When it comes to cabinets, our very own Eric Jaeger is one of the best resources out there. A former contractor, Eric has experience on both the design and installation sides of cabinet projects and offers a unique perspective to both homeowners and professionals. In this series, we sit down with Eric to learn more about the cabinet ordering process from design to project completion—and the do's and don’ts in between. 

In today’s episode, we talk to Eric about some of the nuances of the cabinet process that can cause project setbacks—and how to avoid them.

What to look out for when taking initial measurements

Some of the most common issues we see arise during the initial measurement phase are around appliances. When measuring for a refrigerator, it’s crucial to consult the manufacturer’s guide. Some refrigerators may require two to three inches of buffer to allow for doors to open fully. For example, the standard refrigerator size today is 36 inches wide, but the manufacturer may require a 39-inch opening to accommodate the style of door. 

You might not notice it, but most interior walls are never perfectly plumb (or vertical), which can disrupt the precision of your measurements. For example, with frameless cabinetry, drawers and doors may not open if the wall is even slightly angled in. In these cases, you’ll need to plan for additional filler to create enough room for your cabinets to operate properly. 

Additionally, most cabinet companies state an allowable tolerance, meaning your finished cabinets may be off by up to 1/16” from the stated sizes. In cases where you have several cabinet modules stacked side-by-side, these small discrepancies can add up quickly, so it’s critical to allow for this possibility, so you don’t run out of room. 

Blind corners and how to account for them

A blind corner is when you have two adjacent walls where cabinets have to come together at 90 degrees. Some manufacturers make “blind corner cabinets”—these are designed without doors or drawers on the half of the face where the adjacent module will be installed perpendicularly. Most cabinets come in standard widths, but with a blind corner, you have to account for the extra space you’ll need between the wall and the cabinet to allow for the corner doors and drawers to open. 

Unfortunately, cabinet design software doesn’t account for these small nuances, so it’s important to have an experienced professional to help ensure no inch is left unaccounted for.

Installation strategy

The order in which you install your cabinets with respect to the rest of the elements of your kitchen matters. While things like ranges and dishwashers usually don’t cause issues with horizontal measurements (since they open straight versus to the side), some dishwasher manufacturers have lowered the location of the pump to increase their capacity. In these cases, the vertical space between the flooring and the countertop is crucial—if your flooring goes in before your dishwasher, it may reduce the height of the opening to where your dishwasher no longer fits. Luckily, if you are aware of this, you can account for it by adjusting your cabinet installation strategy based on your flooring material and when it will be installed.

What about range hood cabinets?

Range hoods, or “wood hoods,” can be beautiful focal points to a kitchen. If a wood hood is part of your design, it’s important to understand that the hood liner (also called the fan or blower) is a separate component that needs to be accounted for in your cabinet design. The liner must fit within the cabinet to work properly. We recommend using corresponding liners from your cabinet company—you’ll know for sure that they’ll fit, and they’re usually commercial grade and higher quality than traditional fans. 

It’s also important to keep building code in mind with hood liners—if your liner pulls more than 400 cubic feet of air per minute, you need to build in an automated supply of “make-up air.” Commercial fans are incredibly powerful and will pull air from crawl spaces and other areas of your home with poor air quality, thus contaminating your indoor air. The hood range liners available through our cabinet manufacturers have make-up air parts easily available to purchase with your cabinet order.

Cabinet finishing: factory vs. field application

Applying cabinet finish the right way is more complicated than applying a coat of paint. Manufacturer-applied finish goes through a lengthy “baking” process, wherein multiple coats of finish are applied and heat-sealed between each application. It’s a multi-step process that can be even longer depending on the kind of gloss you’ve selected.

To duplicate this process on your own is a tall task. First, you’ll have a hard time finding finishing products that are as durable and high-quality as what cabinet manufacturers have access to. When it comes to applying the finish, you’ll need to remove all the doors and drawers and set up a protected spray booth in a separate room. After they’ve had time to dry, everything will need to be reassembled. If you decide to do your own finishing, there are other things to consider too, like the dust and debris you have no control over. All this to say—it may cost you much more in dollars and time than if you were to leave it to the professionals. 

Cabinetry design and installation is a big project, but with the knowledge and guidance of a trusted cabinet professional, you are much more likely to avoid these common mistakes. To learn more about the cabinet design process, see Eric’s tips on what to know about buying cabinets and cabinet options and quality. If you’re ready to start designing your new cabinets, make a free appointment with one of our cabinet specialists today.