Planning my kitchen rebuild and at the last minute I'm reconsidering if
building modular cabinets is really the way to go or if I should just
build them in place. I've built stand alone cabinets before and I'm
familiar with the process but it looks like built in place cabinetry would
use a good deal less sheet material and who doesn't like to save money.
But I'm not familiar with building cabinets in place so it would be
something new to learn. What do you guys think?
Buy an upper end set of cabinets at IKEA. No, I am not kidding. That
stuff is totally credible. Use their on-line planner and be done with
it, then blow the rest of your budget on a quartz countertop. Biggest
bang for the buck...IMHO.
Then, use the time you save, building a nice armoire or hutch to feed
that woodworker beast inside of you.
When I started in the trades in the early 70s, built in cabinets were
the rage. We built library walls, nooks, built in hutches and display
cabinets. From time to time depending on who I was working wtih at
the time, we also built kitchen and bath cabs as well in place.
Later I was assigned to another cabinet guy that used to run a cabinet
shop. We built everything in modules. They were easier to build,
easier to install, and easier to finish.
I haven't built anything in place since unless there was no other
I like Rob's idea of buying finished cabinets. For most folks, even
if they can build them they ruin their work with poor finishing.
Ahhhh... and finishing in place. If you do it correctly you will be
disassembling all of your work anyway, so why not build it and finish
it in pieces? Finishing one modular drawer bank at a time is much
easier than the entire side of a base section that is in place.
Think of managing your spray, the fumes, the drift, etc., that will go
through your house and A/C system. (Of course, I am assuming you
wouldn't brush a kitchen full of cabinets, including doors, drawers,
Prefinished cabs handle all that or you. If you don't like IKEA or
others, try to find a local cabinet distributor of finished cabinets
and see what they have. There is actually a lot of nice stuff out
there these days.
IKEA has different qualities, that I have seen. I am no fan of IKEA,
but I was surprised at the consistent quality and finish of their
A client of mine buys and flips expensive condos in Toronto and always
has the kitchen all ready for one of my countertops. (Well, the new
guys will be doing this now)
There are other choices that a dealer can bring in for you.
Having said all this, it all comes down to the installation. A
mediocre set of cabinets installed properly is a better deal than high-
end materials banged together and finished poorly.
You bet ... houses settle, wood expands and contracts, and walls move,
so here is the reality of the situation:
The square, well built, "modular" cabinet box, shimmed level and
properly hung on non-square walls, walls that are going to move a bit
sooner or later during the life of the house, will still be square after
said wall movement, and all the parts, doors, drawers, drawer fronts
will have a much better chance of surviving wall movement and still fit
Component pieces of built-in cabinetry on that same set of walls are
going to move with the walls, in differing amounts according to their
location, to the detriment of ALL parts fitting together like they did
before the inevitable movement/settling.
You said a mouthful there. I painted out the most inexpensive solid
wood line that HD sold a few years ago (I don't think they sell the
line anymore - they were unfinished white oak) for a contractor friend
of mine and they looked like a million bucks. They were very well
made cabinets (surprise!), and were installed, trimmed, and adjusted
by his ace.
On the other hand, I have seen way too many cabinet replacements where
the modules were just ruined. Misplaced screws and nails, no attempt
to level the cabinets on the floor, not a wedge to be seen on the
backs of the uppers, trim in the wrong position, etc.
Unless I just need one or two I never build them anymore. My favorite
cab guy does it too cheap, and he's good, too. But he doesn't
install. I have gotten a lot of work form him troubleshooting poor
installations and in some cases rehanging his products.
He won't install anything any more. He can't find guys that meet his
standards and he told me it was too hard on him to see his nice
cabinets hung poorly.
BTW, a couple of years ago I put in a whole kitchen of Kraftmaid
cabinets. I was surprised at their quality, and the trims matched the
cabinets exactly. They were well made throughout, the hardware was
nice, and were finished inside and out. When I go them hung, I
touched up the visible hanging brad holes in the moldings and was
They looked really nice, and as you said, they spent the money on some
green granite. With the reddish colored cabinets they had, it
reminded me of Christmas, but it still looked great. More like a
library than a kitchen when the lights were dimmed.
Cost savings of not using me and my buddy as a tag team of custom
cabinets and custom finishing: +/- $2500.
They were happy to apply it to their $6K granite bill.
We owned a second house a few years back. It was a mountain cabin
that had been designed and supervised by an architect for a
client. I was surprised to find that the cabinets in the kitchen,
baths, laundry room and pantry were all Kraftmade box cabinets.
