Thursday, October 22, 2015

Framed or Frameless Kitchen cabinets?

If you've been shopping for kitchen cabinets, chances are you've looked at both framed and frameless lines of cabinetry. You have probably heard of all the advantages of one over the other. But you've probably come to realize, that it just depends who you are talking to as to which one is better. At our company Cabinet Pro-Supply we offer a huge selection of both framed and frameless cabinetry so I think I can give more of an objective viewpoint, as we don't depend on the sales of one vs the other.

First if you don't already know framed cabinetry is the more traditional American made construction, and just like it says, it has a frame. The frame is 1-1/2" solid wood that goes around the front of the cabinet box. The cabinet door hinges mount onto the face frame with screws. With the face frame you have the option of doing three different types of hinges. Standard overlay where the door just barely covers the opening of the cabinet box. Full overlay where the door covers about 98% of the cabinet box, and inset where the door is actually set inside the opening of the cabinet box. These are three very different looks that are available with a framed cabinet box.

Frameless cabinets are just like they sound,  a 4 sided box without any frame on the front. The door covers about 99%  of the cabinet box, giving them a very full and tight look, where  you really see nothing but doors and drawer fronts when you look at them. There is only one hinge option and it is a special frameless style hinge that mounts directly to the inside panel of the cabinet. They are usually called clip hinges because they will separate in half for easy removal during installation or cleaning.

If you've been talking to someone who is pushing frameless cabinets they will no doubt have told you about the extra room that's inside the boxes, giving you a ton of extra storage space. While there is a bit of extra storage space, this can also be misleading. There is actually no extra space in the box itself, because both types use up 3/4" for the side panels. There is however a larger opening in the front of the frameless box, by 3/4" on each side, but not actually any more room. Where you would get a little more room is in a drawer box, the drawers can actually use up a larger percentage of the width of the cabinet box, without the face frame. A typical drawer box inside a framed cabinet would be about 3 1/2" less than the width of the cabinet, whereas a drawer box in a frameless cabinet would only need to be 2" smaller.

One thing you won't be told by someone who is trying to sell frameless cabinets is that they are a little tricky to install, and should only be done by someone who is aware of the differences and willing to deal with them. Because there is no face frame to keep them perfectly aligned as they were when they were assembled, they can tend to get knocked out of square a bit during shipment. This isn't a huge problem with a good manufacturer and can be easily fixed by a good installer. Once they are all screwed together and to a wall this is no longer an issue. Another slight issue is there is no where to attach the crown molding on the front of the cabinet box, so it must be attached to a nailing strip on the top of the cabinet box, again not a big deal if your installer has worked with these kind of cabinets before.

As far as the finished look of the cabinets, a nice advantage of the frameless cabinets is that the finished sides will always just be nice and smooth, and you won't have to deal with trying to make the sides flush with the face frame. This is a pretty small thing, and really doesn't come into play that often as most manufacturers have great options for finishing the ends of the cabinets. The last thing I would mention about the frameless cabinets is that if you are ordering them, I would strongly suggest you use framed cabinets where ever you will have an open box. Such as a book shelf or open display cabinet.  The edge tape that is used on the front of frameless boxes doesn't make for a very nice open cabinet look, and it is not as durable as a face frame on the front. This also applies to the panels that will be on either side of the fridge.

Since most of the differences are discussed when talking about the frameless products there is really no need to go into the pros and cons of the framed box, other than to say they are a bit stronger with the support of the face frame and probably a bit easier to install depending on who you're talking to.

I am personally comfortable with both these types of cabinets, so it's really just a matter of your preference. But the main reason I am comfortable with them is because we work with some really good American manufacturers that do both types very well. You can get great or poor quality cabinets in both styles and in all types of construction. So it's really important to do some digging when checking out the quality of kitchen cabinetry products.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What Makes a High Quality Cabinet?

What makes a great quality cabinet is somewhat subjective I guess, but not really. But for the sake of argument, we can pretend that it is for now. Hopefully after reading this you'll learn something new, because if your not in the cabinet business this will be a revelation to you. There is a misconception in the kitchen cabinet industry that is so strong and pervasive that I'm absolutely baffled by it. It's a giant lie, that like all good lies is based on a small amount of truth and taken advantage of by people that know you don't know any better.

Unfortunately the folks that get taken advantage of, are those that work the hardest for their money, and have the least amount to waste. If  you have a great budget, there's no problem finding high quality cabinets with a name you can trust that's been around forever, just like buying a BMW or Lexus, you know it's good. But if you're trying to buy cabinets in the 5,000 - 10,000 dollar range things get a little more dicey.

