Monday, February 6, 2017

MODULAR CABINETS: Are They Better Than Custom?

Years ago, each time a craftsman set out to build some cabinets, he started from scratch. There were no agreed-upon standards for cabinet sizes, so he might make a sink cabinet 37” wide for one kitchen and 43” wide for another.  He might even make the countertop higher or lower, depending on the stature of the homeowner.
Modular cabinets are sort of like Lego blocks: They can
be put together in many different ways, and
still fit together well.

All this customization was great—if you could afford it.

Today, the advent of modular cabinetry has made decent-quality cabinets much easier on the pocketbook.  Unlike custom cabinets, the dimensions of modulars are standardized so they can be mass-produced.  That, of course, means lower cost to the consumer: a bare-bones, modular 36” base cabinet can start as low as $120.  For more elaborate styles, you can still figure on paying about half to two-thirds of what a custom cabinet would cost.

Countless accessories are available with
modular cabinets, many of which can
really boost your storage space.
Designing with modulars is easy. Their widths are always a multiple of 3”. If you have a space, say, 11’-7 1/2” wide available for cabinets, you simply choose an arrangement of modulars that’ll fill up as much of the space as possible. For this example, the largest total width possible is 11’-6”, since that’s the biggest multiple of 3” that fits in 11’-7 1/2”. The slight gap left over at each end is closed in with a strip of matching wood called a “filler”.

Modular cabinets have standardized heights, too. Base cabinets for kitchens are built to yield a 36” counter height. Wall cabinets are generally available in 30”, 36”, and 42” heights (corresponding to 7’, 7’6”, and 8’ ceilings), as well as in special sizes made for installation above refrigerators, ranges, and peninsulas. A variety of bathroom vanities are also available.

As in any mass-produced product, there have been some compromises in materials and workmanship—particle board and plastic shelf brackets are common, especially in the cheaper lines. On the plus side, the finish quality of good modulars is often better than that of custom units.

Wine racks, shadow boxes, and glass doors are
just a few of the goodies you can experiment
with in your modular kitchen design.
Designing with modular cabinets is a bit like playing with Lego blocks: no matter how you arrange them, they always fit together. Of course, they still have to be arranged properly, so if you’re not familiar with basic kitchen design conc epts, consult a kitchen designer, an architect, or a good kitchen design book.

Here are some easy steps to laying out a modular kitchen:

•  First, choose a cabinet manufacturer that suits your budget and offers the type of accessories you want. For example, some manufacturers provide pull-out shelves as standard equipment in base cabinets; others don’t offer them at all.
The finishing touch: An incredible
selection of door and hardware
combinations means there's
something for everyone.

•  Next, decide on the location of the range and/or oven, the sink, and the refrigerator.  These placements are critical, so get help here if you need it. Once you’ve figured out the basic arrangement, you can experiment with various accessories.  Most modular cabinet manufacturers offer interesting add-ons such as knickknack shelves, wine racks, and range hoods in matching finishes. Beware, however — like new-car options, these items can get very expensive.

•  Determine where you’d like specialized cabinets such as drawer stacks, tray cabinets, or full-height pantry cabinets. Also, if your cabinets will turn a corner, decide between a lazy susan cabinet or a “blind” cabinet with a conventional door. Refer to the manufacturer’s literature for the available sizes and types.

• Finally, choose your favorite door style and surface finish from the manufacturer’s catalog. Oh, and when your kitchen’s done, how about baking me a nice pie? 


  1. I am very happy to read such a wonderful blog which gives the helpful information. thanks for sharing. 

  2. Really a amazing post...valuable info.
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