Cabinets are Like Burgers

Fast food, an upscale chain, or your local Bistro? Wait… What? Yep, think of it this way, you drive through your local fast food restaurant. You are hungry and you know what you are getting. The pros are fast services (they are premade) & inexpensive prices. The cons are a limited menu, questionable nutrition and (many would say) palatability. You can ask for a burger without the pickle, but in the end you are going to have to remove the pickle yourself.

Then you have some upscale hamburger chains. These are the places that offer 15 different choices of burgers and you can usually customize your order (I’ll have the California burger without the onions). Here you have to wait because they have to cook your order. The burgers are more expensive but the ingredients are fresh.

The third option is visiting your local Bistro where Chef Raul has agreed to serve hamburgers on his menu. However, he has perfected what is quite possibly the most delicious hamburger you have ever tasted in your life! How did he do that? He’s not telling it’s a secret recipe. You won’t be able to repeat this at home. You also just paid $50.00 for a hamburger.

All 3 versions have their market and most people will visit each establishment at least once in their lives. Some people live on fast food, some prefer upscale chains and some treat themselves to Raul’s special recipe.

Cabinets are the same: Contractor Grade = Fast Food.

 In order the keep costs down on these cabinets sacrifices have to be made. This is easier to do with a limited menu. The wood quality, finishes and hardware will have to be sacrificed too. There are few custom options on a builder grade cabinet and because of this they do not usually stand the test of time and do not always make the most efficient use of the space available. These cabinets aren’t really a good long term investment, but many homeowners choose this route because they are in a starter home or plan on selling or renting in the near future.

  • Faster Service (Many are premade or quickly made).
  • Limited Choices (cabinet sizes, woods, door styles and finishes).
  • Less Expensive (cheaper hardware, lower grade of lumber)
  • Lower Quality of Construction

Custom and Semi-Custom Cabinet Company = Upscale Chain

These are the cabinet companies that are large enough to have a distributorship. Your local kitchen showroom is usually a distributor for 2 or 3 different cabinet companies. This allows them to be able to offer the consumer a full service of design options, wood species, door styles and finishes available. What this means for the homeowner is more options in style and price range and you can usually find what you want.

Custom Cabinet and Furniture Builders = Chef Raul

High end custom cabinet and furniture builders will give you the highest quality of materials and craftsmanship that is available on the market. They have the ability to give you whatever you want in trims, custom finishes, sizes…etc. These kitchens are put together by craftsmen who are the best in their trade. Consequently, the cabinets are more expensive because much more has gone into their construction.

Now that should be some food for thought.

12 Essentials for a Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen is the heart and soul of a home because it serves so many purposes. Think about all the things you do in your kitchen. Not only do people prepare meals in them, but the modern kitchen is a multi- purpose room where people gather, visit, entertain, cook, prep, eat, pay bills, do homework, and so much more. A well planned kitchen will take all of this into consideration plus make it the most functional workspace in the house. What follows is a list of 12 essentials that should be planned for before you move forward with a kitchen remodel:

1.     A quality hood
The sole purpose of a range hood is to improve air quality and rid the space of fumes and smoke. This is done by venting the hood directly outside instead of just recirculating the air around the space. Stay away from ductless and microwave hoods.

  • What are the considerations in a good hood?
    • CFM (how many cubic feet per minute of air can be exhausted). The higher the CFM, the better the hood is at capturing smoke and odors. A good quality hood will have over 400 CFM and preferably at least 600 CFM.
    • Venting. Moving the fumes outside (instead of a ductless hood that just recirculates the odors). Vent it out!
    • Captures the whole cooktop surface instead of just the back two burners.
    • Number of fan speeds (three is good). This allows you to remove quickly at a higher speed and move it to a quieter low speed.
    • Exhaust timer will turn the fan off after a set amount of time.
  • Make sure your hood is installed correctly and is the right height from the cooking surface per the factory suggested specifications (usually 24-30”).              

2. Microwave types & placement

  • Types: How do you use your microwave?
    • Do you like the idea of a second oven, but aren’t sure if you have the space? You can invest in a convection bake microwave that has the option of working as an oven or a microwave. These models will fit in a 27”, 30” or 36” cabinet and have optional trim kits available for a built in look.
    • Do you just need a basic model to reheat your coffee? There are many options available. Consider size and how you would like to use it. A GE Spacesaver is great because it will fit on a 12” deep shelf. All other models currently on the market will need at least 15-16” deep shelf to sit on.
    • Placement: Get it off the countertop. Work surface is a valuable resource in a kitchen and a microwave can take up a lot of it. Just keep your ventilation in mind.
      • Installing it under the countertop or in an oven cabinet is great for a built in look.
      • Placing it on a standard depth wall shelf (12”) works for a GE Spacesaver.
      • Hide it in a pantry cabinet.