It was almost impossible to tell except for a couple places where
there were filler boards. The quality of the Kraftmade cabinets
was very good and probably better than most custom cabinets that
would have been made in local shops.
Interestingly, we are in the process of trying to purchase a
1-story home here (health issues) and the cabinets in it are also
Kraftmade. I had the opportunity to talk to a custom home builder
and he told me that if he had to make a guess, that box cabinets
could be found in virtually all of even the most expensive homes,
with only library shelving and custom units like entertainment
centers or media room built-ins etc. coming from custom shops
Around here most of the high end custom home builders use site built
cabinets, from kitchens to closets, because, bottom line, they are
cheaper when factoring in labor, materials and installation costs.
That's whats so sad about walking into one of these "high end" homes up
for resale four or five years later and seeing the results of all that
eye candy trim with gaps in it (none of the guys ever heard of coping
and inside miter), warped doors that won't close all the way, and
drawers that don't fit.
Damn thig is that people either are incapable of seeing it, or refuse to
see acknowledge it.
<Strange meaning of "high end" in real estate agent speak these days, at
least around here.>
Not to be argumentative, but while Kraftmade are indeed some of the
better, factory made boxes, I can spot them a block away.
I've heard it remarked on many an occasion, that, after having now owned
kitchen cabinets hand crafted with high quality materials, like the ones
Leon and I put in houses, folks, who used to walk through HD and think
how good the Kraftmade cabinets were, now think they look "cheap" ...
and that's a quote. And I agree ... after building/seeing/using/owning
hand crafted cabinet boxes and components, Kraftmade simply no longer
looks like "quality" goods.
I also agree that for most, if the choice is between built-in kitchen
cabinets, or 'factory made' cabinet boxes and components like Kraftmade
makes, Kraftmade is one of the better ways to go these days ... then
again, ask me how many millions of dollars worth of houses just our
kitchen cabinets alone have sold, some more than once. :)
Me too, though they're better than the not-much-above-contractor-grade stuff
in this house. The thing that impresses me about Kraftmade is the thought
that goes into, um, "gadgets". Some are neat, some useless. Why would I want
built-in spice racks? OTOH, some of the pan storage is quite well thought
I think they look cheap, even from a distance. Maybe they're "too perfect",
like plastic. I'm also not a fan of plastic components. I've had a fifteen
year old kitchen when these pieces start to dry out and break.
Isn't it illegal to sell a house more than once? ;-)
BTW, we took a half-day to go through the Ikea in Atlanta a while back. THeir
stuff makes Kraftmade look great. What a pile of plastic junk! ...wouldn't
last five years.
On Sat, 15 May 2010 15:26:23 -0500, " email@example.com"
Depends on how often you go through your spices and/or if they're
exposed to light. Spices deteriorate very quickly (taste wise) when
exposed to light over even a few months. The cure is such things as
your built in spice rack in a drawer or some other light blocking
I agree with your comments. When I started working for my Dad,
back in the 1950's, cabinets came from 3 sources: 1) from a local
cabinet shop, 2) from the lumber yard in a box or 3) were built
on-site by the trim carpenters. The high end homes were always
from the local cabinet shop. The typical homes were built on-site
and the homes just slightly better than trailers were built using
lumber yard box cabinets.
Naturally, that's changed over the years with shifts in wages,
availability and even customer expectations.
I now live in Las Vegas, where most homes in most subdivisions are
built by national contractors based on 4-6 floor plans per
neighborhood. The homes may be built on spec, but if a customer
buys during construction, they can pick colors etc. I'd say that
99.9% of all these houses are built using cabinets built somewhere
else and shipped to the wholesaler in boxes. The choices are
usually either white Melamine or wood/vinyl veneer over particle
board/plywood in some wood color. This is common in even homes
costing $300k to $500k or more. "Wood" cabinetry is a term the RE
agents use here to mark the difference between Melamine and
stained Birch or Oak veneer cabinets. I don't ever recall any
agent even commenting whether cabinets were custom made and not
from a box.
In the more expensive homes, the cabinets are still from a box,
but "quality," means that the rails and styles of doors, along
with face framing, is from solids and not particle board with a
wood veneer. You also find that the more upscale homes, while
still having box cabinets, have more fancy things like appliance
garages, swing-up appliance shelves in lower cabinets, lazy susans
in corner cabinets, pantry, microwave shelves and rolling pan
I also absolutely, totally, agree with the sentiment of others
about cabinets that are custom built (job site) inside the home-
usually by trim carpenters, being junk. I don't think that I've
ever seen ones that last nearly as long as even inexpensive box
cabinets and they almost always have a crappy finish. The best
cabinets, IMHO, are still the ones where a cabinet maker comes to
the house, measures and returns with cabinets he's made and
finished in the controlled conditions of his shop. The best
installs I've seen are almost always where the cabinet maker
himself does the installation of his cabinets.
