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Frameless Cabinets Versus Face Frame

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (19)
Here at The Cabinet Guy, LLC our standard cabinet construction is what is known as frameless cabinetry. It is also referred to as "full access," "European cabinetry" (even though it originated in the US), and "32 millimeter cabinetry." The most common cabinetry in the US is what is known as "face frame cabinetry." 

The reason we offer frameless cabinetry is I am convinced that it is a far better value for the money. Here's why:
  • It is just as strong as face frame cabinetry
  • It is simpler to build 
  • It provides full access to the storage space inside the cabinet
  • The drawers are 1-1/2" wider than in face frame cabinets (example: on a 15" wide cabinet the drawer in the face frame cabinet is 11-5/8" wide whereas in 13-1/8")
  • Drawers are also taller on frameless cabinetry because there are no horizontal rails in frameless cabinetry. Thus, for example, we can put 5- 4" high drawers in a base cabinet whereas in a face frame cabinet you only get 4 (the rails waste 6" in height) or we provide deeper drawers on 2, 3 and 4 drawer cabinets
  • There is no need for the big center post (typically 3" wide) between doors on a double door cabinet
  • Full overlay doors, the most requested style, are standard on frameless cabinets (the face frame manufacturers charge extra for this look).
  • The frame around the cabinet on a face frame cabinet reduces your accessible storage space by about 2"
  • Frameless cabinetry is greener because it reduces the amount of trees harvested for cabinet construction. A typical face frame kitchen requires about 30 board feet of wood, equivalent to about 1/3 of a tree. With frameless cabinetry you don't need this frame and thus reduce your carbon footprint and impact on our forests.

So why do face frame manufacturers continue to use this outdated type of construction? Because that's the way they have always done it and they have a lot of money tied up in equipment and don't want to make the change. They are making the same mistakes as the US auto and appliance industries were back in the 1980's when they refused to change to newer and better technologies. 

If you are looking for new cabinetry I encourage you to check out frameless construction. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the value and efficiency. For more info on frameless cabinets clickhere 

Lazy Susan Corners

Posted on April 23, 2013 at 12:46 PM Comments comments (16)
L-shaped corners of kitchens have always presented a design challenge for the designers and cabinet makers have come up with many designs, some innovative and practical and others not-so-good. Below I show the most common design answers to this problem and I have ranked them by practicality and function based on my experience and customer input. 

Diagonal #1 DIAGONAL LAZY SUSAN - My all time favorite! This type provides the maximum in storage space and functionality. Unlike the L shaped ("Pac-Man") lazy susan (see #2 & 3 below) the shelves in this cabinet go almost all the way back to the wall and are typically 30" to 32" in diameter and make the best use of the corner. Compared to the Pac-Man type which are 24" in diameter you get a full circle  and increase the storage space by over 57% per shelf! And this cabinet has the same 36" x 36" footprint as the Pac-Man type so you gain much needed storage space without using anymore square footage.
The one to the left is the type we build. Rather than using the pole mounted plastic shelves which are flimsy (shown below), we make a 3/4" thick round shelf attached to a 12" steel ball bearing carousel rated to hold over 500#. This is then attached to a solid 3/4" shelf. 
Another advantage is that rather than the square corner countertop you get an additional 18" of usable counter space.
Also, unlike the Pac-Man type the door is easy to open.
Diagonal lazy susan - plasticWe almost always do this cabinet in our kitchens with corners and our clients love them. Many people have said that the shelves are so big it takes forever to get back to the beginning once you start it turning!

Door attached lazy susan#2 L-SHAPED PAC-MAN LAZY SUSAN WITH L-SHAPED DOOR - This is the most common cabinet sold in the cabinet industry and many people are familiar with the benefits and drawbacks. While this is better than no cabinet at all it pales in comparison to the diagonal type above. The biggest problem with these is 1) you loose over 50% of the storage capacity because the 24" diameter leaves a 12" dead space around the back of the cabinet, 2)they are wobbly, 3) seldom stay correctly aligned, 4) are a pain to adjust and 5) people get their fingers jammed in them (ouch!). 

Bi-fold door lazy susan#3 L-SHAPED PAC-MAN LAZY SUSAN WITH BI-FOLD DOOR - I see these a lot more nowadays and they are an attempt to answer the problems of #2. However, every solution carries the seeds of its own problems and this one is no exception. While the access seems easier my clients tell me the bi-fold door is a pain-in-the-neck to open and often gets broken (we have repaired many of these - made by other companies - at our shop through the years). . Further, since the door does not support the shelves like it does in #2 the shelves are weaker. While this one does have larger diameter shelves, typically 28", they still don't match up with the space you gain in #1.

