So, you need new cabinets. You know you could shop online, but you want to do the responsible thing and look at cabinets in person. You’re pretty much buying furniture, after all!

You walk into a cabinet showroom, determined to find the best-quality cabinets they offer. You know this is going to be an investment, and you want to get the the best construction for your hard-earned money. You explore the displays, opening and shutting drawers and cabinets to test the quality of the hinges and latches. You’re enjoying yourself; they all look so good, and you like the way they thud closed so neatly! The only choice you have to make now is based on aesthetics, and you better pick a good look, because these cabinets will last a lifetime!

Unfortunately, you’ll probably end up buying glorified crates unable to stand up to scratches, dents, heavy dishes, and cluttered utensils. You’ll be lucky to get a decade out of cabinets that were expensive enough to last two. The key to avoiding this trouble is knowing what to look for, but a majority of people have no idea what makes a cabinet great. This isn’t helped by the fact that most of the quality points exist in places hidden by the cabinets’ installation. At JV Cabinet Makers, we get to see the insides of cabinets, and we know what makes them great or cheap. You have no idea how many times we’ve gone into upgrade or replace cabinets and found weak hinges, inferior drawer slides, and low-quality particle board. It’s a true pleasure when we encounter well-made cabinets, which makes it easy to remember just sets them apart.

In today’s blog, we will share the characteristics of a long-lasting cabinet. We hope this list helps you when you do your shopping!

The General Build

The good news about these details are that you can examine them pretty easily in the showroom. You should start with the “face” of the cabinet, or every part of it that is visible from the front.

What to look for in the face:

  • Quality wood overall. This type of wood won’t have knots, grain irregularities, color differences, knots, pitch pockets, or sanding scars.
  • The face frame pieces meet so tightly, you almost can’t see the seam. Ask about tenons and mortises. These are protruding wood tongues and the slots in which they fit, and they should be used to join the frame pieces.
  • Solid drawers. Much like the cabinet doors, the drawer faces should be cut from single, solid pieces of wood.
  • Quality cabinet panels. Open the cabinets and check that the door panels are cut from solid pieces of wood. Laminate is never a good choice when it comes to cabinets.

What to always look for in the end panel (the exposed side of the cabinet)

  • It all should be made of solid wood that has been carefully chosen for unity of color and grain.
  • All frame pieces must have mortise-and-tenon joinery.
  • When the assembled end panel gets attached to the plywood box of the cabinet (called the “carcass”), it should be done with screws. The screws should be installed from the inside out to hide them.

What to look for in the drawers

  • Like we said, the drawers should be cut from single pieces of wood. The wood should be ⅝ inch thick at a minimum.
  • Check the corner joints and ensure they are dovetailed.
  • All the sides of the drawers should feature grooves to support the base of the drawer. You should be able to put heavy things into the drawer with confidence.

What to look for in the carcass

Cabinets are plywood boxes with pretty coatings, and the plywood boxes are called carcasses. When shopping, see if you can examine the carcass for the following requirements:

  • All side and floor panels should be at least half an inch thick.
  • The shelves should be no less than three-fourths of an inch thick.
  • The floor and back of the cabinet should fit into the side panel via a route for extra strength.

The Details

You will be able to inspect most of these things yourself without referring to a salesperson.

Details to look for in the hinges

Some cabinets have exposed hinges and others don’t. Whether you can see the actual hinges or not, you can still assess how well they’re doing their job. Great hinges are strong and adjustable to ensure the doors align with the cabinet frame.

Details to look for in the drawers

The best drawers are supported by slides installed along their sides. You don’t want drawers that run on a single slide underneath. Look for nylon bearings as they will be the quietest. The drawers should open fully, and when you ask a salesperson how much weight the drawer can take, the answer should be no less than 75 pounds.

Details to look for in the floating panels

The frames surrounding the door panels should have deep grooves to fit the panels. The panels should not be glued into these grooves; they need to be free to change shape depending on the temperature and humidity without ruining the frame. Tiny pads are used to keep the frames centered in their frames.

Details to look for on the shelves

You should be able to adjust the height of your shelves. Look for metal brackets and avoid plastic ones. Really good cabinets will go an extra step and keep the shelves from moving by locking them in with plastic retainer plugs.

Details to look for in the carcass-to-frame joints

We saved this one for last, because an excellent connection between a carcass and a face frame is a hallmark of excellent craftsmanship. You don’t want the faces and sides of your cabinets coming loose! The carcass joins the frame by way of grooves that are secured by glued-on biscuits.

Making sure you get the best quality for your money is easier when you don’t get taken in by the bright lights of the showroom. Ignore the trendy stain colors that all the home design magazines are raving about. Realize that the cabinets are floating under tall ceilings to conceal the fact that they just aren’t that tall. Instead, use the bright showroom lighting to help you assess the cabinets and find the best craftsmanship.

The best solution to showroom tricks is to avoid them completely and get the help of a professional contractor right off the bat. There’s a chance you already have superior cabinets, but they just need a facelift. The team at JV Cabinet Makers can help you save money with high-quality cabinet refacing or custom cabinets. Contact us in California today!