Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

5 criteria for top-quality cabinet doors

by Shannon Lee
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Look at any kitchen cabinet showroom and you will find a wide selection of cabinets that all appear to be sturdy, well-made and beautifully stained. Such perfection can make you believe it's easy to find the right replacement kitchen cupboard doors.

But just as you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you should never judge cabinets by simple appearances. What's inside the cabinets is what counts.

How to spot the best construction

Before you fall in love with the easy slide of that replacement drawer or the smooth hinges of the cabinets, take a deeper look at the construction. Though there are many points about the construction of a kitchen cabinet that matter, these are the things that make the biggest difference:

  1. Smooth face construction. The cabinet doors you choose should be well-made and free of blemishes. Inspect every inch of the doors, including the sides, corners and back. Warping, small cracks at joints or doors that are not flush with the face are all red flags. Don't forget the rails and stiles -- those should be joined firmly with nearly invisible seams.
  2. Sturdy drawers. Though the drawer bodies can be made of thick, durable plywood, drawer fronts cut from a solid piece of wood make for an attractive and sturdy option. Dovetail joints are an industry standard for strength and durability.
  3. Strong cabinet boxes. Look for thick, sturdy cabinet boxes that can hold a significant amount of weight. Remember that heavy countertops will go on top of those boxes, and they should be able to hold up to the weight, as well as the constant opening and closing of drawers and cabinet doors. Look for cabinet boxes with very durable, fitted joints between pieces.
  4. Smooth hardware. Drawer slides on either side of the drawer are much more stable and often have smoother operation than a single slide underneath. Look for drawers that open fully without tipping. Hinges on the doors should be adjustable and sturdy enough to bear the weight of the doors for many years to come.
  5. Shelf options. Adjustable shelves with locking devices are a good idea. Avoid shelves that are permanently attached to the cabinet boxes, as this could make it difficult to install unique shelving solutions in the future such as lazy susans or pull-out drawers for pots and pans.

Though a thorough inspection of those gorgeous cabinets might be a bit of a buzzkill, understanding what you are buying before you sign on the dotted line can save you a great deal of money down the road. If you want cabinets that last, this is the kind of construction you should insist on having.


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