#4 HALF-MOON SHAPED BLIND CORNER - While this is better than a standard "blind corner" cabinet (see #6) since the storage comes out to you, I would still recommend a lazy susan cabinet unless there is insufficient wall space for it. The one pictured here could have had a lazy susan but perhaps the client wanted the bigger cabinet to the right and chose this over the lazy susan. 
Half-moon corner

Drawer corner cabinet#5 DRAWER CORNER - I certainly give the designer of this an A for innovation however, I can see very few places where this would be preferred over #1 except perhaps a kitchen with no other place for drawers. It provides about 6-1/2 square feet of storage space similar to #2 & 3. While this packs a lot of WOW factor when people see them in the showroom the honeymoon is soon over when they start dealing with the drawers getting out of alignment and that weird V-shape at the front where stuff loves to hide. And insult is added to injury when they think about the fact that this cabinet costs $700-$1,000 more than any of the lazy susan cabinets. "I could have had a V-8!"

Blind corner cabinet#6 BLIND CORNER CABINET - Most people have seen and/or had these and remember how much stuff disappears in there (someone said that when they tore theirs out they found all their missing left socks!). These are great if you have a head lamp on and can twist like a pretzel to get inside them. Outside of that, I guess they beat having no cabinet at all. 

These are the primary ideas I have seen and used through the years. I'm sure there are others I have not seen (or left out because they are similar to these). If you have a seen other unique answers please let me know. Oh, and if anybody knows how "lazy susans" got their name let me know. I have researched this in vain but would love to know. As always, if you have a question do not hesitate to email me. 

Cabinet Wood Hardness & Durability

Posted on February 24, 2013 at 1:08 PM Comments comments (51)
 When a client is choosing the wood for their cabinetry one of the questions I am often asked is “How hard is the wood?” What they want to know is how well it will hold up under daily use. I’ll try to keep it simple and hopefully the following proves helpful.   
Hardwood Versus Softwood 
 First, clients often say they want hardwood cabinets, not softwood. Unfortunately this can be misleading. The terms “hardwood” and “softwood” have nothing to do with the hardness or softness of the wood. Hardwood, by definition, simply means a deciduous tree, that is, a tree that sheds its leaves every year whereas Softwood is a coniferous or evergreen tree – one that does not shed its leaves. Based on this balsa wood is a hardwood although it is one of the softest woods available. Cork is also a hardwood. White pine, hemlock and Douglas Fir are all softwoods and are softer than most hardwoods but yellow pine is harder than silver maple (also called soft maple). An old lumberjack I knew years ago said that he thought the two terms had to do with the hardness of the bark but I’ve never been able to verify this.   
Wood Hardness 
 There is a hardness scale called the Janka Hardwood Scale which tests the impact resistance of woods and is used primarily by flooring companies to demonstrate the durability of their flooring. They run the test by forcing a metal ball into the surface of a board with a machine to see how much force it takes to penetrate halfway into a board. 

To give you a sense of the scale: Brazilian walnut is one of the hardest available and has a Janka score of 3684. Red oak, which is the most common cabinet wood, has a Janka rating of 1290. At the low end of common cabinet woods, Eastern white pine is rated at 380 (for comparison, balsa wood is 100).   

 While the Janka scale is useful in flooring it is not as useful for cabinets. This is because flooring is subject to tremendous stress from people walking on it. Flooring must take a lot of abuse due to the weight and velocity of people walking on it. My dad used to work in an office in New York City in the 1960’s and at that time spike heels became very popular for the women working there. They had oak hardwood floors and soon discovered that spike heels do a lot of damage to wood floors. A 125 pound woman wearing ¼” spike heels exerts 2000 pounds per square inch of force and that is just standing there. Add velocity and the force exerted can reach 5000 pounds of force! As a result the company stopped allowing the employees to wear spike heels.   

 But we don’t walk on cabinets and they are seldom subject to impact with hard objects (unless you have children who like to throw things). (As an aside, here at The Cabinet Guy LLC we repair busted cabinet doors and after the Broncos lost to the Ravens in the AFC Championship game this year we had several clients bring us doors that had been kicked in from frustrated fans).   

