/ Cabinets

Common Cabinet Woods

Your wood options include:


maple cabinetMaple: Generally a straight, tight grain, but expect occasional wavy flows and bird's eye patterning. Maple's soft grain pattern allows it to easily adapt to both traditional and contemporary designs, making it easy to see why maple is the number one wood choice for cabinetry. A very durable wood, maple finishes well, making it an excellent choice for stains and glazes.

cherry cabinetCherry: A very refined, straight and close grain gives cherry its smooth and elegant look. This smoothness makes it well suited for mixing with other woods. Its sophistication is belied by its rough and tough characteristics: cherry is extremely durable and finishes well.

oak cabinetOak: Oak's coarser natural texture results in a relatively defined straight grain that's more open and casual than elegant. Oak's porous nature makes it extremely absorbent. The darker the stain, the more apparent the grain pattern; light stains reduce its visibility. Among the most common cabinetry woods, oak's durability and finishing characteristics make it a sound choice.

pine cabinetPine: Pine's straight grain is relatively long and continuous, with knots that give your cabinets a more rugged look. Southern yellow pine is much more durable than white pine; be sure to ask what you're getting. In general, pine tends to be softer wood.

alder cabinetAlder: Once dismissed because of its weed-like growing habits, the Pacific Northwest's most abundant hardwood is one of the most in-demand options. Consistent in color, alder tends to range from a pale pinkish-brown to almost white. Because it has a close grain and readily accepts stain, red alder can imitate cherry, mahogany, and even walnut.

birch cabinetBirch: Though white paper birch may be the most familiar, the prevalent yellow birch species is the most valued commercial lumber birch. Commonly found in stock cabinetry, this cream-colored wood may stain unevenly.

hickory cabinetHickory: A relative of the walnut family, hickory is one of the strongest and heaviest used American woods. With colors ranging from white to a ruddy brown, this relatively straight and fine grain accepts medium to dark finishes and bleaches well.


More in this category:« WoodsExotic Woods »

Stock Cabinetry: More Than Bare Bones

Light brown wood cabinets with central kitchen island

Courtesy of Quality Cabinets

Formerly known as "bare bones" cabinetry, stock cabinets no longer offer only the bare minimum. While prices largely remain tailored for the budget-conscious, stock manufacturers now provide luxurious options previously exclusive to custom cabinets.

"Stock manufacturers have recognized that kitchens make a fashion statement and that cabinets are no longer a commodity," says Connie Edwards, CKD, CBD, director of design for American Woodmark Corp. "The number of decorative accessories such as furniture feet, onlays and moldings keeps increasing, but there have also been big changes in stock cabinet construction as well.

"Dovetail drawers and full-access undermount glides are almost a given in the better stock offerings. Some modifications are even available, including matching interiors for open or glass door cabinets, reduced and increased cabinet depths and a plywood side option. Specialty finishes like glazes used to be considered custom or semi-custom, but they too have entered the stock arena."

The Basics
Stock cabinets are constructed prior to purchase. The manufacturer does not build them to your unique specifications, so all sizes meet industry standards. Stock cabinetry widths begin at 9 inches and increase in 3" increments to 48", the largest standard stock size available. Some stock companies also offer half-sized cabinets (13½", 19½", etc.). Your kitchen's dimensions may not correspond exactly to the available increments. To accommodate sizes outside of the 3-inch increments, you'll need to use filler strips to close any gaps between the cabinet and walls or appliances.

Expect limited wood species, door styles, accessories and finish selections. However, to counteract the lack of available modifications, the woods, door styles and finishes that manufacturers choose tend to be the most popular. Purchasing stock doesn't mean settling for an outdated look.

Check out what you're getting beyond the cabinet. The manufacturer should offer a good warranty that can be extended or transferred to the next homeowner if you plan to sell. Also, make sure that touch-up and repair materials accompany your shipment or can be easily ordered.

Stored in the manufacturer's warehouse, stock cabinets are usually available within one week of being ordered.

Designer tip:
"Sometimes when a customer wants a great deal of customization and ornamentation on stock cabinets, the price difference between stock, semi custom, and custom is minimal, because the cost of installation is driven up for all the custom pieces to be installed on the job site." —Jean Buchen, CKD, K T Highland, Inc., Lancaster, PA



  • Usually available within one week

  • Lower cost


  • Limited number of cabinet sizes to choose from

  • Generally, no modifications are permitted

  • Wasted space because of fillers



More in this category:« Cabinet TypesSemi-Custom »

An Overview of Custom Cabinetry

Dark wood custom cabinetry in kitchen

Courtesy of SieMatic

With all the options of wood type, finish, organizational accessories, and more, custom cabinets are restricted by only one thing: your wallet!

