Monday, November 23, 2009

What are the Construction Options for Cabinetry?

In the wonderful world of cabinetry there are many different construction options to choose from. If you are using a stock line of cabinetry, most of these decisions will likely already be made for you. Semi-custom lines generally have their base construction level with the ability to upgrade certain features. With custom cabinetry you are able to choose the construction style for each individual part. The major construction decision areas are the style of cabinet box, the construction materials for the cabinet box, the construction and material of the drawer box, and the drawer glides.

Construction options have less to do with the look of the cabinetry and more with the structure and moving parts, but they can greatly affect the cost. Between look and construction, there exists a price equilibrium when working within a budget. So, if the look of the kitchen is the most important thing to you, you might consider trading off construction upgrades for look upgrades. Conversely, if construction is the most important thing, you might have to trade look upgrades for construction upgrades. Obviously if the sky’s the limit when it comes to your budget then everything can be upgraded. Your kitchen designer can help you determine what exact combination of give and take results in the perfect kitchen for you.

For the style of the cabinet box you have two options, framed or frameless. As the name suggests, the difference between framed and frameless construction in cabinetry is the presence or absence of a face frame. With a cabinet that has a face frame, the doors and drawer heads can be mounted inset flush into the frame, partially overlaying the frame, or fully overlaying it. With frameless cabinetry, the doors are mounted to the sides of the cabinet box and therefore fully-overlay the box. Once installed, both construction types are of equal stability when made with comparable materials. Framed construction can give a more traditional look to your cabinetry; especially the inset and partial-overlay styles. Frameless construction is often used in contemporary, modern or transitional areas. Frameless cabinetry is also used in industrial settings like laboratories and hospitals. Because of the absence of an overlapping frame, the clear width of the cabinet’s openings is wider with frameless construction, though the box volume remains the same. Stock and semi-custom cabinetry lines generally only make one type of cabinet box, framed or frameless. Custom cabinetry can be either and the construction types can even be mixed throughout your kitchen.

Both types of cabinet boxes can be made with engineered wood, plywood or solid wood. There are pros and cons to each type of box construction, and clients usually have their own biases. Generally speaking, engineered wood is the base construction level, with plywood construction being the upgrade. Occasionally specific projects require a solid wood box, like when using reclaimed wood, but this is rare and very costly.

Plywood is more stable than solid wood and available in many grades and species. Plywood is also relatively economical. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), particleboard, and oriented strand board, all common types of engineered wood, offer more weight, a lower cost and a flatter panel with more surface uniformity. However, the dimensional stability, screw-holding and bending strength of engineered wood is less than plywood’s. Even though engineered wood panels have some advantages over plywood panels, some people just don’t like the idea that the panels are not made from all natural wood. Chemically sensitive clients might also react badly to the adhesives used in engineered wood which emit a greater amount of formaldehyde as they cure than plywood.

The plywood versus engineered wood choice is the same for your drawer box construction with the addition of the solid wood dovetail drawer box option. Dovetailed drawer boxes are made from solid wood stock and are constructed by cutting a series of pins in the end of one board to interlock with a series of tails cut into the end of another board. Once glued, a wooden dovetail joint requires no mechanical fasteners. The plywood and engineered wood drawer boxes are glued and pinned together.

Once you have decided on your drawer box you must also decide on what type of drawer glides to use. You must decide if you want your drawer boxes to extend from the cabinet box ¾ of the way or in full. If you choose to have full-extension glides you will also then have the option to add a soft-close feature that pulls the drawer softly closed once pushed in 90% of the way. Soft-close drawer glides also make it impossible for anyone to slam the drawers. Each type of glide can be installed mounted to the underneath or to the side of the drawer box. Glides mounted to the bottom of the drawer box will take room from the depth of the drawer box. Glides mounted to the sides will take room from the width of the drawer box.

In short, there are many things to consider and decide upon about your cabinets’ construction. At The Savannah Cabinet Shop we can help you navigate through these difficult decisions. When you work with our design staff, our knowledge becomes your knowledge. Check out our portfolio or come in today to start your cabinetry project.

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