 The most common wearing of cabinet doors and drawer fronts that I see comes from fingernails and knives, silverware and utensils. The scars from fingernails are usually around the door handle or, if you don’t have door handles, at the place where you grab the door to open it. The damage from metal utensils is usually along the top of the drawer fronts where you keep these items. No matter how hard the wood, eventually all this scraping will wear off the finish and scar the wood. The only sure way to avoid it is to be careful (especially if you have long fingernails).    
Practical Advice Regarding Wood Durability for Cabinets 
 Rather than get into the Janka hardness scale I simplify this by grouping the most common cabinet woods into three categories: Very hard, medium hard and soft as it applies to the fingernail and metal utensil test.  

  • Very Hard: Birch, hickory, pecan, hard (sugar) maple (the species used for butcher blocks), white and red oak, ash, lyptus and beech
  • Medium Hard: Yellow (Southern) pine, carbonized bamboo, American walnut, American cherry, soft (silver) maple, wormy maple and African (ribbon-grain) mahogany 
  • Soft: Cypress, alder, hemlock, white pine, basswood and poplar (commonly used for paint-grade cabinets but medium density fiberboard - MDF - is a much better choice since it is much harder, about 1200 on the Janka scale -similar to oak - versus 540 for poplar)     

 I have had people tell me they want knotty alder instead of pine because pine is too soft. The truth is that while alder has a Janka rating of 590 and Eastern white pine is 380, practically speaking, there is not much difference in the durability of the two woods. (If you want the look of alder but much harder consider knotty beech which has a Janka rating of 1300 versus 590 for alder.)  
Veneered Panels 
The above scale applies to solid wood parts. When a veneered panel is used its durability is determined by the density of the core material. The densest core material commonly used is medium density fiberboard (MDF) which has a rating of 50 pounds per square inch (PSI) meaning it takes 50 pounds of pressure to dent it, the equivalent of a strong person swinging a hammer hard from two feet away. In comparison, cabinet-grade particle board is around 37 PSI and standard plywoods are around 25 PSI. Thus, MDF core veneer panels will hold up better than plywoods.

Effect of the Varnish on Wood Durability 
 Another factor that affects the wear on the cabinets is the thickness and hardness of the finish coats. The heavier and denser the coats the more durable they are. At The Cabinet Guy we use a water-borne Greenguard certified finish called Aqualente made by ML Campbell and build a 5-6 mil layer of varnish through successive coats (a mil is 1/1000 of an inch – a strand of hair is 2 mils). In the world of varnish 5-6 mils is considered a heavy coat sufficient to stand up to years of wear and tear. Aqualente  has a very high solids content (42%), almost double a standard industry lacquer (25%), which makes it very durable. (Click here to see the performance and chemical resistance characteristics of Aqualente).     

 Many factories apply less than 5-6 mils, the average is 3 mils. Also, many boast that they oven cure the finish (we don’t) but don’t be fooled by this. It does not make the finish any harder, it only speeds up the drying so they can ship the cabinets sooner and bill the buyer faster.   

The Bottom Line 
 While the hardness of the wood is a factor in your cabinet choice I recommend to my clients that they focus more on which wood they like the best aesthetically. You could be very disappointed in how your kitchen feels if you don’t love the look and chose the wood solely based on its durability.   

 One more thing, for many years white pine furniture was “distressed” at the factory meaning they actually beat up the wood prior to finishing it. They did this because the pine could damage easily during manufacturing and intentionally distressing it eliminated complaints from customers. It gives the cabinets a warm “old-world” look that many clients find very appealing (not to mention practical since if they ding a cabinet it doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb!). This distressing is commonly available on all hardwoods nowadays and we often do it at The Cabinet Guy for our clients.  

For those of you who want to know more the website Woodgears has a great layman's review of the impact resistance of many woods and other materials. Click here to see the article.  And as always, if I can help you in any way do not hesitate to email me at [email protected]. 

Range Hoods - Do I Need One? Which hood works best?

Posted on February 17, 2013 at 3:54 PM Comments comments (48)
I often have clients who ask what kind of range hood should they get for their home. Here's some general guidelines regarding residential kitchens (completely different rules apply to commercial kitchens and I do not address them here (there - now my lawyers are happy). 

