5 Things to Know Before Buying Kitchen Cabinets

Anyone who’s taken on a kitchen remodel will tell you the process comes with excitement, stress, frustration, and anxiety, not always in equal measure! Let’s bring the excitement factor to center stage: You are now committed to a significant change to what might be the most-used part of your home. And one of the big early purchases is new kitchen cabinets.

Yes, your kitchen cabinets are there to store dishware, cooking supplies utensils, and food – but they are also the main focus of your kitchen’s style. If you choose cabinets that don’t hit the mark for either appearance or function, you’ll be disappointed with your remodel and may end up spending more money after trying to make things right. Why not start your remodel on the right foot, and eliminate some of stress and anxiety?

Here are five things to know before buying kitchen cabinets

1) Don’t worry about the type of cabinet until you have settled on your design.G-Shape-kitchen-Rendering-1-1

If you want the most efficient and beautiful kitchen possible, we need to start with design.

 Especially if you plan to make changes to the layout, you are wise to enlist a kitchen designer’s help. Layout changes will definitely add to your remodeling project’s price, but a designer’s expertise can help you make changes as cost-effectively as possible.

A certified cabinet designer will help you pull together a beautiful look with your kitchen cabinets and make sure your design attends essential considerations:

  • Choosing the right cabinets for each area in your kitchen.
  • Determining where to place your appliances for a good workflow.
  • Including the accessories that will perfect your kitchen functionality.

With a 3-D rendering from your designer, you will be ready to choose the cabinets for each kitchen’s space and functional area.


cabinet-express-cabinetcorp-kitchen101_Kitchen-Island2) When choosing your new kitchen cabinets, quality should be your top priority.

Cabinets are available in three main categories, each with its characteristics for quality:



3-semi-custom (or semi-stock)

  • You will find stock cabinets at your local home improvement store. These cabinets are typically constructed of particleboard and MDF. They will look great when installed and stay new-looking for a while, but because they are made from lower-quality materials, they will start to deteriorate faster than other cabinets. Stock cabinets are also your least inexpensive option, usually pricing between $100 and $300 per linear foot. To maintain the low price point, these cabinets will be available in more limited styles, materials, and colors. Delivery usually takes a few weeks.
  • Custom cabinets are built from solid wood, right in your kitchen. Built by a craftsman to your exact specifications, custom cabinets can express any style you want. As you might expect, this built-to-order service comes with a higher price point, but the results can be spectacular. The cost can run from $500 to $1,200 per linear foot, depending on the kind of wood.
  • Semi-custom cabinets are an all-plywood version of stock cabinets with various extra details you can select to personalize style and storage options. They come in standard sizes, but you can change the drawer or shelf types, and choose from various finishes and styles for door and drawer fronts. Semi-custom cabinets will cost $150 – $650 per linear foot. They can ship as quickly as 48 hours after the order is placed (for flat-packed RTA cabinets) or may take 4-6 days to deliver if you’ve chosen fully assembled cabinets that arrive ready to install.

Quality materials and construction are the keys to attractive, long-lasting cabinets. Choose dovetail joints, high-quality glides and hinges, soft-close doors, and all-plywood construction.

Once you determine the category of cabinet you want, your next decision is whether you want them installed by the cabinet company or your contractor. Another factor is whether the ready-to-assemble route makes sense, or you’d prefer fully assembled cabinets that are ready to install. Let’s break down these options.


3) Will you DIY or have a contractor install your cabinets?

timeframe Free-Kitchen-DesignMany homeowners like the idea of becoming a renovation guru and some have actually done so. Others have learned the hard way that not everyone who can pick up a hammer should be the one swinging it. If you want to install the cabinets on your own, both RTA or fully assembled cabinets come with good installation directions. When it makes sense to trust a tested kitchen contractor to install your cabinets properly, you can hire a reputable contractor directly or ask the cabinet company to recommend an installer in your area.

If you hired a contractor to measure your kitchen, that’s the contractor; you should engage in installing the cabinets. This contractor will be up to speed about your kitchen plans and know about the layout and any constraints. To learn more about choosing the right contractor, visit our blog.


4) Do you want RTA cabinets or would fully assembled cabinets be a better choice for your situation?

RTA-plywood-cabinetsToday’s RTA cabinets bear little resemblance to the low-end cabinetry from several decades ago. RTA cabinets have shifted considerably upmarket and now feature all-plywood construction; with proper installation and maintenance, these cabinets will last 20-30 years. Mind you, you can still find low-end RTA cabinets made of particleboard, but they will not usually hold up well under the weight of dishes or withstand moisture in the kitchen. You can find more about the pros and cons of particleboard cabinets in our article about cabinet quality.

One strong advantage of RTA cabinets is that they ship out within 48 hours, flat-packed to ensure there is no shipping damage. If you are on a tight timeline for your remodel, this gives you all you need to get to work on your installation very shortly after you order cabinets.

The downside to RTA cabinets is the need to assemble and install them from the ground up. If you are handy, you can construct and install RTA cabinets; if not, you’ll need to hire a contractor to do the work.

Fully assembled cabinets arrive ready to install. They are entirely constructed at the factory and usually ship within 4-6 days from your order. Once they arrive, you can install them or hire a contractor to install them for you.

The downside to assembled cabinets is that they inevitably cost more than RTA cabinets because there’s more factory labor before shipping, and shipping costs go up due to weight and more materials.


5) Determine your preferred style and finish.

color-sample-cabinet-expressKitchen cabinets come in a variety of styles and finishes to suit every personality or decor. Your designer can help you choose the right color or wood grain and finish to complement the rest of your home. You can also choose between framed and frameless cabinets.

A framed cabinet is a cabinet box or case with a frame around the opening; this frame is then covered by the door or drawer front when closed. This frame adds to the strength of the cabinet and is typical for American style-construction. Framed cabinets also come with various door and drawer fronts, depending on the level of detail you want to add. They can be flat with no embellishment like the Shaker-style cabinets or incorporate different beveling and overlay like the Cambridge-style cabinets. To see more about either style, visit our showroom.

Frameless cabinets are typical for European construction and work well in modern and contemporary style homes. Frameless cabinets do not have extra framing around the cabinet boxes or cases, which gives you more space with a full open cabinet beyond the door or drawer front. Frameless cabinets come in various Melamine or Thermofoil finishes to give them a smooth and glossy appearance, with a variety of colors available. To see examples of frameless cabinets, you can visit our showroom. 

Start your kitchen remodel with a basic understanding of your kitchen layout, cabinet quality preferences, and cabinet style choices. Then you can zero in on the right style and finish to arrive at a new kitchen you’ll enjoy for many years to come. If you have any questions or would like to speak with our certified cabinet designers, you can reserve a time today.