All About Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are one of the most important elements in any kitchen design. They provide storage space for dishes, food, and cooking equipment while establishing the overall aesthetic of the space. There are many factors to consider when selecting kitchen cabinets, from materials and construction to style and configuration. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about kitchen cabinets, including types, materials, door styles, finishes, sizes, installation, and more. With the right information, you can choose the perfect cabinetry for your kitchen.

Cabinet Types

There are several main types of kitchen cabinets to choose from:

Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets are pre-manufactured in standard sizes and configurations. They are the most affordable option but offer limited customization in terms of dimensions and layout. Stock cabinets come in a range of standard widths like 12”, 15”, 18”, 21”, and 24”. They are a great choice for budget-friendly kitchen remodels or for quick replacement projects.

Semi-Custom Cabinets

Semi-custom cabinets provide more flexibility than stock cabinets. While they still come in standard sizes, there are more options for door styles, finishes, and storage configurations. Additional customization includes cabinet depths, heights, and adding accessories or enhancements. Ordering semi-custom allows you to get the look you want while staying on budget.

Custom Cabinets

Custom cabinets are built specifically for your kitchen’s layout and preferences. They allow for total creative freedom in terms of size, storage, design features, and style. Every detail from the type of wood to the drawer glides can be customized. Custom cabinetry offers a fully personalized look and function but is the priciest option.

Cabinet Materials

Kitchen cabinets are constructed from different types of materials, each with their own aesthetic, durability, and cost considerations. Common materials include:


Wood is a classic choice appreciated for its beauty and natural look. Oak, maple, cherry, hickory, and alder are all popular woods used for cabinetry. Options range from less expensive plywood construction to higher-end solid hardwood. Wood provides a warm, traditional look in a variety of possible finishes. Durability depends on the type of wood selected.


Laminate kitchen cabinets consist of a laminate coating adhered to a composite wood substrate. The laminate comes in a wide selection of colors and patterns to suit different design styles. Laminate is budget-friendly but less durable than wood or solid materials. Modern laminates mimic natural materials like stone, metal, and wood.


Similar to laminate, thermofoil cabinets have a plastic coating that gets adhered to composite wood during a heating process. The result is an affordable, durable, and low-maintenance cabinet. Thermofoil resists chipping, peeling, scratching, and staining better than laminate. The molded coating results in a seamless look.


Metal kitchen cabinets provide a sleek, contemporary look perfect for modern and industrial design styles. Stainless steel, aluminum, and galvanized steel are typical options appreciated for their durability, strength, and unique appearance. Metal cabinets come in a range of finishes from polished to distressed.


Glass front cabinets create a lightweight and open aesthetic. Tempered glass integrates seamlessly into cabinet frames, displaying dishes and decor behind transparent or frosted doors. Glass adds depth and allows displays while maintaining a clean look. Frosted, etched, or colored glass provides privacy. Durability can be a downside.

Cabinet Styles

There are many kitchen cabinet styles to blend function and aesthetics:


Shaker style cabinets are characterized by their simple, flat slab doors and drawer fronts. The streamlined and minimalist design pairs well with both contemporary and traditional kitchens. Shaker cabinets feature a five-piece flat panel setup.

Raised Panel

Raised panel (or recessed panel) cabinetry has a classic elegance perfect for traditional kitchens. Doors have a central recessed flat panel bordered by a raised frame or lip around the edges. This creates beautiful depth and dimension.

Flat Panel

Flat panel cabinets live up to their name with a smooth, sleek panel design rather than raised profiles. The minimalist look pairs well with modern or contemporary kitchens. Hinges and hardware make a statement with this simple style.

Inset Cabinetry

Inset kitchen cabinets have doors set inside the cabinet frame so they close flush within the face frame. The seamless interior gives a furniture-like appeal. Inset cabinetry has a traditional, ornate feel.

Partial Overlay

Partial overlay cabinets feature doors and drawer fronts that partially overlay the cabinet frame by 1-2 inches. This reveals a hint of the frame for a subtler inset look. Partial overlay strikes a balance between inset and full overlay styles.

Full Overlay

For full overlay cabinetry, doors and drawers fully conceal the entire cabinet frame when closed. A seamless, contemporary look results from the lack of any visible framework. Full overlay cabinets have a sleeker, more modern aesthetic.

Beaded Inset

Beaded inset cabinetry combines the inset look with a decorative rounded bead design running along the inner edge of cabinet frames. This ornate lip helps accentuate doors and drawers. The style has an elegant, antique feel perfect for traditional spaces.