I don't know where you are from, but here in Las Vegas, the big
thing is granite for kitchens and marble for baths in the upscale
homes, and granite for kitchens and ceramic tile on bath counter
tops for the middle grade ones. Occasionally, if money is tight, a
buyer will have the default tops of 4X4 ceramic installed, and
have plans to remove it eventually and replace it with granite.
Corian, Silestone and similar synthetics are almost nonexistent
here and laminate tops are equally scarce for some reason.
While off the subject of cabinets, flooring here is subtly
different than it was in NC, IN or other places I've lived. Here,
carpet is used in low traffic areas and where sound control is
needed like a bedroom, but the general living area of a
middle-upscale house is typically ceramic or clay tile, laid with
a 3/8" grout line, or Travertine laid with a 0 grout line. Where I
grew up, you might have a small tile area by the front door or
garage entrance, but then wall to wall carpet elsewhere. I'm not
sure if that's a sign of the times or what.
On 5/15/2010 4:27 PM, Nonny wrote:
<snip of good stuff>
Indeed! The absolute best of all possible worlds! <BSEG>
Pretty much the same here.
Here, mostly hardwood's throughout, with slate, or some other natural
stone, in the master baths, with same or travertine in the guest and
other baths. Lots of natural stone outside ... porches, breezeways,
sidewalks, etc. Rarely see concrete flatwork in these areas. Rarely see
carpet anywhere in the main house, but quite common in MIL/maid quarters.
With the exception of bathrooms and closets, which are the all 'full
monte' cabinet ammenities you can generally cram in, I tend to leave
about 70% of the built-ins (entertainment centers, books cases, etc.)
left to the imagination of the buyer on a spec house, that way we can
build/trim out exactly what they want ... lately I'm surprised at the
number of folks wanting full bookcases again ... for years they were out
of favor. Same goes with wainscoting on dining room and den walls. Some
folks love it, others hate it.
Then again, there is always someone who will love the house, no matter
what its got in it, where it is (on the railroad tracks), and in spite
of all the agonizing over color schemes, and what "features" will or
won't sell, in the design stage. :)
Speaking of bookcases, something I always wanted in a home was a
loft library. Ideally, a rectangular great room would have 18' to
the lower part of a cathedral ceiling, with a 4-sided open loft
about 9' up, scabbed onto the wall, with a width of about 5' on
two sides, 6' on a third and 10' or so on the outside wall end of
the great room. On the inside opposite end would be a spiral
staircase between the loft and great room; the loft would have 4
turned wood columns to support the interior opening and railing
all around. The loft on the exterior end of the great room would
have the second of a double fireplace, matching the one below in
the great room. All walls would have book shelves, while the end
loft would have couches and chairs/TV etc.
Outside of the woodwork, I don't think it'd cost as much to build
as the rest of the home. Framing would be pretty standard, with
the exterior walls and 4 columns taking the load. The loft would
double as a stiffener for the great room walls, preventing bowing
from the roof load. If I was doing it for myself, I'd use
prefinished hardwood floors, with inlaid carpet runners.
Thanks to everyone for the advice but I won't be buying premade cabinets
and have already started building my own. The only bummer is that my shop
is too small for full sheets of plywood so I have to pare them down with a
circular saw. Maybe my first project should have been a panel saw.
Have you made yourself one of these
If not you might want to.
Note that that's just one version--googling "circular saw guide plans"
will get you a number of other variations on the same theme.
Also, instead of the clamps shown, a couple of Irwin Quick-Grip Minis
work a treat for holding the thing in place while cutting.
That plan assumes that you can trust the factory edge. This is the
problem with all of these guides; getting the straight edge straight.
I have a set of Emerson clamp guides that work well up to 50" (though
they don't self-position like the above guide). I have aluminum
guides for that, but they're a PITA to use (making sure the joint is
Irwins are great light duty clamps. I have a few XPs that are great
for assembling stuff before the glue dries, too.
I might just build one of those, too. I'm using an aluminum sectional
straightedge now, like http://fwd4.me/On6 , and it requires an offset
to be scribed in each time. A "drop 'n go" guide would be quicker,
easier, and give better edge support to reduce splintering.
"Works a treat" has been going around lately. Where's it from?
Is i' a new Pomicism, mate?
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our
inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter
the state of facts and evidence. -- John Adams, December 1770
'Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials'
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