alternative at 10-15% of the Signature cost, her studio also carries Siteline which isn’t rated very well on your list. As a 3rd option, my husband has explored KraftMaid at Home Depot. I also note that we are looking at greige Shaker style which you have suggested isn’t worth paying for at higher-priced lines. We want high quality as we are planning to stay here for another 20 years but have a lot of other house projects (HVAC, windows, etc.) we need to do in our old New England home as well.

Thanks in advance!

LMM

Brighton Kitchen
Custom beaded inset Brighton Kitchen above

Hi LMM,
Homeowners constantly ask us what’s the best cabinet for their money. The answer is complicated and not the simplistic answer people look for.

First you MUST understand that the cost of cabinetry isn’t directly related to how well the cabinetry is built and how durable the construction and the finish are. Cabinet pricing is more about the available choices and the ability to customize.

There are inexpensive well-made brands that mass produce standard cabinet sizing in popular door styles and finishes. Shaker or recessed panel white, off-white, and grey colors are common in these brands. These US manufacturers have their doors and fronts built and finished outside the US where labor and materials are a fraction of the cost. This is how they can sell a well-built cabinet so inexpensively. We think Fabuwood is the best of these brands, but there are other very similar brands as well.

If you want light-stained finishes, wood species like cherry, maple, quartersawn or riffed oak, hickory and other woods these less expensive mass-produced brands will not offer these choices and so you mut spend more.

Spending 25% more can place you in a cabinet brand that offers some of these choices in a well-built cabinet, but the quality of the finish will be less attractive because everything will now be made and finished inside the US, which costs more. These lines can’t stay price competitive AND also pay for the added labor needed to make their finishes as smooth and perfect. They WILL be just as durable though, with added available sizing, colors and wood species.

For example, we sell Timberlake (also sold as American Woodmark at The Home Depot and Shenendoah at Lowes) but there are many other brands, Homecrest for example. These brands are the best choice for people on a budget that want what the less expensive brands don’t offer.

Only after you spend about 50% more on cabinets does the overall finish rival the less expensive better made brands. Decora, Kraftmaid you mention, Diamond, or the Bishop brand we sell would be good examples. Once you are spending this much the cabinet brand will offer nearly custom sizing, almost unlimited finishes, and a dizzying combination of door styles and wood species.

Mainline Kitchen Design
Bishop Utica birch door style

When you spend 60% more than the less expensive well-made brands like Fabuwood you will begin to reach the price level of near custom cabinetry like Medallion, Fieldstone, and Dynasty. These type bands will offer better looking finishes than their less expensive competitors as well as almost any cabinetry you want in any size, color, wood species.

Finally, when pay just a little more you will reach the custom brands that will offer special finish techniques, like distressing, glazing, rubbed off edges, and brush strokes in their paint. The Cerused riffed oak finishes that are popular now become available in these lines. Inset and beaded inset cabinetry are common choices in these lines. We sell Brighton and Wellsford that fall into this class. Because we sell cabinetry for a little less than our competitors Main Line Kitchen Design offers these brands for the pricing of the brands one step below.

Once you reach these VERY expensive brands the more expensive the brand generally the more beautiful the finish. The cabinetry in the most expensive brands is really fine furniture. Rutt, Plain and Fancy, and Wood-Mode are named brands people might recognize from the high end of the custom lines. But very few customers we meet can decern the difference between a mid-priced custom brand and the most expensive custom brands.

All this being said if you want the same thing that most people want IE shaker full overlay white or off-white cabinets, and your design requires no unusual sizing you would be throwing money away getting the most expensive brands. See the Fabuwood kitchen below:

Fabuwood Kitchen in Villanova, PA
Fabuwood Kitchen in Villanova, PA

So, selecting the cabinet brand that is best for a customer is the function of a dozen criteria’s which is why Main Line Kitchen Design carries 8 nationally distributed cabinet brands across nearly all price points. Each line offers a niche that will be right for some customers. From people flipping homes or renting them to people with nearly unlimited budgets looking for the most custom designs, styling, and materials.

Hoping your designer helps you select the brand that’s right for you . . .

Bon Appetit!

Paul

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