It’s easy to tell whether a set of kitchen cabinets are good or bad ten years into their life cycle, when they’ve either held up well, and still look relatively new, save for some dents and dings, or when they’ve fallen apart, shelves are sagging, frames are warping, and the finish is falling to pieces. But what about when they’re brand new? How can you spot the differences?
Even though you don’t see them most of the time, the box frames and shelves of your kitchen cabinets are the most critical part of them. Bad cabinets are easy to spot here: they’re made of particle board, and they’re thin; less than half an inch sometimes. The trouble with particle board is that it has more in common with really thick paper than with wood, so if it gets wet frequently, it slowly disintegrates. It also doesn’t hold fasteners very well, and screws tend to strip. Finally, it warps easily, so over time shelves sag, and frames shift and grow increasingly out of true. This can lead to shelves crashing down, unstable dishes, or even the cabinets themselves falling off the wall or collapsing.
You might think good cabinets use hardwood, then, but you’d be wrong. Solid wood tends to warp over time as well. Instead, good cabinets use plywood, which is made up of thin slices of wood, laid atop each other rotated ninety degrees so their grains criss-cross. Each layer resists the warping of the layers around it, meaning it stays true indefinitely. It’s real wood, so it doesn’t disintegrate if it gets wet, and it actually tends to hold fasteners better than solid wood. All of our cabinets are made of furniture-grade plywood, at least half an inch thick, usually three-quarters.
Bad cabinets also often use particle board for the doors and drawer fronts! To make them look decent, they’re then either painted, or a wood-grain veneer is applied, sometimes an extremely thin slice of wood, but more often just colored plastic or resin. The problem with this is… have you ever peeled a piece of tape off of a piece of cardboard? It’s all but impossible to do it cleanly, because the bond between the tape and the paper isn’t what gives way. It’s the bond between the cardboard and itself that’s weak. Particle board is exactly the same way, so as they age (especially as they get wet, which the doors and drawer fronts do far more frequently than the interiors), the veneers can start to peel away, leaving a hideous mess after just a few years.
Good cabinets use solid hardwood doors and drawer fronts. Whether painted or stained, hardwood holds its finish well, and resists cuts, cracks, and dents better than most other surfaces. All of our cabinets use genuine hardwood doors and drawer fronts, and feature durable, high-quality finish materials.
So What Makes Good Cabinets Great?
If you ask us, it’s the price. Why spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars more to ship a bunch of air, and pay someone else to do the basic assembly of your cabinets? With nothing more than a screwdriver, optional wood glue, and a spare weekend, you can assemble top-quality ready-to-assemble cabinets yourself, and save vast swaths of money. What could be better than that?