How to Choose the Best Kitchen Cabinets

Check out this amazing article about choosing the best kitchen cabinets from Elle Decor!

How To Choose The Best Kitchen Cabinets

From metal to wood, these are the best picks for your newly renovated kitchen.
By Sarah Stebbins
Apr 8, 2016

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Getty Images

Hungry for a kitchen update? Cabinetry can transform the space. And there’s a cornucopia of options to meet aesthetic and budgetary needs, says Mark Karas, the president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association and general manager of Adams Kitchens, a remodeling company in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Choose inexpensive, ready-made stock cabinets, built-to-order semi-custom varieties (they cost about 25 percent more but come in a broader range of styles), or pricey custom cabinets that are made to fit your space and design specifications. You’ll find variety across the board—including metals, woods, thermofoils, laminates, and cupboards constructed using eco-friendly materials. To figure out what suits your kitchen best, let us offer some food for thought.

Wood Cabinets

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Description: Cabinet boxes consist of wood veneers adhered to plywood or furniture-grade particleboard. Doors may be solid wood or veneers.

Options: Semi-custom and custom collections offer an array of styles in natural, stained, or painted finishes. Stock choices are limited to a few woods and stains.

Pros: Scratches are easily repaired, and cabinets can be restained or painted to give a new look down the road.

Cons: Humidity can cause solid-wood slab doors to warp over time.

Care: Clean stains with dishwashing soap and warm water. Hide scratches with a wood filler wax stick. (Try Dap Blend Stick, $3; hardware stores.)

Cost: From $100 for an 18-inch-wide stock cabinet, $250 for semi-custom, and up to $800 for custom.
Eco-Friendly Cabinets

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Description: Cabinets made from reclaimed, renewable, or recycled materials.

Options: The greenest styles are found in semi-custom and custom lines. Look for cupboards crafted from bamboo, salvaged wood, wheatboard (constructed using wheat straw), and even from leather scraps discarded by shoe manufacturers.

Pros: Reducing your carbon footprint a few sizes.

Cons: The cost.

Care: For wood and bamboo, clean with a moist cloth. Leather can dry out, so wipe cabinets weekly with a damp cloth and every few months with a leather formula. (Try Meltonian Saddle Soap, $4;

Cost: From $250 for an 18-inch-wide semi-custom cabinet to more than $1,000 for a custom one made from leather.
Laminate Cabinets

Description: Veneers composed of layers of paper and plastic resins are bonded to plywood or furniture-grade particleboard. Laminate isn’t malleable, so most doors have flat or grooved designs.

Options: Most stock laminates are white or ivory. In semi-custom and custom lines, you’ll find a range of colors and finishes. Textures may be matte, granular, or glossy.

Pros: Affordable and durable, laminate resists dings, nicks, and stains.

Cons: It’s not impenetrable: Deep cuts and cracks are impossible to repair.

Care: Remove stains with a mild all-purpose cleaner. Camouflage scratches with a laminate repair paste. (Try Formfill, $9,

Cost: From $80 for an 18-inch-wide stock cabinet, $200 for semi-custom, and up to $680 for a custom one.

Thermofoil Cabinets

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Description: Created by heating vinyl and molding it over medium-density fiberboard (MDF), these cabinets come in a variety of shapes and patterns.

Options: Matte white and ivory are the norm in stock cabinetry styles. Semi-custom choices include glossy textures and scores of colors.

Pros: Inexpensive and available in lots of flat and embellished designs.

Cons: Puncture the vinyl layer, and the cabinet cannot be repaired. The coating on thermofoils can separate when exposed to heat. Ask the manufacturer to install heat shields in cabinets that will be located next to the oven.

Care: Spray with a mild all-purpose cleaner and wipe with a cloth. (Try Simple Green, $6; hardware stores).

Cost: From $80 for an 18-inch-wide stock cabinet to $345 for semi-custom.
Metal Cabinets

Description: Metal, often stainless steel, veneers affixed to plywood or furniture-grade particleboard. Other styles include glass or acrylic panels set in a stainless steel or aluminum frame.

Options: Shiny and brushed metals available in stock, semi-custom, and custom lines.

