Cabinets can be the biggest expense in a full kitchen remodel, accounting for just a little under half the whole budget. They also set the visual tone for the kitchen, and they’re a huge part of how well it functions. This is why cabinets are so important. You do not want to remodel your kitchen beautifully, only to have cheaply made or ill-fitting cabinets in your house.
Set your budget.
Cabinets fall into three categories: stock, semi-custom, and custom. Home centers sell them fully assembled or stores such as Ikea offer flat-pack versions that will need to be put together onsite; styles and sizes tend to be fairly limited. Semi-custom cabinets fit more perfectly. Custom cabinets can be extremely expensive, and aren’t typically reserved for the budget-conscious owner.
Pick a style aesthetic
The big decision is often between framed and frameless cabinets. Framed cabinets consist of a box and face frame, to which doors and drawers are attached. Frameless cabinets, often referred to as European-style, eliminate the face frame; doors and drawers attach directly to the cabinet box. That provides great accessibility and a more contemporary look. On the downside, the absence of a face frame can compromise rigidity; better manufacturers compensate by using a thicker box.
Choose the primary features
Accessories can improve cabinet functionality, but they’ll also increase the cost substantially. A pull-out trash can is a worthwhile addition. Built-in charging stations are helpful, too, because they keep the countertop clear of electronic devices. Appliance garages, those countertop compartments designed to conceal small appliances, don’t always offer the best organization. Instead, consider a lift cabinet with a spring-loaded shelf that swings up and out, providing easy access to a mixer, food processor, or other hefty device.
You’ll save money by keeping features to the essential. But it doesn’t pay in the long run to skimp on the construction. A well-built cabinet has solid wood drawers with dovetail joinery, not stapled particleboard; full-extension drawer guides rather than an integrated rail; and doors with solid wood frames surrounding a solid wood or plywood panel, as opposed to veneered particleboard or a medium-density fiberboard (MDF) panel.
Bring what you’ve already got up to date
If your cabinets are structurally sound and you like the layout, a fresh finish can update your entire kitchen. Repainting is the cheapest option, though to do the job right you’ll need to remove the doors and drawers, clean them with a degreasing agent, sand them, and apply a primer and multiple top coats; or, you can expect to pay a professional about a hundred bucks per cabinet door. Sometimes, even just adding new cabinet hardware can make all the difference. You want your kitchen to look fresh, up-to-date, and inviting.