Kitchen cabinets are one of the most important elements of any kitchen design. Not only do they provide essential storage space, but they also define the overall style and aesthetic of the kitchen. With so many options on the market, buying new kitchen cabinets can feel overwhelming. Follow this comprehensive guide to learn everything you need to know about selecting, purchasing and installing new kitchen cabinets.

Choosing Cabinet Materials

When shopping for kitchen cabinets, one of the first decisions you’ll make is which material you want them to be constructed from. Here are some of the most popular options:


Wood is a classic choice for kitchen cabinets and offers a timeless, natural look. The most common wood species used are:

  • Oak – Sturdy and versatile with a distinctive grain. Stains well.
  • Maple – Smooth and uniform texture. Takes paint evenly.
  • Cherry – Sophisticated wood with a reddish-brown hue. Ages well over time.
  • Walnut – Rich chocolate-brown color. Prized for its grain patterns.
  • Alder – Affordable hardwood with a light tan color. Compatible with many stains.

Keep in mind that natural wood shows wear over time. Opt for a durable finish like polyurethane if you want your wood cabinets to better withstand scratches and water damage.


Laminate cabinets have a vinyl wrapping over a particleboard or MDF substrate. The vinyl comes in many colors and patterns to mimic wood, from dark espresso tones to light maple. Pros of laminate:

  • Durable, scratch-resistant surface
  • Consistent coloring throughout the cabinet
  • Stain, mold and moisture resistant
  • Affordable pricing

Laminate won’t warp or discolor over time like real wood can. The vinyl print also hides minor scuffs and scratches well.


Similar to laminate, thermofoil cabinets have a plastic film over a wood substrate. The main difference is that thermofoil is actually bonded to the wood during manufacturing under high heat. Benefits of thermofoil:

  • Seamless finish with no visible edges
  • Very durable surface resists cracking or peeling
  • Easy to clean with soap and water
  • Lots of color options including solid colors and faux woodgrains

The seamless wrap and tough film make thermofoil cabinets very sturdy. They’re a great choice for families and other high-traffic kitchens.

Painted Wood

You can also purchase unfinished wood cabinets and have them professionally sprayed in any paint color you like. This is a good option if you want a custom, built-in look. Pros:

  • Choose from any paint, stain or lacquer color
  • Durable, polyurethane finish protects the paint
  • Can match existing trim or walls seamlessly
  • Creates a built-in, custom aesthetic

Downsides are that the original wood grain will be covered, and any imperfections have to be fixed before painting. Expect to pay more for a quality prep and paint job.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel cabinets provide a modern, industrial look. While 100% stainless kitchens are expensive, many people opt for a stainless island or accent cabinets. Considerations:

  • Very durable and easy to sterilize
  • Visible fingerprints and watermarks
  • Can dent if impacted
  • Expensive material and installation costs

Stainless requires special tools to install properly. Pros often recommend pairing stainless cabinets with warm woods, colorful backsplashes and painted walls to soften the modern vibe.

Standard Sizes and Measurements

Once you decide on a cabinet material, it’s important to understand standard kitchen cabinet sizes and measurements. This allows you to plan your kitchen’s layout appropriately.

Cabinet Depths

Kitchen cabinets come in three standard depths:

  • 24 inches – Best for smaller kitchens. Allows more walking space.
  • 25 inches – The most common depth. Fits most kitchen items comfortably.
  • 30 inches – Extra deep cabinets for larger appliances or storage needs.

Cabinet Heights

Wall cabinet heights are standardized, but you can customize base cabinet dimensions:

  • Wall cabinets – 30 or 36 inches tall. Ceiling height affects this.
  • Base cabinets – 34 or 36 inches tall. Raised heights have more storage.
  • Sink base – Custom size to fit sink and provide clearance.
  • Island base – Typically 36 inches tall for eating clearance.

Cabinet Widths

Basic width measurements are:

  • Full-width single cabinet – 30”, 36”, or 42” wide
  • Half-width base – 15”, 18”, 21” wide
  • Three-quarter base – 21”, 24”, 27” wide

Other widths for corner cabinets, fridge surrounds, etc can be customized as needed.

