August 28, 2016
“What kitchen cabinet line is best?” and “What kitchen cabinet line do you recommend?” are the most common questions we receive. The answer depends on several factors including budget, how fast cabinetry is needed, and how long you want the cabinetry to last.
Every cabinet line is trying to fill a certain niche in the cabinet market. About half of them are trying to compete for contractor and builder business. These cabinet manufacturers and the builders they primarily sell to tend to rank construction quality below finish, style, and availability. So, if cabinet durability is a priority for you, these lines should be avoided.
The reason for this is that builders and people renovating to sell homes have less incentive to pay even small upgrades for well made cabinetry as their responsibility to the seller only last 12 months. A good example of how little home builders value cabinet construction is that an expensive home builder like Toll Brothers uses the lowest construction quality Yorktown cabinetry in their new homes.
Cabinet manufacturers that are trying to sell to home owners usually make cabinetry that either comes well constructed or can be upgraded to acceptable standards. The following is Main Line Kitchen Design’s criteria for quality construction:
- A face frame made of 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ thick solid hardwood.
- 1/2″ plywood sides, bottoms ,and tops with 3/4″ plywood shelves.
- A solid wood 3/4″ hanging rail or a 1/2″ plywood back. A 3/8″ back is OK but not preferred.
- Ibeam construction and wooded corner blocks are preferable to plastic corner blocks.
- Solid wood dovetail drawers and Blumotion tracks and soft close doors are mandatory.
It is surprising how many higher cost cabinets do not meet these construction minimums. On the other hand, after meeting these construction minimums cabinetry should last a lifetime so there is very little advantage in paying for cabinetry that exceeds the criteria. Generally, the best choice is the least expensive cabinet line with the desired wood species, finish and custom features.
Home owners and kitchen designers must balance the cost to be in different cabinet lines with how well those lines meet design and finish preferences. It is not uncommon for small compromises to save a significant amount of money. For example, the most expensive cabinet lines are high priced because of their ability to customize or to do unusual finishes. This means if you don’t need cabinetry customization or you are getting a solid painted finish, you could be paying for the availability of features you won’t be selecting. Beaded inset doors, furniture grade stained finishes, distressed finishes, and glazes and paints with visible brushstrokes are features only available in higher priced cabinetry. These expensive and distinctive finishes usually aren’t perceived as superior or more expensive by the general public and aren’t chosen when ordering cabinetry. A home owner not opting for these features does just as well in a less expensive cabinet line as long as the cabinetry being ordered meets the recommended minimum requirements.
Main Line Kitchen design sells 7 cabinet lines and all 7 meet our requirements to be considered well made. The 5 major cabinet brands Main Line Kitchen Design carries are Fabuwood, 6 Square, Bishop, Brighten, and our custom line Wellsford. We selected these lines because all are well constructed and all also do more customization than comparable lines at their price point. This also makes each of them a great value for designing more complex kitchens.
Which line is best? Well of course, the most expensive full custom one Wellsford. Can our customers recognize the difference between Wellsford and even the least expensive line we carry Fabuwood? Surprisingly, most can not. So extra money spent upgrading to higher cost cabinet lines often goes unappreciated.
On the other hand, almost all our customers prefer and can recognize a well designed kitchen when we show them one. And, most of the designs we see done by designers from home centers and other dealers are poor. Accordingly, home owners should focus on finding a good kitchen designer over spending time determining “which cabinet line is best”.
It should be noted that European frameless cabinetry is in a class of it’s own and no frameless cabinets meet our minimum construction requirements for a well made cabinet. Because contemporary and modern door styles look so much better with the ultra tight gaps between doors and drawer fronts only possible with frameless construction, they are only available that way. So, The ONLY reason to purchase the lower quality frameless construction is if you are getting extremely modern and contemporary door styles. Main Line Kitchen Design’s Bishop line has the greatest door style and finish selection in European frameless construction. And Bishop, Fabuwood, and Wellsford all make their frameless cabinetry with 3/4″ plywood sides – the best possible way to make a European cabinet.
Since Main Line Kitchen Design’s customers are 90% home owners, we put kitchen design and cabinet construction quality first. We only offer cabinet lines that provide our customers the highest quality at the best price.
Have a wonderful rest of the summer … and of course …
Paul, Ray, Ed, Tom, and Julie
Main Line Kitchen Design