LESLIE: Well, they’re more than just for storage of pots and your plates. Cabinetry can really define the look of your cooking space.
TOM: Yes, it can. And investing in new cabinets can be exciting. But with a lot of money at stake, it can also be nerve-wracking. Here to help you make the right decision is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.
TOM SILVA: Well, hi, guys. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: So, how can homeowners make sure they get the most bang for their buck when they’re selecting new kitchen cabinets? I mean it’s a pretty overwhelming decision, right?
TOM SILVA: Oh, you better believe it. There are a lot of different choices out there. But I always focus on not only the way the cabinets look but the quality of the pieces of the parts that you don’t see.
TOM: Right. The hardware and that sort of thing.
TOM SILVA: The hardware, the cabinets, how they’re put together, the thickness of the material and the type of material.
LESLIE: Tommy, it seems like there’s so many different aspects to cabinetry that you really kind of have to go into a kitchen project with a budget hierarchy of what it is that you want. So, how do you sort through what’s most effective?
TOM SILVA: Well, right. And everybody has a budget that they want to try to stick to. And you can start off with the – I think the lowest cabinet is a stock cabinet: something that you get off the shelf. They have a lot of different configurations in finishes and styles but you have a limited selection. Semi-custom is where the configuration is a little better but you still have to use fillers to make the pieces fit where they want to fit.
TOM SILVA: And then if you really have a budget that is, I think, higher, then you want to get into a custom kitchen where they can make the pieces fit exactly where you want them. You can pick out how you want the boxes and how you want the drawers and the type of hardware and how you want the doors. It’s all a matter of your budget.
TOM: It’s all a matter of dollars and cents.
TOM SILVA: Dollars and cents, yeah.
TOM: That’s a good point. Now, I’ve actually put together some of those cabinets and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality isn’t there.
TOM SILVA: No.
TOM: In fact, they’re really saving you some money when you put them together yourself. And it’s not that hard.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. We did a great project on Ask This Old House where we actually assembled the cabinets and put them together. And what a difference it made in the kitchen. And they were great cabinets.
LESLIE: I feel like there are so many different styles of cabinetry. You’re looking at things. There’s Arts and Crafts and there’s Victorian. Do you really look at the architecture of the exterior of your home? How do you kind of figure what’s a good match?
TOM SILVA: Well, it really becomes a personal preference, what people like. Some people like Victorians with a – they have raised panels and maybe multiple layers of molding around those raised panels. Maybe big columns or turnings around the kitchen. It’s really that particular look that you may be looking at. Maybe an Arts and Craft, a much simpler detail. Flatter panel, styles and rails, maybe no detail around the inside of that flat panel.
And then, of course, you get the modern or the contemporary look. That seems to be the latest craze right now. Everybody wants that contemporary kitchen with the sharp, crisp lines. And the hardware makes a huge difference on the detail.
TOM: Now, with all these decisions, how do you feel about kind of going straight to a kitchen designer for some help here because it seems like – I think people are somewhat reluctant, sometimes, to hire design professionals. But in the end, it can actually save you money because you’re not making costly mistakes.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely. Kitchen designers can have some great ideas. They can mix and match colors, patterns, products, tiles, all of those things. The little things that you don’t think make a difference make a huge difference. Like you can have a soapstone countertop around the sink and you can have a beautiful, wood countertop on the island with a glass backsplash, for example.
TOM: Something you might not have thought of.
TOM SILVA: No, exactly.
TOM: Because you don’t have the eye for it; you don’t do it every day.
TOM SILVA: Right.
TOM: We’re talking to Tom Silva, the general contractor for TV’s This Old House.
Alright. Let’s say you go into a store, right, and you’re looking at some cabinets. You want to sort of evaluate the quality of the cabinets. Things to look for?
TOM SILVA: Things to look for. Well, I look for a good plywood box.
TOM SILVA: I always like something to be thicker than thinner. Half inch is fine. I prefer three-quarter but it’s hard to get three-quarter, in some cases. You’ll get that more in a custom cabinet.
And how the drawers are put together. Lots of times, dovetail joints are important, what the drawer boxes are made out of. Wood laminates are always good. You can even get drawer boxes that are made of metal. And they’re put together and they fasten to the drawer fronts with the special fasteners. And they’re pretty good because they’re – you have adjustability over time.
TOM: And that drawer hardware is also important. The one I love is the soft close where it sort of finishes closing on its own.
TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah. Yeah. It’s great because it stops kids from getting their fingers pinched and the drawers don’t stay open just a little bit, so your kitchen doesn’t look messy.
TOM SILVA: And they have the hardware that goes on the sides of the drawers and also underneath the drawers, which gives you a little more width on the inside of the drawer. But they both will be a soft close if you want them.
TOM: And that’s so important because that’s what really wears those drawers. You load them up, especially the silverware drawer and that sort of thing, and they get opened and closed just thousands of times a year.
TOM SILVA: Exactly.
LESLIE: And I think it’s important. There’s so many options for what can be on the interior of those cabinets or those drawers. You know, everybody’s recycling everything. If you’ve got the right cabinet box on your lower counter area, you could have a door that opens up and have all three trash bins sort of there for you. You just have to sort of think creatively as to what your needs are.
TOM SILVA: Right. They also have areas with those hard-to-get places in the corners, where you may have a dead corner. They have these pull-out units now that are beautiful. You can open the door and then they swing out. They slide out so you don’t have to get on your hand and knees to dig out stuff that you’re hiding away in the corners.
TOM: Final question. When it comes to design, we always talk about the working triangle. Is that really important?
TOM SILVA: I find that it’s not as important today.
TOM SILVA: People aren’t really into that working triangle as much as they used to be, because there’s multiple people in the kitchen working now.
TOM: It’s true. You have to have multiple working triangles.
TOM SILVA: And so – yeah, sometimes a triangle – you’re in the way of one another.
TOM SILVA: So, people need to design their kitchen or think about the kitchen and how they actually use their kitchen.
TOM: Of course, we’re talking about the distance between the refrigerator, the sink, and the stove.
TOM SILVA: Work area, yep.
TOM: But now you’ve got the microwave and you’ve got the wall oven.
TOM SILVA: And you’ve got the island with the big cutting board. And it’s all kinds of different things now, today.
TOM: Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice for helping you select kitchen cabinets.
TOM SILVA: Well, thanks, guys. It’s nice to be here.
LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.