Kitchen Design/Remodeling/cabinet choices
Hi Jim. I noticed that you have expertise in cabinets and I hoped you could help answer my question. My wife and I are doing a kitchen redesign and are in the process of choosing cabinets.
We are finding it very difficult to compare cabinet brands to each other. The designers we've asked to provide estimates each seem to be dealers for only a few cabinet brands and, predictably, promote the brands they carry. As such, it's been difficult to get an impartial take on the brands we're considering.
We are looking for a "Lexus" cabinet brand - not a "Toyota" and not necessarily a high-end "Mercedes" brand. The three designers we have had provide estimates are recommending Mid Continent, Candlelight, and DuraSupreme respectively. Are you familiar with these brands and would you be able to give us a sense of which is a mid-high end choice? We would like a painted and glazed or accented cabinet, frameless, probably maple or cherry. All brands seem to offer plywood boxes, at least as an option (although one designer insists that furniture board is just as good, possibly more warp-resistant). The price difference between Candlelight and Mid Continent seems to be about 25 to 30% (we are still waiting on DuraSupreme pricing from our designer). Is the price difference justified based on the construction and quality of the cabinets?
Thanks for your help. This is my first time on this website, so please let me know if I've asked too complex a question....
Let me start with the area that I am always harping on, which always goes against popular belief but I'll back it up. The one designer who told you furniture board is just as good is not only honest but correct....but most of all.....HE IS EDUCATED. Want proof? He called it furniture board rather than particle board. Yes there are still particle board cabinet boxes around but today's generation of cabinet material is so far superior to the old particle board and is now properly called furniture board.
It is a blatant waste of money to buy all plywood boxes. No matter what the material used, the faceframe, doors and drawer faces are the only thing you see anyway. Right? Why spend all that money on the box carcass that no one will ever see? Especially in light of that fact that you will be paying 25% premium for that plywood. Which by the way does warp. Want proof? Walk into the big orange or the big blue store and walk back to where the stacks of plywood are. Now what do you see. All the top sheets are warped like bananas. When people go to buy a few sheets they always pull off the top sheets to get to the flat ones right? Particle board and furniture board will remain flat forever.
For those trying to push extra thick side and backs, lets call it the box carcass, I say to that, are you trying to hold up a 2 story house or a slab of granite counter top? What a waist of money to buy all 3/4 thick box. In the end, all anyone sees is the face. So put your money there. Go ahead and buy the upgrade wood species like cherry or ash. Go ahead and spend money upgrading the paint or glaze. Spend on what you can see, not what you can not see. You can't brag to your neighbor that you upgraded the box carcass because they could care less. But when you point out that beautiful finish and the little storage options, now that is money well spent.
Just to take the material argument a bit further. People always love to say, "what if it gets wet?" To that I love to say, "how on earth will your kitchen get wet? Do you drag in your garden hose to wash down your cabinets?" What a ridicules thing people say. I wanna add to that, when Hurricane IKE came through here in 2008 and everyone had water in their house, people had to gut everything and drag it to the curb for garbage pick up. Guess what? Every single plywood kitchen and every single particle board kitchen and every single furniture board kitchen were destroyed. If a cabinet gets wet, it's totaled.
Brand. Think of it this way. A box is a box is a box is a box. I don't care who makes it, it's still a wooden box. From there the few minor things such as how their held together matter only a little bit. Things like joinery, glue, staples or glue and staple combination...things like that. What you are really paying for is the face, the finish. No matter what brand, 80% of the cost of that box is in the face. The remaining small value is in the whole box carcass. Value also is determined by choices. I know a brand that is an extremely strong and beautiful cabinet and it's so cheap it's suspiciously looked at. Why is it so cheap? Because this manufacturer only has 4 door choices and 2 colors. That's it. This holds manufacturing costs way way back.
Now lets take Kraftmaid, a favorite of mine. They have over 500 color choices and 14 wood species and maybe 80 door styles. Then every option known to the industry is available. You will pay dearly for those choices. But in the end it's still just a wooden box.
Another thing. When you buy furniture board cabinets, you may not like the finish on the exposed ends. You order plywood skins for the end base and end wall cab. As I said, why spend all that money on expensive plywood when it's all hidden, buy furniture board cabinets and for the end of the run, you put on the wood skins. All manufacturers sell these skins already presized and color. You just saved a great deal of money doing it this way. And you have the appearance of plywood ends. Some expensive brands you order furniture board kitchen and then the end cabinets you can actually order them plywood side.
I'd like you to deal with someone who is certified kitchen designer CKD. Keep in mind no one in the big box stores are. Oh I know on the front door is the NKBA sticker to fool the consumer. But that only means that the store bought a membership in NKBA. The people who falsely call themselves designers in those stores are just sales people who took a 3 day course on design and even the course is designed by the store, NOT NKBA. And they are trained to sell for profit, NOT for maximum design and the benefit of the consumer. Please stay away from those big box stores. They charge full list price, or MSRP or full retail. Crooks!!
Look for the small dealer who advertises 50% off. Most all do. Cabinets are like jewelry. Ever go to the mall and see all the jewelry stores with signs that say 50% off, 60% off, 75% off? How do they do that? Because the markup on hewelry is 80%. Same with cabinets. There is lots of room and most small dealers offer 40 to 50% off and still do well. They advertise this fact too. Take notice.
Brands? I do not like Mid Continent. It's a Canadian company from what I remember and I believe that's all they make is the frameless, which I do not like. But....people who grew up in Europe only know frameless and hate framed. People in our part of the world grew up with framed and generally do not like frameless. Whatever you like, go with. I don't care much for Durasupreme either but have no great reason why. I barely know Candlelight but for the few I've seen. It's rare when someone hits me with brands I never heard of or know little about.
Yes you're right, every dealer carries usually 3 lines and most always they are all from the same company. I have people ask me about Martha Stewart cabinets often. All they are is Masterbrand and Masterbrand puts her name on them. So many many brands work that way, just as they do in the food industry and especially in the pet food industry. My wife just bought a $200 pocketbook. I know that some Chinese company makes that same pocketbook for Walmart and it's sold for $20 but just put some famous idiots name on it and you can charge 20 times more.
Frameless I'd look at Kitchen Craft. I like them, I really do. Want high quality without going the Rolls Royce price? Try the Brookhaven line from Woodmode. That's some good stuff there. I only say they overbuild unnecessarily. Again are they building a box to hold up a 2 story house or a slab of granite? But they are pretty indestructible boxes with some nice finish choices. You might have a hard time finding a Woodmode dealer who discounts. Try though. Ultracraft I have worked with in their frameless line, nice color and door style choices there for a reasonable price. I really like Ultracraft too.
Well I hope you learned from my book, or essay or whatever you want to call it. It's been awhile since I heard from this Expert forum. Thanks for your question and I hope I gave you some ammunition to work with when you face the vultures out there. Cabinet sales are competitive but there is a lot of room in the MSRP as I discussed above. Please sick with a designer who is CKD certified. Not just someone who calls themselves a kitchen designer. This is very important. I can write another book telling you all the common mistakes basic self taught kitchen designers make because they don't know what they are doing because they never installed a kitchen in their lives. These mistakes will cost you in the end. The very best kitchen designers are ex installers. That's another thing I should touch on. The installer is paid piece work. A stick of trim pays say $20 and a giant oven cabinet pays $20. This varies with location. If you hire a company that does it all than you don't really need to know that but if you hire your own then that's how they are paid. Every piece is one box count.
Good luck to ya my friend