Angie's LIST Guide to
Kitchen Cabinets

Adding new cabinets or improving upon the existing ones can transform a kitchen from stale and old-fashioned to a modern marvel. Even those who are not wishing to immediately sell their homes can find a significant quality of life improvement from updates to cabinetry, be it on a large or small scale.
 

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kitchen cabinets
Cabinets do more than hold items you use every day. They can add value and design to any space. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member David M.)
 
 

Planning for kitchen cabinets

Before any work commences, the homeowner must first make a detailed plan. Some homeowners find it easier to work with a professional interior designer. Designers that specialize in kitchens and bathrooms can provide a number of ideas that fit within any personal preferences. They will draw up plans and work with any contractors that might be hired.  You can reasonably expect to pay up to 20 percent of the total cost of the kitchen remodel if an interior designer is hired.

kitchen cabinet costs

Those who choose to work without the aid of a designer must be able to make an accurate cabinet installation plan. Design software helps homeowners visualize the plan and make the best decisions for using their existing space.  A simple Internet search can provide a number of inexpensive or free kitchen design tools.

Even with the aid of kitchen-design software, planning a kitchen will only be successful if your measurements are precise and you take organization into consideration. Measure all walls and appliances. Don't forget to allow for opening the dishwasher, oven and refrigerator doors. Measure any windows and entryways as well.

Cabinets are a big investment and account for around 40 percent of most kitchen remodels. The price for kitchen cabinets, not including countertops and installation, ranges from $4,000 to $20,000, depending on whether you're getting stock, semi-custom or custom-made cabinets. However, if you are handy, you can buy ready to assemble (RTA) cabinets to save some money. RTA cabinets from IKEA range from about $100 to $400 per cabinet.

The average installation cost ranges from $131 to $198 per cabinet. Depending on material, countertops can cost from $4 to $200 per square foot. Stone and laminate countertops are an affordable option, while stainless steel or copper countertops are used in more high-end kitchen remodels. 

MORE: From Stock to Custom: How to Choose the Best Cabinets for Your Space

Kitchen cabinet options

From the type of kitchen cabinet to the cabinet door and hardware, there are a plethora of options to consider when choosing kitchen cabinets. Here are some of the most common options.

Types of kitchen cabinets

kitchen cabinets
Think about how you use your kitchen before settling on any type of kitchen cabinets. (Photo courtesy of KraftMaid Cabinetry)

Base: These are the standard cabinet in most homes and are below the countertops. They are 24 inches deep and 36 inches tall. You can customize the size to increase the depth for additional storage. They contain one drawer with doors and shelves below or three to four stacked drawers. 

Wall: Wall cabinets are 12 to 18 inches deep and are installed above the counters and stove. If installing wall cabinets, choose a height that makes them convenient for you. 

Tall: Tall cabinets, typically used for pantries, range from 84 to 94 inches tall. They provide plenty of space for dry goods or cleaning supplies.

Specialty Unit: Maximize the square footage of your kitchen with some specialty unit cabinets, which are commonly placed above sinks, hutches and bottle racks.

Kitchen cabinet grades

Stock: Stock cabinets have a durable finish, but there are a limited number of styles, finishes, accessories and hardware. However, they are usually in stock and the cheapest option.

Semi-custom: Semi-custom cabinets are a stock-custom mix. They're built to suit a wider selection of doors and finishes. Schedule at least a month for delivery.

Custom: These are the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. Completely custom cabinets can be designed to match the exact specifications of your dream kitchen. Allow a minimum of six to 10 weeks for the cabinetmaking and delivery. 

CHECK OUT: 4 Tips for Choosing the Best Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinet doors

Slab doors: These doors are usually one piece, and typically made of plywood or medium-density fiberboard.

Plank doors: Made of solid wood, plank doors may include decorative patterns.

Frame-and-panel doors: These include a frame around a central panel. The panel can be squared, arched or rounded on top, depending on the homeowner's style preference.

Frame-only doors: This is just a frame that supports glass panes. They add an elegant touch to any kitchen. 

Hardware options

Amerock cabinet hardware
The LondonUndone collection is a part of Amerock Hardware's AmerockNOW, collections designed to capture the essence of trending regional styles. (Photo courtesy of Amerock Hardware)
 
 

Knobs, pulls and hinges come in a variety of styles and finishes. Amerock Hardware, the leading manufacturer of cabinet hardware, says the following are their most commonly requested finishes:

  • Satin nickel
  • Oil-rubbed bronze
  • Black bronze
  • Dark oiled bronze

Other finishes include:

  • Pewter
  • Tin
  • Copper
  • Chrome
  • Iron
  • Brass

Kitchen cabinet layout

With measurements completed, next consider the organization of the kitchen. There are five basic kitchen designs, the choice of which largely depends on the amount of space the kitchen contains:

One Wall

Kitchens with the smallest amount of space will have one wall dedicated to cabinets and large appliances.

Galley

A galley kitchen utilizes a small amount of room by maximizing the workspace. A galley kitchen has two parallel walls of cabinetry with a walkway in between.

Cabinets can be installed in any formation to fit any kitchen space. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Matthew H.)

 

U-shape

The U-shape kitchen has three walls of cabinets and appliances. The U-shape kitchen is often seen in smaller areas, but can work in a large kitchen space as well. Often, homeowners who choose the U-shape will incorporate an island if there is adequate floor space.