What does a metal range hood do for me?
1) They provide a metal fire shield between the stove and the cabinetry 
2) They provide a light directly over the cooking surface
3) If vented properly and are of sufficient power they can readily collect cooking grease from the air and expel odors from the house thus making your house smell better and keeping the grease from landing on the cabinets, floor, and counters
4) They can remove excess heat from the kitchen
5) If done well can add stunning visual impact to your kitchen

I once read a study that said the average consumer produces 8 to 12 pounds (yes, I said pounds) of grease that is vaporized at the stove. This grease, if not collected with a ventilator, floats up and out through the house. It lands on your cabinets (that's what that crud is on the doors), lays on the countertop, and worst of all, falls to the floor where it is tracked throughout your home (carpets included). Good argument for a good hood.

Do building codes require that I have a range hood? 
Mostly no. A range hood is not generally required above a stove or cooktop by most residential codes that I am aware of. However, you should check your local codes. Also, many of the professional style residential gas stoves (and others) do require ventilation due to the intense amount of heat. Check with the manufacturer for more details.

How close to the cooking surface should the hood be? 
The primary concern of the building code is fire hazards since a large portion of kitchen fires start at the stove and migrate to the cabinets above them. This is why codes require that any flammable material must be at least 30" above a cooking surface. With electric cooktops (i.e. ones that don't have an actual flame) any combustible material to the side of the cooktop must be in line with the side of the cooktop. As an example, a 30" wide cooktop can have a 30" wide cabinet 30" above it (see picture). 
Electric cooktop fire clearances
Gas cooktop fire clearancesFor gas cooking surfaces the 30" clearance noted above applies in most cases. The side clearances do change, though: generally any flammable material must be at least 3" to the side of the cooktop and 18" above it. So, if you have a 30" gas cooktop you need a 36" wide space above it. Again, this may vary and you should check your local codes and the appliance manual. 

What should I consider when choosing a hood?
The primary question is what you want your hood to do. If you cook a lot and want to collect the air-borne grease and remove cooking odors then you should get a hood that vents externally (to the outside). If you don't cook a lot and removing odor is not a big deal but you want fire safety then a hood shell with a light is sufficient (in most cases). 

What's the best type of hood?
The best type is one that is ventilated to the outdoors and is an updraft vent. "Updraft" means the hood is above the cooktop and vents upward as opposed to the downdraft type (typical in Jenn-Air appliances). These must vent to the outdoors (preferably not onto a deck or other area where people gather!). DO NOT EVER vent into an attic. That's just a fire waiting to happen. 
Here's some general guidelines:
> Buy the best hood your budget will allow. A good quality hood can be a delight to have. A cheap one is generally a waste of money.
> Get the highest CFM rating you can afford - the more CFM the better (see next question).
> Good lighting (more than just 1- 40 watt bulb
> Variable speed so you can set the fan to run at a speed consistent with what you are cooking
> Squirrel cage blowers (as opposed to paddle fans) which give higher CFM and are quieter
> The quieter the better
> Ease of cleaning
> An exterior fan - this unit has the fan at the end of the ducting (i.e. not in the hood itself) and is the quietest and most powerful (commercial units are designed this way) but they are generally the most expensive choice. 

What is a "CFM" and why do I care about it?
CFM stands for "cubic feet per minute" and it is a measure of how many cubic feet of air the fan can move in a minute. The minimum CFM for a cooktop is 100 CFM per lineal foot of cooking surface (side-to-side). For example, if you have a 30" cooktop (2.5 feet) then need a 250 CFM cooktop (2.5' X 100 = 250 CFM). This, however, is only the minimum and if you want the hood to work well I recommend you get at least 150 CFM per lineal foot or more.

JennAir downdraft ventilatorWhat about downdraft ventilators?
These are often referred to as Jenn-Air's but there are many companies that make downdraft ventilators. While not ineffective these are often under-powered and too noisy so most people buy them and seldom, if ever, use them. Remember, heat rises, and it takes a lot of CFM to counteract the upward velocity of heat, steam and grease. Whenever feasible go with an updraft ventilator but if down draft is your only option then consider the "pop-up" type that mount at the back of the cooking surface and raise up 8" or so. At least these are above the cooking surface and make the air move sideways. My clients through the years have consistently disliked (some hated) their downdraft ventilators but many find the pop-ups work fine for them. 

Popup ventilator
What about re-circulating range hoods?
Simply put, a total waste of time if you want to remove odors from the house. The charcoal filter generally clogs with grease within 30 days of installation and stops filtering odors (which it doesn't do well with anyway). The only good things that re-circulation hoods do is provide the metal fire shield, collect some grease and give you a light on the stove. Outside of that you're just wasting electricity when you turn it on. 

