Cabinets are the heart of a kitchen
Unlike the standard dimensions of stock cabinets, custom cabinets make the most of every inch of a kitchen. Made of cherry, mahogany, oak, maple, or Douglas fir, custom cabinets are typically built with furniture-grade details by a local cabinetmaker. When splurging on stain-grade (clear-finished wood) cabinets, make sure the cabinetmaker uses clear lumber culled of knots, mineral streaks, and sapwood, and insist on color and grain direction that are consistent throughout. In this price range ($500+ per linear ft.), you should expect durable, solid-wood drawer boxes with dovetail joints, solid-wood door and drawer fronts, full-extension undermount slides, and top-quality hinges.
You can save by ordering painted, semi-custom cabinets from a national manufacturer. These cabinets are more affordable ($300 to $400 per linear ft.) because the wood doesn’t have to meet the higher standards of appearance that stain-grade cabinets do. Drawers are more expensive than doors with shelves behind them, so ask for fewer drawers if your budget is tight. And skip the dovetail joints for drawer boxes. An interlocking pinned or dowelled joint can last for decades. If you can’t afford undermount drawer slides, choose side-mounted ballbearing drawer slides. You’ll appreciate their fair cost and smooth operation.
Don’t buy the cheapest cabinets you can find ($150 to $200 per linear ft.) to save money. Cabinets are the heart of a kitchen, and entry-level cabinets are likely to have components made from particleboard, which can lead to sagging shelves and hinge screws that pull out. They’re also apt to have poorly made door hinges, drawer boxes, and drawer slides that cannot be expected to hold up to years of use. If your budget’s tight, you will be better off saving in other areas.