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Kitchen & bath cabinet quality, hinges, hardware evaluatin: this article provides a guide for evaluating the quality of kitchen or bathroom cabinets.
We examine the types of cabinet boxes (framed and frameless), types of cabinet shelf material, types of cabinet drawers and drawer slides, the most visible cabinet components: cabinet doors and drawer fronts (frame and panel cabinet doors, high-pressure plastic laminate cabinet doors and drawer fronts, painted wood cabinet doors or drawer fronts, thermofoil (RTF) doors), and the basic types of cabinet hinges.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Guide to Assessing the Quality of Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinets
Our page top photo illustrates a good quality solid birch cabinet. At left we illustrate oak cabinets built on a particlboard case and finished by the owner. Purchased un-finished these cabinets were low cost to buy and install.
Assessing a cabinet’s quality is not always easy due to the
large number of components involved and the fact that
much of the material and joinery is concealed.
indication of overall durability is certification by the
Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, which has a
rigorous testing and certification program that measures
such things as structural integrity, shelf strength, hardware
durability, and quality of finishes.
Also, many manufacturers offer two or three grades of
quality. Comparing the specifications of each line can provide
a good idea of what the upgrades are and whether the
added expense is worthwhile. The main components to
evaluate are covered below.
Types of Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinet Boxes
The cabinet box, or carcase, makes up the body
of the cabinet and gives it structural integrity. Typically,
the only visible parts are end panels, portions of the interior,
and the front edges in frameless cabinets or faceframes
in framed cabinets (Figure 6-43).
Framed cabinets. These are the traditional style of
construction with a frame of 3/4-inch-thick solid wood
rails and stiles fastened to the front of the box. Hinges
attach to these face-frames, which are usually partly or
fully visible with the doors closed.
Frameless cabinets. Also called 32-mm cabinets or
Euro cabinets, these have no face-frames in front. The
doors attach directly to the inside face of the cabinet
sides with cup hinges. Doors and drawers are usually
full overlay, concealing the front edges of the boxes.
However, some frameless cabinets now offer more
traditional wooden doors that leave a narrow band of
the cabinet fronts exposed. The front edge is typically
finished in vinyl, melamine, or wood veneer. High-end
cabinets may have solid wood banding.
[Click any image or table to see an enlarged version with additional detail, commentary & source citation.]
With either type of cabinet, the price is driven by the
materials, hardware, and assembly techniques. The cheapest
cabinets typically use 1/2 - to 5/8-inch particleboard with
a vinyl or melamine face. Better quality cabinets use
medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and the best generally
use 1/2- to 5/8-inch plywood. The facings on better cabinets
are usually high-pressure laminate or real wood veneer.
With some cabinet lines, it is possible to order plywood
sides only where needed, for example, on the sink base and
wherever there is an exposed end panel, which might be
subject to wetting or the occasional dent or nick.
Backs and floors if cabinets range from flimsy 1/8- or 1/4 -inch hardboard
to thicker particleboard, MDF, or plywood (in order
of stiffness). The finish inside the cabinet is typically vinyl
or melamine. Cabinet bottoms should be rigid enough not
to flex under the weight of pots and pans.
Finally, look for securely installed corner blocks or
stretchers across the top of the cabinet to hold it square
during shipping and installation Some high-end cabinets
have a full-size top panel to reinforce the top of the box.
Guide to Types of Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinet Shelves
Shelves in cabinets range from 1/2 -inch particleboard, which
will bow under the weight of dishes, to 3/4 -inch plywood.
Plywood is the strongest shelving material, followed by
MDF, then particleboard.
In base cabinets, look for full depth
shelves or roll-out shelving. Wall cabinet shelves
should be adjustable and have solid clips, preferably metal.
In general, shelves are designed to support a uniform load
of 15 pounds per square foot (psf) for kitchens, 25 psf for
closets, and 40 psf for bookshelves. If loads are likely to
exceed these, upgrade to a stronger shelf (see Table 5-11,
Types of Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinet or Counter Drawers
It is important to have solidly built drawers,
since they get a lot of use and abuse. High-quality drawers
typically have solid hardwood or poplar sides and backs,
with minimum 1/4 -inch plywood bottoms glued into dados.
In the best cabinets, drawer sides are dovetailed or dowelled
to the front and back and the drawer front is a separate
piece screwed to the box.
Respectable drawers are also
built with sides of 1/2 -inch or thicker plywood or melamine
stock dowelled together. In lower-end cabinets, drawer sides
are often particleboard or MDF wrapped in vinyl and nailed
or stapled and glued together, with a particleboard or hardboard
bottom. Also many lower-quality cabinets use the
drawer front as the front of the drawer box, a weaker detail.
