Monthly Archives: February 2013

How Can I Tell if a Cabinet is Good Quality?

“How to Buy Remodeling” Blog Series – Part Four

Cabinets are basically designed in two categories: Budget-priced and Custom.  There is a middle category called semi-custom but it doesn’t have anything to do with the construction of the cabinet, it has to do with the available sizes and stain colors.

Your budget cabinetry is made out of as much particle board as possible to keep the price down.  Particle board is not a good product for the box, or the shelves, or the tops, or the bottoms of a cabinet.  The goal would be to have the least amount of particle board as possible.  A good quality cabinet has no particle board in it at all.  It has plywood veneers, MDF veneers, or other types of veneers or solid woods.  That is how you tell the difference: look and see, with the top removed, how much of it is particle board. Every cabinet manufacturer has a specification sheet with an exploded view of the cabinet and how it’s made, every part is identified.  I’m pretty sure it’s like a Cabinet Manufacturer Associations Pledge to Honesty.  No one would lie about the way their cabinet is made.  It’s just a matter of what you are looking for: Quality or Price?

Next are the Doors themselves.  Everybody makes a face frame that is of solid wood, and most offer a door that is solid wood, but with some companies, the door itself is MDF (which is not bad) or a combination of real wood and veneers, where the center portion is veneer and the outer portion is real wood.  Those are going to be lower quality and less durable.  A lot of companies that are making furniture that you see in furniture stores are made that way.  Where the appearance is very nice (the shine and the color), but the quality is very low and they don’t last.

The real question is: how long are the cabinets going to last?  Again, like countertops, moisture is the enemy of a cabinet.  And the more particle board you have in the manufacturing of the product, the more it is going to fall apart when it’s exposed to moisture.  A quick example would be the sink cabinet.  As you know, everybody’s sink once in a while drips water underneath, you don’t notice it, and it eventually rots out the bottom of the cabinet.  If that cabinet was made out of plywood, it would last a lot longer than if it were made out of particle board.  As a matter of fact, a lot of companies are now selling a vinyl covering for their particle board sink cabinets to try and stop the water from penetrating when it drips.  So that is something you could look for.

The next thing about cabinetry quality would be the drawers.  Drawers can be made out of particle board, MDF, plywood, or solid wood.  It doesn’t matter to me what it’s made out of, because they all are rated to hold approximately 75 or more pounds.  The rating of the drawer is based on the drawer guide, not the drawer itself.  A lot of companies are showing and pushing 5/8” thick, full dovetail, solid birch, pine or maple drawer boxes.

They are pretty to look at, but they’re just holding your silverware.  If you had a particle board drawer, it still holds silverware.  What makes the difference is the drawer glide system.  If you have a weak glide system, eventually the drawer is going to fall off.  If you drop a drawer and it’s made out of particle board, it will break.  If it’s made out of dovetail solid wood, it will bounce.  You can put it right back in and it won’t be a problem.  But most people don’t drop the drawers so it’s really not an issue.  If you have broken your drawer, then the manufacturer is going to get you a new one.  Or any reface company can make you a new one relatively inexpensively and put it in.  I’m not necessarily condoning particle board as a drawer box, I’m just saying it doesn’t matter that much.

How do you know if you have a good drawer glide system?

Well, you can look at them.  The ones that are bigger are better.  The ones that are real thin are not going to work for the long run.  Visually inspect it: you can tell a good one, a more expensive one, from a cheaper one. As a general rule, the ones that are mounted on the sides are cheaper, and the ones mounted underneath are better.  Some of them are very sophisticated where they close by themselves, soft-close they’re called – when you give them a little nudge, they finish closing on their own.  Those are the high-tech ones.  If the drawer opens all the way out, full-extension, they are more expensive than if the drawer opens ¾ of the way out.

Your standard, side-mount drawer guide is real flimsy, the drawer shakes if you wiggle it, and it only extends ¾ of the way. Your stronger ones are full-extension, they don’t wobble as much, and then your soft-close are the best.

I recommend a nice looking drawer that is durable.  And usually if you are buying an all-plywood cabinet it’s going to come with a plywood or solid wood drawer box.  If you’re buying an all particle board cabinet, it’s going to have a particle board drawer box.  And they will have upgrades available just to upgrade the drawer box.

A lot of cabinet companies, Kraftmaid for example, will give you a particle board box, but then they offer you a plywood side on all exposed sides.  Between the cabinets where it doesn’t matter it is particle board, but everywhere you can see is plywood with a veneer.  So that is an interesting option that they offer.  The problem is that by the time you take a particle board box, and add your plywood sides as an upgrade (they make a lot of money on their option upgrades), you could have just as easily bought a plywood cabinet to begin with.  So there is really no reason to take a particle board cabinet and try to upgrade it.  Just buy a better cabinet to begin with.  Obviously different cabinet shops are going to give you different advice, there are 1,000 different brands of cabinets out there.

What I advise is to look at the box of the cabinet without a countertop on it (so you can see how it’s made), or an exploded view from their pamphlet, ask about plywood vs. particle board, and look at the shelves and see how thick they are (they should be a minimum of 5/8”, I wouldn’t recommend any ½” shelves because they warp).

Feel free to stop by our showroom for a hands-on look at all the different cabinet styles that Dave has discussed, from particle board to soft-close systems, we have the right cabinet for every style and budget.  Located at 38200 Van Dyke Ave. in Sterling Heights, MI Kopke Remodeling & Design is known for happy customers, good quality products, and fair prices.  586-777-6633

All About Countertops: Which One is Right for Me?