Cabinet Door Styles

Along with the overall cabinet style, kitchens can be further customized with unique door designs and finishes. Some popular kitchen cabinet door styles include:

  • Slab: simple, flat slab door fronts. Most often seen with Shaker cabinets.
  • Raised panel: doors have a central raised panel bordered by a molded frame. Used in traditional spaces.
  • Recessed panel: the inverse of raised panel with a central recessed panel and outer raised lip. Gives depth and dimension.
  • Arched: doors feature an arched cutout panel set within the frame. Provides beautiful visual interest.
  • Glass inset: glass panels set within a door frame. Creates an open, airy look while maintaining privacy.
  • Frosted glass: textured, opaque glass softens views while allowing light to permeate. Provides privacy and glow.
  • Leaded glass: decorative glass doors with metal cames forming “leaded” patterns. Immediately creates a timeless, antique vibe.
  • Wire mesh: thin metal wire screening covers opening in a breathable but secure way. Most often seen in open shelving.
  • Louvered: doors consist of angled wood slats that partially cover the opening while allowing air circulation. Ideal for cabinets flanking ovens.
  • Cafe: doors consist of glass panels bordered by a metal frame reminiscent of French door cafes. Beautiful and architectural choice.

Cabinet Finishes

Kitchen cabinets come in an array of colors and finishes to complement your design style. Considerations for kitchen cabinet finishes include:


Painted cabinetry provides an affordable way to get trendy colors like navy blue, sage green, yellow, and dove grey into your kitchen. Paint can be applied to wood, laminate, or thermofoil cabinets. Matte, satin, or high-gloss sheens give different effects.


Staining wood cabinets allows the natural wood grain and texture to show through while altering the base color. Stain opacities vary from light, translucent washes to heavy solids that obscure the grain. Multiple coats enrich the intensity.


Glazing involves applying a translucent, colored glaze over stained wood cabinets to create an antiqued, worn-in look. The technique tints the wood while allowing some of the underlying stain to show through. Wipe-off effects control the glazed finish.


Whitewashing wood cabinets results in a painted, aged white finish. The white paint remains partially transparent so undertones of the natural wood show through. Whitewash creates a coastal, farmhouse, or vintage aesthetic.

Dry Brushed

Dry brushing involves dragging a brush with thin paint over stained cabinets to create textured layers of color. More pressure equals more paint pickup. The technique adds artisan depth and dimension without fully obscuring the wood grain below.


Distressing gives wooden cabinets an intentionally worn, weathered appearance. Methods include physically denting or scraping the wood, glazing, dry brushing, and purposefully sanding edges or corners. Adds vintage character.


Wood veneer wraps can apply faux finishes like marble, metal, carbon fiber, slate, quartz, or stone to cabinet surfaces and edges. Great for contemporary spaces.

Cabinet Sizes

While custom cabinets can be built to any dimensions, there are general kitchen cabinet size standards to consider:

  • Base cabinets: Drawer base cabinets are typically 24” deep and 34 1⁄2” high. Door base cabinets are most often 24” deep and 34 1⁄2” high. Standard width increments are 12”, 15”, 18”, 21”, 24”, and 36”.
  • Wall cabinets: Standard widths for wall cabinets align with base cabinets, while heights come in 30”, 36”, and 42” options. Depth is typically 12”-13”.
  • Tall cabinets: Tall pantry or utility cabinets range from 30-36” wide and 84-96” high. Depth aligns with standard cabinet depths.
  • Upper cabinets: Similar dimensions as base cabinets but suspended from the wall. Standard upper cabinet heights include 30”, 36”, and 42” tall.

Customizations and Accessories

Beyond fundamental sizes and configurations, today’s kitchens can integrate specialized storage solutions and organizational must-haves:

  • Rollout trays and shelves increase access and visibility to items way in the back of cabinets.
  • Lazy susans provide effortless access to corner cabinet spaces.
  • Pullout spice racks, towel bars, and tiered drawers simplify everyday storage needs.
  • Wastebasket compartments hide unsightly trash away seamlessly.
  • Appliance garages tuck stand mixers and other small appliances out of sight but within reach.
  • Drawer dividers, cutlery inserts, and interior organizers optimize utility.
  • Tip out trays and blind corner organizers transform hard-to-reach spaces.
  • Crown molding, light rails, and glass cabinet doors boost aesthetic appeal.
  • Toe kick drawers utilize unused space beneath cabinets cleverly.

