Three types of Cabinets

Manufactured Cabinets

In many parts of the country, this is the most common type of cabinet.  It provides the widest spectrum of quality (from cheap cabinets that can be purchased at any home supply big box store to very high end cabinets with piano grade finishes).  Manufactured cabinets have less flexibility when it comes to customization — If it is not in the catalog it is not available.

Site Built Cabinets

This is the most common type of cabinet from volume builders in our area.  These cabinets are custom built on site.  They take advantage of existing walls to provide the backs and sides of the cabinets.  Often the face frames are made of plywood rather than solid stock wood. This helps reduce the cost of the cabinet but also tends to make them weaker.  These cabinets cannot be as easily modified or changed later.  They also do not endure as well because they are assembled with weaker joinery.

Custom Shop Built Cabinets

This is our preference for quality cabinets.  Like site built cabinets, they are completely customizable.  And like manufactured cabinets, they allow for complete boxes and tightly assembled face frames.  Building cabinets in our shop allows us to control the quality of materials that go into their construction.  Many cabinet makers will use Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF.) This material does not react well to water and it usually has high levels of unhealthy VOCs.  Another common practice is for cabinet manufactures to save money by using thinner plywood or less durable hardware.   By building cabinets in our shop, we can guaranty quality construction and materials.  For example, we use no or low formaldehyde plywood.  Formaldehyde is one of the more common and carcinogenic VOCs found in building materials. While this material choice slightly increases the cost of cabinets, it insures a healthy home.

Cabinets Doors and Drawers

The most visible parts of a cabinet are the doors and drawers.  It is largely this element that defines the style of the cabinets.  For example, ornate raised panel doors can provide a lot of detail but they are also more difficult to keep clean.  Glass doors, on the other hand, show off nice dishes or pottery, but unless you are a fastidious cleaner and organizer, you may want to keep these to a few featured locations highlighted with their own lighting.  With a wide range of options, you should have no problem finding doors and drawers that make your cabinetry fit your kitchen’s needs and your style.



As mentioned above, there is a wide array of plywood that can be used to build cabinets. Choosing the right plywood will make a great deal of difference in how healthy your home is over time and how well your cabinets will endure.  Most of the time this is not a choice offered to the consumer.

Drawer Slides

There is nothing more frustrating than a drawer that sticks and will not close properly.  A well made drawer slide will add to the initial cost, but greatly increases the drawer’s durability.


There are three basic doors styles: partial overlay, full overlay and inset doors.  The hinges for each are slightly different. These days the most popular hinges are concealed or euro style hinges.  These hinges are often better made and provide a greater amount of adjustment so that they can be tuned as the cabinets age and the house moves.  There are also hinges and slides that are self closing.  It is wise to pay attention to the quality of hardware that is offered with the cabinets that you buy.

Knobs and Pulls

This visible hardware helps define the cabinet’s style.  There is no limit to what is available, unless you are buying manufactured cabinets that only offer a limited selection.  One option is no knobs or pulls at all.  Many people like to go this way because it is easier to clean and it provides a sleek look.  This is done by easing the edges of the doors and drawers to provide a lip that allows for easy opening from the edge.

Paints and Finishes

One of the biggest differences in the way the cabinets will look is made when choosing a finish.  Will they be painted or stained?  Stained cabinets tend to show fewer blemishes as the cabinets age.  Site built cabinets are often finished with lacquer because it dries faster, but it also yellows over time.  Many people are choosing to use a combination of painted and stain cabinets.  This is most common for kitchens designed in a French country style.

Layout and Design

A well designed kitchen with smart cabinet layout can be one of the most beloved features of a house.  Having the right amount of cabinets and counter top space is key.  While some kitchen designers will tell you that you can never have enough of either, our approach is a little different.  We often encourage our clients to reduce the number of upper cabinets, which are often difficult to access, in order to provide room for more windows.  We also encourage a reduction of cabinets as a means of helping the budget.  Pantry space is less expensive to create and it is usually easier to work with. Like most everything else, the quantity of cabinets is less of an issue than the quality of the design of the kitchen.