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Where is the Best Place to Purchase Cabinets?

People are often daunted by the decision of where to buy cabinets. Sometimes, the choice is made for you when the cabinetry you like is available only from a single location. More often, the same cabinetry is available from multiple sources and those sources may offer different levels of service. When confronted with these types of choices, we usually let price be the deciding factor. However, it is often difficult to determine the price until after you commit to one vendor. Secondly, there is more to the decision than just price because often, the vendor offers valuable services as part of the deal.

First, let us list out the most common sources for cabinetry; whether for a kitchen, bath, office or other room, the sources are often the same. You'll find cabinetry offered by home improvement centers, warehouse stores, direct from manufacturers, cabinet craftsmen, dealers, design centers, kitchen designers, contractors and for lack of a category Ikea. Cabinetry differs from furniture in that cabinetry typically has to be installed and furniture does not. So furniture stores are not a part of the list, although some may actually offer cabinets.

Home Improvement Centers - This includes not just the biggies like Lowe's and Home Depot, but your local lumber and hardware center. Typically, these centers offer several brands of cabinets. Ideally they have kitchen mock-ups and sample doors with all the species of wood and finishes offered.

Pros - Often a good variety of choices, competitive prices, reliable delivery estimates.

Cons - Expertise of your "designer" may be minimal, may not offer the broadest selection, rarely offers high end cabinetry, may lack any personalization of cabinetry for your particular layout or needs.

Cabinet Manufacturers - Several cabinet manufacturers offer their products directly to the public. They provide instructions on how to take the measurements of the space and they use that information to create a plan for you. They will work with you to create a suitable layout and to pick the features for your cabinets.

Pros - Typically have good design and layout guidance for your project, reliable delivery estimates, greater chance of getting a rush project if needed, may save money by removing the middleman.

Cons - Unless you travel to their showroom you may have nothing but brochures or website photos to look at, may result in high shipping charges, no guaranty of any cost savings, limited selection, may or may not be able to personalize the layout and features to suit your particular needs.

Design Centers - These all-in-one centers typically have a showroom with several kitchen mock-ups for you to walk through and experience. They have many of the products on display in the kitchens. You are able to view appliances, plumbing products, countertops, cabinets and more all in one place. They typically have one or more kitchen designers to help you develop your entire kitchen plan. You may pay higher prices on some of the products, such as appliances, but you get valuable design services in exchange.

Pros - May offer top notch guidance and expertise, large showrooms make selection decisions easier, simplifies process with all-in-one convenience, typically very broad selection, may avoid costly mistakes by integrating all selections through a single person - your designer.

Cons - May be more expensive than other options, expertise only as good as their staff designers (look for CKD, ASID or similar credentials), package deals may prevent you from making product purchases elsewhere.

Cabinet Dealers - Here the range can be huge with some dealers offering nearly the same experience as a design center while others may have little more than a desk, a few sample doors and a lot or brochures. Typically a cabinet dealer represents one or more cabinet manufacturers and essentially is the conduit between you and the manufacturer. The chief advantage being that you get in-person service and depending upon the dealer, more samples and finishes to touch and hold.

Pros - May offer top notch guidance and expertise, may offer broad selection, may offer competitive prices.

Cons - May be more expensive than other options, expertise only as good as their staff designers (look for CKD, ASID or similar credentials), may offer only one or two manufacturer's product lines.

Kitchen Designers - This full service professional oversees the kitchen project from end to end. They will measure the kitchen, draw plans, usually provide you with computer drawings of what your new kitchen will look like, order the cabinets and oversee their proper installation. They will also offer guidance in selection of appliances, countertops, plumbing, flooring and lighting. They typically charge by the hour, but this may be reduced if you purchase through their network of vendors. When selecting a designer, look for certifications such as CKD or ASID.

Pros - A good kitchen designer can create a better kitchen than other vendor/retailer, can be great at solving design problems, can offer great advice in product and equipment selection, can streamline an otherwise stressful process, can be more objective than a designer who offers specific product lines, can guide you through a broader selection of choices than vendors representing specific manufacturers.

Cons - Hourly fees can add up fast, typically adds additional cost beyond the price of the products purchased, not all designers are equally good at design.

Interior Designers - These designers are similar to Kitchen Designers except that they do not specialize in kitchens. Also, depending upon where you live, someone calling themselves an interior designer may or may not have any experience whatsoever. Look for designers with suitable experience and certification.

Pros - A good interior designer can create a better kitchen than other vendor/retailers, can be great at solving design problems, can offer great advice in product and equipment selection, can streamline an otherwise stressful process, can be more objective than a designer who offers specific product lines, can guide you through a broader selection of choices than vendors representing specific manufacturers.

Cons - Hourly fees can add up fast, typically adds additional cost beyond the price of the products purchased, not all designers are equally good at design, in some cases anyone can call themselves an Interior Designer.

Warehouse Stores - Dealers in bulk merchandise and negotiated deals for their customers, warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's Club are notorious for limited selections and constantly changing availability of products. However, the deals than can get on products can be extraordinary. If your local warehouse store has an arrangement with a cabinet company, odds are you will get a great price that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. The drawback being the deal only works if they happen to have a cabinet style you like.

Pros - Usually an excellent price for the quality, good customer support.

Cons - Limited selection, you will actually do business with a third party vendor - not the warehouse club, availability may not coincide with your project.

Ikea - Ikea furniture stores are known for their low cost furniture and household decor items. They also offer a variety of kitchen cabinets, appliances, countertops and plumbing fixtures. While not known for being highest quality, the price to quality ratio make their kitchen cabinets an attractive option.

Pros - Excellent prices, short turn around times, on-line design assistance, good value, good customer support, all-in-one convenience.

Cons - Somewhat limited selection, not top quality, impersonal design process.

Contractors - A contractor might be able to build some or all of your cabinets, but rarely will they be the best choice for anything other than built-ins. Although, most contractors don't build cabinets, they order them from a manufacturer, just like you could. Your contractor may have an arrangement with a manufacturer where than can get you a better price, or they might just keep it themselves as a part of the project price.

Pros - Contractors use vendors they can count on, both for satisfactory products and for on-time delivery. Contractors may be able to pass on a negotiated or volume discount to you.

Cons - Limited selection, potentially inferior quality to cut costs, potential for being overcharged.

Custom Cabinet Makers - A good cabinet maker can make unsurpassed cabinets that are tailored precisely to your tastes and designed to fit your space down to the 16th of an inch. No one can more precisely match your design requirements than someone who will build your cabinets based upon your space and not preset stock sizes. If you want something that you won't see again and again in other homes, then custom cabinets are the thing.

Pros - Can fill a unique space with precisely sized cabinets, can build a design entirely unique for your home, hand built can be the very best quality, attention to details such as grain matching can yield the very best looking cabinets.

Cons - nearly always the most expensive option, a good cabinet maker may be booked months in advance, in most cases you need to hire a second tradesman to stain and finish the cabinets, delivery estimates may not be accurate.




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