Installation Factors

Proper kitchen cabinet installation is critical for functionality and aesthetic. Elements to factor in include:

Cabinet Layout

Measure carefully and create a detailed cabinet layout plan accounting for kitchen size, windows, doors, and any appliances. Optimize workflow and access.

Wall Prep

Walls need to be stripped, repaired, and primed before installing kitchen cabinets. Any moisture or wall imperfections will negatively impact cabinets long-term.

Hanging Style

Stock cabinets come with pre-drilled hanging strips or cleats. Fully custom cabinets can integrate innovative hanging systems like rail mounts for easy install.

Leveling and Securing

All wall-mounted kitchen cabinets must be leveled and secured to studs or backing material to prevent shifting under weight over time. Proper support prevents sagging.

Filler Strips and Molding

Fill any gaps between cabinet edges and walls with trim pieces to give a built-in custom look. Crown molding and light rails add beautiful architectural detail.

Toe Kick

Toe kicks conceal the space between lower cabinets and floor while providing room for cabinet doors to open. Toe kicks can be recessed, standard, or décor style.

Getting cabinet installation right makes the rest of the process flow smoothly and minimizes issues down the road.

Common Questions About Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets represent a significant investment in both money and time into your home. It’s essential to understand what sets quality cabinetry apart and to ask the right questions when researching options. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about kitchen cabinets:

How much do new kitchen cabinets cost?

Kitchen cabinet pricing depends on several factors, including type, door style, materials, and quality. On average, expect to pay $100-300 per linear foot for semi-custom stock cabinets. Fully custom cabinetry ranges $200-1000+ per linear foot.

What is the most popular kitchen cabinet style?

Shaker style remains today’s most popular kitchen cabinet door. The clean, versatile design works in both modern and traditional spaces. Flat center panels and visible wood grain have enduring, widespread appeal.

How do I choose kitchen cabinet colors?

Cabinet color choices range from subdued neutrals to bold, saturated shades. Consider the overall kitchen design, existing elements you don’t want to change like flooring, and how much you want the cabinetry to stand out or blend in.

What kitchen cabinet brands are best?

Top cabinet brands include KraftMaid, Thomasville, Wellborn, American Woodmark, Canyon Creek, and Diamond Cabinetry. Look for solid wood construction, dovetail joinery, six-way adjustable hinges, and quality finish systems.

Should I get custom or stock kitchen cabinets?

Stock and semi-custom cabinets make sense for tighter budgets or faster project timelines. Fully custom cabinetry allows for unlimited personalization and a built-in look but comes at a higher cost. Assess your needs and project goals.

How can I modernize my existing kitchen cabinets?

Some budget-friendly ways to update old kitchen cabinets include adding new hardware, painting or refinishing, adding glass insets to doors, installing interior lighting, replacing doors, and updating knobs and pulls.

Are framed or frameless cabinets better?

Framed cabinets have a face frame that door attach to, while frameless cabinets have a minimalist, integrated rail system instead. Frameless cabinets have slightly more interior room while framed are typically more affordable.

How long do kitchen cabinets last?

With proper care and maintenance, quality wood or solid manufactured kitchen cabinets generally last 15-30 years. Thermofoil and laminate options average 10-15 years. Ensure cabinets stay dry and avoid excessive moisture.

How are Ikea kitchen cabinets rated?

As an affordable option, Ikea kitchen cabinets rate well for their price point. Their Akurum line features solid wood doors and drawers with adjustable hinges. Assembly is required but cabinets can be kept for 10+ years with care.

What are the most durable kitchen cabinet materials?

The most durable and strongest kitchen cabinet materials include stainless steel, hardwoods like hickory and maple, thermofoil, and composite materials like particleboard covered in laminate. Durability also depends on quality construction.

Final Thoughts on Kitchen Cabinets

The perfect kitchen cabinetry elevates both form and function. Cabinetry provides essential kitchen storage while defining the overall aesthetic. Carefully consider the cabinet construction, materials, configuration, style details, installation, and accents to create your ideal look and experience. While quality kitchen cabinets represent an investment, proper care ensures they will last for years down the road. Take the time to thoroughly research and even view cabinets in person before committing. At the end of the day, you want cabinetry that reflects your personal taste while standing the test of time. With some thoughtful planning and expert assistance, you can bring your dream kitchen to life.