Are over-the-stove microwave hoods good?
The rules listed above apply to these also. If you are using an over-the-stove microwave hood vent it outside. The recirculating type is useless (see question above). The primary problem with microwave hoods is that they don't extend out far enough from the wall to capture the bulk of the cooking output. Hoods are recommended to be 20" deep (i.e. the distance from the back wall to the front) and most of these units are only 15" deep. 
Over-the-stove microwave
When should I use my hood?
Turn the hood on when you first start cooking using the lowest setting and then adjust it as the output increases.  This creates an airflow that will carry away 80-90% of the odor, grease and heat. Don't wait until the food is burning! Remember, once the air gets past the hood the ventilator will not suck it back down. 

For a more detailed discussion of hood requirements and recommendations based on building codes click here

If you have any questions or I can be of help in any way do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected],net

Tricks On Touching Up Moldings for Cabinet Installers and the Do-It-Yourselfer

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 7:03 AM Comments comments (9)
Installing moldings is challenging to say the least and there is nothing worse than marring the finish on moldings. The problem is once you have shot a nail into the molding you have a dent that often looks bad even when you try to touch it up. Here's some tricks I have developed through the years that have given much better results.
First, the best way to touch up moldings is to install them in such a way that they don't need to be touched up
which means using as few face nails as possible and the smallest size to fit the job. Here's the system we use at The Cabinet Guy, LLC:
1) We use 23 gauge pin nailers instead of 18 or 16 gauge. For $100 you can get ones that shoot 1/2" to 1-1/4" pins or for $300 there is one that shoots up to 2" (Grex brand). The pins are thinner than a needle and leave very tiny holes that  are almost invisible.
2) We use quick set adhesives on the back of the molding (Loctite Power Grab works great) which set up almost immediately and dry clear. You can wipe off any excess with a damp rag. This eliminates 70% of the fasteners and makes up for the weakness of the shorter pin nails on large moldings
3) We always wipe on the stain or paint on the unfinished edges of our mitre cuts and joints. This way when you put them together if a little of the unfinished profile is sticking out it is almost impossible to see. On dark finishes with black or brown in them a Sharpie marker also works great for this.
4) We use the industrial grades of "super glue" or "krazy glue" to assemble miters. Buy either Titebond or Loctite professional brands. These come in bottles in various viscosities (we use medium most often). Do NOT buy the little squeeze tubes - they barely work on paper!. Used with an accelerator the joint takes 10 seconds to set up and in many cases does not require any nailing on the corners. Be sure and buy a bottle of the debonder - this stuff was originally made for skin grafting and you can glue your fingers together (or to your nose!) in an instant! And, be sure to read the warnings on the bottle before you use it. The fumes can be real nasty on your eyes and nose!
5) We try to design it so that our moldings can be blind nailed (obviously this is not available in all situations).
By doing the above we have very little touch up to do but when we do have nail holes to fill with colored putty we use the following tricks:
1) Use putty sticks - the ones like crayons - not the soft putty in the jars (it never dries out and always looks dull).
2) Heat the putty with a cigarette lighter or alcohol lamp before applying. It goes on much faster and you only rub on half as much.
3) To get the right color you can melt 2 or more colors together. If after doing this you still need a little different shade raid a kid's crayon box. Chances are the have the perfect color you need!
4) Wipe mineral spirits (paint thinner) over the hole before you rub the putty on. This keeps it from adhering around the hole and out of the pores (on porous grained woods) and the putty rubs off in 1/3 the time.
5) Use Tibet Almond Sticks on small holes and minor scratches and discoloration. They are amazing at making these disappear (ancient technology that still works today!).
If you have any questions feel free to post. Thanks!

Kitchen Remodeling Costs and Budgeting

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 12:15 PM Comments comments (47)
I often get asked the question, "What does the average kitchen remodel cost?" Trying to answer that is like trying to answer, "What does the average car cost?" or "Why is the sky blue?" There are many factors that enter into that question. A good place to get an overview of kitchen remodeling costs (along with many other types of projects) is put out by Remodeling Magazine each year. You can see this by clicking here

The total cost can vary tremendously depending on what your goals are. A good overview for budgeting is provided by HGTV - see that by clicking here

In considering the question of setting a realistic budget and cost versus return on your investment Realtors have suggested the following percentages in setting an initial budget. These numbers are based on the idea of getting a return on your investment if you sold the house in 5 years. Multiply the percentage against the current appraised sales value of your house.

