A kitchen cabinet is one of the most important elements that make up the look and functionality of your kitchen. With the wide variety of options available, buying kitchen cabinets can be an overwhelming experience. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key factors to consider when shopping for new kitchen cabinets.

Determine Your Budget

Kitchen cabinets can range greatly in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand depending on the material, quality, and features. Determine how much you are willing to spend for both the cabinets and installation. Get estimates from cabinet suppliers to help guide your budget. Expect to spend 10-25% of your total kitchen remodel budget on cabinets. Solid wood cabinets tend to be the most expensive while laminates are the most affordable.

Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Remember that you can always upgrade certain elements like hardware and fixtures over time. Focus first on investing in durable cabinet construction and features that will make the space functional for your needs.

Choose a Style

Kitchen cabinet styles need to align with the overall design aesthetic you want for the space. Consider the architectural style of your home and the look you want to achieve. Here are some of the most popular kitchen cabinet styles:

  • Traditional: Features ornate details like carved doors, decorative glass, and crown molding for a classic elegant look.
  • Contemporary: Clean, simple lines and minimal adornments for a sleek modern feel. Often uses high-gloss doors.
  • Transitional: Blends traditional and contemporary elements for a timeless universal design.
  • Rustic: Embraces natural wood textures and visible wood grains for a cozy, relaxed look.
  • Cottage: Whimsical details like painted colors, distressed finishes, and vintage hardware for a charming down-home style.
  • Shaker: Plain, flat recessed door fronts and minimal hardware creates versatile understated style.

Take inspiration from kitchen designs you admire and explore options like door styles and finish colors to create the look you love.

Select Materials

Kitchen cabinet materials impact aesthetics, durability, and cost. Primary cabinet materials include:

  • Wood: Most popular option that comes in a range of styles from oak to hickory in finishes like stain, paint, and glaze at various price points.
  • MDF: Made from compressed wood fibers, provides a smooth finish and takes paint well. More budget-friendly than solid wood.
  • Plywood: Constructed from thin sheets of wood glued together. It’s strong, durable, and moisture-resistant.
  • Laminate: Melamine and thermally fused laminate cabinets are affordable options perfect for DIY projects.
  • Metal: Used for a sleek modern look, but can dent and show wear and tear more easily than wood over time.

Consider your lifestyle, budget, and how well each material aligns with your desired style. Durability and ease of maintenance are also key factors for high-traffic kitchens.

Measure Your Kitchen Space

Take detailed measurements of your existing kitchen layout including wall lengths, ceiling height, corners, windows, and doors. Account for appliances, sinks, and any unique architectural details.

Having precise measurements will allow cabinet suppliers to recommend the optimal cabinet configurations, sizes, and functional additions like pull-out shelves or spice racks.

Capture videos and images from multiple angles to clearly visualize the space during the design process. Accurate measurements ensure your new cabinets maximize every inch and fit correctly the first time.

Optimize Storage and Workflow

Assessing how you use your current kitchen is invaluable for creating an organized, efficient kitchen cabinet layout suited for your needs. Consider elements like:

  • Frequently used appliances and cookware.
  • Items you access daily vs. occasionally.
  • Who does most of the cooking and prep work.
  • Traffic flow through the work triangle.

Optimize your workflow by placing cabinets with items used most often in convenient accessible areas. Include specialized storage features exactly where you need them like cookie sheet dividers, knife blocks, or a pantry pull-out system.

Maximize corner cabinet space with lazy susans or diagonal cabinets. Use a mix of upper and lower cabinets, drawers, pull-outs, and other smart storage solutions to accommodate all your kitchen belongings.

Choose Quality Hardware

Upgrade your cabinets with high-quality hardware like knobs, pulls, and hinges. Stainless steel hardware in brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze work well in most kitchen designs.

Hardware finishes should coordinate with cabinet style and fixtures like lighting and faucets. Pay attention to details like the shape and size of pulls for easy grip and knobs aligned vertically.