When a customer calls me for the first time, I ask them questions about the project, time frame, and style of cabinets their looking for, to try and pick a suitable manufacturer to quote for them. We have cabinets in many different styles and price ranges, so it's important to get as much background information as I can, so I'm not wasting my time and your's by quoting something that takes too long, or doesn't have enough design options or is beyond the customer's budget.

When I was trained as a kitchen designer, I was taught to always ask the customers budget, this often offended people so for a while I stopped doing it. I quickly found out that if I didn't find out their budget I would always be quoting the wrong product for people. After doing this for about 12 years I've learned that there's a million other questions I can ask to find out someone's budget, such as "what kind of cabinets have you been looking at". But since the great recession started I've noticed a new kind of cabinet shoppers that tells me exactly what their budget is and what they're looking for without telling me anything.  When I ask them what kind of cabinets they are interested in, the first words out of their mouth is "All Wood".  Once I hear these two magic words, which is equal to the words " I want a metal car " I know that they have bought into the lie of every carpetbagger in the cabinet industry. These guys all sell Chinese cabinetry which for the most part doesn't have too many redeeming qualities other than a plywood box, and a somewhat low price tag.

When I hear this from a customer , I have to admit I get a little discouraged. We have a limited amount of these kind of products but for the most part, we're only willing to go so low on quality and if you put yourself out there with this limited amount of knowledge, someone is going to sell you some real garbage for whatever your looking to spend. And the thing about those guys is, the whole process is about deception, so they don't really care if you're getting a good product or not.  And so instead of me being able to do my job and help you build something fantastic, at a great price, we all just waste our time and you end up buying Walmart furniture to put your nice granite counter tops on. Yikes!

So if you're still with me I commend you, and please don't take my comments the wrong way. My negativity comes from an honest concern for my customers and my industry. If I believed in Chinese cabinets I could sell tons of them, I have importers contacting me daily to carry their products. And really it's not where they are made that's my problem, it's the quality of them. If you compared apples to apples with American made cabinets they would be just as expensive, but people don't. American manufacturers and every person that's been in the cabinet business before all this nonsense started, know that a plywood box can be a nice feature but it's way down the list of what makes a good quality cabinet.

Giant manufacturers like Kraftmaid, Diamond, Medallion, Woodharbor, Kitchencraft, Bertch etc. have been making their cabinet boxes out of engineered wood  for many decades, and they all come with lifetime warranties. How can they do this you ask, well the answer is simple well made cabinet boxes, regardless of the material they are made of, virtually never fail. Now you may have seen some cabinets that are made of wafer board in a mobile home or apartment that got wet and dissolved like paper, but that's not the material that's used in American cabinet brands. Engineered wood for cabinetry is heavier and more rigid than any plywood, it holds screws great and can soak in water for days without being affected.  But the carpetbaggers are perfectly willing to take advantage of your fears, because that's what they do. For an online dealer to even compare his unbranded no name products with the aforementioned brands is just lying to you.

 All the brands mentioned above offer the option to make your cabinet boxes out of plywood, and in America that costs a little bit more money, because we actually care about the environment a little over here. You'll pay and extra 10-20%  for plywood boxes which is money wasted if you're on a budget, because it could have gone to purchasing a nice glazed finish that would actually make your cabinets look nicer. And guess what warranty you get with the plywood boxes? That's right, a lifetime warranty just like the particle board ones. In 12 years of selling cabinetry with a lifetime warranty, I've never had to replace a cabinet box yet, because as I said earlier they virtually never fail.

So if the box really isn't that critical then what does make a good quality cabinet? Well the part you see obviously, the door and finish. Some manufacturers use the best hardwoods you can get, and stain them with very transparent stains so you can see all the beauty of the wood. Some use a slightly lesser grade and use a little more toner on the wood. Some painted parts are made of mdf to keep the paint from peeling or soaking into the wood after a few years or months in some cases. Within in the industry of branded cabinets it's well known what is good, better and best, and you pretty much get what you pay for. You will pay a little more if you need  your hand held, maybe a little less if you don't. Our prices at Cabinet Pro-Supply are the lowest anywhere on the brands we offer.

I realize not everyone has the budget for really nice cabinets, but that is the reason you need to focus on the part that's important. This is especially important with today's painted finishes. Up until about 5 years ago, these finishes were failing like crazy. The introduction of more stable materials like mdf to be used on center panels is what has made them be able to last a lifetime. Painting wood cabinets is no different than painting your wood fence outside, it's going to have peeling, checking, mineral streaks, cracking, etc. unless you use the right materials for painting and finish them the right way. With imported cabinets you have no idea what they're made of or how their finished. Lead paint anyone? One thing you can count on, is that there will be no replacement doors a few years down the road.

