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Choosing the Right Kitchen Cabinets: Your Ultimate Guide

Designing, remodeling, or renovating your kitchen all involve several big decisions. Layout and convenience are crucial for creating a kitchen that’s easy to work in, and even fun. You’ll need all the essential appliances, and plenty of storage space in all the right locations, without sacrificing room to move.

Following the principal of “form follows function” is wise when planning out your kitchen, but once you have an idea of the perfect placement for your appliances and cabinetry, you still have to make more choices before you can start with installation. Many people find kitchen cabinets even harder to choose than appliances, which may come as a surprise. But high-quality cabinets can last for several lifetimes, as opposed to appliances which you are more likely to need to replace at some point. When you realize cabinets are one of the most permanent parts of your kitchen, it makes sense that they represent such a tough decision.

Your cabinetry will play a huge part in determining the overall utility of your kitchen because cabinets are the key to convenient storage. The color and style of your cabinets also have a profound effect on the general atmosphere of your kitchen, which will affect your enjoyment of working within it, although not as much as convenience does. Finally, you will need to decide whether you need custom or semicustom cabinets or whether stock cabinets will do the job — and you need a thorough understanding of how much assembly you are comfortable doing yourself.

These are all reasons why it’s so important to choose the right kitchen cabinets, but don’t be intimidated. We’re here to help you along, and you’ll soon find the process to be easier than you think. Plus, when you have the technical details out of the way and can start picking your style, you’ll have a chance to exercise some creativity.

Preparations for Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

The first thing you need to do is measure your kitchen and ensure you’re familiar with the locations of all power outlets and light switches. If you already have cabinets that you’re replacing, it can be handy to measure them as well for comparison with the new cabinets you will soon install, but the overall kitchen measurements are more important.

You also need to consider your appliances, their size and locations, and how much empty space they may need on either side. If you’re starting your kitchen from scratch and have not yet installed appliances, choose them first. Appliances are much less flexible in the amount of space they occupy, and are limited by the locations of your power, water, and gas hookups. Knowing the measurements and placement of your appliances ahead of time will help you choose the right kitchen cabinets and avoid costly mistakes.

However, there are a few exceptions regarding appliances needing to be picked out first. Your kitchen sink is going to be installed sunken into the top of a specialized sink base cabinet that both conceals the sink plumbing and provides storage space beneath. In this case, consider shopping for your sink and its base cabinet at the same time to ensure they are compatible. You may not be able to buy them at the same location, but what’s important is to compare the sizes of the sink and the opening in the top of the cabinet to make sure the sink will fit before you make either purchase. If a kitchen sink is already installed, it will need to be removed while you install the cabinet anyway.

Another exception is your microwave. If you want to save countertop space, you can use a microwave cabinet to tuck the microwave away within your cabinetry, and there are both base and wall cabinets available for this purpose. If this appeals to you, you’ll need to choose a microwave that’s properly made to be installed in an enclosed space. Not every microwave is safe to install in a cabinet, so make sure you check the specifications.

The oven is also an exception. Single and double ovens can also be installed within a surrounding cabinet, and some oven cabinets include a space for the microwave as well. If this setup interests you, you’ll want to find compatible wall ovens that can be safely enclosed. Ovens should be installed with the rim around the oven box outside the cabinet front so that the seal on the door is not inside the cabinet. It may look sleeker for the oven to be flush with the cabinet front, but this is hazardous.

If you’re still deciding on layout, keep in mind how much counter space you’re allowing yourself, and determine whether you want to have a kitchen island, provided you have room for one. Remember you’ll be walking around the kitchen several times a day, so plan a convenient path for yourself, and imagine the kinds of storage solutions you’d find most useful. This will help you figure out the best cabinets for each space.

Remember that kitchens have some limitations beyond outlet, switch, and appliance hookup locations. Your stovetop is going to need a range hood above it to ensure proper ventilation — recent studies have shown that air pollution from gas stoves is even worse than previously thought, so you don’t want it filling your home! Electric burners are also pollutants (although to a lesser degree), and even if you’re using a modern induction stovetop, cooking will still produce steam. So, you must keep in mind that a range hood is necessary and you can’t fill your entire kitchen wall with cabinetry. Cabinets that surround the range hood can also get hot inside, so you may want to avoid enclosing the hood’s chimney unless you have to make the most of a small space.