G-shape

The G-shape is similar to the U-shape, but allows for a fourth workspace that is generally a peninsula. This workspace functions similarly to an island, but is often used instead of an island due to limitations of floor space.

L-shape

L-shaped kitchens are one of the most popular designs. Two perpendicular walls of kitchen workspace permit for a more open, roomier kitchen. Eat-in kitchens often employ the L-shape design, and this design also often allows for the additional workspace that an island provides.

Whichever design works best in each kitchen, it is most important to remember the basic kitchen triangle. The kitchen triangle is a designer’s term for the space between those items most often used in the kitchen: the refrigerator, the sink and the stove.

These items should be placed near enough to each other as to allow easy access, but with countertop workspace in between. Also take into consideration locations for items that are used most often. New cabinets have special features such as built-in spice racks, swing-out racks, or Lazy Susans. If you choose to employ one or more of these features, make sure they are in the most convenient location

For inspiration, check out this kitchen cabinet gallery.

Painting kitchen cabinets

painting kitchen cabinets
Painting kitchen cabinets is hard work, but can transform your kitchen. (Photo by Mike LaFollette)

If you're looking to spruce up your kitchen on a low budget, painting your kitchen cabinets provides a transformative look for a fraction of the cost of replacing kitchen cabinets. There's a lot of prep-work involved to make sure the color will stick. It involves sanding, cleaning and priming, but the hard work pays off. 

Before selecting your color, take into account the other colors in the room, including your walls, counters, backsplash, floors and appliances. If the room is already full of different colors and patterns, consider going neutral. However, if you need to add a pop of color, the cabinets can be a great place to do that. 

You can hire someone to do this, or make it a weekend DIY project. If you're doing it yourself, consider taking off a cabinet door to take with you to the home improvement store. That way you can get primer and paint suggestions. 

DIY! How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets in 6 Steps

Kitchen cabinet trends

Gray is the new white

White cabinets aren't going anywhere, but shades of gray are becoming popular for kitchen cabinet colors. 

Wood stain colors

Light maples are going out of style. Instead, homeowners are opting for darker wood shades. 

One size for islands

Multi-level countertops break up the space that could be used for cooking prep. The height consistency trend means you'll have a more functional island. 

Open shelving

Some people are opting for open shelving rather than high cabinets. From a design aspect, open shelving can be very attractive and allows you to showcase more personality in your kitchen. Also, it costs less than installing cabinets. 

Glass front cabinets

Similar to the open shelving, these allow you to showcase your collectibles, nice dishes and glassware. 

Accent colors

Painting your kitchen soon? Consider doing your island of the back of your cabinets a different color. If you're worried about being too adventurous, accent colors add a fun, splash of color.

Floor-to-ceiling cabinetry

Feel like you need more cabinet space? Perfect! Floor-to-ceiling kitchen cabinetry is a functional trend. 

Embellisments

Don't leave your cabinets looking naked. People are adding fancy feet, carvings and moldings for more of a decorative look.

 

 

 

Installing new cabinets

Replacing existing cabinets is a serious endeavor, and one that should be carried out by a professional or a seasoned do-it-yourselfer. Removing existing kitchen cabinets is at least a two-man job, as cabinets and countertops can be extremely heavy and bulky.

 

If the cabinets or countertops are to be reused in some fashion, it is vital to take extra care so as not to damage the materials upon removal. Also, in the case of a DIY project, special care should be made so as not to damage any of the surroundings that are to be salvaged, such as flooring, trim, and walls.

When purchasing new cabinets, the decision about whether to do a home install or to have the cabinets installed professionally should be based not only on skill level and desire but also on the amount of time available to finish the project as well as the cost.

The cost of new cabinets will depend upon the homeowner’s choices. Stock cabinets that are pre-fabricated generally cost a minimum total of around $4,000 for an average 10-foot-by-12-foot kitchen. These are the least expensive, but they limit the homeowner to a small number of choices.

Semi-customized cabinets offer a higher number of choices, but can also easily be double the cost of stock cabinets. Prices of fully customized cabinetry generlly start between $15,000 to $20,000, but these prices do not factor in countertops or labor.

Comments

Looking for a good refacing company in Chattanooga. Can anyone recommend one please?

Hi Janet,

Members can search the List by signing in - there's a button in the upper right hand corner of the page - or you can give us a call at 1-888-888-LIST and speak to a customer service representative who can help. Thanks!

my kitchen is oak 10 yrs old we want to paint them light beige or white in waretown greenbrair oceanair

I have honey oak kitchen cabinet in my home. I like to paint them using rustoleum kitchen cabinet transformation kit. How to contact you to get an estimate for the whole project.

They are about 15 years old, and I could either try to refinish or replace them entirely. What would have the greater return on the value of my house?

Hi Jay, Kitchens and bathrooms tend to yield the greatest return of investment when selling a house - up to 85 percent - but be aware you likely never get back everything you put into remodels. When deciding what to upgrade, actors to consider are the age of the cabinets, style (if current or outdates) and the other homes in the neighborhood. You want to make sure the upgrades are comprobable to what the neighboring homes have. If you upgrade above and beyond, you risk losing even more of your potential return. Here's some more info: http://www.angieslist.com/articles/5-remodeling-projects-highest-return-...  Thanks! Katie from Angie's List

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