Kitchen Cabinets: A Complete Buying Guide

Incorporating the right kind of cabinets to your kitchen can really add that special touch to the overall beauty of the room. Cabinets also provides additional storage for your kitchen, they make grabbing specific items easier when you’re cooking, and they might even boost the value of your property. However, before you run out and spend your money, take a little bit of time to review all your options. 

There are three main categories of wood cabinets. They include stock, semi-custom, and fully-custom. It’s best to be familiar with these terms. Stock cabinets are made of compressed sawdust wood and produced on a large scale. These cabinets are usually affordable on almost any budget. Semi-custom cabinets provide the buyer with a few customizable options, yet they’re far from fully-custom. They typically are constructed from solid wood. The last category is fully-custom cabinets. These cabinets are quite expensive and give the buyer the ability to choose every single specification possible. Fully-custom cabinets are usually quite expensive and usually made from the finest woods. 

Homeowners who are not interested in wood cabinets can choose cabinets made from materials like stainless steel and polymer. There are others, but these are the two most popular. Most non-wood cabinets are environmentally friendly, durable, and easy to clean. Polymer also comes in a wide array of sharp colors. 

The different kinds of wood 

Kitchen cabinets are made from a variety of different kinds of wood. Some are softwoods and others are hardwoods. The value of these woods is based on their firmness, colors, patterns, and texture. The higher the quality, the more you’re going to pay. 

Chipboard, plywood, and compressed sawdust wood are the cheapest kinds of wood on the market. Pine, beech, and ash are more of your middle ground, and oak, cherry, and maple are the most expensive woods on the market. Each of these woods have their very own characteristics. 


Cherry is a hardwood that is characterized by reddish undertones and a close-grained pattern.  Cherry can come in a variety of colors including white, tan, and even dark brown. Cherry is about $3 to $8 a square foot. 


Beech is a hardwood and features a very fine grain pattern. This wood is light in color and typically comes in a tan or light brown shade. The thing that’s great about beech is it’s shock resistance qualities. Beech is about $6 to $7 a square foot. 


Ash is a hardwood that has a straight grain texture and is characterized by it’s light brown color. This wood is flexible and extremely durable. Ash is about $7 to $10 a square foot. 


Oak is a very strong and solid wood. This wood is known for its open grain qualities. Oak comes in two different combination shades. They include a grey/brown shade and a reddish/brown shade. Oak is about $10 to $14 a square foot. 


Maple is generally light brown or pale in color and features a lot of unique swirling grain designs. It’s quite durable and water resistant too. Maple costs about $6 to $8 a square foot. 


Like oak, walnut is a very tough wood. It’s thick and strong. Walnut either has a really chocolate brown color or a very light color to it. Walnut is about $9 to $14 a square foot. 


Pine is a softwood and has a very pale, light-brown color to it. It’s not nearly as durable as the other woods. However, their grains are beautiful and have a straight pattern to them. Pine costs about $3 to $5 a square foot. 

These are just a few of the most popular kinds of wood used to make kitchen cabinets. These prices may vary based on the thickness, colors, and designs of the wood. It’s important to note that the prices listed above are just the square footage. They’re not the price of finished cabinets, but they do give you an idea of their worth. The price for a full set of cabinets will vary based on whether or not they’re custom, their size, and the specific details incorporated into them. 

Non-wood kitchen cabinets 

Like mentioned earlier, non-wood cabinets are a great environmentally friendly choice for anyone who’s interested in investing in greener products. One of the most popular choices is stainless steel. Stainless steel is shiny, durable, comes in a variety of sizes, and sometimes made from recycled material. However, as great as stainless steel cabinets are, they tend to be quite a bit more expensive than wood cabinets. 

Polymer is another kind of non-wood cabinet. Polymer cabinets are typically used in outdoor kitchens, but they can also be used in indoor kitchens. If you don’t know what polymer is, it’s a variation of plastic. Polymer is extremely durable, easy to clean, and water resistant. You can also get polymer cabinets in a wide array of colors. 

Kitchen cabinet design

 Once you know what kind of wood you want your cabinets to be built out of, then you can choose the overall design. First, do you want wall cabinets or base cabinets? Wall cabinets are positioned on the wall above your countertop and base cabinets are located below. If you’re a shorter person, you might want to place your cabinets below the countertop. On the other hand, wall cabinets are easier use for taller people to use. 

Once you know whether you want wall or base cabinets, you’ll then need to decide if you want semi-custom or fully custom. Semi-custom typically only come in a few set sizes whereas fully custom cabinets are constructed in whatever size you want. If you’re investing in fully custom cabinets, you’ll need to gather all of the necessary measurements before the cabinets can begin getting designed and constructed. 

Framed vs frameless kitchen cabinets 

Cabinets come in two different styles, framed and frameless. What’s the difference? The difference is a face frame. Framed cabinets have a face frame covering the frontal portion of the cabinets. Frameless cabinets do not. Frameless cabinets have a larger opening allowing you to fit in bigger objects. On the other hand, framed cabinets are stronger and sturdier than frameless cabinets. Both variations are great choices in cabinetry, but when deciding, consider what you’ll be storing and how big the objects are. 

Kitchen cabinet door design 

In addition to the material, location, and the size of your cabinets, you’ll also want to choose a door design that you’ll absolutely love. There are quite a few styles to choose from. One of the most popular is the flat panel cabinet door. This door has a flat center panel with an outlining contour. The overall design has a very sleek and stylish look that works in all kinds of kitchens.  

The raised panel cabinet door is another style that’s quite popular. This cabinet door has a raised center panel with a detailed outlined contour. This cabinet door is a great choice for kitchens with a traditional design. 

Slab cabinet doors are yet another style found in many homes today. These have no raised centerpieces, no contours, or other designs. Slab Cabinet doors are flat, sleek, shiny, and smooth. This style goes well with kitchens that have a contemporary design. 

These are just a few of the many kinds of cabinet doors available to you. When choosing the right doors for your cabinets, you’ll want to pick a style that matches the design of your cabinets and the overall look of your kitchen.  

Paint colors and stained wood finishes 

Wood cabinets come in a wide array of colors and stained finishes, but the question is, should you paint or stain your cabinets? There are benefits to both finishes, but you should choose the method that works best for your kitchen. Listed below are some of the benefits of each finish: 


  • Smooth and modern in appearance
  • More expensive than staining
  • Tougher job to complete
  • Stronger resistance to moisture than staining
  • Collects less dust than stained finishes 
  • Prone to cracking 
  • Needs to be repainted every 10 years 


  • More natural look
  • Less expensive than painting 
  • Easier to complete
  • Not very water resistance 
  • Needs to be restrained every 20 to 30 years

As you can see, there are benefits to both. Typically, more expensive woods like cherry, oak, and walnut get stained while less expensive woods like pine, ash, and beech get painted. The important thing to remember is to choose a method that works well in your kitchen and accommodated to your daily lifestyle. 

final thoughts 

Cabinets are a fantastic addition to your kitchen, but making sure you choose the right material, design, style, and finish is extremely important to the overall look of the room. This includes picking between framed or frameless, base or wall mounted, stock or custom, and painted or stained cabinets. Once you have made all these decisions and installed you new countertops, you’ll absolutely love and appreciate your kitchen that much more.

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