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What You Should Know about Kitchen Cabinets

What You Should Know about Kitchen Cabinets

Most people take their kitchen cabinets for granted until they have to pick out new ones. Aside from color and style, you need to make sure they are going to be functional and last for a long time. That requires a bit of knowledge about cabinets in general. It sounds like a bore, but it is essential because new kitchen cabinets are a major investment. Here is what you should know about kitchen cabinets.

Box and frames

Kitchen cabinets are nothing more than boxes with an opening on one side covered by a door. The difference from a good cabinet from a bad one is the material used for the box itself and the frames, if any, and the construction.


Most modern cabinets today use wood composites rather than solid wood for the box and frame, mainly as a cost consideration. Wood composites are not as durable as solid wood, but they can last for a long time with reasonable care. Some cabinetmakers use solid wood for the face frames of higher-end models of framed cabinets, but the cost difference can be considerable.

Wood composites include medium density fiberboard or MDF, particleboard, and plywood. These materials do not have the graining of solid wood, which is why cabinetmakers apply some type of veneer or lamination over the box surfaces and face frames to simulate the look of wood. However, since cabinet boxes are out of sight, a layer of point or perhaps a thermofoil cover is a more durable, albeit less “woodsy” option.

Stainless steel is one option you can consider for cabinet boxes if you have an industrial-style kitchen. They are extremely tough and not vulnerable to the usual problems associated with all-wood cabinets, unless you have a wooden door. However, stainless steel cabinets are pricey, and if you have steel doors as well, you will have to wipe it continually for fingerprints.


The key thing about construction with regard to the box and frame is in the reinforcement, which maintains the shape of the cabinet box. This is the case for wood box and frames, not stainless steel.

Cabinetmakers use a variety of methods in reinforcing cabinet boxes. One of these is securing the corners with plastic, word composites, or solid wood triangular brackets or braces. Another method is the use of a beam brace slipped into a trench, also called a dado slot, made along the back panel or the length of the inner portion of the side panels. Both these methods are excellent ones for fixing the shape of the box.
If you see adhesive instead of these support features keeping the panels together, you run the risk of damaging the wood. Adhesive does not allow the wood any type of movement, which can cause the wood to crack as it naturally expands and contracts with changes in the temperature.


Cabinet boxes and frames are just one part of the equation, however. The doors are the other part, which turns open shelves into cabinets. Here are some key points about materials and construction of different cabinet doors.


Most cabinetmakers offer a selection of cabinet door styles in solid wood to cater to people that want the natural beauty of wood and are willing to pay a premium for them. However, budget conscious homeowners also have the option of getting them in less expensive wood composites, which are still attractive.

The most popular alternate material to solid wood for cabinet doors is MDF. This is due to its flexibility as a construction material. MDF cuts and finishes in similar ways to solid wood, with the exception of staining because it has no grain. This is otherwise with particleboard, which would chip and fray. If you put good quality wood-type veneer or laminate on MDF, it would look a lot like solid wood.


Cabinet doors come in slab or frame styles. A slab is a solid front of wood or wood composite. The slab may be a single piece of material, or several pieces glued together. If made from wood composite, cabinetmakers usually covers it with a veneer, laminate, or themofoil layer to hide the lack of a grain.

A frame door typically has separate pieces for the outer frame and the center panel, which may be slightly above (raised) or flush to the outer frame. It is not a good sign of the quality if there is adhesive keeping the center panel in place. Putting these panels together usually involves a slot along the inside of the frame into which the center panel fits, although not too tightly. This is to allow for some room for the wood to expand.


Shelves are not a necessary part of kitchen cabinets, especially if the cabinets are quite short. However, their presence in cabinets that are more than a foot high increases the storage capacity as well as the structural integrity. However, you still need to make sure the shelves are durable and properly constructed to maximize your investment.


Shelves are usually the same material as the cabinet box, so it may be solid wood or wood composite, and between ½ and ¾ inches thick. If you have a wide cabinet, make sure the shelves are on the thicker side, as thinner shelves tend to sag when they are too wide. The shelves should have a smooth finish or some type of covering such as a wood veneer or laminate to protect the material and make it easy to clean.


As with cabinet boxes, the key to durable shelves is in the reinforcement method. You want a shelf with some type of reinforcement, such as a strip or rail of wood about ½-inch in depth that runs the length of its underside. This is to ensure the serviceability of your shelves over time and to prevent sagging even under heavy loads. You will usually see this in custom cabinets and good quality ready-to-assemble (RTA) or stock cabinets.


These are basic things you should know when choosing new kitchen cabinets. This knowledge can help maximize your investment for a long time. You can consult with a reliable remodeling contractor for specific concerns about kitchen cabinets. Fairfax Kitchen Bath guarantees you will love it for life. We sell only top quality kitchen cabinets such as Schrock Cabinetry and other products manufactured by leading brands in the industry.
Fairfax Kitchen Bath services the DC, MD and Northern Virginia metropolitan areas. We are a Class A, licensed and insured contractor, registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

When you contract with us, you can be sure you will get a quick turnaround on your products, and much faster than ordering what you need from big box stores. We specialize in supplying and installing kitchen cabinets to specifications, and installing them into your kitchen within budget and on time.

We also carry other products you need for your kitchen remodel, including natural stone and engineered stone slabs, sinks, faucets tiles, backsplashes, knobs and pulls, and hardwood flooring. We carry only the top brands for these products, such as Silestone, Blanco, Kohler, and Mosaic Décor.

You can see the products before you buy so you can decide for yourself if the quality is what you expect. We have a showroom in Fairfax, Virginia, which houses all our products, including actual granite, marble and engineered stone slabs from which you can choose.
Our products come with manufacturer warranties that ensure your satisfaction with the quality and installation.

Contact us today to get a free quote for your inspired kitchen remodeling project.

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Sam Kazanci <br/><span id="position">Owner</span>
Sam Kazanci

Sam Kazanci is the owner of Fairfax Kitchen Bath Remodeling. He has experience to build and remodel the kitchen and baths with his team and the author of fkb blog: You can find Sam on LinkedIn and Twitter.