The big home supply centers do a very good job of offering every door style, wood type, and finish under the sun. They also do a very good job of distracting you from the two biggest features that you should be focused on, which are price and quality of construction.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is impulse buying or letting your emotions affect your decision, without doing some research. It is really important to do some research before going into the store and have a budget in mind.
Minor changes in the look of the cabinet can end up adding hundreds, if not thousands, to the price of your kitchen. The same thing applies to unnecessary upgrades and accessories.
The easiest way to get educated on cabinets is to start searching the internet. The retail stores will offer the name brand cabinets, but if you search online you will find that you can find similar, if not identical cabinets, for significantly less on-line. In fact, there are a lot of small kitchen stores that will work on lower margins just to get your business.
Have you ever noticed that the stores will usually price cabinets on a cost per square foot? This is done deliberately, because what sounds less intimidating, the fact that you are going to increase the cost by $1.00 per square foot, or the fact that you are adding $900 to the cost of your kitchen?
It is a great technique to distract you from the actual price you are paying and get you focused on the style and finish of the cabinets. What you will also find is that the quality of the materials used will differ dramatically from cabinet to cabinet. As I mentioned before, the retail stores do a very good job of getting you caught up in the features and accessories of the cabinet face, but how often do you hear them talk about what the actual cabinet box is made of?
Ironically, most of the name brand cabinets don't actually use solid wood for the cabinet box. They may have a great looking cabinet door, but they are using particleboard or fiberboard for the construction of the cabinet box.
The problem with both of these materials is that they are adversely affected by water and moisture. Sounds kind of funny, but something that is going to be in a kitchen, with plenty of moisture, can actually have an adverse reaction of excess moisture. What you will find on-line is that a lot of the lesser-known cabinetmakers actually use solid plywood, which creates a much stronger cabinet box.
The other big factor in materials is how the cabinet is held together. Don't be surprised to find out that some of the big name cabinet companies use staples or basic nails and glue to hold the cabinet together.
In doing some research on-line you will more than likely come across another common term in the cabinet industry- RTA, or Ready-To-Assemble. Don't be scared away from this type of cabinet. If you ever go into the big stores and see pre-assembled or stock cabinets, they are RTA cabinets that are pre-assembled for your convenience (and significantly more expensive).
There are three categories that separate RTA Cabinets from their competition-
1)Price- if you find the companies that are importing them directly, the saving can be as high as 40-50% versus the name brand cabinets
2)Construction- Not all RTA cabinets are the same, but most of them use solid plywood for the cabinet box, solid wood for the face frames and doors, and they have an interlocking cam lock assembly that is a stronger bond than staples, nails, or wooden dowels
3)Assembly- they are so easy to assemble that you can actually eliminate the added expense of hiring someone to assemble and install them
With all the advantages of RTA Cabinets, there are some inferior products on the market that you should steer clear of, but they are definitely worth doing some research on.
So before you go running to your local big box supply store, take the time to do some research on-line. At the very least you will be a more educated customer and you can avoid the mistake of exceeding your budget for your kitchen.