The overall quality of kitchen cabinets is closely linked to their construction, meaning how they’re put together and the materials they’re made from. You’ll be wise to pay close attention to these key features, particularly if you expect to live with them for a long time. Parts of your cabinets, particularly the drawers, take a lot of punishment so paying a bit extra for some added durability is a wise investment.

Key points to be aware of include the following:

Materials

They include particle board, MDF (medium density fiberboard), plywood, solid wood, metal and laminate/melamine (the laminate or melamine is laid over the particle board or similar substrate).

Construction and Design

Cabinets are constructed in one of two different design styles: framed or frameless. Framed cabinets employ a wood frame that outlines the front of the cabinet box. Frameless units don’t have this feature. Also, the joinery and techniques used to assemble and support them. Structural braces are made from plastic, wood or metal. Methods of joinery include hot-glue, staples and nails, or, more intricate woodworking techniques like dovetails and dadoes.

Hardware

Door/Drawer hardware varies in quality and durability.

Drawer slides

  • Quality: vary in level of quality, some use ball bearings whereas others use nylon wheels/rollers,
  • Mounting; physical location on the drawer (sidemount or on the bottom) which affects available drawer space. Shelf mounting brackets can be either plastic or metal.
  • Extension: Some hardware allows you to open the drawer all the way others have restrictions.
  • Soft close; Drawer hardware is available with soft-close, which stops the drawer from slamming shut, a worthwhile upgrade in the kitchen to avoid drawers slamming

Hinges

Exposed and concealed:

  • Exposed hinges are the kind of cabinet hinge you see (or partially see) when the cabinet door is closed. Some have a self-closing feature but many do not. If you want a self-closing hinge you’ll need to specify that when you shop for hinges. Exposed hinges provide the maximum amount of cabinet door opening possible, up to 270 degrees. Limited adjustability and need to be drilled accurately.
  • Concealed (European) hinges cannot be seen when the cabinet door is closed. They’re also known as “hidden” hinges. These hinges are 2-way or 3-way adjustable (side-to-side, height, depth). This feature is useful for getting cabinet doors properly aligned with each other. Some Euro style hinges have a built-in self-closing feature. These hinges will pull the door closed when it is close to being shut and will hold it closed. Euro hinges allow for easy removal of the cabinet doors without having to remove the hinges from the cabinet. On some hinges this is achieved by use of a simple clip-on feature. European style hinges offer a range of door opening angles. Examples include 95, 100, 110 and 120-degree opening angles. Larger opening capabilities such as 170-degrees are available but wide-opening Euro-style hinges are often bigger and bulkier than hinges with smaller opening angles.

No Decorative Style

Concealed hinges, as their name implies, are hidden from view and have no real decorative appeal.

  • Hinges are manufactured to accommodate different variations in cabinet construction (framed/frameless, door overlay, etc.).
  • Some doors have a self-closing or “hands-free” element that will close the door in a controlled manner after you initiate the closing action.

Overhead Cabinets Lift Systems

Lift systems are available for overhead cabinets that open the door like an overhead garage door. Lift systems are available with easy-touch opening action as well as stay-in-place positioning. The mechanism can be adjusted to lift to the height you open it to. It stays there while you’re getting access to contents of the cabinet and the door can still be reached when it’s time to close it, rather than out of reach at a fully opened position.