Often people come to us for kitchen cabinets, with only a vague idea of what they want their new kitchen to look like. Perhaps they like the look of a simple shaker style door with paint, or a cabinet door style that has a raised panel with a stain and a glaze. The possibilities are often overwhelming... don't worry, we're here to help.

There are different construction techniques, materials, finishes and styles that you will want to consider before you end up spending a lot of your hard earned money on what will become, not just a cabinets, but a piece of furniture for your home that will last for decades.

There are framed cabinets, frameless cabinets even inset cabinets. There is also a term known as reveal, that will effect the look. Beyond that, there are different materials used to create the actual box of the cabinet. Even the hardware used for the drawer glides and hinges will effect the quality and price of the cabinets you purchase.

Here are some guildelines and things to consider so that you will have a better understanding.

Door Styles

A shaker door is just a very simple framed cabinet door style that has a flat center panel. The one shown on the left has a veneer center panel and a slab drawer with a highlight. Next to it is an example of a 'styled' or 5 piece drawer with a reverse-raised center panel. The cabinet door to the right has a raised center panel.

The highlight is a pigment that is applied by hand, to the corners of the door frame and the center panel so that it creates some depth. The other way to create this is to apply a glaze, which is where the pigment is flooded over the surface of the entire door and then wiped off.

The shaker cabinet door came into being because people were tired of the look of a traditional raised panel cabinet door style. So they took the raised panel and flipped it around. We call it a reverse raised panel. By doing this, we still get the flat center panel for our shaker door, but we maintain the characteristics of the natural wood that aren't always conveyed when using a veneer center panel.

A shaker door in natural maple, with a highlight 
and a slab drawer 

A shaker door in knotty alder with a reverse raised panel and a 5 pc. drawer

A raised panel door in knotty alder

Cabinet Construction

Cabinet boxes are either made from particle board or plywood. We always recommend plywood construction because of its superior strength and resistance to moisture. However; if budget constraints are a concern, selecting particle board construction can easily save some money. The average cost of all plywood construction will typically be anywhere between $1500 - $2500, depending on the size of the project.

There are different types of plywood as well. There should be an odd number of layers so that there is a center to the sheet, which will help to keep it from wanting to bow one way or the other. A traditional plywood is made up of several layers of wood that are held together with glue. If you look at the edge of a piece of traditional plywood, you will see variations in thickness between the layers as well as air pockets. These variations cause expansion and contraction to take place at different rates across the surface of the wood, and can cause a rippling effect on a finished surface.

Engineered plywood is considered to be superior in many ways. First, each layer is planed to exact thicknesses eliminating any gaps or spaces between the layers. This allows for even expansion and contraction across the plane of the sheet, creating a finished surface that will be very smooth. Additionally, engineered plywood is held together with resins. These resins don't like water the way a glue does that is used in a traditional piece of plywood, so if there is ever a water related issue that effects the cabinets, the engineered plywood is going to stand up better than a traditional plywood.

Drawer boxes can be constructed in a number of ways. Quality cabinets will have drawer boxes that are dovetailed and the panel in the bottom of the drawer will be fully captured by all four sides. A simple groove is cut into each side of the box and the bottom will fit into this groove.

Some cabinets will have drawer boxes that have very simple joints and the bottom of the drawer box is glued and stapled in place.

The bottom panel can be made from a furniture board or hardboard that has a veneer on top of it, while others will choose a hardwood plywood to create the bottom. This is much stronger and will easily hold more weight in a large drawer without buckling.

Cabinet Hardware

Most people come in knowing that they want soft close doors and drawers. Full extension drawers open all the way so that you don't have to reach down in the back to root around for things you can not see. Two of the most common companies for quality hardware come from either Blum or Salice. (pronounced 'bloom and saliche'). If your cabinets have either of these, you are on the right track. These folks use good quality stainless steel and ball bearings in their fabrication. Be careful... there are product lines that will use similar, cheaper hardware. If you open and close the drawers a few times to get a feel for the drawers operation, you will be able to tell which ones are quality.


Overlay refers to how much of the frame is exposed between the doors and drawers, or how much the doors "lay over" the frame. A kitchen design that uses a full overlay will have less of the cabinet frame showing than one that uses a half, or partial overlay.

A frameless cabinet style will not have a face frame at all. The only thing that can be seen is the front edge of the plywood or particle board that makes up the box of the cabinet. These front edges will be banded and stained or painted to match the finish of your cabinets.

Paints, stains, highlights, glazing and distressing... Oh my!

Pick a color... any color. You pick it, we stick it!

Cabinet manufacturers have already done their homework and supplied us with colors that are trending and popular. There's the white white and creamy white and a greyish white. There are blues and reds and greens. There are even cabinet companies that will mix up a custom color for you if you happen to have a particular color that is special to you.

Stains are the same. There's the option of no stain, just the natural wood, all the way to stains that are so incredibly dark and dense that you can hardly see the wood through it.

Then, once you've chosen the perfect color, you can add a glaze to it. However, keep in mind that the application of a glaze is going to darken the color of any paint or stain. If you are one of those people who is absolutely set on achieving a particular color, and aren't sure about the glaze, order a sample door so that you can see exactly what you are ordering. Spend the $50 - $75 and make sure that you know what you are going to get. Once you give your approval, you'll sign an 'expectation sheet' for the manufacturer. This way, when your new cabinets get delivered, you can't say that the color isn't what you expected... they're your cabinets, so be absolutely sure you understand what you are purchasing.

A highlight does the same thing as a glaze, except it is done by hand, with a brush or pen. The color is laid into the grooves of the cabinet door and then wiped off, rather than being flooded by a glaze. This gives a cleaner look to the application and will alter the base color less that the glazing, but there can still be some noticable changes, especially in the corners of the detail.

A frameless cabinet style will not have a face frame at all. The only thing that can be seen is the front edge of the plywood or particle board that makes up the box of the cabinet. These front edges will be banded and stained or painted to match the finish of your cabinets.

There are also inset cabinets. Inset cabinets have the entire face frame exposed and the doors and drawers sit flush with the frame.