3.     Trash/recycling placement options

  • Trash/recycling cabinet. These can be attached to the cabinet door for easy access. You will need a minimum of 15” width to accommodate this kind of cabinet.
  • Keep it under the sink. Still a popular option for many homeowners. Small trash bins can usually be found at container stores. Most sink cabinets do not come with an option for pull out trash bins because of space issues with the P-trap and garbage disposals. If this feature is important to you it needs to be planned out in advance with your plumber, contractor or kitchen designer.
  • An old fashioned trash compactor. These have been on the decline in recent years, but still a great option for household garbage. There are many contemporary models on the market now as well as integrated models that will accept a cabinet panel.

4.     A quality undermount sink

  • I am a fan of a quality drop in sink also, but these are easier to replace than an undermount sink.
  • Undermount sinks are great for easy clean up and a little extra countertop space, but it is a lot harder to replace a poor quality sink if it is sandwiched in between your countertop and cabinets.
  • What to look for in a quality stainless sink:
    • The lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. 16-18 gauge is preferred. Why? Strength and noise reduction. Higher gauges sound tinny, noisy and prone to scratches and dents. There is a lot more vibration.
    • Proportion of nickel to stainless steel: 18:8 is preferred. Why? Optimal erosion and stain resistance. Your sink should not hold a magnet
    • Finish–A satin finish will hold up better than a matt finish steel.
    • Insulated undercoatings are also important in keeping the noise level down and reducing moisture condensation on the base cabinet.

5.     An interesting backspash
Whether it’s tile, metal or stone, the backsplash can be the most overlooked area to make your kitchen stand out and give it a “wow” factor.  How many times have you seen a new kitchen and thought, “Yes, that looks nice, but it’s kind of boring”. Take another look at their backsplash. Did they just run their countertop material up 4” on the wall? This is your opportunity to make your kitchen really shine.

6.     Undercabinet lighting

  • Adds extra task lighting while you are cooking
  • Adds a beautiful ambience to the room

7.    A good work triangle
Based on years of practical research, a good work triangle means a more efficient kitchen. In larger kitchens you can bring in second prep sink and effectively set up two work triangles.

8.     Counter space close to the fridge
Makes it easier to load and unload groceries if there is counter space close by. Otherwise, you are in the uncomfortable position of loading and unloading from the floor or walking across the room every few seconds.

9.     Separate workstations (washing, prepping, cooking…)
Your workstations are really what makes your kitchen most functional. In smaller kitchens sometimes a workstation will need to do double duty (washing up and prep), but in larger kitchens they can be separated and give the user a bit more space to cook without clutter.

10.     Soft close hardware
Soft close hardware on your cabinet doors and drawers is a wonderful feature that will preserve the life of your cabinets. So often we unintentionally close a door or drawer harder than we intended to and for those of us with children this feature is wonderful. Most every cabinet line has soft close as an option and some even incorporate it into their entry level cabinet lines as a standard.

10.  Know your countertop options and the pros and cons of each. For a more detailed list of current market selections click here.

  • Stone
  • Engineered Quartz
  • Porcelein Slabs
  • Tile
  • Wood
  • Solid Surface
  • Lamnatee
  • Glass
  • Recycled
  • Metal
  • Concrete

11.  A quality installer with an eye for detail and good references. Look for the following when selecting your contractor:

  • A good finish contractor
    Most important when you are doing construction or remodeling of any kind is the selection of your installer. I cannot stress this enough. There are many contractors out there who are good at the rough in stuff, but lose their attention when it comes to the detail work.
    • Are your cabinet doors hung crooked? Have the drawers been adjusted?
    • Are your tile grout lines evenly spaced and cut? Is there grout or epoxy spilled over onto the tiles?
    • Are there visible gaps in the countertop seams or between the wall and backsplash?
    • Are your cabinets installed level?
  •  Is he licensed, bonded and insured?
    There is a reason for being licensed, bonded and insured and it is to protect you as a homeowner. If you hire someone and the work starts to fail in the first year you need to be covered. Sometimes it isn’t the contractor, but a product they decided to use. If the product was purchased by the installer it falls under their warranty and they need to take care of it. Failure to do so will jeopardize their license. This is a strong incentive to do a good a great job initially and to use quality products.
  • Ask for references and pictures and check those references. Look at those pictures. Can you see any of their detail work?