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Everything You Need To Know About Cabinets

Basic Introduction to Cabinets

When you think about cabinets, more often than not, you think of kitchen cabinets. These are the hottest cabinet items in the market today because of their functionality, importance, and versatility. However, there is more to cabinets than kitchen cabinets, as cabinetry encompasses all facets of home decoration.

Cabinets are more than just storage. They speak of your personality, your taste, and your sense of style. The possibilities are endless, but it boils down to what your choice is. In terms of style, there are just too many different kinds of cabinets to chose from. But they are basically subsumed into common classifications such as framed or frameless, stock or custom made, traditional, country, or modern style, made of hardwood, wood veneers or other materials.

Stock and Custom Cabinets

Cabinets are generally classified into stock cabinets and custom cabinets. Stock cabinets are those cabinets that are pre-fabricated and can be bought “off the rack” in many cabinet shops. Custom cabinets, on the other hand ordinarily refer to cabinets that are specially built by cabinet makers to fit a homeowner’s very detailed specifications, and are usually done on site (homeowner’s house).

Framed and Frameless Cabinets

A framed cabinet is a cabinet with a frame attached to the front edges of its body. This is also known as traditional, face-framed or American-style cabinet. A frameless cabinet, as the name implies, is one that has no frame attached to the surrounding face of the body. This is the standard among European-style cabinets.

Traditional, Country, Or Contemporary Style

If one goes by tradition, all kitchen cabinets are made from hardwood and are fastened to the kitchen walls. But nowadays, permanently fixed cabinets have given way to standalone mobile cabinets that may come in unconventional materials such as glass or plastics. Traditional style cabinets are appealing to more people because of its’ ageless look.

Country style cabinets give a comfortable, cozy and welcoming feel to a room. Hardwood is the best material to start with if you want a country feel to your cabinets, as this can blend well with florals or nature-inspired textiles or designs.

There are countless other styles to choose from, enough to get you more confused on choices to be made. To avoid this, It would be best to know where to look in the first place. Browse through magazines, woodworking books, or cabinet shops. You can expand your search to websites on home and furnishings. But do not forget to choose a style that would naturally blend with design and architecture of your house.

Solid Wood, Bonded Wood, and Wood Veneers

It’s been a long time since having new cabinets means getting the services of a cabinet maker or getting down to your work clothes to make customary wood cabinets. As technology and skills improve through time, the possibilities have become endless. Old and new materials offer other different classifications of cabinets.

Solid Wood

Because of its versatility and ageless look and appeal, wood has become the most common material used for cabinets. It gives out a warm, homely atmosphere, and blends well with almost any kind of interior design and décor. The different kinds of wood species furthermore give more varied options, but your choice would eventually depend on your personal style and budget. Wood is the most sought after material for custom cabinets.

Wood materials come from either two types of trees: hardwoods and softwoods. Hardwood wood materials come from coniferous trees, or trees that are easy to saw. Softwood wood materials come from dicotyledonous or hard-to-cut trees.

Different wood species fetch different prices, depending on its availability and overall appearance. There are so many materials to choose from: maple, oak, cherry, hickory, yellow birch, or pine.

Oak was the heavy favorite among cabinet builders until recently, when maple became more popular in the cabinet industry. It is very adaptable to any kind of cabinet style due to its light and regular grain texture. Very similar to maple in terms of versatility, is the yellow birch variety. With its strength and wide range of colors, it is a favorite choice for kitchen cabinets.

Cherry wood colors range from pinkish to red-brown when aged and exposed to sunlight. Hickory is a light colored to reddish brown hardwood that is best for a staining finish. While pinewood is the most inexpensive variety, it needs special handling and preparations due to its east exposure to bums and scratches.

Exotic wood fetch higher prices as these are the more rare varieties. Among those belonging to this category are mahogany, ebony, and walnut. Mahogany is mostly come from tropical rainforests. Its’ reddish brown color and regular grain qualities make it a perfect alternative to old oak wood. Walnut colors range from dark brown to a purplish shade of black. Ebony wood generally refers to very dark or black wood.