> "Spruce it up" kitchen remodel: 5-7% (new appliance, countertops, flooring, hardware, refurbish existing cabinets)
> Minimal Update: 8-12% (new appliances, countertops, mid-priced cabinets, flooring, no changes to layout or structure)
> Full scale update: 13-18% (new appliances, custom cabinets, flooring, change layout, move walls, etc.)
Of course, the financial return is only one of the considerations. Your happiness in living with your environment is very important also. 

As to the custom built cabinetry and services that The Cabinet Guy, LLC offers. Well, we have built small sets of kitchen cabinets for as little as $2,500 and many larger projects that were over $50,000 (just for the cabinets!). The bottom line is that you can spend as little or as much as you want. However, our average prices for our part of the work (cabinets and installation) are as follows (please note these can vary widely both up and down depending on your specific needs and desires and the size of the project):

> CABINET REFURBISHING: $2,500 - $6,000 - this is where we restore your existing cabinetry to look almost new again. We can tint or glaze the cabinets to give you a new look. We also repair damage and replace worn out hardware (drawer glides, handles, etc.) and often add accessories like roll out shelves and waste baskets and so on. This is an outstanding value if your cabinets are in good shape and you just want them to look new again. We have done this procedure on kitchens up to 25 years old.

> CABINET REFACING: $5,000-$15,000 - in this case we build brand new doors and drawer fronts and overlay the existing cabinet frames and end panels with matching wood veneers. This is a great value if you are happy with the layout of the cabinets but want an entirely new look (we can do any wood and finish in this case). Some clients opt to replace the drawer glides on the existing drawers with heavier duty full extension glides. Others choose to replace the entire drawer boxes with new dovetail wood drawers and the undermount soft close full extension glides (often referred to as "Blumotion"). Typically (and surprisingly to many) refacing usually saves only about 20% of the cost of new cabinets (don't fall for the spiffy, high-pressure salesperson who tells you that you are saving 50% if you'll cut them a check right now!). This is because the largest cost of cabinetry is the doors and fronts. The cabinet boxes themselves are not a major part of a cabinet's cost. 

> NEW CUSTOM OR 'SEMI-CUSTOM' CABINETS: $6,000-$35,000 - here is where we provide brand new cabinets with a new, improved layout. While this is the most expensive option many times the existing cabinets are worn out or the layout simply stinks and the only way to improve it is to start over. The fully custom cabinets we build are not inexpensive but our customers tell us that our pricing is very competitive with the big-box stores "semi-custom" lines and they find that our tremendous flexibility in style, woods, finishes and sizes gives them exactly what they want whereas they would have had to make many compromises with the limited choices in the big-box stores. We also offer two semi-custom lines - Showplace and DeWils

If you have a project in mind (kitchens or any room in your house) do not hesitate to contact us even if you think we will be too expensive. Many times we have been able to "value-engineer" the product to fit a price you are comfortable with. And if we give you a price that is too high and you choose to go elsewhere we won't be offended. In many cases through the years we have freely given clients better ideas than they had and even though they didn't buy from us they thank us for helping them get a better product from another place and avoid problems that the other company didn't anticipate. Simply put, we are here to serve and by helping enough people get what they want helps assure that we get enough business to make us perfectly happy - a win-win situation indeed!

Having Trouble Deciding on Your Cabinet Style, Wood & Color?

Posted on October 1, 2012 at 10:13 AM Comments comments (7)
Are you having trouble deciding which door style, wood and color to use in your kitchen or other project? Do the choices seem overwhelming? Well, don't feel bad, many people find this very difficult. My clients often stand looking at our door samples and stain choices with a perplexed and lost look on their face. I have found the following helps a lot though.

The primary thing to remember is that aesthetics - how something looks - is interpreted by our minds as  feelings. Think about it, when you look at something - a picture on the wall, one of your children or a friend, a sunset, or a grizzly war video - your mind doesn't read what it looks like, rather, it reads it as a feeling. Few of us looks at something and analyzes it for color, grain, technique or style. We interpret how it makes us feel. 

When you are browsing an interior design magazine you may suddenly come upon a photo and you say, "I love that!" Ask yourself why you love it and chances are your subconscious mind will say, "It makes me feel good."