Types & Choices of Drawer Slides
All drawer slides, even with the same
rating, are not alike. Look for heavy-duty epoxy-coated
components with ball-bearing rollers that operate smoothly
and quietly. At a minimum, use three-quarter extension
drawer slides rated to carry 75 pounds.
to full-extension slides rated for 100 pounds, particularly
for any large, deep drawers. Under mount slides have the
advantage of helping to support the drawer while remaining
out of sight. Side-mounted slides that wrap around the
drawer bottom also provide good support.
Guide to Types of Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts
Doors and drawer fronts
are the most visible part of a kitchen and take a lot of abuse.
Many cabinet manufacturers buy doors and drawer fronts
from large specialty door manufacturers, so they may not reflect
the overall quality of the cabinets.
When selecting a
material and finish, consider durability and ease-of-cleaning
as well as appearance. Frame-and-panel wood doors are
typically more expensive than laminate or thermofoil doors.
At left our photo illustrates an inexpensive stock cabinet system comprised of vinyl-clad cabinet facing and doors and particleboard carcases. These cabinets are quite heavy.
Frame and panel cabinet doors or drawers have either a raised or flat
panel of solid wood or veneer. Veneered panels are
more stable but more difficult to repair if nicked or
scratched. Avoid frames with mitered corners, as they
may open with seasonal changes in humidity.
High-pressure plastic laminate cabinet doors and drawer fronts are more durable than
melamine (low-pressure laminate). Melamine is fine,
however, for the backs of doors.
Painted wood cabinet doors or drawer fronts may show small gaps (over time)
at joints due to seasonal movement of the wood. Also
the center panel in a frame-and-panel door may show a
paint line if the panel shrinks during the heating season.
Thermofoil (RTF) doors can provide a frame-and panel
look with the convenience of a durable PVC
plastic facing. It is best to use matching RTF moldings
as well, since colors may change over time.
Frameless cabinets typically have full overlay doors,
while framed cabinets may have doors that are inset, rabbeted,
or overlaid partially or fully (Figure 6-44). Rabbeted
or partial-overlay doors are the easiest to fit and adjust
since they have considerable play.
Inset doors provide an
attractive furniture like appearance, but they are also a
common cause of callbacks, since the slightest movement
in cabinets or hinges can cause the doors or drawers to rub.
Full-overlay doors also need careful adjustment, since they
have only about an 1/8-inch gap to the next door. Fortunately,
most are hung with easy-to-adjust cup hinges.
Guide to Types of Cabinet Hinges
Good quality hinges are sturdy, smooth to operate,
and easy to adjust. Undersized or poor quality hinges,
on the other hand, can lead to sagging or rubbing doors
and are a common problem with low-end cabinets.
Cup hinges. Originally designed for full-overlay
doors on frameless cabinets, concealed cup hinges
(photo at left) are now available for most types of doors and
cabinets (Figure 6-45). Most can be adjusted in
three directions, which makes it easy to align the
doors and compensate for minor irregularities in
Plus, many cup hinges have a
convenient “snap-on” feature that allows removal of
the door without tools.
Swing angles range from 95 to
175 degrees, with typical doors opening from 105 to
110 degrees. Special hinges are available for nearly
every door configuration and self-closing types
eliminate the need for magnetic or mechanical
Barrel and knife hinges. These are partially concealed when closed and are usually adjustable in two directions by loosening the hinge-mounting screws. They are common on lower-end cabinets.
Cabinet Hardware Manufacturers List
Ball-bearing drawer slides
Comprehensive catalog of cabinet hinges, pulls, slides,
Cup hinges, slides, shelf supports, and storage accessories
Cup hinges, ball-bearing slides, pulls, and
Cup hinges, ball-bearing slides, drawer systems, shelf
supports, and KD connectors
Cup hinges, ball-bearing drawer slides, shelf supports,
and KD connectors
Also see CABINETS & COUNTERTOPS This article describes common defects found at installed cabinets and countertops.
This article series discusses current best design practices for kitchens and bathrooms, including layout, clearances, work space, and accessible kitchen and bathroom layout, clearances, turning space, grab bars, controls, etc. We include advice on choosing and installing kitchen countertops, cabinets, and kitchen or bathroom flooring, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures and fixture controls such as faucets. A list of kitchen and bath product manufactures and sources is included.
