Cabinets and countertops 101 – Part #1

We found this article on cabinets and countertops from MSN – real estate to be very good at explaining the basics. We will publish the follow-up article on countertops next month. We hope you enjoy it.

Cabinets and countertops 101 – Part #1
Are you ready to give your kitchen or bathroom a whole new look? Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you choose the options and materials that are best for you.

Cabinetry is essentially furniture for the kitchen and the bath. It sets the tone for the entire room, while providing much-needed storage.

Before you begin
Walk around the room and consider what your needs are. Do you want to stow all your towels in the bathroom instead of the hall closet? If so, you might benefit from a few deep cabinets. Do you need a row of vertical dividers in the kitchen for all those cookie sheets?
Think about how many drawers and upper and lower cabinets you would like, plus extras, such as open shelves, glass-front doors and deep drawers.

Consider your options

Stock: Available in a limited number of styles and finishes, inexpensive stock cabinets are sold in home-improvement stores and can usually be taken home the same day. They generally come in three standard widths: 27, 30 and 33 inches.

Semicustom: These are sold in the same sizes as stock but come in a wider range of styles and finishes and offer features such as pot racks. Delivery time is four weeks and up.

Custom: With handmade cabinetry, the sky’s the limit — but you’ll pay for it. “Elaborate molding finish could easily add 30% to the total,” says Matt Aanensen, a remodeler in Kearny, N.J. Delivery takes at least six weeks.


Keep in mind
Cabinet-box and shelving materials vary, from plywood to medium-density fiberboard (MDF) to particleboard, which may sag over time. You’ll need to choose from four door styles: slab (little or no ornamentation), recessed panel (a center panel outlined with a frame; shown), raised panel (a center panel raised for contrast) and glass insert (a center panel of glass, clear or frosted, that provides a glimpse of what’s inside). As for the cabinet-door materials, there are many choices, the most popular of which are featured here.

Common cabinet materials Here are the most common materials used in cabinet crafting.

Inexpensive wood
What it is: Light- to medium-toned hardwoods, such as maple (shown) and birch. Oak, which has a slightly coarser grain, is also an affordable option.
Pros: Thanks to their strength and uniform grains, these popular varieties take paint well. Maple and oak mellow in color as they age.
Cons: Birch and maple may not absorb stains as evenly as midrange and expensive woods.
Cost: Averages $2,350 for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).*
* Semicustom ranges from $2,500 to $9,000; custom from $7,200 to $10,000.

Midrange wood
What it is: Hardwoods with a pronounced grain, such as hickory (shown).
Pros: This type of wood is very dense and extremely strong and comes in a range of colors, from cream to reddish brown.
Cons: Some cuts are fairly uniform in tone, while others are not; one piece may contain several variations of the same color. But you can use a midtone stain to smooth out discrepancies.
Cost: Around $2,500 or more for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).

What it is: Layers of paper topped with plastic, then glued to plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF).
Pros: A ubiquitous cabinet material, laminate is affordable and comes in seemingly endless color and pattern options, from hot pink to polka dots. It’s a great choice if you want to redo your kitchen or bathroom in a flash.
Cons: Door fronts come in slab styles only. It is prone to scratching.
Cost: $1,540 to $2,000 for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).

Expensive wood
What it is: Premium hardwoods, such as cherry (shown) and walnut, known for their smooth grains.
Pros: This type of wood is hard and durable.
Cons: Cherry darkens as it ages, and walnut lightens over time, so consider this when coordinating the cabinetry with other finishes.
Cost: Cherry and walnut are among the priciest species. Cherry costs about 10% to 15% more than midrange woods. Walnut can be twice as expensive as cherry.

What it is: A thin layer of vinyl molded to MDF.
Pros: It doesn’t warp, so it’s ideally suited to humid environments. Thermofoil cleans in a snap with soap and water and is competitively priced.
Cons: Since it looks more like plastic or enamel, you won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s wood. Cabinets positioned next to or above an oven can sometimes peel or yellow.
Cost: $2,000 to $2,700 for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).
Tip: Look for drawers that have sliding mechanisms underneath. They are roomier than drawers with mounts on the sides.

Stainless steel
What it is: Metal cabinets built with a sleek, frameless construction (the doors are attached directly to the cabinet box).
Pros: It is durable and won’t warp like wood. Colors include industrial silver and powder-coated red, green and orange.
Cons: Stainless scratches and dents easily and shows fingerprints (unless it’s powder-coated).
Cost: $3,330 to $5,900 for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).

From meal prep to the occasional spill, these surfaces take a real beating, so it’s important to know how the different types compare.

Before you begin
Consider how you live in your kitchen or bath. If you tend to be a messy cook and want to wipe up spaghetti-sauce spills quickly — with just soap and water — look into easy-to-maintain laminate. If durability is your main concern, opt for engineered stone or granite; both are virtually indestructible. And if you’re a neatnik, “you should probably think twice about marble,” says Peggy Fruin, a kitchen and bath designer in East Hampton, N.Y. “It stains so easily that you’ll be a nervous wreck whenever someone puts a glass down on it.”

Consider your options
What type of sink do you want? If you’re looking for an undermount sink, which lies below the counter, you can choose any material except laminate, which is glued together and is therefore not 100% waterproof. With solid surface, stainless steel and concrete, you can have a seamless sink, which is made of the same material as the counter.
If you prefer natural and engineered stones, remember that they can come either honed or polished. Honed counters offer a casual, matte look, but they absorb moisture, so they need to be treated annually with a penetrating sealer (about $39 for a quart, Polished counters are glossier and require less stringent care.

Keep in mind
While shopping around, it helps to have a rough idea of how much material you’ll need. (Multiply the length by the width, in feet, of the planned counter to get the square footage.) That way, you can estimate how much money you’ll spend.
By Carolyn Weber, Real Simple


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