If you are looking for kitchen cabinets with high longevity, you need to pay attention to key components such as the wood, built quality and accessories. According to a survey by the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), high-quality kitchen cabinets can last up to 50 years.
Due to the poor quality wood choice and construction methods, low-quality kitchen cabinets suffer from problems such as warping, denting boxes, loose hinges, sagging drawers, and crooked doors. These issues not only affect the functionality of your the cabinets but ruin the aesthetics of your kitchen as well.
But how do you identify the best kitchen cabinets? Look for the following characteristics while shopping for quality kitchen cabinets.
All-Plywood Construction (APC) vs Particleboard
Kitchen cabinets are either made of plywood or particleboard. An all plywood construction is a smarter choice since it can stay strong during the process of delivery and installation and can bear the weight of heavy countertops. Kitchen cabinets with APC construction tend to resist moisture damage and handle countertop weight well enough.
Constructed with layers of wood running both lengthwise and crosswise, plywood is strong enough to hold the power with screws and fasteners. So if you are looking for a strong kitchen cabinet, choose one that has APC construction.
The interiors of quality kitchen cabinet are as important as its exteriors. These should be tough, nonporous and easy to clean. Melamine serves as the perfect material for cabinet shelves and interiors as it is resistant to fire, water, and stain and are a durable choice as well.
Unlike wood that needs a lot of maintenance, melamine is easy to maintain and can be conveniently cleaned using household solutions. These are often used in light colors that provide a very natural looking appearance to the cabinets and make it easy to view the contents inside.
Cabinets are designed in two different ways – framed cabinets and frameless cabinets (aka European cabinets). While frame cabinets use a hardwood frame attached to their front, the frameless cabinets do without any frame.
In a framed cabinet, door hinges and glides of a drawer are attached to the frame which means doors and drawers get a solid base made of hardwood making the installation and shipping of the cabinets easier.
Likewise, there are three different styles of framed cabinets according to the amount of frame revealed — full overlay, partial overlay, and inset.
On the other hand, in a frameless cabinet, doors are directly attached to the sides of the cabinet that makes the door hinges loose over a period of time. The cost of installation is comparatively higher in a frameless cabinet. As a matter of fact, most high-end kitchen cabinets are typically framed cabinets.
Fully Assembled in the Factory
There are two different assembly options for kitchen cabinets — fully assembled and ready to assemble (RTA) cabinets.
While fully assembled cabinets are built, boxed and shipped from the factory and are ready to be installed, RTA cabinets need to be assembled at home. Cabinets that are fully assembled are much stronger and durable since they use industrial techniques such as dovetail joints, power fasteners, and hot and cold glue.
Such cabinets are high on strength since the pieces of wood bind on a microscopic level. Fully assembled cabinets are packed as a complete unit with drawers and doors intact in places and are shipped, ready to be installed. Fully assembled cabinets are better than the RTA cabinets in terms of price, convenience, and durability.
Full-Height Back Panel
The back panel construction of a cabinet directly affects its overall strength and installation.
Quality kitchen cabinets are always characterized by a full plywood back panel with a thickness of ⅜” or more to provide strength and ease of installation of the cabinet unit. Moreover, wall cabinets with solid, full-height back panels can be directly attached to the studs of the wall. They are more likely to retain their integrity when a cut is made on the back panel to accommodate wire or plumbing materials.
Cabinets with thin back panels are less expensive but they require additional reinforcement such as brackets and rails for installation.
Secured with I-beam
I-beam is a half-inch beam that is used in the construction of the base cabinet and is used to secure all the four sides of the cabinet to add strength and durability to the unit. The cabinets that are secured with I-beam on the upper sides are stronger and safer for both installation and shipping as compared to those that use corner gussets or braces.
Soft-closing and Adjustable Hinges
The hinges are an integral part of a kitchen cabinet, which directly affects its functionality and durability. High-end kitchen cabinets typically use premium accessories with advanced mechanisms such as soft-closing hinges that are six-way adjustable (left, right, up, down, in and out) to offset against any contraction or expansion after prolonged use or due to seasonal changes.
Avoid using poor quality hinges since they can result in cabinet doors getting stiff, loose or uneven. It is advisable to choose products that are backed by a lifetime warranty.
High-quality Drawer Glides
Just like soft-closing hinges are necessary for cabinet doors, high-quality drawer glides are essential for smooth operation of cabinet drawers. Therefore, high-end kitchen cabinets are equipped with full-extension, undermount and soft-closing glide for smooth operation and long life of cabinet drawers. The use of the soft-close dampening system ensures a silent operation of drawers.
Avoid using plastic rollers and epoxy coated metal since they can wear quickly. Similarly, using side mounted glides reduces the width of the drawers that further affect the storage space.
Drawers with Dovetail Joints
High-end kitchen cabinets are also known for their premium drawer boxes. The construction quality of the drawers directly affects the functionality of base cabinets.
The use of solid hardwood with dovetail joints adds strength and durability to a drawer. Avoid using ordinary materials or staples for the joints in drawer boxes.
Custom Kitchen Cabinets
As opposed to the stock cabinets that have limited styles and sizes, cabinets with custom modifications provide a wide range of features, styles, and sizes that are specifically made to match the specific needs of homeowners. If you find custom cabinets too expensive, semi-custom cabinets with modifications can be a good option. These provide different styles, sizes, and features but at a reasonable price.