How to Choose the Right Kitchen Cabinets for Your Dream Home

Now you know what cabinets you need, and where you want to put them, so what’s next? It’s time to find the right cabinets to meet your expectations. In general, your main options revolve around the level of customization and the method of assembly.

The least customized are stock cabinets, which are “off the shelf,” pre-built to specific sizes. Semicustom cabinets have a few alterations made for you, and custom cabinets are fully built according to your exact needs. As for assembly methods, you can choose between pre-assembled and ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets.

Stock cabinets may be exactly what you’re looking for if style and options aren’t a huge concern for you, if you don’t have a large budget, and if you’d rather have your kitchen storage set up sooner rather than later. If you’re seeking a utilitarian end result as opposed to a designer craft look, then stock cabinets are the easiest and least expensive options available. The best part is that there are dozens of RTA cabinets for sale and ready to be shipped to your door as soon as you need them, and many are available pre-assembled as well.

If you don’t mind waiting a bit longer for minor adjustments on finishes, accessories, sizes, and styles, then semicustom cabinets are excellent choices for your kitchen remodeling. A semicustom cabinet will allow you a bit of luxury to decide on a few options, based on a number of different templates and designs for you to choose from. In the end, you have most of the say over how the cabinet will look.

However, if you want a unique style or have specific desires for your kitchen that can’t be met with stock or semicustom cabinets, custom cabinets will be your solution. If you want total creative control over your kitchen design, if your kitchen follows a very specific theme or pattern, or if you require your kitchen to be packed with secret drawers and other crafty additions, then you’ll need to have a fully customized cabinet order. The drawbacks here are that you’ll need to wait a while until they are delivered to you, and the pricing is going to be higher than other options.

Your base cabinets are also going to determine the size and shape of your countertop, and more customized cabinets can lead to a more expensive countertop cut and installation. Depending on the countertop you’re interested in, this could have a significant effect on your budget.

If your primary concern is to have your kitchen completely match the styles and decorations in the rest of your home, it’s still possible that stock cabinets and accessories can fit the bill. You’ll just need to learn if the style your home is using has a specific name or era tied to it, and you’ll know where to begin your search.

Are Pre-Assembled or RTA Cabinets Better?

It depends on your situation as to whether pre-assembled or RTA cabinets are better for you. As the names suggest, RTA cabinets will require assembly when you receive them, whereas pre-assembled cabinets are already built. Since assembly isn’t included in the cost, RTA cabinets are lower in price compared to identical pre-assembled cabinets, but you may opt for pre-assembled to save yourself some time and effort.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that some cabinet styles may only be available in one of these options, so for example, you may find your favorite cabinet can only be purchased RTA. Don’t worry too much about this, and definitely don’t be afraid to assemble a cabinet yourself! You can refer to our Cabinet Guidelines for Assembly for help. Be patient with yourself as you follow the instructions, and before long, you’ll feel like an expert.

Cabinet Pricing and Quality

As you shop for cabinets you may begin to get the feeling that many of them are quite expensive. But remember that they are expected to provide at least twenty years of faithful service, and with proper care can last over a lifetime as mentioned earlier.

At Online Cabinets Direct, we use only top-quality materials and take pride in our construction methods which follow the tenets of Shaker craftsmanship. These time-tested techniques result in strong, durable, and attractive cabinetry that has remained popular for generations since the Shakers first developed their approach in the middle of the 1700s. We encourage you to look at our Cabinet Construction details to learn more about the high standards we use for building our cabinets.

Ready to Choose the Right Kitchen Cabinets?

Since you’ll be using your cabinets for quite some time, choosing the right cabinets should not be a rushed decision, but rather based on an evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages each model provides. Regardless of what you need, the cabinets you are looking for can be found right here, whether you have a makeshift kitchen or a fully designed cooking space. If you still feel a bit at a loss as to how to start, try browsing our cabinet door samples for some inspiration. You’ll be able to see every style and color we offer, and order any that interest you to see them directly in your home.

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