Your 3 Key Kitchen Cabinet Choices
By Wendy Silverstein
An example of stock cabinets from IKEA (Lixtorp Door).
KITCHEN CABINETS: Stock, Semi-Custom,
More than ever, the kitchen is the heart and soul of family
life, so it’s important for new homeowners to pay particular attention to the
planning, furnishing, and decoration of this vital space. Once the general
layout and style of the kitchen have been determined, it’s time to consider
what sort of cabinetry—stock, semi-custom, or custom—to install. Here are some
factors to keep in mind.
Cabinets can be configured in countless ways, but they're
typically built and installed using well-established dimensions. Tried and
true, they’re a good set of guidelines to work from.
● Distance between countertop and upper cabinets: 18 inches
● Upper cabinet depth: 12 inches
● Lower cabinet depth: 24 inches
● Countertop overhang: ¾ to 1 inch
● Countertop height: 36 inches
● Kickspace: 4 inches high, 3 inches deep
The least expensive and quickest way to go, these cabinets
are ready-made and sold by big box stores and home improvement centers in a
finite number of styles, materials, configurations, and finishes.
● Materials: Cabinet boxes are usually ½-inch MDF
(medium-density fiberboard) or particleboard faced with melamine. Doors and
drawer fronts are typically MDF covered in thermofoil (plastic) or wood veneer.
● Hardware: Hinges and drawer glides are generally
lightweight metal and the glides do not allow the drawers to extend fully.
● Size and fit: Upper and lower cabinet widths increase in
3-inch increments. Upper cabinet heights increase in 6-inch increments; the
lower cabinet or countertop height is fixed.
● Delivery time: Because the product is readymade, it can be
shipped as soon as it is ordered.
More expensive but more flexible, these cabinets can be ordered
from home centers or kitchen showrooms in a wide range of styles, materials,
configurations, and finishes, as long as they are in the manufacturer’s catalog.
● Materials: Cabinet boxes are generally ½-inch MDF but can
often be upgraded to plywood. Doors and drawer fronts may be MDF with thermofoil
(plastic foil heat sealed to the substrate,
often mdf) or wood veneer but can also be solid wood.
● Hardware: Expect higher quality metal and drawer glides
that are side mounted and extend fully.
● Size and fit: Widths for upper and lower cabinets usually
increase in 1-inch increments. Upper cabinet heights vary in 6-inch increments;
lower cabinet height is fixed.
● Delivery time: Generally cabinets ship five or six weeks
after they’re ordered.
Generally the most expensive option with the slowest
delivery time, these cabinets are ordered from kitchen showrooms or local
cabinetmakers and offer exact fit, fine detailing, and an almost unlimited
choice of styles, materials, configurations, and finishes.
● Materials: Cabinet boxes are typically constructed of
¾-inch furniture-grade plywood; door and drawer fronts are generally solid
● Hardware: High quality hinges and drawer glides offer
features like soft closing doors and undermounted full-extension glides.
● Size and fit: Built to any width or height ensuring a
● Delivery time: Expect eight to 10 weeks for domestic
cabinet delivery; 14 to 16 weeks for imports; and eight weeks to six months for