The Basics
Within the limits of sound construction, the sky's the limit when it comes to the design and style possibilities of custom cabinetry.

There tend to be two kinds of custom cabinets: those made by a custom manufacturer and those made by a local "custom" woodworking shop. Local cabinetmakers produce the box, frame, and drawers in their shop. They will either fabricate the doors or order them from a company. You may want to ask your local cabinetmaker how much of it is done in-house. Don't assume that ordering doors indicates a lack of skill; specialty door companies produce high-quality doors and can help speed up the process.

Another point to consider when going with a local producer is the finish. Make sure to inquire about the finish process. To properly protect the doors, your cabinet's finish should include a moisture resistant sealant, catalytic conversion varnish, and baked on coats.

Custom manufacturers can make unfitted pieces, provide almost any finish color or door style, and fashion nearly any size cabinet you want. If you have a color you want to match, a custom cabinet shop can produce an exact equivalent.

Custom is the most flexible and typically the most expensive type of cabinetry and usually takes at least 6-10 weeks to deliver.


  • Can match any color

  • Almost no limitations


  • Often the most expensive type of cabinetry

  • Expect a minimum 6-10 week delivery time



More in this category:« Semi-CustomFramed »

An Overview of Semi-Custom Cabinets

Semi-custom wood and stainless steel cabinetry.

Designed by New Face Kitchen Systems, Bellevue, WA.

Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to semi-custom cabinets. Partly stock, partly custom, you may not be able to let your imagination run wild, but you can certainly take it out for a spin. Expect all of the offerings of stock cabinetry and fewer limitations.

The Basics
A step up from stock, semi-custom cabinets also typically come in 3" increments but have the ability to incorporate certain custom features, such as increased and reduced depths.

Semi-custom cabinets have a wider range of door, finish, and wood selections than stock.

Construction begins when order is finalized, so modifications can be made as the cabinets are somewhat built to suit. Expect to wait at least one month for delivery.


  • Varying depths

  • Reduced widths

  • Flush toespace available

  • Matching interior finishes available

  • Offer many custom features at less-than-custom prices


  • Wasted space due to fillers

  • Certain limitations apply


More in this category:« StockCustom »

Stainless Steel: A Sleek Cabinet Alternative

A kitchen with stainless steel cabinetry

Courtesy of IKEA

Stainless steel cabinets can help create a sleek and stylish look for a contemporary kitchen.

Stainless steel can be found on just about every design element in the kitchen these days. On cabinets, it's typically formed around an inner core material to give it substance and keep it from sounding tinny. While you can get a very sleek look from stainless steel, it does show fingerprints and scratches.

A durable and sanitary material, stainless steel cabinets qualify as a "green product," as they are non-toxic, recyclable and easy to clean without the use of harsh chemicals. Stainless steel is also a top pick for people with chemical sensitivities.

As an added bonus, all-stainless cabinets are a great pick for outdoor kitchens, as they withstand the elements (humidity included) quite well.

Don't write off the stylish material as purely the stuff of modern spaces. Consider combining it with a Transitional cabinet, like a cherry Arts & Crafts-style door, for a tempered contemporary look.

Once you settle on stainless, you'll find there are a few other considerations to keep in mind. Many cabinets are made of the same material as professional-grade appliances; for a stainless look at a lower cost, investigate stainless cabinets with MDF/wood parts. A good number of companies can accommodate custom requests; if that's a particular need of yours, be sure to inquire about the manufacturer's custom capabilities from the get go.

To add a unique touch, consider alternatives to stainless steel. Copper moulding or brushed nickel finishes prevent a clinical feel, as does the occasional frosted glass insert.



More in this category:« Laminate

Get to Know Various Molding Types

Close Up of Corinthian Molding

Molding, whether crown or cornice, can add great detail to your kitchen. Here is an overview of some popular molding options:



Appliqué: A detailed carved or etched decorative piece installed on the face of cabinets.


bun feet

Bun feet: Round decorative pieces on the bottom corners of base cabinets used to raise the cabinetry and create a furniture look.



Corbels: An ornamental bracket that may or may not also be structural. These large, carved pieces often support (or appear to support) island countertops, shelving or hood mantels.