Pros: Sturdy, rust- and stain-resistant, metal doors are unaffected by heat and humidity.

Cons: Metal cabinets can scratch and dent, and they show fingerprints.

Care: Use a damp cloth and wipe with the grain. Remove smudges with a specialty metal cleaner. (Try Method Stainless Steel, $5; Buff surface scratches with a delicate-duty nylon scouring pad.

Cost: From $150 for a stock model to $1,500 for a custom one.
Best stainless steel kitchen cabinets

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16 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Kitchen Cabinets”

  1. I appreciate you breaking down the costs and pros and cons of each type of cabinet for our kitchen. I personally am drawn towards wooden cabinets as they provide more of a rustic feel to the kitchen. I also think there are some great opportunities to have wooden cabinets customized out there that are worth considering.

  2. I like your tip on how wood cabinets can be restained down the road to increase longevity. It would seem that if you want nice, clean looking cabinets wooden ones would work well. I’m designing some cabinets for my home so I’ll have to consider making them out of wood so they will last a long time.

  3. You wrote that wooden cabinets are a terrific option for any family, as they are easily repaired and can be re-stained for new looks. I was on the phone with my brother the other day and he told me that he was thinking about buying new cabinets but wasn’t sure which ones to choose. I’ll advise him to search out a place that has a great variety of wood cabinets, as that would definitely best fit his needs as he has kids and they are likely to be rough with the cabinets.

  4. Kitchen cabinets are one of the most important parts of a kitchen. Also, it’s very expensive. So it needs to be chosen wisely that improves your home’s aesthetic as well as the functionality. There are myriad number of ways to customize your old kitchen cabinets and install them in your new dream kitchen. It will save you both time and money in the long run. Thanks for sharing this comparative blog of popular kitchen cabinet options. It will help the homeowners to take the right decision.

  5. I loved when you mentioned how wood cabinets are easy to repair when it comes to scratches. My wife and I are planning on remodeling our kitchen and want to make sure we choose the best cabinets to add storage and appeal to the design. It is important to remember that consulting with a professional can help you choose the best type of storage for your kitchen and make sure they are properly installed.

  6. I have recently been thinking about redoing some parts of my kitchen. I really appreciated these tips about different styles of cabinets to put in especially the wood ones. I am a fan of wood so I think I will look further into having more wood in my kitchen area.

  7. It was really nice when you pointed out that using the wooden cabinets is a good idea because they are relatively easy to repair, and repainting them is an option if I want it to make them look like new. If that is the case, then I will go for a wooden cabinet for the remodeling project next month. I wanted something that is good and easy to deal with considering my busy time, and I think this is the best option to go for.

  8. Excellent tips, Sarah! One of the things most buyers tend to ignore is the quality of the wood (Cabinet Grade vs Furniture Grade) and the accessories (Soft-closing door hinges, full-extension drawer glides etc). Those things play a critical in the function and longevity of cabinetry more than than anything else.

  9. I am planning to get new kitchen cabinets at some point this year so that I can add more storage space. I appreciate all of the information about the pros and cons of different cabinet materials. It is good to know that wood cabinets are durable and easy to repair. Plus, I can always refinish or paint them in the future if I want to change up the style of my kitchen.

  10. Thanks for providing the costs of each type of cabinet for kitchens. We think those wooden cabinets look more rustic and it gives a natural look. With that being set, we will contact a professional to help us chose the right ones.

  11. In a complete kitchen renovation, a cabinet can be the biggest expense. It sets the visual tone for the kitchen. If you get the right cabinets, then the chance of admiring your new kitchen will go way up. First, you need to set your budget. There are three kinds of cabinets you will get → stock, semi-custom, and custom. Make a list of the features you want. It will help you to pick the right style. If the selection is done under the supervision of a certified professional- , then the whole approach will be effortless and the end consequence will be admirable.

  12. It’s good to remember that MDF is a good option for most homes since it is durable, smooth, and easy to paint over. My wife and I are thinking of replacing the cabinets in a number of rental properties we own. We’ll have to look and see what we can find that could improve all our old cabinets.

  13. Thank you for this information. When I think kitchen cabinets, my mind usually goes straight to wood. It’s good to know there are other options out there.

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