A drawer is a good indicator of a cabinet’s quality. Better drawers are made with plywood or solid wood and their pieces are assembled with strong joints, such as dovetail, dowel or rabbet joints. Avoid drawers that were put together with staples. Also, four-sided drawers, with the drawer front attached to the front side, are stronger and more durable than those with three sides that use the drawer front as the fourth side.
Drawer slides should be smooth and sound and allow little play from side to side. You can also check the slide’s load rating, which should be at least 75 pounds.
If the rest of the cabinet is of a suitable quality the doors should be fine, and your decision will be based largely on appearance. But cabinet doors receive a lot of use, and they need a durable finish to protect them over the years. Flat, particle-board doors, which are commonly found on frameless cabinets, may be faced with a plastic laminate similar to the material used on countertops. This is a durable, washable material that should last a very long time; just make sure the facing is laminate and not just a coating of melamine – a much less durable finish. If you’re looking for wood doors with a stain or a clear finish, make sure the outer wood veneers look good and the blending of the grain and color variations is attractive.
Examine the finish for common flaws, such as inconsistency, rough areas, drips or cross-grain sanding marks. You may have specific reasons for choosing pine or another softwood, but remember that hardwoods, such as maple, oak and cherry, are more durable. An alternative to the traditional raised-panel wood door is the vinyl-clad door. Made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF) with a tough vinyl foil, vinyl-clad doors look like painted wood doors but have a more durable finish. Another advantage is that vinyl-clad doors expand and contract less than wood doors, so there’s less risk ofthe paint cracking along the edges of the panel. Adding Cabinet Features There are many new accessories designed to help you squeeze more storage space from your cabinets. They include tiered lazy Susans hidden behind 90-degree folding doors, shelves that pull and swivel outward to make use of blind-corner space and 3-in. wide pantry units that put dead filler space to work. (For more information on timesaving cabinet features, see our rigid kitchen section).
When selecting your new cabinets, you may want to consider some of the following add-ons. Even if you end up sticking with the basics, you’ll have a good idea of all the new options. A recent trend in traditionally styled kitchens is using cabinets that are styled like furniture, including accessories such as galley rails, fluted-pilaster fillers and furniture feet. Many classic molding patterns, such as rope, egg-and-dart, dentil and spindle-rail, have found their way onto cabinets, and valance segments, such as arches, frets and scallops, are being used to bridge cabinet runs where they break at windows. Wall cabinets are no longer automatically placed in a straight, uninterrupted run of like-size cases.
They’re often staggered at different heights, sometimes with a unit hung alone, to provide a casual, unfitted look. Open shelves and plate racks are another way to break up the horizontal lines of the cabinetry Base cabinets are also breaking away from a uniform height, as hutches, baking centers and other specialized units become more popular. These varying counter heights allow you to customize the height of your kitchen’s work and storage areas. You can use coordinated transition pieces, such as built-in cutting boards or knife storage units, to cover the transition between cabinets of different heights. If you like glass cabinet doors, remember that not everything stored in the kitchen is worthy of display. Frosted panes or a textured pattern can obscure the view through the glass without ruining the effect. Another option is to include glass doors on the few cabinets that hold your fine china and glassware and use solid fronts on the cabinets that hold your every – day items.