Cornice: The uppermost section of molding along the top of cabinetry; usually refers to molding that meets the ceiling.



crown molding

Crown molding: A long ornamental strip with a modeled profile, crown molding accents the tops of your cabinets, adding height and elegance.


dentil molding

Dentil molding: Molding with tooth-like, closely spaced rectangular blocks.


egg and dart molding

Egg and dart molding: Molding decorated with alternating oval (egg) and arrow (dart) shapes.


flat trim

Flat trim: Molding without a carved or rounded profile; commonly used in Arts and Crafts kitchens.



Fluting: Ornamental vertical, semi-circular grooves routed into a pilaster.


galley rail

Galley rail: A front "retaining wall" made from small spindles.




Insert: A decorative strip inset between other moldings.



cabinet leg

Legs: Both structural and decorative, these pieces support base cabinets and provide a furniture look.  They may also be used to support a countertop overhanging an island.


cabinet onlay

Onlay: Literally "laying on" the cabinet, an onlay is a carved decorative element installed on the cabinet's face.



Pediment: A low-pitched triangular gable that sits atop cabinetry. It may have scrolls, scallops, arches or other detailing along the edges.



Pilaster: A vertical column that is decorative, not structural. It projects slightly from the cabinet's surface and is typically rectangular.


plate rail

Plate rail: A decorative shelf with a groove for plates.





Plinth: A square block at the base of a pilaster or turned post.



rope molding

Rope molding: Molding carved or milled to look twisted like rope.



Rosette: A carved circular ornament with a floral look; can also be a square with a circle design in the center.


Spindle: A slender turned piece of wood, typically decorative. Large spindles generally are called turned posts or legs.



split molding split spindle

Split molding or split spindle: In essence, half a molding or spindle. The flat back and half-round shape makes it easy to apply to a cabinet surface.



Toe kick: The recessed area at the bottom of a base cabinet; also refers to the molding used to cover the area.



Turned posts: Large vertical pieces with a circular outline; may also be referred to as legs, columns or spindles. These may be structural or decorative.



Valance: A decorative panel installed across an open area, often above a sink, over a window, at the bottom of a base cabinet or at the top of open shelving.


Wainscot: A facing or paneling, often wooden, applied to the lower part of an interior wall or large end panel of a cabinet.



More in this category:« Cabinet Moldings

Options for Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets

Close up of someone refinishing cabinet door

Refinishing your cabinets is a fast, inexpensive way to update your kitchen's look.

Looking to give your kitchen a new look, but not interested in paying for a whole wall of new cabinetry? Consider refinishing your cabinets. Check out these methods for ideas on how to get started.

 Paint is a great way to hide imperfections on otherwise perfect cabinetry. So long as the innerworkings are functioning well, a fresh look is just a few steps away. While it's important to speak to your manufacturer or local hardware shop about which specific steps are needed for your cabinets, the following overview should give you a solid idea of the project's scope.

After thoroughly cleaning the surface, fill in any scratches or indentations with wood filler. Sand with 180- to 220-grit sandpaper then apply a coat of shellac-based sealer to help the paint adhere.

To add even more interest to your cabinetry, consider a two-tone color scheme (i.e., painting your molding a different shade than the cabinet itself). Decorative painting is also a unique way to liven them up. Consider the following techniques and effects (consult your local hardware store to find the appropriate kind of paint):

Color washing
: This painting method produces "floating' color. Though heavier application make it appear less cloudlike, this ambient effect often takes on the look of parchment paper.

Rag rolling
: This method produces a rag-like effect, as if moderately-sized patches of paint were applied with a rag.

: It's all in the wrists; the effect you'll get from sponging is largely dependent on the way you apply the paint. A heavy or subtle look can further be achieved by your color choice: contrasting colors pack a punch, while similar shades blend more seamlessly. An easy finish to keep up with, future cabinet dents or scratched can be quickly covered. In terms of application, it's best to use a natural sea sponge rather than those intended for the kitchen sink.

: With roots that reach back to Egyptian times, stenciling is a tried and true way to add visual interest to uninspired cabinets. Be sure to use a pattern.

: Also known as pouncing, this technique mimics a textured sandy effect. Consider this decorative method for your moulding and trim.

: Get out of a fashion pickle by pickling your cabinets. A great way to highlight the wood's natural grain, pickling is best done on open-pored woods like oak and ash, because the majority of the pigment remains in the pores, making the grain more apparent.