Bonded Wood

Bonding refers to the process of making large wood materials from several smaller pieces of wood. Bonding processes vary. One way is cutting wide boards into narrow parts, then glued together to create the desired width or shape. Blocks of wood may also be glued together to make up a single part of a cabinet. Another process involves wood chips or small wood particles mixed with a gluing substance, the processed to make durable wood particleboards. And lastly, the process of bonding several layers of particleboards may be done to come up with plywood panels that are ideal for adding strength to softwood cabinets.

Wood Veneers

Wood veneers are thin layers of wood materials from superior species of wood. These are glued to the main cabinet material, usually plywood or plasticboard. This is the best option for a more versatile wood cabinet accented by different wood patterns and textures. Wood veneers are aesthetically effective not only for raised panel cabinet doors, but also for flat or recessed cabinet doors.

A word of caution for the budget conscious: While wood veneer as an alternative to wood seems to imply that is an inexpensive material, very elaborate veneering designs would result in more expensive work pieces.

Thank you for taking the time with me to learn more about what Mr. Done Right, the handyman / contractor does for you.


Don Fenton

(AKA) Mr. Done Right

For more information on handyman or contractor work in the greater Austin area (or beyond), please contact your premiere handyman, Don Fenton, AKA Mr. Done Right Handyman Contractor of Austin, because Mr. Done Right ensures any repairs and/or remodels get Done Right the first time! Call us now for a free estimate! 512-659-8931

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I want to install new Cabinets

Most kitchen and bath cabinets installed in homes today are made with at least some man-made wood products. While upscale cabinets may have solid-wood doors and drawer fronts, the drawer sides and bottoms, the cabinet shelves and backs — and often the end panels — are made of plywood or particleboard. While some of these components may have a fancy wood veneer surface, they are still often made with less expensive man-made wood products. While man-made materials are more stable (they shrink and expand less when the temperature and humidityfluctuates) and are cheaper than solid wood, they can pose real health risks. Here’s why:

Cabinet-grade plywood and particleboard is made primarily of thin layers or bits of wood, such as pine, held together with glue. Pine can give off fairly strong natural terpene odors — gaseous hydrocarbon compounds that can be irritating to mucous membranes. Not surprisingly, some individuals — especially chemically sensitive ones — find these airborne terpenesbothersome. People who are not highly sensitive may only be bothered byterpene odors at higher concentrations, such as would be released by turpentine.

A bigger concern with man-made wood products involves the glues used to construct them — especially the urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. UF glues can emit formaldehyde for years. To make matters worse, the clear finishes commonly applied to cabinets are made from urea-formaldehyde resins. As a result, kitchen and bath cabinets are often major sources of formaldehyde pollution in homes. Formaldehyde can cause sinus and respiratory irritation, menstrual irregularities and possibly an acquired hypersensitivity to many other substances.

It’s been suggested that you can reduce the emissions from your cabinets by simply coating all the surfaces with a sealant. However, even applying multiple coats will not seal in all the bothersome gases completely. While they’ll be greatly reduced, the remaining emission levels are often still intolerable for sensitive individuals. Then too, sealants are often very odorous in their own right and could take several months to lose their odor after being applied.

Making problematic new cabinets tolerable is often difficult — even impossible in many cases. Time may be a better cure, although sufficiently reduced emissions for sensitive people may take a few years. Obviously, the ideal approach would be to install healthier cabinets to begin with.

In any home-construction or remodeling project requiring new cabinetry, it’s best to choose cabinets that won’t compromise your own health or that of your family. Here are some less-toxic cabinet suggestions:

Alternative Solid-Wood Cabinets

Solid-wood cabinets can be a healthy choice — if the woods, glues and finishes are carefully chosen. Such cabinets are attractive and long lasting, but understand that they’ll likely be quite expensive. This is not only because solid wood costs more than man-made wood products, but also because solid-wood cabinets will probably need to be custom-built. (Note: Some commercially made cabinets are advertised as being “made from solid wood” when, in fact, they contain plywood.)

