Buying Guide

Best Kitchen Cabinets for Your Home

Choosing Kitchen Cabinets
A kitchen with white cabinets and silver hardware.

You can buy stock, semi-stock and custom kitchen cabinetry. Choosing which works best for you will be determined by the available kitchen space you have and your budget. 


Stock

  • Available in 3-inch width increments ranging from 12 to 60 inches wide
  • Standard height: 30 to 36 inches
  • Above-stove height: 12 to 18 inches
  • Available same day of purchase 
  • Economical pricing


Semi-Custom

  • Wider selection of wood and finish choices; range of storage options
  • Enhancements: pull-out shelves, lazy Susans, dividers
  • Same available sizes as stock cabinets
  • Requires several days for delivery
  • Mid-range prices


Custom

  • Handmade to fit your specific kitchen
  • Ideal for irregularly shaped spaces
  • Delivery time: nine or more weeks
  • Can be built in increments up to 1/32 inches
  • Most expensive option 
Types of Cabinets: Base, Tall and Wall
A picture of the three types of cabinet configurations

Kitchen cabinets come in three configurations. Base cabinets support countertops, wall cabinets hang above counters or stoves and tall cabinets are popular choices for pantries.


Base cabinets

  • Rest on floor to support countertop
  • Typically, between 34.5 to 36 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches deep
  • Can be specialized to include sink or corners


Tall cabinets

  • Ideal for narrow spaces such as pantries 
  • 84 to 94 inches tall; standard depth of 12 to 18 inches


Wall cabinets

  • Hang on wall
  • Standard heights are 12, 15, 18, 30, 36 and 42 inches; depth ranges from 12 to 18 inches
  • Typically installed 18 inches above countertops, 54 inches above floor and 24 inches above stove
Kitchen Cabinet Materials

Solid wood kitchen cabinets are long-lasting, strong, attractive and often the most expensive. Relatively lower-cost engineered wood products like plywood, particleboard and MDF are also used to construct quality cabinets. 


  • Solid Wood: Known for durability, quality and attractiveness. Cabinet doors and face frames are often made from solid wood. Popular choices are hardwoods like red oak and white oak or softwoods like spruce and fir. Hickory, maple or beech will resist scratching and denting but are more expensive. 
  • Particleboard: Made of wood chips or shavings bonded together with resin and compressed into rigid sheets. An economical alternative to solid wood, particleboard is very stable and is often used in stock cabinets as an underlayment for plastic laminates and wood veneers in the panels for the box and shelving. Doesn’t warp, shrink or swell due to humidity, but should be properly sealed to avoid moisture. Particleboard is assembled using glue or mechanical fasteners. 
  • Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF): Made from fine wood particles and glue formed into sheets. Often used as a backing material for laminates and other finishes. MDF is very dense, resists warping and has a smooth surface suitable for veneers, laminates and paints. It is often used in mid-priced cabinetry. 
  • Plywood: Made of layers of veneers stacked and glued together. Alternate layers are oriented at right angles to each other, providing strength in length and width. Furniture-grade plywood is used in custom cabinetry. Because heat and moisture cause wood to expand and contract in the direction of the grain, plywood’s cross-grain pattern makes it more stable and stronger than solid wood. Plywood is often used for cabinet boxes and shelves in higher-priced cabinetry.
Wood Veneers and Laminates
A kitchen with cabinetry in rich wood grains.

Opting for cabinet-grade plywood, particleboard/MDF covered with wood veneers, durable laminates or other synthetic materials will keep costs down without sacrificing style. 


Wood veneers

  • Warmth and beauty of solid wood
  • Affordable and versatile
  • Consistent grain pattern

Laminates 

  • Durable and low maintenance 
  • Variety of colors, patterns 
  • Resists stains, warping, chipping and fading

Melamine

  • High-quality options available 
  • Faux wood grains, bamboo and other textures 
Framed vs. Frameless
A row of beige-colored cabinets.

Whether you choose framed or frameless cabinets depends on how you want your kitchen to look. Both framed and frameless cabinets come in a variety of beautiful styles and surfaces.


  • Framed or Face Frame cabinets have a frame on the front of the cabinet that makes the box highly stable and helps keep it square. Door hinges attach to the frame. Framed cabinets have a traditional feel.
  • Frameless cabinets, also known as European-style cabinets, have no frame around the face of the cabinet box. Thicker side panels lend stability. Because drawers do not have to fit in a frame’s opening, they can be as wide as the cabinet, providing more storage. Frameless cabinets have a modern feel.
Door Overlays

The overlay is the manner in which the door rests on the face of the cabinet. 


Standard or traditional overlays are the most common type used in cabinet installation.  

  • Leaves the face of the cabinet box visible around doors and drawers
  • Creates a visible frame called the “reveal” 
  • Reveals range from 1/2 inch to 1 inch around doors and drawers


Full overlays are when there is virtually no cabinet frame showing around doors or drawer fronts. 

  • Doors may be separated by as little as 1/8 inch
  • Most often used in contemporary design installations
  • Usually more expensive because more material is used in their construction


Tip: All frameless cabinets use full overlays, but they can be used on framed cabinets as well.

Door Designs

Kitchen cabinet doors come in Shaker, slab, recessed panel and other popular designs.


Shaker

  • Iconic simplicity and a warm feel
  • Perfect for understated looks

Slab

  • Flat, clean canvas for hardware
  • Streamlined look for contemporary designs

Recessed panel

  • Minimal style that adds depth and interest 
  • Works equally well with farmhouse or modern designs

Raised panel

  • Classic, timeless style
  • Blends well with formal, traditional decor  

Cape Cod

  • Casual, classic cottage style
  • Ideal for informal kitchens


Tip: Replace some of your wood panels with decorative glass and display special china or collectibles. Add in-cabinet lighting for a designer touch.

Cabinet Hardware
Various styles of kitchen handles, knobs, pulls and other hardware.

Drawer pulls, knobs and hinges unify your cabinets’ appearance and add personality to your kitchen. Choose hardware made of metal, ceramic, crystal or plastic that complements your cabinet’s architectural style. Remember that the type of hinge you use is determined by how your doors or drawers fit the cabinet.  


  • Inset doors: Mount with surface, butt or wraparound hinges
  • Rabetted doors: Install with exposed lipped hinges
  • Overlay doors: Install with invisible Euro-style hinges


Tip: Simple cabinetry designs like Shaker pair well with brass, while contemporary styles look great with sleek horizontal handles in stainless steel or brushed chrome. 

Storage Accessories
A pull-out trash can cabinet.

Get the most out of your kitchen cabinets with organizational accessories that help maximize storage and reduce clutter on countertops.    


  • Pull-out shelf: Provides easy access storage of kitchen essentials 
  • Two-tiered cutlery/flatware dividers: Store nearly twice as many utensils and stainless steel flatware
  • Lazy Susan: Access corner cabinets with one- and two-tiered spinning shelves
  • Plate organizers: Slide out for easy access to plates; adjustable pegs for flexible storage