For many home remodeling projects, especially kitchens and bathrooms, a good chunk of the budget is dedicated to cabinetry. Before purchasing new cabinets, take the time to learn about the basic parts and materials used in cabinet construction. You’ll know exactly what you are getting and are more likely to be satisfied with your decision. Let’s break down the components of a cabinet and the different options available for each:
The cabinet box refers to the sides, back and bottom of the cabinet, which are typically made of plywood or particleboard. Plywood, sometimes referred to as “solid wood,” is the most expensive option for a cabinet box. It is very durable, however, can warp over time in areas of high humidity. Particleboard is made of compressed wood fibers. It has a smooth finish and is a less expensive cabinet box option, however it is very susceptible to water damage. The back panel of cabinet boxes is also variable; full panel backs provide the most support.
While drawer boxes are typically made of the same material as cabinet boxes, there is an additional feature to be aware of when purchasing cabinets. Higher quality drawer boxes secure the front to the sides with an interlocking dovetail joint. Drawer fronts that are stapled together are not as durable.
Most cabinets and drawers have face frames, which cover the exposed edges of the cabinet box. Frame faces are usually made of hardwood and can be color-matched to the cabinets. Some cabinets are frameless, meaning that the exposed edges are visible. Frameless cabinets are a more European style and are a good option for homeowners looking to save space.
Doors and Drawer Fronts
Cabinet doors and drawer fronts are mainly a style choice, although there are other factors to consider. Different types of wood can also be used to create the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Oak, maple, and cherry are top choices due to their grain and potential for various finishes. Birch is also a durable, yet less costly option. In addition, thicker doors and drawers (13/16 inches) are considered high quality.
The shelves of a cabinet should be strong enough to hold the contents of your kitchen or bathroom. As with door and drawers, the thicker the shelving, the better. Standard shelving is ½ inch thick, while higher quality shelves are ¾ inch thick. Shelves are made of plywood or particle board, with plywood being the strongest option.
Drawer glides are critical to ensure that your drawers don’t sag over time. Undermount drawer glides, which are found underneath the drawer box provide the most support as opposed to center- or side-mount glides. Steel is the highest quality materials for the glides, but epoxy-coated metal is also used. Soft-close technology is available for drawer glides to prevent the drawers from slamming shut.
There are various types of door hinges including inset concealed, surface mount, and others. The most advanced door hinges are made of steel and are adjustable in six-ways. Four-way hinged doors are also available but do not offer as much flexibility to adjust the door during seasonal changes, like door swelling during the summer. Soft-close hinges are also available for cabinet doors.