When choosing the type of wood to be used in your cabinets, pine is a viable option for many people. However, new pine gives off relatively strong natural terpene odors that can be bothersome to some sensitive people. Some low-odor hardwoods you might consider are maple, birch and tulip poplar. Tulip poplar is often a good choice; it’s fairly inexpensive, is easy to work with and has an informal, yet attractive, appearance.

“What can we use for drawer bottoms?” is a question often asked by people wanting all solid-wood cabinets. Actually, a simple solution is to use galvanized sheet metal. Sheets of galvanized steel will provide a washable, sturdy surface, eliminating the need for plywood or other man-made wood products that are normally used. A 24-gauge thickness will generally provide drawer bottoms with adequate support, but for extra-wide drawers, it’s better to use a slightly thicker material.

Another factor to consider with solid-wood cabinets is stain. In reality, stain is often unnecessary. Without any stain, a wood’s natural beauty (color and grain) will clearly show through, and a possible source of intolerance (the stain itself) is eliminated. Concerning glue, often, a low-odor carpenter’s glue or a white glue makes a good choice. Finally, you’ll need to choose a tolerable and durable clear finish.

Remember, your new cabinets will likely have a “new” odor immediately after being made, no matter what materials, glues and finishes you have chosen. This odor can actually persist for some time. Therefore, if possible, store your new cabinets in a dry, uncontaminated area — such as a detached garage — for several weeks before their final installation. If you’re a chemically sensitive individual, it’s best not to put them in your kitchen or bathroom until they’re completely odor-free.

Alternative Particleboard Cabinets

Formaldehyde-free particleboard products can be used instead of solid wood when constructing new cabinetry for your home. Unlike typical particleboards, these are not made with formaldehyde-based glues. While these may cost more than other particleboards, they’re much less expensive than using solid hardwood. Also, less skill is required to work with them than with solid wood. Therefore, labor costs should be lower.

However, despite using healthier glues, these alternative particleboards are often still too bothersome for many sensitive people. This is usually because they release natural hydrocarbon terpenes from the softwoods of which they’re made. Softwoods also often contain a tiny amount of naturally occurring formaldehyde. Completely coating all the alternative particleboard’s exposed surfaces with up to four coats of a sealant will help reduce these odors, but it will not completely eliminate them. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that sealants are often very odorous in their own right.

To make alternative-particleboard cabinets more tolerable as well as attractive, all the surfaces can be covered with a high-pressure plastic laminate. High-pressure plastic laminates are thin, very dense sheets which will not only seal in much of the odor being released from the wood underneath, but will also give your cabinets a sleek, modern “European” look. Remember though, some minor leakage of terpenes and/or formaldehyde may still occur where seams meet, or where holes have been drilled for shelf supports.

If you choose to use high-pressure plastic laminate over particle board, consider using a water-based contact cement as an adhesive — often available at local hardware stores and building centers. Whenever laminating is being done, providing plenty of ventilation and wearing a cartridge-type respirator mask as safety measures are good ideas.

Alternative-Plywood Cabinets

Cabinet-grade, furniture-grade and hardwood plywoods also release relatively high levels of formaldehyde from the urea-formaldehyde (UF) glues. However, if you really want to use plywood, you might consider choosing a construction-grade product.

Construction-grade plywood (either interior or exterior grade) is usually made of much-less-attractive fir or pine, but its layers are held together using a water-resistant phenol-formaldehyde (PF) glue. These products all have an American Plywood Association (APA) grade stamp. A PF glue emits much lower quantities of formaldehyde than the non-water-resistant urea-formaldehyde (UF) glue. To make construction-grade plywood even more tolerable, you might consider the various options discussed above for alternative-particleboard cabinets.


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