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Which type of kitchen cabinets should I buy?
Over the past 40 years, the kitchen cabinet industry has been transformed by modular, factory-made cabinets. These cabinets are constructed in a factory and shipped to the jobsite instead of being built onsite or at a shop by a local cabinet maker. Some Custom Shops would make the cabinet frames cut and assembled onsite, while certain parts, such as doors and drawers were manufactured in the shop or in most cases bought out from other manufacturers. Kitchen cabinets built onsite might have no separating side walls or back so it’s like one big cabinet box with multiple doors. This is unlike modular cabinets, which are essentially individual boxes. We will go over a few key topics that you should consider when choosing the type of cabinetry to purchase for your remodel.
Factory Manufactured Cabinets
Factory made kitchen cabinets have become extremely popular for several reasons. One of the primary reasons is that many cabinet companies make their wood cabinets with a baked-on factory finish. This chemical baking process creates a highly durable finish that resists staining and breakdown from most foods and liquids and therefore holds up much better over time. Also, cabinets manufactured outside of CA, where there are very strict EPA guidelines as to the type of finishes that are allowed to be used on wood products such as cabinetry, are allowed to use a much more durable, oil-based finish. In contrast, finishes applied onsite (Water-based lacquer in CA) by local custom cabinet shops often never fully cure. As you may guess, an oil-based finish will last much longer than any water-based finishing product available in any shops in California for example. The not-fully-cured lacquer finishes will begin react with all the grime and food and become gummy over time. The finish can break down to the point that you can even accidentally strip the finish while cleaning the cabinets.
Another advantage of factory-made cabinets is superior quality control. Mass-produced cabinets have uniform construction and materials, as well as individual cabinet sizes. Many larger cabinet manufacturers offer limited-lifetime warranties and their products are also endorsed by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA), a professional trade organization that tests cabinets rigorously for the kind of wear and tear typically found in bathrooms and kitchens. The production lead times and processes from larger factories are usually very consistent and can be trusted to be accurate which goes a long way with planning for your project. They have their processes refined and streamlined to be as efficient and dependable as possible.
Additionally, cabinet manufacturers provide 3-D computer programs to cabinet dealers, allowing them to show you various layout possibilities and automatically generated prices. Some local custom cabinet shops also have this technology, but it is more common in cabinet showrooms that sell factory-manufactured cabinets.
Locally Built Cabinets
Sometimes hiring a local cabinet maker can be preferable if matching a highly detailed door or existing cabinets that were built locally. Custom cabinet shops can help you match architectural details to unique features in your house and when adding to existing cabinetry, these shops might do a better job of replicating the exact cabinet style and color. For some very highly specialized customizations, a quote from a custom cabinet maker is always recommended since it may be cost-prohibitive to accomplish the desired level of customization through a factory. However, keep in mind that, unless the cabinet shop is equipped with a baking booth, they will not be able to achieve the same quality of "baked on", oil-based finish as the factory-finished cabinet ever. It's advised to ask the local shop what type of top coat they spray and if Lacquer is the answer, don't even think about it!
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