In most homes, the kitchen is more than a place to cook meals — it is a central gathering place for eating, studying, crafting, playing games and more. Essentially, the kitchen is the heartbeat of your home.
Few things make a kitchen come together more than beautiful cabinetry. While appealing cabinetry showcases your kitchen’s style, nothing makes the space look more unfashionable than outdated, plain or worn-out cabinets.
If you have decided it is finally time to renovate your kitchen, you have many options to beautify the space. A full kitchen cabinet remodel can be one of the most expensive upgrades in the entire house, but it is still possible to modernize your kitchen on a budget if you opt for cabinet resurfacing and refacing rather than replacement.
Modernize created this kitchen cabinetry guide to help homeowners kick-start their cabinet remodel projects. We’ve compiled helpful information such as kitchen cabinet costs, popular types of cabinets, cabinet refacing versus replacement, and everything else you’ll need to know to become a well-informed consumer. We can even help you find a local contractor to get the job completed correctly.
Kitchen Cabinet Upgrade Options
A kitchen cabinet remodel is a lot of work — consider creating a game plan to help ensure the job gets done right.
First, decide whether you want to resurface or replace your kitchen cabinets. We’ll focus on replacement options and circle back to cabinet resurfacing a bit later. Although it may be well past time for those outdated cabinets to go, it’s important to realize that a total cabinet replacement job is both expensive and time-consuming — your kitchen could be out of service for a full week or more.
Next, you’ll have to make several crucial decisions, including:
Keeping or changing the layout of the cabinets
Choosing materials, design, color and hardware options
As anyone who has ever bought a new home can attest, the plethora of design and materials options can be overwhelming. Before you start imagining the oohs and ahhs of guests when entertaining in your newly renovated kitchen, you’ll have to sharpen your focus and decide which material and style best fits your project budget and personal tastes. You don’t have to go it alone, though — contractors, cabinet companies and home improvement retailers typically have experienced design professionals and showrooms to help customers pick the perfect cabinets for their kitchen renovation projects. These pros can expertly measure existing cabinetry to ensure you get correctly-sized cabinet frames.
If you are taking on much of the project responsibility yourself, you will need to arm yourself with accurate measurements before heading to a nearby Lowe’s, Home Depot or local cabinetry shop to buy new cabinets. Experts suggest using graph paper to sketch out a grid of your kitchen and cabinet layout to help ensure your new cabinets fit properly. Additionally, taking photos of your existing kitchen can help with crucial layout decisions such as ordering left- or right-facing door openings.
Next, note the width, depth and placement of appliances such as the stove and refrigerator, as well as the length of any countertops in between or adjacent to these items, and note them on your grid. Take overall measurements of existing countertops, as well as the overall wall lengths of your kitchen. For wall-mounted cabinets, measure each box at the bottom frame of the cabinet. For height, measure from that same bottom frame piece to the ceiling. Depending on your ceiling height, your new cabinets can either be built full height to the ceiling or short of that and trimmed out with crown molding.
You’ll only have to pull measurements if you plan on installing the cabinets yourself. If you’re not on a first-name basis with your tape measure, level and screw gun, it is probably best to leave the measuring and installation to experienced professionals.
Now that you’ve crafted a game plan for size and layout, it’s time to decide what type of cabinets you want.
How to Choose New Kitchen Cabinets
Cabinets are a central design feature of the kitchen. It is important to choose a style and material that compliments other elements of your home’s decor, such as the countertops and nearby furniture.
Materials aside, there are three main types of cabinets, each with its own price point:
Stock cabinets. These are what you’ll find at local home improvement retailers, and they are common in many residential tract homes. Stock cabinets are the least-expensive option for new cabinetry. Size, style and color options can be limited compared to custom cabinetry, but these pre-sized, off-the-shelf cabinets likely mirror the size and style of cabinets you’re replacing. And since they are already built, your kitchen will be put back together much more quickly than with other types of cabinets.
Semi-custom. These cabinets are often installed in upscale tract home communities built by large national production home builders such as Lennar Homes or D.R. Horton. Semi-custom cabinets are built-to-order at professional cabinetry shops with sizes typically mirroring common cabinetry choices. One plus for these types of cabinets is that homeowners can choose from a variety of styles, finishes, materials and hardware options. Semi-custom cabinets also usually have a higher degree of craftsmanship and quality than stock solutions.
Custom cabinetry. This is where the cabinet renovation budget can soar — options are limited only by your imagination. Custom cabinets are completely built-to-order by highly skilled craftspeople. They can be made from the widest selection of wood types, construction methods and accessories.
There is a fourth option we’ll briefly touch on: Ready to assemble cabinets. These cabinets, though less expensive than stock cabinets, are best left for experienced home renovation professionals since they are delivered as a package that you assemble and install yourself.