“How to Buy Remodeling” Blog Series – Part Three

There are many different types of countertops that can be used in Kitchens and Bathrooms.  Everybody is always asking: “What is the BEST Countertop?”

The best is Quartz, the second best is Granite, the third best is Solid Surface Acrylic, for example Corian.  The fourth best is Hi-Definition Laminate, and the fifth would be regular laminate.

Caesarstone Quartz Countertop

That is just a general opinion from me, but that is based on experiences that my clients have given me feedback on.  Quartz is not able to be stained or scratched or damaged in any way, which makes it the best.  It comes in a wide variety of colors and always has a smooth texture.  Granite is the second best because it can be stained and it has to be sealed; it does take maintenance.  But, if you’re looking for beauty, granite is better than quartz.  You cannot beat the look of a slab of granite.  If you went into the warehouses where they store the granite to pick yours out, you would be awed by the wide variety of colors and waves of color that go through the slabs, your jaw would drop and you would pick one out that is so beautiful and just for you.  Quartz is not like that, it does not produce that jaw-dropping effect.

Slab of Granite

How hard is it to maintain the granite?  I mean, is it do-able?

It has to be sealed.  And then if youre cooking and you have grease going on there and wine and grapes and things , you could stain your granite, especially your lighter colored granite.

Do you seal it just once, or every year?

As often as you need to.  Every 6 months is what I recommend, some do it every year, depends how much you use your countertops.  In the area where you do food prep, every 6 months would be appropriate.  You have to strip it, clean it and re-seal it.  You can buy cleaners that also seal, which is what we use at our house.

Again, Quartz is the least amount of maintenance and the most amount of durability against scratches, which are the two qualities that make it generally recognized as “the best”.

What about Wood Countertops?  Those seem to be rising in popularity.

Butcher block countertops are beautiful to look at, but they have to be sealed and are softer than stone, so they can dent and scratch (but many wood-lovers see this as adding character). There has been a myth spreading that wood countertops harbor bacteria, but wood is actually naturally anti-bacterial!

And then you have Corian type products.

Corian is very easy to scratch, all Acrylic countertops are easy to scratch.  Ebonite, Corian, Nevamar, and a whole bunch of them.  But the beauty of them is they can be worked like a piece of wood.  So you can router them, you can have inlays, you can add designs, and they are all seamless, every time they are installed there are never any seams.  The edge treatments are all formed right into the countertop, so it works like a raw piece of wood as far as using tools on it, drilling holes and things like that, it’s very easy to work with.  So if you have custom designs that you need done.  Corian is good for shower walls, it’s good for bathtub decks, it’s good for a lot of things where the weight of quartz or granite would be too cumbersome.  It has its application, and is very popular in some high-end areas just like quartz and granite; it’s about the same price.

And then your Hi-Definition Laminate is a very durable product as far as scratches, much more durable than Corian, but it has a limited life.  Moisture is the enemy of laminate.

Around the sink and in areas where there are seams, over time develops swelling of the substrate, and the counter has to be replaced probably every 7-10 years.   Now it’s about one quarter of the cost, so if you want to refresh your counters once in a while, then go with Hi-Def laminate and you can change them more often.

Is that what Formica is?

Formica is a brand of plastic laminate.  They’re all the same: Formica, Nevamar, Wilsonart, a few others.

So when would you recommend using laminate?  Isn’t that what we have in our basement around the bar area?

Yes we do.  We used a Hi-Definition plastic laminate, looks like granite, has a texture to it, it is very durable, looks beautiful.

Formica Laminate Countertop

Because I’ve seen some new ones that even look like stone.

Yeah that’s because they have rounded edges or beveled edges, they look like stone.

And you don’t have to worry so much about your every move, whether or not you will stain it.

They can’t be stained.  Very difficult to stain laminate, but they can be cracked with a hot pan.  But then again you shouldn’t put a hot pan on anything.

That’s what a lot of people ask me on the phone, which countertop they should get.  They think they want to put their hot pans on them.  Would you recommend doing that, even on quartz?

Well you can! You can put a hot pan on anything.  What youre risking is something called Rapid Thermal Expansion which will cause  a thermal crack.  So, when something is really hot it expands quickly.  If the countertop is part cold and part hot because you put something on it, it might crack.  No one is going to provide a warranty against the cracking of any countertop.

So it’s a crack we should be worried about, not a black circle burn mark or anything like that?

Right.  You can’t burn granite, you cant burn quartz.  Corian can be scotch-brighted and the burn comes right off- you can’t burn through the surface.  You can burn the surface, with a cigarette or something, but it will come right off.  Laminate, if you put a hot pan on that, it pops the glue, and makes a bubble in the surface or cracks.  The limit really is about 325º for anything going on the counter.  Anything more than that, youre in danger of cracking.  Or even boiling water.  If you pour boiling water into a corian sink you can crack it.  That’s only 212º.  So I guess it would probably be best to use hot pads all the time.  You wouldn’t want to take the chance.

So there are different applications for all of the different counters, it depends on the abuse it’s going to go through, and the amount of upkeep you are willing to do.  Laminate is a lot less expensive, and it’s come a long way.   Stop by our showroom any time to look at the hundreds of samples we have of all the different styles of countertops!  Kopke Remodeling & Design, located at 38200 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights, MI 48312.

Read More: “Quartz, Granite, Solid Surfaces: Pros and Cons”