In our previous blog post, we discussed the important factors to consider when planning a new kitchen layout. Once the layout is finalized, the next crucial step is to choose the appropriate millwork or cabinetry. In today's post, we want to emphasize some significant details to keep in mind when shopping for cabinetry. We will also discuss the differences between American and European cabinetry, and important considerations when residing in a harsh climate like Bermuda.
American vs. European Cabinetry
Cabinet manufacturers have their own specifications, but there are some basic differences between American and European cabinetry. The main difference is in the construction materials used. American cabinetry typically uses plywood and natural wood, with the carcass made of plywood and the doors, drawer fronts, and drawer boxes made of the wood species of your choice. American cabinetry can have a solid wood face frame or be frameless like European cabinetry. On the other hand, European cabinetry is mostly frameless, and the carcass is generally made of humidity-proof particle board with aluminium components, while the doors are made of MDF or HDF (medium or high-density fiberboard) with either a painted or veneered finish. MDF and HDF are extremely stable materials made of sawdust and resin which, if sealed, move far less than natural wood. This is particularly important to note in Bermuda's humid climate, where wood tends to swell and contract significantly.
Today, we will focus on American cabinetry and its features.
- When buying American cabinets, there are three types of manufacturers to consider. The first type is flat-packed cabinets, which require assembly on-site and come in standard dimensions only. The second type is semi-custom cabinets, which arrive assembled and can be modified to some extent. The third type is custom cabinetry, which is made to order and can be customized in every detail to your specifications.
It's important to note that flat-packed cabinets may seem like a cost-effective option, but they require more labour when installing, which can result in higher installation costs.
- American cabinetry usually consists of a ply carcass that can be ½” – ¾” thick, made of standard ply, veneer core ply, or marine grade ply. However, there are some differences. In general, standard cabinets do not offer options other than standard ply, which is what most of us are familiar with. On the other hand, custom cabinet makers tend to use veneer core ply as it is known to be more stable than standard ply. Additionally, they may offer an upgrade to marine-grade ply, which is ideal for humid, wet, or marine environments. This is particularly important for ensuring the longevity of the cabinet carcass in high-humidity environments. In Bermuda, for instance, we find that ¾” veneer core ply holds up well over time.
- Solid wood is typically used to make drawers, door fronts and drawer boxes, with Maple being the preferred choice due to its medium density and ability to react well to humidity changes. It's important to keep in mind that natural woods tend to expand in high humidity and contract in low humidity. To prevent cracking, doors and drawers are usually made in 5 pieces, including rails, stiles, and a central panel, which can move according to the humidity in the air. However, if the paint finish is not of good quality, hairline cracks may occur at joints. Hamma’s Dutch Made line of cabinetry has proven to be long-lasting in Bermuda, with their paint finish withstanding the effects of humidity and movement for the lifetime of the kitchen. Avoid using natural wood for flat panel doors as they may split over time. Instead, use HDF, MDF, or ply, and then veneer or paint. Keep in mind that softer to medium-density woods are more responsive to changes in humidity, while harder woods can restrict movement and cause the wood to split.
- Once you have selected the materials for the carcass and door, the next step is to choose between an inset, partial overlay, or full overlay door style. If your carcass has a front face frame, you can opt for any of the three door styles. For an inset look, doors can sit inside the face frame, while for an overlay look, doors can sit partially or fully over the frame. However, if you have frameless cabinets, you can only have a full overlay door style. It is important to note that inset cabinets offer a more traditional look, while full overlay doors provide a cleaner, more modern look. Also, full and partial overlay doors are more responsive to our local humidity levels since they can move freely without any face frame restrictions, which can cause them to stick.
- There are many panel door styles available, but the Shaker style or its variations are the most popular in use today. A flat-boxed or semi-custom manufacturer will provide various door styles but with no customization options. On the other hand, a custom manufacturer can make doors to order, allowing endless modifications and wood species to be used. This gives you the ability to customize the doors according to your specific needs and wants. You can explore the latest door styles added to the extensive catalogue of our exclusive cabinet manufacturer, Dutch Made.
- When it comes to kitchen cabinetry, painted finishes are currently the most popular choice. However, there are many other options available for cabinet finishes. You can choose from natural wood and stained finishes that highlight the wood species, or even exotic veneers and painted finishes. Stains and paint finishes can be customized with distressing, glazes, and highlighting. You can also adjust the sheen level to create a matte or high-gloss finish. Traditional finishes usually include distressing, glazes, and highlighting, while high-gloss sheens tend to feel more modern. It's worth noting that a little bit of sheen can make cabinets easier to maintain and less prone to showing fingerprints. On the other hand, matte and high-gloss finishes require regular wiping down. Our cabinet line, Dutch Made, offers full customization of finishes and a Benjamin Moore custom paint program. This program provides an endless array of paint colours to choose from, ensuring you can get the exact colour you desire.
- When designing your kitchen, it's important to consider the interior finishes of your cabinets. Most cabinet makers offer a few finish options for the interior, with the most common being white or almond melamine. Natural maple is the most popular interior finish, as it provides a veneer that is easy to clean and offers a natural-looking finish. Melamine is a highly durable and easy-to-clean plastic material. Semi-custom and flat-pack kitchens typically offer one or two interior finish options, while custom cabinet makers offer more choices. American black walnut is becoming a popular interior finish to complement painted cabinets. At Dutch Made, we can create custom walnut drawer boxes and inserts to match your cabinets perfectly.
- The hardware of your cabinet, such as door glides, hinges, and other moving parts, are less seen but are very important for the cabinet's longevity. Soft close hinges and drawer glides have become more popular, but they are not always standard features and need to be requested as an upgrade from many manufacturers. These soft-close mechanisms prevent doors from slamming, which in turn extends the life of your hardware and cabinets. All of Dutch Made's cabinets include them as a standard feature. It is important to note that for proper functioning of deep drawers over 27" wide, heavy-duty drawer glides, stabilizer bars, and extra-thick drawer bottoms should be requested. The extra weight requires these upgrades to ensure proper function throughout the kitchen's lifetime.
- Adding decorative hardware and functional inserts can enhance the beauty and usefulness of your kitchen. Although most decorative hardware is provided by the owner, some kitchen showrooms carry a few brands to provide you with a one-stop-shop experience. You can explore Hamma's Colonial Bronze line, which offers custom lengths, over 43 finishes, and a lifetime warranty on most of its finishes. The availability and options for drawer and cabinet inserts will depend on the manufacturer of your cabinets.
- When it comes to cabinet fittings, there are a variety of options available to choose from. Some may have limited options such as cutlery dividers and spice racks, while others may offer a wider range of customizable features such as charging stations with USB ports. These fittings can either be custom-made or ordered through specialized companies that deal with cabinet hardware and fittings. It's important to consider what you intend to store in each cabinet so that the designers can offer you the appropriate advice on available options.
We hope that the information we have provided will be helpful to you the next time you are out shopping or planning for a kitchen. If you are thinking of starting a new kitchen project soon, we encourage you to check out our line of custom-made Dutch Made cabinetry.
We pride ourselves on being able to build anything you can dream up and we're here to help you "Live Beautifully". The kitchen is consistently rated as the most important room in a house, as well as the most important investment, so we encourage you to make it both beautiful and functional for a lifetime of use. At Hamma, we have trusted designers, manufacturers, and installers who can assist you with the entire process.