"The Elimination of Unsafe Guardrails, a Progress Report," Elliott O. Stephenson, Building Standards, March-April 1993
"Are Functional Handrails Within Our Grasp" Jake Pauls, Building Standards, January-February 1991
Access Ramp building codes:
Access Ramp Standards:
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standards)
American Plywood Association, APA, "Portland Manufacturing Company, No. 1, a series of monographs on the history of plywood manufacturing",Plywood Pioneers Association, 31 March, 1967, www.apawood.org
ASHRAE resource on dew point and wall condensation - see the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, available in many libraries. The following three ASHRAE Handbooks are also available at the InspectAPedia bookstore in the third page of our Insulate-Ventilate section:
2005 ASHRAE Handbook : Fundamentals: Inch-Pound Edition (2005 ASHRAE HANDBOOK : Fundamentals : I-P Edition) (Hardcover), Thomas H. Kuehn (Contributor), R. J. Couvillion (Contributor), John W. Coleman (Contributor), Narasipur Suryanarayana (Contributor), Zahid Ayub (Contributor), Robert Parsons (Author), ISBN-10: 1931862702 or ISBN-13: 978-1931862707
2004 ASHRAE Handbook : Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning: Systems and Equipment : Inch-Pound Edition (2004 ASHRAE Handbook : HVAC Systems and Equipment : I-P Edition) (Hardcover)
by American Society of Heating, ISBN-10: 1931862478 or ISBN-13: 978-1931862479
"2004 ASHRAE Handbook - HVAC Systems and Equipment The 2004 ASHRAE HandbookHVAC Systems and Equipment discusses various common systems and the equipment (components or assemblies) that comprise them, and describes features and differences. This information helps system designers and operators in selecting and using equipment. Major sections include Air-Conditioning and Heating Systems (chapters on system analysis and selection, air distribution, in-room terminal systems, centralized and decentralized systems, heat pumps, panel heating and cooling, cogeneration and engine-driven systems, heat recovery, steam and hydronic systems, district systems, small forced-air systems, infrared radiant heating, and water heating); Air-Handling Equipment (chapters on duct construction, air distribution, fans, coils, evaporative air-coolers, humidifiers, mechanical and desiccant dehumidification, air cleaners, industrial gas cleaning and air pollution control); Heating Equipment (chapters on automatic fuel-burning equipment, boilers, furnaces, in-space heaters, chimneys and flue vent systems, unit heaters, makeup air units, radiators, and solar equipment); General Components (chapters on compressors, condensers, cooling towers, liquid coolers, liquid-chilling systems, centrifugal pumps, motors and drives, pipes and fittings, valves, heat exchangers, and energy recovery equipment); and Unitary Equipment (chapters on air conditioners and heat pumps, room air conditioners and packaged terminal equipment, and a new chapter on mechanical dehumidifiers and heat pipes)."
1996 Ashrae Handbook Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Systems and Equipment: Inch-Pound Edition (Hardcover), ISBN-10: 1883413346 or ISBN-13: 978-1883413347 ,
"The 1996 HVAC Systems and Equipment Handbook is the result of ASHRAE's continuing effort to update, expand and reorganize the Handbook Series. Over a third of the book has been revised and augmented with new chapters on hydronic heating and cooling systems design; fans; unit ventilator; unit heaters; and makeup air units. Extensive changes have been added to chapters on panel heating and cooling; cogeneration systems and engine and turbine drives; applied heat pump and heat recovery systems; humidifiers; desiccant dehumidification and pressure drying equipment, air-heating coils; chimney, gas vent, fireplace systems; cooling towers; centrifugal pumps; and air-to-air energy recovery. Separate I-P and SI editions."
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods worked
Energy Savers: Whole House Systems Approach to Energy Efficient Home Design [copy on file as /interiors/Whole_House_Energy_Efficiency_DOE.pdf ] - U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Supply Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Supply_Vent.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11880?print
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Exhaust Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Exhaust.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11870
"Energy Savers: Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Natural Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Natural_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Energy_Recovery_Venting.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11900
"Energy Savers: Detecting Air Leaks [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Detect_Air_Leaks.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Air Sealing [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Air_Sealing_1.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
Gypsum Construction Guide, National Gypsum Corporation
Construction Handbook [purchase at Amazon.com] H17, Technical
Folder SA920 and PM2, PM3 and PM4, United States Gypsum Company, 125 South Franklin ST., PO Box 806278, Chicago, IL 60680-4124,
Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
Ice Dam Leaks in building attics and roof cavities, how to inspect for evidence of leaks, identify causes, and
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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