Common Standard Sizes

Some typical base and wall cabinet sizes:

  • 30” x 24” (width x depth) base cabinet
  • 36” x 25” base cabinet
  • 12” x 24” wall cabinet
  • 18” x 30” wall cabinet
  • 24″ x 12” drawer base cabinet
  • 12” x 12” sink base cabinet

As a general rule of thumb, bottom cabinets are 24” deep and uppers are 12” deep. Wall cabinets are usually 30-36” tall and 12-24” deep.

Cabinet Door Styles

Cabinet door styles play a big role in the overall kitchen design and aesthetic. Consider the pros and cons of different door styles:

Shaker Style

  • Simple flat center panel with a square edge
  • Clean lines, versatile for modern or traditional
  • Works with a variety of hardware styles
  • Provides some visibility of interior contents

Slab Style

  • Minimalist, full flat panel look
  • Streamlined and contemporary
  • Easy to clean large surface
  • Limited visibility of cabinet contents

Raised Panel

  • Central raised panel adds dimension
  • Traditional style with rich, ornate feel
  • Raised edges prone to catching dust
  • Partial view of contents through frame

Glass Panel

  • Decorative look shows off contents
  • Glass prone to fingerprints and grease
  • Need internal cabinet lighting to shine through glass


  • Angled slats have vintage farmhouse vibe
  • Allow airflow while concealing contents
  • Dust and grime can collect in slats
  • Can crack or warp if improperly installed

Arch Top

  • Curved top panel softens rectilinear shape
  • Distinctive look for island and accent cabinets
  • Complement more ornate kitchen aesthetics
  • Reduced storage capacity inside top

Consider the style that best suits your kitchen’s particular design taste and needs. More decorative door styles may also increase costs.

Selecting Cabinet Hardware

Don’t forget to pick out cabinet hardware along with your doors! Common options include:


  • Classic round knob style pulls
  • Typically measure 1” to 2” diameter
  • Show off decorative backplates well
  • Easier for children or seniors to grasp


  • Long handle provides grip space
  • Measure 3” to 5” center-to-center
  • Allow full hand to pull open smoothly
  • Can snag clothing or pockets in kitchen


  • Compact D-shaped horizontal grip
  • Measure approximately 3” to 4” wide
  • Provide minimal knuckle clearance
  • Less torque force needed to open door

Bar Pulls

  • Sleek handle bar installed horizontally
  • 4” to 12” length for modern aesthetic
  • Mounts flush to cabinet for snag-free access
  • Limit visibility and clearance around handle

Pick hardware finishes that coordinate with faucets, lighting and other metals throughout the kitchen design.

Custom vs Stock Cabinetry

Another decision is whether to go with stock or custom cabinetry. Key differences:

Stock Cabinets

  • Pre-made by manufacturers like Ikea or Home Depot
  • Limited sizes and configurations
  • Shorter lead times for production
  • Only standard interior fittings and widths
  • More budget-friendly pricing

Custom Cabinets

  • Built specifically for your kitchen’s dimensions
  • Choose styles, materials, colors and fittings
  • Specialized storage and organizational options
  • Extended lead times for manufacturing
  • Increased costs over stock designs

Custom lets you fully personalize cabinets for your needs and space. But stock makes more fiscal sense for many homeowners, offering standardized sizing at lower price points.

Organizing Interiors and Storage

To make the most of your new cabinets, carefully plan how to outfit the interiors for optimal storage and accessibility. Have an organizer measure and design the space with features like:

  • Adjustable shelving
  • Pull-out trays and drawers
  • Spice racks
  • Tilt-out bins
  • Lazy susans
  • Wastebasket compartments
  • Pantry and utensil organization systems

Take time to sort through what you intend to store in each area. Eliminate unnecessary items and repurpose other cabinets as needed. Tailor the organizing approach to your family’s storage habits.

