What You Need to Know Before Buying New Cabinets

If you are thinking of upgrading your kitchen, there is so much you need to know before buying new cabinets. For when it comes to cabinetry, there are numerous options to meet any style preference and budget. Stock, custom and semi-custom refer to different production procedures used to manufacture cabinets.

However, even custom cabinets can be made poorly. So we are going to dive deeper and get into the guts on what makes a quality cabinet. You will learn how high-quality finishes, box work materials, and construction can make a significant difference in the quality, performance, and value of cabinetry.



In the photo above, you can see that this five-year-old shop-built cabinetry is showing lots of wear & chipping because of the finish used.

This is not an unusual occurrence with local shop-built finishes, but the homeowner didn’t expect that their kitchen would require ongoing maintenance. If the homeowner had purchased factory-finished custom cabinetry that is warrantied for life, their cabinets would have been maintenance-free.

When designing your kitchen, the resilience of the cabinet finish is one of the main considerations, especially if you don’t want the nuisance of having to maintain it every few years.


We spoke to our favorite cabinet showroom, Caruso Kitchens,  to learn the criteria for being a manufacturer for them and how they stand up against local cabinet shops.

They Shared “The Caruso Advantage” With Us


 What You Need To Know Before Buying New Cabinets

Kiln Dried Woods Incre 

Before purchasing, be sure to ask if the cabinet company checks for moisture content in all the wood before making a product from it.  Factories that use kiln-dry woods check every piece of wood to achieve optimum moisture content, to guarantee that there is no surplus of moisture in the wood. This thorough lumber-drying process stops adhesion complications with finishes, and it also reduces the expansion/contraction results in the finished product. For the wood to attain top-quality adhesion, it should be dried between  4.2% and 4.7% moisture content.



Baked Catalytic Conversion Varnishes Have U.V. Inhibitors, And Resist Scratches, Moisture, And Chemicals.

Most local custom shops cannot use a catalyzed varnish as the finish topcoat as it involves much more expensive equipment (must shoot through stainless steel guns), which is more difficult to maintain. Also, there are higher labor costs and intensive cleanup as they must work in very short cycles due to the limited curing time (where the paint hardens quickly).

Most local shop and job-site finished projects use a polyurethane, pre-catalyzed, or lacquer topcoat, which is not even close to the same durability level as the catalyzed conversion varnish process.

When a catalyst is used within the varnish, it makes the finish hard and very durable, so it doesn’t peel or t come apart.

Without a catalyst, household cleaners will gradually erode the finish. A catalyzed varnish finish is impermeable to most household chemicals, including acetone (the primary additive to nail polish remover).

Tip:    Ask your potential cabinet provider for a cabinet door and drip a little fingernail polish remover on the back of the door ( so as not to ruin the front). If they are using lacquer or polyurethane, the finish will lift away from the door.



Multi-Step Finishing Applies To Finish In Thin Layers Achieving A Smoother Texture And Deeper Color.

Drying the cabinets between layers is a critical step that is used by the larger factories.  Large ovens with high-powered lights are used to “oven bake” the finish and fast-track the drying process.  Some finishes may require up to 28 steps. To assure maximum adhesion and to guarantee that the finish sticks, it is critical to dry to the appropriate level before applying the next layer.

Tip: You need to ask how the cabinet company dries their finishes between layers or steps in their finishing process?



Hand Rubbed Stains With Equalizers and Toners Create An Even Finish Highlighting Only The Natural Characteristics of The Wood.

Firstly, Equalizer stains are used to balance the base color of the wood. Next, a Toner is applied, which creates consistent color consistency. Then, a  deep penetrating stain is applied to reveal the wood grain. Lastly, all stained surfaces are hand-rubbed and wiped clean of excess stain. When they are dry highlights, glaze details, burnishing stain, and vintage patina is hand-applied to create the desired finish.


Finishing In-House, In A Separate Space From The Wood-Working, Ensures Control, And Limits Contamination From Sawdust.


The cabinet finishing area must be in a separate room where the negative pressure is always maintained. Negative pressure is created when there is continuous air being pushed out of the environment, so dust and particles cannot find their way in through doorways or openings.

If your cabinet maker is finishing the cabinetry in a small shop or on the Jobsite, it is difficult to ensure that the painting environment is dust-free of dirt and hairs from paintbrushes.  Most smaller shops cannot afford this type of dust control, and it is not possible with a job site application.

Tip:  You can feel the difference of a factory finish produced in a dust-free environment by rubbing the softer back side of your fingers against the product.


Here are a few other key factors You Need to Know Before Buying New Cabinets


  • Making Doors In-House Ensures Ultimate Control Over The Wood Selection And Reduces Charges For Custom Sizing.
  • Lifetime Warranty On The Hardware
  • Delivery on factory-owned trucks ensures cabinets get “white glove” treatment and prevents delays due to transport damage.


Once you have narrowed down the cabinet company that meets the above requirements, the next step is to select the style of the cabinetry. The cost of cabinets is impacted by the type, door style, material, and finish. For example, standard-sized cabinets are less expensive than custom-made, one-of-a-kind cabinets.

Many changeable parts affect a budget for a new kitchen before the scope of the project is finalized. The best budget guideline is to allocate 10 to 20 percent of the value of your home for your new kitchen. The actual cost will depend upon your design goals, materials/products, and the scope of the project.

Here are a few more blogs that will provide some valuable information

How to Choose Cabinet Colors

Your Kitchen- Where Function Meets Form

Wheat Ridge Kitchen Remodel

Broomfield, Bright and Inviting Kitchen Remodel

How Much Space is Needed to Install a Kitchen Island

PDF – Everything You Need to Know About Cabinets

For assistance with designing and budgeting your new kitchen remodel, call Marina at 303.916.9515 or email us.

P.S remember that it is difficult and expensive to change out cabinetry so make sure you do your homework and purchase cabinets that meet the requirements we outlined (if you work with us and Caruso Kitchens you have it made).  To close, if you plan to live in your home for more than five years, it is wise to invest in cabinets that will endure the test of time.

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