Kitchen Cabinets 101 & Ultimate Buying Guide

Looking to buy new kitchen cabinets? Let’s just be honest, folks…

Replacing your kitchen cabinets can be expensive.

Really expensive, as a matter of fact.

Overall, in the whole remodeling scheme of things, cabinets can account for almost half of your entire budget.

What kind to buy? White Oak? Red Oak? Is solid wood the best option? What style should you choose?

This isn’t something you can afford to replace again in a year or two, so whatever the decision, it has to stand the test of time.

It can be overwhelming… but the good news is it doesn’t have to be.

That’s why we have put together this Ultimate Kitchen Cabinets 101. You see, you have more options than you might think. We want to put your mind at ease and answer all the questions that may arise for you during this process. Having a handy starting point, if not a good grasp of the process as a whole, is invaluable in something as time-consuming as choosing the right kitchen cabinets for your new kitchen, Kitchen renovation or a remodel project.

Some things we will cover include:
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  • Cabinet introduction
  • Types of kitchen cabinets – Basic construction
  • Kitchen cabinet materials – Composition of kitchen cabinets
  • Basic kitchen cabinet features
  • How to organize kitchen cabinets
  • Kitchen cabinet buying guide – Considerations
  • DIY kitchen cabinets

And probably more if time permits

Though we recommend that you read this whole guide, if you are only interested in a given section, you can just click on the table of contents below to immediately access that section without having to read this giganormous and awesome article.

So let’s get started!

Kitchen Cabinet Intro – The Basics

kitchen cabinets 101

The first thing you will want to do as you start this process is to familiarize yourself with what the kitchen cabinet market has to offer.

It’s one thing to have an idea in mind as to what you want, but it can be quite another once they are in place in your home. You’ll want and need something that is not only durable and well suited to your needs, but that also complements the overall personality of your home.

Visit websites that lay out the different options that are available. Picking up a few catalogs will help as well. While those are great ideas, though, don’t dismiss how important it can be to visit a showroom and get your hands on some different cabinet options.

This will help you see – up close and personal – the differences between the lower end models and the ones that can be custom built. They say sometimes seeing is believing, and this is one of those cases.

Remember: this is a purchase that is going to be with you for the long haul. Be honest with yourself about what you love – because what you simply like may turn into regret later.

Types of cabinets

There are three main types of cabinets from which to choose:

  • Stock: These cabinets are a great starting place if your budget is incredibly restricted. These are prefabricated and ready for install, while some are not and will require you to put them together. They are primarily constructed of cheaper materials and with these cabinets, you will have the least amount of options for style, color, and accessories.
  • Semi-Custom: There is a little more opportunity to choose some of the options you want with these models, such as sizes and colors, but there is still a limit on construction materials that may or may not prove durable over the long term.

Despite this, some of the higher end semi-custom choices will still leave you paying nearly as much as you would for the fully custom cabinets. Take this into consideration when looking at your cabinets

  • Fully Custom: With the fully custom option, you can choose every aspect of the cabinet building process.

Choose which wood you want, even if it’s hard to come by, match the colors with the rest of your kitchen, have your choice of doors, fixtures, and hinges – the sky is the limit.

 Prices for these cabinets can range from $70 to $500 per foot, so be sure to measure your kitchen for the appropriate cabinet space. You will also want to keep in mind when taking stock of pricing that these prices are only for the actual cost of the cabinet. Having a professional installer, which is what you would want with fully customized kitchen cabinets, can push the cost to double what a semi-custom and triple what a stock cabinet can cost.

Speaking of Cabinets Prices…


Be sure to do some research on the variety of kitchen cabinet costs.  The live display is also a great way to check out features like soft-close drawers that don’t slam shut and heavy duty door hinges.

Framed or Frameless Cabinets?

What are they and in what ways do they differ? Here is a quick look into each style:

Framed Cabinets: These are American-style cabinets with about an inch and a half “face” that frames the cabinet itself. It creates the look of a flat surface, which can add to or give a feel of dimension. It’s a more traditional style of cabinet that you see a lot of on the market and in catalogs as well.

Frameless Cabinets: For a more contemporary, European look, the doors of a frameless cabinet attach directly to the box itself. In this case, the box is usually made of plywood to be thicker and is almost an inch thick.

The lack of a frame creates the need for added support and durability of the cabinet box, so make sure you check that off your list if this is an option you think you’ll want for your own kitchen.

Full Overlay Door: Choose this option if you want the look of the more contemporary option while still utilizing a frame. It’s okay to want the best of both worlds!


Kitchen Cabinet Material

One of the biggest factors contributing to the overall price of kitchen cabinets is the material from which they are made. Although it may seem like a trivial aspect of the process, it is definitely worth taking a look into this.

Low-end cabinet materials:

 As a general rule, these cabinets have a laminated or wood-finish veneer glued onto a pressure treated wooden substructure. This allows for a real-wood look to the unit, or a wider variety of color, but will have to be replaced more often than higher quality cabinets, as the quality is at the lower end of the spectrum.