Hiring a Contractor

Unless you have construction experience, hiring a professional contractor is advised for cabinet installation. Look for an experienced company that:

  • Has extensive cabinet knowledge
  • Can provide referrals and examples of past kitchen projects
  • Will pull required building permits and approvals
  • Has workers certified in cabinetry installation
  • Offers design consultation services
  • Provides a detailed quote and timeline

Be sure to verify required lead times for cabinet production and delivery from manufacturers as well. Carefully read and understand all contracts, policies and costs before signing.

Installation Process

The cabinet installation process involves:

  • Removal of old cabinets & preparation of the space
  • Delivery & inspection of new cabinets on-site
  • Leveling and securing of wall-mounted cabinets first
  • Installation of base cabinets and island
  • Securing cabinets together and anchoring to studs
  • Adding doors, drawers and internal fittings
  • Integrating cabinets with countertops, appliances etc

Proper leveling, plumbing and anchoring are crucial steps. Trying to self-install without experience risks costly damage or safety hazards. Leave it to the professionals.

Costs and Budgeting

Kitchen cabinet costs vary based on factors like:

  • Type of cabinet materials and construction
  • Door styles and hardware
  • Standard vs custom designs
  • Amount of cabinets needed for the space
  • Special organizational features
  • Regional labor rates for installation

According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2022 Cost vs. Value Report, the average minor kitchen remodel cost around $27,195 and took about 3 weeks. A major remodel with new cabinetry was around $70,195 and lasted 6-8 weeks or more.

Always build in contingencies to your cabinet budget – installation issues or delays can increase costs.

Maintaining Your Investment

To protect your investment in new kitchen cabinets:

  • Use cabinet organizers to maximize storage efficiency
  • Avoid overloading shelves and drawers
  • Clean with mild soap and water only
  • Dry any spills, splatters or leaks promptly
  • Use cutting boards to avoid damaging surfaces
  • Don’t open doors with excessive force
  • Check for loose hinges, pulls and fasteners periodically

Follow manufacturer care instructions for your particular cabinet materials and finish. With proper use and care, your new kitchen cabinets can last for decades to come.

How to Choose Cabinet Door Styles

Along with deciding on the cabinet material, choosing the right door style is critical to achieving your dream kitchen’s overall look and functionality. Consider the following factors when selecting cabinet door styles:

Design Styles

Think about the decor you want for your kitchen. Certain door styles naturally complement particular aesthetics better.

  • Contemporary: Minimalist slab doors, flat panel
  • Transitional: Simple shaker, glass panel doors
  • Traditional: Raised panel, inset cabinetry
  • Rustic: Distressed wood, hardware accents
  • Cottage: Beaded panels, painted finishes

Match door styles to the kitchen’s target design style for cohesive aesthetics.

Level of Detail

More ornate door styles add visual interest, but show dirt and grime more readily. Simpler door designs conceal wear better.

  • Detailed doors like raised panel and cathedral trend more formal. They showcase fine craftsmanship but require diligent cleaning.
  • Plain doors like slab, shaker and louvered have fewer crevices. They maintain tidier appearances with minimal upkeep.

Evaluate your willingness to keep decorative door styles looking pristine. Clean-lined doors withstand everyday use with less maintenance.

Material Suitability

Make sure the cabinet door style pairs well with your chosen material. Certain combinations work better than others aesthetically.

  • Wood doors look best with natural woodgrain patterns. Shaker and raised panel styles highlight the richness.
  • Thermofoil doors mimic woodgrain well on slab, shaker or louvered designs. Intricate carvings lose definition.
  • Laminate doors suit flat, minimalist styles like slab and shaker that show off the color. Ornate designs look more artificial.

Select door styles that align with the capabilities of the underlying cabinet construction for optimal visual appeal.

Visibility of Contents

Visibility of interior contents can guide door style selections.

  • Closed solid doors like slab or raised panel conceal contents completely. Use for hiding clutter or appliances.
  • Glass panel doors put contents on display. Backlighting illuminates interiors.
  • Louvered, lattice or framed doors offer partial visibility inside. Contents are muted but not fully obscured.