It also helps to know a little about the primary types of wood used in cabinet construction. Cabinets are typically constructed from cherry, oak, alder, hickory, maple, pine, walnut and birch, to name a few of the most common species. Each species of wood offers its own unique grain pattern and color. Less-expensive options include laminates, thermofoil, veneers and MDF, or medium-density fiberboard.
Different Kitchen Cabinet Styles
Now that you’ve determined which type of cabinet best fits your renovation budget, and you’ve settled on a species of wood and color, it’s time to choose a cabinet style that compliments your personal tastes and home decor.
Cabinets span an extensive range of styles. We’ll cover some of the most popular choices, but there are literally dozens of styles from which to choose. The main thing to consider is matching your cabinets with your home’s architecture — you probably would not want to install rustic cabinets in a residence with modern design aesthetics.
Kitchen cabinet boxes — the frames — are built in one of two ways: full-frame or frameless (also known as European style). Framed cabinets are common throughout the U.S. and provide a more traditional aesthetic. With framed cabinetry, there is a face frame attached to the front edge of the cabinet box, and hinges are mounted on the inside of this panel. Frameless cabinets, meanwhile, are essentially five-sided boxes without a front. Door hinges are mounted to the side of the cabinet box.
It is the cabinet door style, however, that truly establishes the visual tone of your cabinets. We will run down five of the most popular cabinet door styles, but you can find many more examples at a cabinet design showroom or from a professional cabinet contractor.
Shaker. Shaker cabinets feature a timeless, simple style that matches well with most interiors. This type of door has four sides and a flat, recessed center panel.
Flat-panel or recessed. The centerpiece of this type of cabinet door is flat and often featureless — but not lacking in sleek elegance and style. The recessed center panel is surrounded by a detailed edge profile that enhances the door’s visual appeal. Panels also can contain decorative millwork profiles.
Raised panel. The raised center panel in this type of door is often enhanced by a grooved framework that produces a multi-dimensional profile. Panels can be square, arched or have a cathedral shape. Raised panel cabinet doors work in almost any home.
Slab. This style of door appears as one slab of wood since doors are mounted to the side of the cabinet box. Slab doors are a common option for contemporary and modern architectural styles.
Mullion. These doors can add wonderful visual appeal with their horizontal and vertical moldings that divide the door panel into panes. Mullion cabinet doors typically have glass inserts and are used in buffets, bookcases and kitchens to display fine dishware.
Lastly, cabinet doors are made in one of three methods:
Full overlay. The door almost completely covers the frame with minimal gaps between doors to create a continuous visual aesthetic.
Partial overlay. An industry standard construction method that exposes more of the face frame between each door.
Inset. This door sits flush with the cabinet frame and requires stops mounted inside the cabinet box. Although less common than other construction methods, it’s among the oldest types of cabinet construction.
As you can see, there are nearly limitless options for your new kitchen cabinet doors. Experienced cabinet design professionals can help you narrow down your options.
How Much do New Kitchen Cabinets Cost?
Your cabinet remodel budget will ultimately determine the type of cabinets you install. Your choice of materials, construction methods, door styles, edge details, hardware and more all factor into cost considerations.
As noted earlier, stock cabinets from home improvement retailers and ready-to-assemble cabinets are the most budget-friendly options. Semi-custom cabinetry that is built to order takes more time and increases project costs. Fully custom cabinets offer the most flexibility with design options, but each option comes with an added cost.
As a rough estimate, you should budget between $4,000 and $12,000 for new kitchen cabinets. The average cost of new cabinets is roughly $69 to $119 per linear foot for stock kitchen cabinets. Semi-custom and custom cabinetry costs rise from there. Remember that the size of your kitchen will ultimately have the most impact on your final cost — the more cabinetry you need the more you’ll have to spend.
Hardware is another factor that increases kitchen cabinet cost. Pulls, handles, knobs, latches, hinges and drawer slides can significantly increase cabinet functionality and visual appeal, but they can boost cost by $100 or more per cabinet depending upon your choices.
If it seems like a kitchen cabinet remodel is out of reach financially, you can opt to reface or resurface your existing cabinets for roughly half the cost of full replacement. Refacing cabinetry — glueing wood veneer on all front-facing surfaces — can refresh your kitchen so long as the underlying cabinet frames are still functional and structurally sound. If you want to change the layout of existing kitchen cabinetry, refacing might not be an option.
Even a refacing project can be quite expensive — the average cost for a minor kitchen cabinet refacing makeover of 30 linear feet is between $6,800 and $13,500. Upgrades such as crown moulding, new hardware, in-cabinet organizers and accent lighting can add even more expense to the job.
Renovating your kitchen cabinets is a big job, and you’ll likely need to engage professional help to ensure the job gets done correctly. Depending on the complexity of the job, your kitchen could be out of commission for several days to a week or more.
Modernize can help you find local professionals in your area that have the knowledge and experience to help you pick the perfect cabinets, styles, finishes and hardware to meet your needs and match your renovation budget. When the construction dust finally settles, we hope you’ll have a kitchen you are proud of for decades to come.
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