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Stock or Custom, New Cabinets Make a Kitchen Shine

Cabinets have the greatest impact on a kitchen's look. The options are numerous - colored or stained; stock or custom; maple or oak.

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According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), roughly half the cost of a complete kitchen remodeling job will go to cabinets. Final costs can vary significantly based on the type of cabinets and the materials you select (hardwoods and exotic veneers are the costliest). Accessories, modifications and unique finish treatments always increase costs.

Based on how they're built and the degree of customization available, cabinets can be divided into three primary groups: stock, semicustom and custom. These categories do not indicate quality, as fine cabinetry is available across all three. As a guarantee of durable construction in any manufactured cabinet, look for the blue and white "certified cabinet" seal from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.

Stock cabinets

Widths for stock cabinets begin at nine inches and increase in three-inch increments to 48 inches (the largest standard size stock cabinet available). They come in many styles and can be ordered through retailers and manufacturers' catalogs. But because stock cabinets are constructed before being purchased, special sizes are not available. Therefore, filler strips are used to close gaps between a cabinet and an appliance or wall. Stock cabinets are stored in manufacturers' warehouses and typically are available within a week of being ordered.

Semicustom cabinets

Construction of these cabinets begins only when the order is final, so modifications to standard sizes may be made, and delivery time make take a month or longer. An experienced kitchen designer can describe numerous options - such as interior finishes that match exteriors, and varying cabinet depths - that will give your kitchen its own look.

A wider range of styles, construction materials and colors than stock cabinets, as well as unique storage units and accessories such as pullout bins and lazy susans, have made semicustom cabinetry an increasingly popular choice.

Custom cabinets

Within the limits of sound construction, custom cabinets can be made to suit any space or desire (an extra long cabinet without interior partitions to accommodate trays or large pans, for instance). Custom cabinetry also lets you incorporate virtually any door style and color into the kitchen. You might have cabinets made to match existing woodwork or architectural details, or opt for an "unfitted" look with freestanding or built-in cabinets that mimic furniture. For true custom-made cabinets, plan to wait at least six to 10 weeks. Longer waits are not uncommon.

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