Though technically a method, not a finish, semi-transparent white or off-white pickling stains can be purchased. You can also make your own stain; consult your local hardware store for instructions.

Be sure to thoroughly clean the wood before applying any stain. Once the dull task of cleaning is done, the actual pickling method is fairly simple: apply an even coat to a manageable area. Don't fuss too much over a perfect application; apparent brush strokes won't be a problem. Allow the stain to sit for approximately 10 minutes to permeate the wood. Using a folded wiping cloth, remove the stain in long soft strokes until you achieve your desired look. If the surface isn't dark enough for your tastes, repeat the process. Finish with two coats of satin or flat water-based topcoat finish to protect the pickling.



More in this category:« Cabinet MakeoversRefacing »

What to Know About Refacing Kitchen Cabinetry

Man refacing wooden cabinets.

Reface your cabinets for a quick new look.

Chances are your vision of your cabinetry conjures up images of doors and moldings; not of the frame. Refacing offers a speedy way to leave the frame as is but makeover the rest.

If you're in need of a refreshed kitchen look but are happy with the current layout of your kitchen and your cabinets' quality, refacing may be just the route to take. Refacing does just that — gives your kitchen a new "face" — while using the same "body," a method that has the potential to save both time and money.

Refacing refers to the process of removing your old doors, drawer fronts, and hardware then resurfacing the frames and exposed cabinet ends with hardwood veneer. The veneer is stained and finished to match your new choice of doors, which are then installed to the recently refreshed frames.

Check with your refacer, but you should be able to add molding or valences to further dress up your new cabinetry. While your layout must remain static, some refacers offer you the option of adding new cabinetry or an island to your existing design.

Unsure of whether you need to replace or reface?

Ask yourself the following:

  • Are you tired of your kitchen's current look?

  • Do you want a more up-to-date look?

  • Does your current kitchen offer adequate storage and countertop space?

  • Are your cabinet drawers still in good condition and open easily?

  • Have other neighborhood homeowners remodeled their kitchens in the last few years?

  • Has the value of your home stopped rising?

  • Do you plan to sell your home in the next year?


If you answered yes to the majority of them, refacing may be the right solution for you. Keep in mind the following:

  • You can't change the layout;any current headaches you have from misdirected traffic or bumping elbows

    won't disappear.

  • Check out the warranty: it generally will cover the new products only, not the new "cabinet."

  • You will be applying veneer to the surface, not solid wood.

  • Your cabinets' interiors will remain the same; be sure you're currently comfortable with the way they look and the ease of cleaning them.



More in this category:« Refinishing



The Cape Cod is one of the earliest homes built by American colonists still popular today. Early versions were very crude with one room on the first floor and a sleeping loft above. Modern versions are larger with a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the first floor; bedrooms and bath in the attic; and chimneys at either end. This latter version became the most popular style of home in the United States between 1920 and 1950.

General description:

  • Small, symmetrical house with a central entrance

  • Steep, shingled, gable roof with a central chimney

  • Living and sleeping quarters on the first floor

  • Additional bedrooms and bath may be added to the attic

  • Lack of central hallway necessitates walking through one room to access another

Exterior features to consider in kitchen design:

  • White clapboard, wood shingles, or brick

  • Double-hung windows with shutters

  • Simple in design and craftsmanship

  • Classic white picket fence

Recommended kitchen design elements:


Cabinet Doors

  • Type: Inset

  • Style: Recessed panel

  • Finish: Stain

  • Wood: Maple or oak


  • Laminate

  • Soapstone


  • Linoleum

  • Ceramic

Architectural Details

  • Simple crown molding

  • Chair rail







This style did not originate in Holland as is commonly believed. The Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania built these houses starting in the 1600s.

General description:

  • Moderate size

  • Gambrel roof

  • Eaves that flare outward

Exterior features to consider in kitchen design:

  • Clapboard, wood shingles, brick, cut stone, or stucco

  • Double-hung windows with shutters and small glass panes

  • Center entrance typically with a Dutch door

  • Chimney often at the end with second-story dormers through roof

Recommended kitchen design elements:


Cabinet Doors

  • Type: Inset

  • Style: Recessed panel

  • Finish: Stain

  • Wood: Maple or oak


  • Laminate

  • Soapstone


  • Linoleum

  • Ceramic

Architectural Details

  • Simple crown moulding

  • Dado board

  • Chair rail



More in this category:« SaltboxGeorgian »