I realized this years ago when a lady came into our showroom 5 days in a row and just wandered around looking at all the displays. When asked how I could help her she said "I am just trying to figure out how I want my kitchen to look - I'll know it when I see it." Our efforts to help her were unsuccessful until the fifth day when I asked her (by instinct not design - I wasn't that experienced yet) "How would you like to feelwhen you are in your kitchen?"
She stopped, thought for a minute and replied, "I want to feel the way I felt when I was a little girl in my grandma's kitchen."
I then asked, "Are there any displays that do that for you?"
She immediately pointed to a white traditional kitchen and said, "That one!"
I then asked her, "What are the features of that display that make you feel that way?"
She immediately said, "The color and the door style...but something's missing."
By instinct I asked, "Was her kitchen big?"
She said, "Enormous."
"So," I replied, "If we can provide that door style and color and make your kitchen feel big would that you make you happy?" "Ecstatic!" she replied.
We were able to provide that for her and she loved her kitchen. She had a small, dark kitchen but we raised the ceiling, enlarged the kitchen window and those elements along with the white tinted lacquer to make it feel much bigger.

Too often people spend time looking at door styles, woods, stones, stains and so on through a magnifying glass when trying to determine what they will use in their kitchen. But in the daily course of living we don't look at things (or life for that matter) with a magnifying glass. Rather, we look at it in sweeping glances and acknowledge it as to how it makes us feel.

I recommend to my clients that instead of using a magnifying glass and staring at details, they should look at things in a broad perspective and ask, "Do I like how this feels?", not "Do I like how this looks?" It will simplify your decision making. And the easiest way to do this is to look at photos of kitchens and other rooms in brochures, showrooms and websites until you find one that makes you say "Wow! I really like the feeling that gives me." Once you've done that then get out the magnifying glass and determine the elements that make you feel good.

This is why we post a lot of pictures. But if you don't see something here check out or Houzz they have lots more.

As always, if we can help you in any way do not hesitate to contact us.

Bevel Edge Laminate Countertops Save Money

Posted on June 10, 2012 at 11:44 AM Comments comments (37)
In these difficult economic times I find clients are looking for ways to reduce their cost of remodeling. One thing to consider is laminate countertops (Formica, Wilson Art, Nevamar, etc) with a bevel edge or one or Formica brand's "Ideal Edges"instead of stone and solid surface countertops (granite, marble, quartz-stone, Corian, etc.). Yes, this is the plastic laminate known by the household name of Formica that many of us grew up with. The complaints about them is that they scratch (true), are not heat resistant like stone (true), can stain (unlikely), the seams come apart (sometimes) and most often, "it looks cheap." I agree that both the postformed (the one-piece rolled edge and backsplash) and square edge (where you see the black line along the edge) do look cheap but if you have ever seen a beveled edge or Ideal Edge top in the new granite patterns you might be very surprised. I have put these in many homes and friends and neighbors who stopped by have asked, "What kind of granite is this?"
These tops run 40% to 70% less than the cost of a typical stone top. In other words, a typical granite job runs around $4,000 and up. A comparable bevel edge laminate top will run $1,200 to $2,000. That's a big difference!
With the introduction of Corian in the 1980's and then granite in the 90's Formica got, in my opinion, a bad rap. Formica (and the other brands) had served homeowners well for over 40 years (it replaced linoleum as the primary counter material) but once Corian and stone became readily available suddenly everyone hated Formica. The funny thing is I have recently pulled out several Corian tops to be replaced by granite because the people didn't want "that cheap Corian stuff"! However, due to the cost factor laminates are making a come back. So, here's some pros and cons:
- Far less expensive (you could use laminate tops and replace them 2-3 times for the cost of one granite top)
- Granite patterns are very real looking compared to the old patterns (see Formica FX180 at and Wilsonart at
- No black line or phony looking curved edges
- If built right can be built without a seam (depends on overall size but laminates are available in up to 5' x 12' sheets)
- Durable with reasonable care
- Can be ready to install immediately after the cabinets are installed (the other tops usually need to be templated and can take 1 to 3 weeks before they are installed - that's a long time to be without a sink!)
- Seams can delaminate (if done poorly)
- Can do undermount sinks and the sink manufacturers seem to have dealt with the potential water issues very well. Sources: Karran Blanco  WilsonArt (there are others - just google undermount sinks)
- Can scratch (so can Corian and some stones)
- Not heat resistant (using a trivet or hot pad eliminates this problem)
Laminate tops are not for everyone but if you're looking to save money this is one good place to at least consider.
We build these at The Cabinet Guy, LLC and would be glad to quote you a price.