Soft-close hinges prevent slamming and self-closing drawers create a smooth user experience. Spend a bit more for sturdy full-extension drawer glides for easy access. The right hardware makes a big difference in both form and function.

Consider Customization

Beyond standard sizing, semi-custom cabinets allow you to modify elements like:

  • Extended heights for a unique look.
  • Added interior fittings and organizers.
  • Custom cabinet fronts but standard box construction to reduce cost.
  • Coordinating adjustable shelving and drawers.
  • Unique built-ins like wine racks or spice cabinets.

Fully customized cabinets provide the ultimate flexibility for a personalized kitchen design tailored to your exact specifications. Customization does add cost but the result is cabinets crafted to fit your space perfectly with specialized storage features suited to how you cook and live.

Choose an Experienced Installer

A quality installer is instrumental in ensuring your cabinets are leveled properly with secure mounting and minimal imperfections or damage. Read reviews and ask for referrals to find a contractor experienced in cabinet installation. They should:

  • Have certification and continuing education.
  • Show extensive knowledge of advanced installation techniques and building codes.
  • Install cabinets level, plumb, and true for proper function.
  • Complete the job efficiently and clean up thoroughly afterwards.

Be sure your contract clearly states timeline expectations, materials being used, warranty information, what is included, and any provisions for follow-up adjustments if needed. Investing in an experienced professional for installation is well worth the cost.

Explore Your Options

The perfect kitchen cabinets can completely transform the look, feel, and utility of your kitchen. Now that you know what to look for, take the time to thoroughly explore the many options available. Set a realistic budget, identify your style, and focus on quality, customization, and expert installation. With the right approach, you can bring your dream kitchen design to life!

Frequently Asked Questions About Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets represent a major investment and design decision for your home. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about buying kitchen cabinets.

What is the average cost for kitchen cabinets?

The average total cost for new kitchen cabinets ranges from $6,000-15,000 depending on factors like material, quality, number of cabinets needed, and additional accessories or custom upgrades. Expect to spend 10-25% of your total kitchen remodel budget on cabinetry.

What cabinet brands are best?

Top cabinet brands based on quality and service include Wellborn, Kemper, Decora, Kraftmaid, Merillat, Waypoint Living Spaces, Marsh Furniture, and Diamond Cabinets. Shop around and compare warranties, materials, and costs.

How long do kitchen cabinets last?

With proper care and maintenance, quality wood or plywood cabinet boxes and doors can easily last 20-30 years. Avoid moisture damage, heavy impacts, and overloading. Keep surfaces clean using gentle cleaners and protect finish with regular polishing.

What is the most popular kitchen cabinet color?

White kitchen cabinets remain the most popular cabinet color at about 50% of kitchen remodels. Off-whites like antique white and grey hues are also common cabinet color trends. Darker painted cabinets and natural wood stains are rising in popularity as well.

Should I assemble kitchen cabinets myself?

For simple cabinet installations, do-it-yourself assembly can save on labor costs. But for large-scale or complex projects, hiring an experienced kitchen cabinet installer is highly recommended to ensure proper functionality and avoid costly mistakes.

What questions should I ask cabinet installers?

Key questions when vetting cabinet installers include: How long have you been installing cabinets? Are you insured and licensed? What training have you received? What is your installation process? Do you offer a warranty? Can I see examples of past cabinet projects?

How do I clean wood kitchen cabinets?

Use a soft cloth with mild soap and warm water to regularly wipe down exterior wood cabinet surfaces. For deeper cleaning, use a wood cleaner and polisher formulated for cabinetry about twice a year. Avoid excessive moisture and abrasive cleaners which can damage the wood.


Purchasing new kitchen cabinets is a big investment that can completely transform the look, utility, and comfort of your kitchen. Focus first on identifying your style preferences, budget, and practical storage needs. Do your research to select quality materials constructed for durability from reputable brands. Customization and professional installation are worth the extra cost. With the cabinet buying guidance above, you can feel confident tackling this major kitchen remodel decision.