by: Bob Williams
A couple of years ago we remodeled our kitchen. I'd like to see you just as happy with your kitchen as we are with ours. So here are ten tips on what to look out for, so you don't make any mistakes when you're looking for kitchen cabinets.
1. First, know your budget. You can't do further research until you know how much money you want to spend. Cabinets take up 40% to 50% of your total kitchen costs, and you should budget for them accordingly.
2. Measure your space. It is impossible to get a realistic estimate without having some idea of you needs. Make the measurements as accurate as you can but don't worry too much; these measurements are for research purposes only.
3. There are three types of cabinets on the market: Stock, Semi-Custom and Custom. When you buy stock cabinets, you are buying something "off the shelf", as they are pre-assembled in the factory. They are the cheapest cabinets available. Unfortunately, stock cabinets come in a limited range of sizes and styles and have few options on finishes and accessories. Semi-custom is the next step up. They are still factory-made but you have many more choices in terms of storage, design, and style. Custom cabinetry is built either in a workshop or on-site and the sky's the limit both in options and in price. Don't be intimidated by this, however. Surprisingly the price difference between semi-custom and custom is often minimal and, particularly in hard-to-plan kitchens, may be worth the money.
4. Whatever kind of cabinet you choose check out the reputation of the manufacturer. Find out if they have a good track record. Look into their warranties. How much coverage do they offer and for how long a period?
For example, KraftMaid offers a limited lifetime warranty to the original purchaser which guarantees that under normal residential usage their cabinets will remain free of defects in material and workmanship for the lifetime of the product. Unfinished cabinetry is not covered under their warranty.
In contrast, Yorktowne offers a lifetime limited warranty on only some of their cabinet collections and a five year limited warranty on others.
Among other things, these warranties do not cover:
Correction of improper installation or repair of damage caused by improper installation.
Replacement or repair of parts when cabinetry is used in other than a residential home.
Improper storage situations where loading or use exceeds the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association standards.
Damages from fire, flood, or acts of God.
5. Create a written description of your ideal kitchen. This will help you to make a budget and pick a manufacturer. If you're unsure of what is available look around for ideas. An afternoon at the library browsing back copies of Woman's Day can be surprisingly helpful. Many popular magazines publish yearly specialty issues. In addition, there are several publications dedicated exclusively to kitchen and bath design.
Online you will find inspiring designs at http://www.wellborn.com/design/kitchens.asp and www.Kitchens.com. For a free step by step design guide take a look at www.Modularkitchencabinets.com/. For a quick overview of the various standalone cabinets and organizers see www.Stacksandstacks.com/html/category13_0.htm.
6. It is a good idea to take an afternoon off to wander through showrooms. Most showrooms have fully set up kitchens so you can get a feel for their products.
7. Don't worry if, after all the magazines and showrooms, you're still not sure what you want. Take a day or two to let your research sink in. Your kitchen will begin to emerge in your mind's eye.
You can also call friends and family and ask if they recently put in a kitchen. Ask them to tell you all about it. If you come up with anything I didn't tell you, let me know and I'll put it in another column.
8. Your next step is to find an interior designer. While you can design your own kitchen, unless you're a professional, it's not a good idea. A lot goes into a kitchen design; any mistakes you make will stay with you for a long time. Why not get help from someone who has made it their job to design the best kitchen for you? You can find certified designers in your area via the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Certification means the designer has completed design courses including certified training programs in room layout, storage planning, cabinet installation, plumbing, and lighting. When you hire a designer, you can expect to pay a retainer (from $300). A typical hourly fee is $50 to $75. Up to ten hours would be enough time for a designer to spdnd doing research and working on drawings for your approval. In picking an interior designer, you want to find someone with whom you're comfortable. In addition ask yourself: Does he or she seem knowledgeable? Are they genuinely interested and enthusiastic about your kitchen?
Tell your designer about your lifestyle and your needs. Among the things he or she will want to know are your family's life style and habits. Do you entertain and how often? Do you want to eat in the kitchen? It even makes a difference if you are right- or left-handed.
Find someone with the imagination and the ability to stay in budget. You don't need someone making you feel as if you ought to spend more. Your designer should visit your home in order to assess your needs.
9. Although you will have an interior designer to help you, it is important to know your materials. Cupboards can be natural woods in a variety of paints or stains. For durability, you can't beat laminate or baked-on varnish. Know that in homes with children, polyester and stainless steel finishes may not work well as they scratch easily and tend to show fingerprints.
10. There is a large variety of hardware to choose from too. There are Lazy Susans, racks, hinges, pulls and handles. There are different types of drawers and trolleys designed for ease of access that you might want to consider. Your designer should have plenty of space saving and storage ideas which will make your kitchen much more efficient. Just remember, each gadget adds to your total cost so watch that budget!
These are the basics of kitchen cabinetry. Now that I'm done writing this I'll go into my kitchen and get myself a cup of coffee and I'll be happy knowing that your kitchen, when it's built, will be just as good as mine.
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