Cabinetry Insights

All cabinets are not created equal. The cabinet industry is separated into three major divisions: stock, semi-custom and full custom. Normally, stock cabinets (those used by many builders) are of a very low quality, have limited selection of styles and finishes and do not stand the test of time. Semi-custom is one step up from stock and offers a wider selection of styles and finishes and a slightly higher quality. Both stock and semi-custom are assembly line cabinets and do not have the craftsmanship or quality that you’ll find in custom cabinetry.

We’ve listed eight fundamental tips that will help you pick the perfect custom cabinetry for your home.

Tip #1 – Length of guarantee
The length of the guarantee is the first thing to look for in any cabinet selection. It’s a prime indicator of the quality-level of the cabinet. If the cabinets carry a one-year guarantee, you might consider that the manufacturer does not feel their cabinets will sustain the test of time for wear and usage. You may hear the adage “if anything is going to happen it will happen in the first year.” This is not true. Major deterioration will usually occur in the three-to-five year range, unless very high-quality materials are used. Knight cabinets are built to last a lifetime.

Tip #2 – Finish is catalyzed varnish
The next item is the finish, which is critical to long term use. If the cabinets are finished in lacquer or urethane it will begin to breakdown in about three years. These finishes will start to turn foggy or orange which will distort the beauty of the wood. Also, the finish around the knobs will start to wear off. If you try a simple repair—like steaming a dent out—it will leave a white blotch or will blister.

The finish used by top-quality furniture manufacturers is a catalyzed varnish. This is the finest finish available, is fully repairable and won’t discolor over time. It will not get soft and scrape off around the hardware, and will take the test of the most demanding kitchen usage. This is the finish Knight uses. We feel comfortable saying that in fifty years, the finish should look the same as the day it was installed, equalling or surpassing the finest handmade furniture.

Tip #3 – No synthetic, 3/4″ all wood interior with care-free varnish finish
The inside box construction may not appear to be important, but consider this to be the foundation for the cabinet. The quality of materials and the joinery methods will insure trouble-free and lasting usage. That’s why the materials should be wood.

Most people prefer plain, sliced maple plywood. Particleboard or luan mahogany are inferior materials. Most cabinets are made with 1/2″ sides, top and bottom material and 1/4″ material on the back. A 3/4″ hanging rail is usually fixed to the 1/4″ back material for installation. The material used is normally a melamine laminated particleboard.

At Knight, we feel the box construction is critical to the overall durability of the cabinet. Therefore, we use a 3/4″ plain, sliced maple plywood on the sides, back, top, and bottom. This insures that the cabinet will withstand any weight or strain applied to it. Also, the 3/4″ rear wall construction allows the installer to apply his screws anywhere on the rear wall of the cabinet which makes the installation easier. (Yes, it’s harder to build cabinets this way, but there is no comparison if you want longevity).  The interior should have a double coating of varnish to protect the wood and eliminate any paper liner.

Tip #4 – Shelves should be adjustable and made of a solid 3/4″ finished hardwood. No particleboard or melamine veneers
Shelving is often overlooked when purchasing cabinets, but consider this: The shelf is what will be holding everything you put in the cabinets. If the shelf is particleboard or luan plywood, or if it is 1/2″ or 5/8″ thick, it won’t hold up to the strain of a heavy load of dishes, groceries. Shelves should be a solid 3/4″ hardwood, fully adjustable and should have a double-coated finish making shelf paper unnecessary.

Tip #5 – Large selection of furniture-quality doors and drawer fronts made from select grade hardwoods
Frames, doors and drawer fronts should be solid, select-grade hardwoods and available in numerous different styles with a wide range of finish options.

Tip #6 – Solid wood drawers that are dovetailed together and finish coated with varnish
Drawer boxes should be solid hardwood and dovetailed together at the four corners. The bottom should be at least 1/4″ maple plywood and the entire drawer unit should have two coats of a clear varnish finish.

Tip #7 – All-metal, full-extension ball bearing slides with steel mounting brackets
Drawer slides should be under-mounted, heavy-duty and adjustable with full-extension ball bearing action.

Tip #8 – Heavy duty, European-styled concealed hinging
Hinges should be all-metal, fully concealed and routed into a 35mm. pocket in the door. These should be available in various overlays.