Evaluate how much or little you want cabinet contents viewable when choosing door transparency.

Ease of Use

Ergonomics affect door style decisions as well.

  • Minimal protruding edges like slab and recessed panel simplify opening. They offer smooth accessibility for children and seniors especially.
  • Protruding lip edges on some raised panels and cathedral styles make gripping the door to open it more difficult. Arthritic hands may struggle with these.
  • Drawers and pull-out shelves provide easier access to contents than interior cabinet spaces. They facilitate access from seated heights.

If low clearance or mobility is a concern, pick styles with comfortable, leverageable openings.

The ideal cabinet door styles for your kitchen balance attractive design with sensible functionality. Keep these factors in mind as you evaluate options and make finishes decisions.

How to Choose Cabinet Hardware

Cabinet hardware serves both form and function. Follow these tips when selecting knobs, pulls, hinges and other accessories:


Popular hardware finishes include:

  • Brushed nickel – Subtle sheen, pairs with cool tones
  • Polished chrome – Bright metallic shine, modern feel
  • Oil-rubbed bronze – Earthy dark brown patina
  • Antique brass – Warm golden tone, traditional styling
  • Matte black – Understated for contemporary schemes
  • Vintage brass – Distressed golden accent

Match hardware finish to fixture finishes like lighting and plumbing for a cohesive look. Contrasting cabinet hardware can provide an interesting design accent as well.


Pick hardware sized appropriately for each type of cabinet:

  • Drawers/doors under 20” wide – 3” pulls or 1” to 2” knobs
  • Full-height doors over 20” wide – Long 5” – 10” pulls provide grip
  • Glass panel doors – Low-profile bar pulls maintain visibility
  • Upper wall cabinets – Small knobs or short pulls

Oversized hardware looks overwhelming. Undersized hardware gets lost. Scale hardware appropriately for each area.

Comfort of Use

Test different hardware for comfort opening and closing cabinets:

  • Seniors/children may need larger D-shaped pulls that are easy to grasp and open.
  • Lower cabinets benefit from U-shaped pulls or L-shaped handles that maximize leverage.
  • Up high wall cabinets call for smaller knobs that require less dexterity overhead.
  • Deep corner cabinets need extra long hardware for clearance when opening.

Pick hardware that works ergonomically for each user and cabinet location.

Coordination of Styles

Match hardware styles to the cabinet door styles:

  • Unadorned shaker cabinets suit simple bar pulls or straight cabinet pulls.
  • Ornate raised panel doors pair well with elegantly curved pulls and backplates.
  • Farmhouse designs look best with visible hinges and rugged, blackened hardware.
  • Sleek modern cabinets call for streamlined, discreet handles and hinges.

Make sure door and hardware designs harmonize rather than compete visually.

The right cabinet hardware complements both form and function. Consider scale, finish, ergonomics and style when accessorizing cabinetry.

How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets

Getting organized kitchen cabinets promotes efficiency and makes items easier to locate. Follow these tips:

Categorize Methodically

Group items logically based on how you use them. Some categories might include:

  • Drinking glasses & mugs
  • Plates, bowls & serving platters
  • Pots & pans
  • Food storage containers
  • Baking tools like rolling pins and cookie sheets
  • Spices & dry goods
  • Cleaning products

Try to optimize everyday workflows. Place items people use most frequently in convenient locations.

Employ Strategic Storage

Take advantage of specialty organizers and space-saving solutions:

  • Corner lazy susans for blind spots
  • Tiered tray dividers for cookie sheets, cutting boards, etc
  • Spice racks to see labels
  • Deep drawers for pots and lids
  • Tilt-out bins for bulk items
  • Hanging racks for utensils & towels
  • Pull-out trays under sinks

Maximize vertical space with extra tall cabinets using risers or multiple shelves.

Edit Ruthlessly

Purge items you don’t use regularly. Donate extras beyond what fits comfortably in the optimized space. Limiting cabinet contents prevents overcrowding.

Label Clearly

Use labels