Qualified Remodeler

CKBR: Selecting Materials for Cabinetry

Selecting materials for a kitchen or bathroom remodel can be challenging. Clients will generally narrow options by describing their available budget, floor space and layout. Managing client expectations is  important—many will research their project using the internet, catalogs and local showrooms. Armed with this knowledge, they may narrow the options by expressing a desire for a specific brand, model, color or size. In some cases, clients may be set on a specific faucet or sink only to find the model they want is only a pre-production model and will not be available for a year or more. Your options can further be constrained by supply in your area, the available products from your supplier, and building code requirements in your area. Even after applying the noted restrictions, you will be faced with an extensive array of options. Style, quality and budget will each play a role.

For the sake of this article, we are focusing on cabinet selection. To effectively help clients make selections, you must have an in-depth knowledge of the products you represent and a basic understanding of the products you do not. While cabinets may seem to come in an unlimited assortment of styles, there are two basic construction styles: face frame or frameless.

Face-Frame Construction

Face-frame cabinetry is the traditional style of cabinet, consisting of the cabinet box with a frame attached. The frame can be configured in a variety of ways to achieve desired storage capacities. Almost all of the frames are made from ¾-inch solid stock, while the boxes can be many types of board products of varying thicknesses from ⅜ to ¾ inch. It is important to take a close look at the cabinets before handling them. Some of the boxes on very inexpensive cabinetry pretty much depend on the frames to help hold them together. A little rough handling and you will be in the cabinet repair business as well as installation.

In face-frame construction, doors are mounted to the frame and can fit one of three ways: flush with the frame (inset), partially inset or completely overlaid. Overlays can be described as traditional or full overlay. Traditional overlays expose ¾ to 1 inch of the frame members of the cabinet and do not require handles. Full overlays nearly cover the frame members of the cabinet and require handles for opening and closing.

Frameless Construction

Frameless cabinetry is simply a box with no frame. The front edges are covered with either wood veneer or PVC edge tape to match the cabinet fronts. There may be a full top or a front and back stretcher bar, and vertical and/or horizontal dividers to define storage options. In frameless construction, doors are mounted to the walls of the cabinet and can fit one of two ways: flush with the frame (inset) or completely overlaid. These cabinets are almost always made of ¾-inch material, although some are made from ⅝-inch stock. Studies have shown that frameless cabinetry can allow 10 to 15 percent more useable storage space than face-framed cabinetry in the same layout.

Advantages of frameless construction are the total accessibility to the case interior and the clean, simple design statement made; but some concerns exist regarding the stability of this type of construction. There is a tendency for frameless cases to “rack,” and also there is the additional planning expertise required to ensure proper clearance detailing.

Cabinet Finishes

Finishes are another area that will determine final cost and the quality of cabinetry selected for a project. The finish can be the selling point between one cabinet line and another. Once again, a little education in this area can mean a big difference in the outcome of the sale and the results of the finished project. Most manufacturers who do finishing also offer touch-up kits to match the particular finish you are working with. Be sure to order these kits along with the cabinets.

Many local shops are regulated by environmental issues that make offering cabinet finishing an expensive proposition, so they just don’t do it. In that situation, the finish will have to be applied either at a finishing shop before delivery or applied on the job. If on-site finishing is going to be the case, considerations will have to be made about fumes, space for the painter to “spread out” so he can finish the doors and drawers, and the weather when the finishing is scheduled. If the budget will allow, this should be a last resort. It is impossible to apply and achieve the same finish available from a quality cabinet manufacturer with the facilities in the plant.

Cabinet Accessories

Many interior storage accessories are available for both face-frame and frameless types of cabinets. Most often these features are ordered with the cabinets, but it doesn’t mean you can’t add some of these items after the fact. Any local cabinet shop should be able to order specific items if you don’t have a relationship with a hardware wholesale house.

Cabinetry products are constantly changing, as are the tastes of your clients. Developing a solid relationship with your supplier in addition to reading the latest kitchen and bath industry journals is a “must do.” If you design and lead sales, an in-depth knowledge of cabinet styles and sources is an absolute must. QR

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