Mid-range cabinet materials:

These models primarily use particle or MDF (Medium Density Fiber) board to allow for different degrees of thickness. The doors are generally solid wood construction, and the joints of the cabinet are usually fitted together in a way that lends itself for increased durability. This is an excellent pairing of quality and affordability.

High-end cabinet materials:

Premium materials and hardware are used in creating these high-quality cabinets, and there is an even higher rate of durability. These types of the cabinets are made out of 100% wood.

Keep in mind that putting up these cabinets is going to take 2-3 people because the cabinets are a lot heavier.

Custom-cabinet materials:

 As the name implies, the sky is the limit concerning custom-made cabinets. All the options, hardware, and materials will be exactly what you ask for, so any type of hardwood available on the market today is at your command.


Basic Kitchen Cabinet Features

What adds functionality and depth to your cabinets are going to be the added features.Here are some key features to keep in mind when shopping for cabinets as well as some do’s and don’t.

First, are the doors.

They are basically the same among models, but can be of solid wood construction or particle board, with varying degrees of thickness. The doors should be a good fit for whether or not the cabinets are framed or frameless.

Drawers are the next feature to consider.

 Different types of wood and joinery are offered, and you should keep in mind that drawers will have more wear and tear than the doors. This brings us to the next feature…

Shelving is probably the most important unseen feature of all. Be especially mindful of the thickness of the shelves if you intend to lay a heavy load on them such as thick, heavy dishes or canned goods. If they are too thin, they’re sure to sag.


How To Organize Kitchen Cabinets

Well-organized kitchen cabinets can make your life simpler and easy when you are trying to find that missing ingredient for dinner.  So, here are a few pointers on making the most out of yours:

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  • Cleaning: First, remove every single item from all your cabinets, right down to the last plastic or foam cup. Wipe down – or scrub, if need be – every surface including both sides of the doors. If you’re leery of using commercial cleaners, you can use a combination of vinegar and water, and baking soda for scrubbing.
  • Use a shelf liner: There are a wide variety of these gems to choose from and can decrease old odors as well as making cleanup easier the next time. Measure your cabinets and cut to size for a perfect fit that won’t catch or hang when putting items in or taking them out.
  • Freshen: Sachets serve a dual purpose inside the kitchen cabinet. Using your favorite dried herbs and spices, you can make one that will have a fresh, pleasant scent.

Also, some herbs are known to deter pests, so choose at least one with eucalyptus or lemon oil.

  • Organize: The first rule of thumb here is to place the items you utilize most often lowest and closest to their area of use.

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  • Spices should be near the stove, dishes and bowls should be near the serving area, etc.
  • Place fragile and breakable items as high up as possible, to avoid having them pulled out accidentally. Store pots and pans in a low cabinet, closest to the cooking surface.
  • Flatware should be placed in a drawer, using separate ones for regular flatware and another for larger utensils. Make sure to store all cleaning supplies, soaps and chemicals under the sink, unless you have a small child. In no way store these near food items.


Kitchen Cabinet Buying Guide

This whole article from the beginning up to here is a buying guide. Having come this far, you probably have a lot better idea what to consider before diving into a kitchen cabinet purchase.

Have you picked what type you’d like? Are you considering the materials different types of cabinets are made of? Are you contemplating which features best suit your need and style? And do you feel a little more empowered in knowing that kitchen cabinet organization is a breeze when you take it step by step?

If so, fabulous! You’re already halfway there. But before you head out to the nearest showroom to start your endeavor, we have one more section we want you to take a look at…

DIY Kitchen Cabinets

DIY kitchen cabinets
DIY projects are everywhere these days, from Facebook and Pinterest to that neighbor that just redid his privacy fence.
But did you ever think there would be a DIY kitchen cabinet?
This is great news, because, with just a bit of know-how regarding tools and a tiny amount of construction knowledge, you too can install your own kitchen cabinets.
In addition to the lowest price per cabinet, the RTA cabinets store offers extra features at no additional cost! Let’s take a look at a few…

  • All high-quality solid wood construction
  • Easy assembly
  • Cam-lock mechanisms with secure fastening
  • Excellent designs and styles
  • Space saving options
  • Easy to follow illustrated assembly and instruction included in each container
  • Dove-tail drawer joiners
  • Easy-glide closing doors
  • Hidden hinges
  • Different shipping options including local, trucking terminal or curb-side
  • Large selection of wood choices
  • Customer service and support that is fast and friendly

The RTA cabinet store is putting quality and affordability in the cabinet world well within your reach. The online store is usually stocked with an array of inventory choices and wait time is just a little more than a week.
Wow! You made it to the end! I hope this gives you a better understanding of what to look for in your cabinets. So, tell me…
What kind of cabinets are your favorite?
be sure to let us know if you have any questions.

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