Cabinet Door Shrinkage and the White Line

Posted on February 17, 2012 at 8:49 AM Comments comments (18)
One of the most common complaints about cabinetry through the years, especially in the dryer parts of the country like Colorado, is that the panels in the doors shrink and a white line shows up down the sides of the panel. Why is this? Raised panel doors are made of a wood frame and a separate center panel. This center panel is not glued in place and “floats” in the frame. This is done to allow the wood to shrink and swell with changes in humidity. If it was glued or held in place by pins or brads it would create havoc with the frame when it expanded or contracted and contort the door so that it wouldn’t open and close correctly.
When a door is stained after it is assembled the stain does not get all the way back into the edge of the panel concealed behind the groove in the frame. Thus, when the door panel shrinks you see the unstained area which looks white compared to the stained parts around it. This is most likely on doors that were finished during a time of high humidity or the door had a higher moisture content.
Note that this happens on panels made of solid wood. Doors made with veneered panels don’t typically have this problem because the core material of the panel is more stable and not affected by humidity.
Manufacturers who make cabinets doors with solid wood panels have several ways they deal with this. Some companies who stock doors ready for cabinets will store them in warehouses maintained at a specific humidity level. Many who make their doors to order will allow the wood to season and then test the raw wood for its moisture content to assure it is at an optimum level to avoid shrinkage. However, despite their best efforts these measures are not certain to control the issue. Due to the fact that a paneled door is made up of separate pieces it is impossible to completely seal the panel from air infiltration when they apply the finish coats. So, no matter how well prepped the panel is when air gets into the panel it changes the moisture content.
If a door is made in a moist climate, as is prevalent in many parts of the country, and then shipped to a dryer place it will most likely shrink (up to ¼” in some cases!). Once it is in the home it will then shrink and swell with the seasons. Humidity levels are typically lowest in the winter and many times the white lines only show up then and disappear in the summer.
The only sure cure for this is to stain the panel prior to assembly. However, I know of no major manufacturer that does this (at one time Wood Mode did but I don’t think they do anymore). It is simply not practical for them and they would have to charge a great deal more to do so because of the many additional steps it requires.
The only companies who can do this practically are small shops that can afford the time to do so. Here at The Cabinet Guy we do stain all panels prior to assembly on the doors that we make so this isn’t an issue for us or our customers.
If you do have these white lines you can help conceal them by wiping some stain on the line using a small paint brush or a stain pen (available at home centers and paint stores or from your cabinet supplier). After you have stained the line and it has dried you can bring up the gloss by applying some paste was or brushing on some lacquer or other type of varnish.
One other note. I recently had a client who had some cabinets with doors that were made in China. Most of the panels had shrunk by 3/8” to ½” and many had developed severe cracking. They were worse than anything I had ever seen. The cause of this turned out to be that they were shipped by boat in a container from China. These containers are huge steel boxes and during their 2-3 week journey the temperature can reach 150 degrees causing them to dry and shrink excessively. Fortunately most doors are still made in the USA and it is not likely that Asian manufacturers will corner this market for many practical reasons.

Some Thoughts on Quality, Service and Price

Posted on January 31, 2012 at 10:07 PM Comments comments (4)
Every company offers, to varying degrees, products, service and pricing. Some have high prices and with that one would expect excellent service and high quality products. Others have lower prices but usually at the cost of quality or service (or both).
It is very difficult for any company to offer high quality products and outstanding service along with low prices. Some may do it for a time but at some point something has to give because without sufficient profit due to low prices they can't afford to provide both quality products and excellent service.
I am a frequent customer of Right now they offer great prices on a lot of products, ship it for a very low price (or free) and back it all up with great service after the sale. However, if you follow their stock you know that their profit picture has never been very good and that many quarters they post a net loss even though they do billions of dollars in business. At some point the investors and owners will get tired and go elsewhere unless they can find a way to make a profit. This can only be done by raising their prices, or cutting back on their service.
The reason I bring all this up is that this is all very true in the cabinet business. There are few companies (in fact no major manufacturer that I know of) that provide low prices along with excellent service and quality. The truth is that a profitable company has 3 options:
> Offer low prices with lower quality cabinets but good service
> Provide low prices with quality cabinets but poor service
> Sell at high prices with quality cabinets and good service
It all comes down to the old adage, "You get what you pay for." Keep this in mind when shopping for cabinets for your remodel or new home.