Understanding Building Materials and Cabinet Construction
How much should you know about building materials and cabinet construction before you undertake a kitchen renovation project? You don’t need to be an expert — leave that to the cabinetmaker — but it’s a good idea to be familiar with your options so you can make decisions that will work for you aesthetically and functionally.
In particular, it’s important to understand the differences between LEICHT cabinets and U.S. brands or custom-made cabinets. As in many instances, it usually comes down to a question of how much you value quality.
Particleboard, MDF and plywood are the materials used to make cabinet boxes in the U.S. Panels made from these wood products are usually covered in a wood veneer, plastic laminate/melamine or thermofoil.
LEICHT cabinet boxes are made of a CARB ll furniture board with a thicker melamine surface that is impermeable to water. No kitchen in Europe will have cabinet boxes made any other way.
In the U.S., wood cabinet drawers are predominantly made from the same materials used to construct the cabinet boxes, although higher quality drawers may to be made of solid wood, which stands up better to frequent opening and closing.
LEICHT drawer boxes are metal, mixed with glass. They also feature melamine bottoms and undermount slides to provide an invisible soft close that last much longer and run much smoother than those made in the U.S. or China.
Doors and drawer fronts
Most cabinet doors and drawer fronts in the U.S. are made from an engineered wood product (particle board, MDF, plywood) that is covered with a wood veneer, laminate or thermofoil. You should know that thermofoil, in particular, is affordable but not durable. It will delaminate over time, especially next to an oven or dishwasher, as the heat will speed up that process.
LEICHT doors and drawer fronts are made of much higher quality materials, and new options include relief-based fronts as well as those made from glass, acrylic, and hand-troweled concrete.
Cabinet shelves in the U.S. are made from an engineered wood product, plywood, MDF or particleboard (Sense a pattern here?) They’re normally covered with another material, such as melamine. What you need to know about melamine is how thick the layer is; for instance, shelves from IKEA have thin melamine layers through which water can permeate.
LEICHT shelves are constructed with a thicker layer of melamine, which means they will last for a long time.
Hardware, Slides and Hinges
Hardware, slides and hinges on U.S.-built cabinets may not always be of the highest quality — if imported from China, for example — so they tend to wear out over the long haul.
LEICHT uses the highest quality slides and hinges to lengthen the life of door hinges and facilitate the over-time use of “add-ons” like baskets and lazy susans. LEICHT hinges are also more adjustable — in width, height, and depth — to provide greater flexibility and precision.
For all cabinets, the finish serves three important purposes: provides aesthetic appeal; protects the underlying surface from elements commonly found in kitchens, like moisture and chemicals; and offers protection from direct sunlight. The most common finish treatments for kitchen cabinets are paint, stain, varnish, lacquer and glaze — and like all the other components, you want the best quality you can afford.
Remember if you spend a bit more upfront to buy quality — for your finish and for all the other important cabinet components — you’re making an investment that will last a lot longer than a cheaper alternative. You might also like to know that LEICHT supports your desire to be more “green” by offering environmentally friendly finishes as well.
Knowing all this doesn’t mean you’re a cabinetry expert, but it can help you make more informed decisions about your project. We also have a Cabinetry Buying Guide and Decision-Making Checklist to add to your cabinet IQ.
Did you know that LEICHT offers a variety of options for cabinet surfaces — from laminate, concrete and glass to veneer — and you’ll find a host of fashionable colors and natural wood to choose from?