Choosing cabinetry for your kitchen remodel is exciting, but before you make a choice, there are a lot of elements to consider. With so many different types of cabinets styles and materials to choose from, it’s tough to know where to start. This is a guide to all things cabinet-related, meant to help make it easier to decide which choices are right for you.

1. Consider Your Style

The style of cabinet you choose will heavily influence how your finished kitchen looks overall. Think about the aesthetic that you’d like to see in your kitchen. Are you going for a more traditional look, or a more contemporary, minimalist style? Also, you need to consider the decor of the rest of your house. You want your kitchen to blend seamlessly with your home, but at the same time, this remodel is a chance to use your style and creativity to create something that is uniquely you. It’s important to remember that styles change quickly, so some options may look outdated in a few years.

2. Cabinet Construction

When it comes to the construction of your cabinets, there are two styles to choose from, American and European. American style cabinets are also known as framed ones, while European style is known as frameless. Framed looks classic and traditional, and they have a face frame that is seen in the front. This gives them strength and sturdiness.

Frameless cabinets, on the other hand, are considered to have a more modern look. The doors are right next to each other with little to no frame visible. The shelves are easier to mount, but overall installation can be a little trickier than with framed cabinets, and they aren’t quite as sturdy, though the lack of frame can provide more storage space to work with. Frameless cabinets have been growing in popularity in the US in recent years. 

3. Cabinet Stock Types

You’ll need to choose your stock type:

  • Stock cabinets are pre-built to fit standard sizes and are available to buy right off the shelf. There are limited design choices, but they are an economical choice.
  • Ready to assemble (RTA) cabinets are also pre-built, and like stock, are often made from cheaper materials. These cabinets come shipped in flat boxes and are assembled at your home.
  • Custom cabinets are just what they sound like. They’re built to your specifications and offer a nearly unlimited selection of shapes and sizes. Because they are built to fit your exact needs, they are often more expensive than pre-built ones and can take time to be completed. 
  • Semi-custom cabinets are a compromise between fully custom and pre-built types. They offer a few customization options so it’s easy to find a look you love without the expense. 

4. Materials to Choose From

The material you choose can have a big impact on their look, durability, and maintenance. Here are a few materials you can choose from:

  • Laminate cabinets are built with a combination of wood byproducts and resin that are then combined under heat and hydraulic pressure. The most common problem with this type of cabinet is that sometimes the glue that holds the laminate to the wood loosens and the corners of the laminate start to lift. But when properly maintained, laminate is a functional and economical choice.
  • Medium-density fiberboard, also known as MDF is made up of panels constructed from wood fiber, resin, and wax. MDF is a great choice because it doesn’t warp or crack over time. It’s often a cheaper option than real wood.  
  • Plywood is made by laminating thin layers of wood together to create boards, which are then cut. Plywood is durable and will last a long time, and it is easy to reface if you decide you want a new style. 
  • Hardwood cabinets are beautiful but can be expensive. They are strong and sturdy and are cut directly from logs of wood, but they can warp over time. 
  • Steel cabinets will give your kitchen a modern look and feel. They’re easy to install and maintain, and you’ll never have to worry about them warping or chipping like wood.

5. Door Types

When choosing doors for your cabinets, you’ll need to decide if you want the doors to simply cover the opening of the door (inset doors) or if you want it to extend over (overlay). Inset doors are set directly into the frame. They fit flush with the cabinet when they are closed. Full overlay doors completely cover the face, while partial-overlay doors leave a gap between each door. Partial-overlay doors tend to be the most common and give a traditional feel while also being a less expensive option. 

6. Door Styles

When you look at the front of a cabinet door, you’ll notice that they come in many decorative options. A door may have a raised panel or a recessed panel on it or may have a decorative wood design that you can lay glass behind (called a mullion). Slab cabinet doors are totally flat, while open-frame doors may have a glass insert.  

7. Door Surface Treatments

Once you’ve chosen what kind of door type and style to go with, you’ll have to choose how you’d like to finish the doors. The finish on your cabinet can give it a whole different look and feel. Various stains, glazes, veneers, and lacquers can make your cabinets look smooth and shiny, rustic, or weathered. 

8. What’s the Cabinet’s Function?

Kitchen - Kitchen cabinet
High gloss white and gray cabinets in a modern kitchen.

Kitchen cabinets have a lot of different functions, and each one is built differently. Think about what you’ll be using them for. Tall ones often go floor to ceiling and can act as a pantry. Base cabinets run along the floor and are about 36 inches high, and are topped with your choice of countertops. Wall cabinets are mounted to the wall above the counter space. Corner cabinets join together two sections placed at an angle and can be fitted with a lazy Susan for accessible storage. 

9. Accessories

Your cabinets will need some accessories to complete them. If you’re choosing some that need handles or knobs, there are hundreds of styles to choose from. If your cabinets have drawers, you can choose drawers that soft-close automatically, so they can’t be slammed shut. Maybe you like the look of fronts with glass. Frosted glass looks beautiful, while clear glass can let you show off what’s inside your cabinet.  

Learn More About Kitchen Cabinets

If you’re remodeling your kitchen, look for our next article in a nine-part series about kitchen countertops! Contact us to learn more.

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A Comprehensive Guide To Kitchen Cabinets: Introduction
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A Comprehensive Guide To Kitchen Cabinets: Introduction
The #1 remodeling choice of consumers is to update their kitchen. One of the most important selections you have to make when updating a kitchen is choosing cabinetry. There are lots of things to consider. In this new series, we will check out all the different considerations for selecting your kitchen cabinets.
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About the Author: is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.