Fortunately cabinet manufacturers recognize that the economy is not the same as it was 10 years ago, and so they have made less expensive versions of their higher end products. These lines are limited in styles and finish but are made with the same quality and warranty of their more expensive big custom lines, and for the most part you can add in parts of the custom lines such as moldings or a different color island without having to pay the high end price for the whole job. A couple great lines we carry at Cabinet Pro Supply are the Bertch Marketplace line and the Woodharbor Breeze line, Greenfield is coming out with a frameless version called Siteline as well. All these cabinets will start with an engineered wood box to try and be competitive, but the part of the cabinet that matters, the door and finish will be as good as it gets. And I can promise you that they make their Imported counterparts look like absolute garbage, plywood box and all. So if you're not buying cabinets for a flip house or a rental do yourself a favor, and take a look at one of our brands. After all these aren't running shoes you're going to be throwing away in three months.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What comes first flooring or cabinets

What comes first flooring or cabinets? This is a common question regarding the planning of kitchen and bath projects. For several reasons you may be tempted to put your flooring down first, before you install your cabinets, but in most cases it's a good idea to do the cabinets first.

In truth it can be done either way, so we can take a look at some of the pros and cons of each scenario and let you decide, but if  you can't choose, then just put in the cabinets first, you can't go wrong with that.

The pros of putting the flooring in first are easier installation of the floor, you don't have to cut around cabinets or finish up to them, so it makes for a quicker flooring install. You may even like the look a bit better with the flooring running directly under the cabinets. 

Another reason you might do the flooring first is that you can get the flooring installed while you wait for the cabinets to show up.  Cabinets usually take a bit longer to arrive, so if  you are waiting on them, you could at least complete part of the project while you're waiting. These are really the only 2 advantages, I can think of for doing the flooring first.

There are only a few pros of putting the cabinets in also, but they are probably more important. The first and biggest advantage is that if you have a problem with the flooring you can repair it without doing any damage to the cabinets. If you are doing a floating wood floor this is even more critical. Moisture under a floating floor can cause a lot of damage and the only way to fix it is to remove and replace planks. Because the planks are locked together with an up and in motion it can be a pretty difficult repair, and even more so if cabinets are sitting on top of it.

The other advantage of putting the cabinets in first is that  you will actually need a little less flooring, because you won't need to fill in the space underneath the cabinets. Another is that depending on the materials used, you may want to change the flooring once or twice before  you replace the cabinets. Not always but sometimes.

The choice is up to you I've seen many an entertainment center sitting on top of the living room carpet, because the carpenter didn't feel like pulling the carpet back and  having the carpet guy come and cut around it, but it kind of makes me cringe when I see it. The right order of things is to put the cabinets in first. That's how it's done when a new home is built and for good reasons.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How to Budget for Kitchen Cabinets

When planning to do a kitchen remodel, it's very important to think about the whole project ahead of time, and budget accordingly. There's Cabinets, countertops, flooring, appliances, plumbing fixtures, paint, and the labor to do all these things. Of all these items, there's really only one thing that can't be re-done again in a few years if you decide to upgrade, and that's cabinetry. Think about it, you would have to remove everything else to do them, Plumbing, counters, flooring, paint. With some luck you could re-use your appliances, but that's about it. Keeping that in mind it's important to get the right cabinets for your project, because you don't want to throw away 5,000.00 worth of granite counter tops trying to replace 2,500.00 worth of cabinets.

There are so many different types of cabinets out there these days, that it's hard to know what you want. If you do a little shopping around and educate yourself,  you'll see that for the most part  you get what  you pay for. Some shops charge more than others, but if you do a little comparative shopping you will find some basic categories that all shops charge either more or less for. There are the imported stock cabinets, the entry level American made cabinets built for cheaper housing, mid-level semi-custom cabinetry and the higher end American factory made custom cabinetry. There are also craftspeople who make their own custom cabinetry locally, it's hard to say where these cabinets fit in, because it depends on the individual making them.

The first things to consider when budgeting for cabinets is why you're doing the project in the first place. Is this a starter home, remodel, your dream house, a spec home, a flipper etc. Another thing is how long you want the cabinets to last, there's a reason cabinets come with different warranty periods. On a side note when it comes to warranty,  you can basically figure the most you're going to get out of an imported cabinet is a few years. The most! There are too many factors that make them unpredictable, and there is no real warranty from the manufacturer, so the warranty comes from the seller as long as he can get a replacement and match the finish of a cabinet made in a factory that's  8000 miles away. The last thing, and one of the most important to consider, is the value of the property you're installing the cabinets in. There's no point in putting a 50K dollar kitchen in a 200K dollar home! And unless your planning on flipping the home, putting cheap cabinets in an area with million dollar homes probably isn't a good idea either. Friends, neighbors and potential buyers can spot those things pretty quickly.