There is more to Kitchen Cabinets than Meets the Eye

White Kitchen CabinetryIf you’ve got your eye on new kitchen cabinets for your home, stop to consider more than just appearances. Good looks need to be coupled with durable design, and here’s a heads-up on three key details that help ensure your biggest kitchen investment ages gracefully.

Standard Kitchen Cabinet Feature: European Hinge

The desperate post-war need for new housing in Europe led to the creation of a super-efficient approach to kitchen cabinet construction that has since spread to the rest of the world. One of the most important parts of this method is the so-called European hinge, a standard feature on almost all kitchen cabinets built in Canada today. Although they’re always invisible when cabinet doors are closed, you can identify them by the complicated looking mechanism that becomes visible when doors are opened.

  • European Hinge_Kitchen CabinetryThe European hinge is popular with cabinetmakers everywhere because it has adjustment screws that allow door position to be tweaked up, down or sideways with great precision during installation.
  • It speeds construction and makes workbench skills less critical.
  • The flip side of this is the complication and high cost of European hinges, compared with simpler, traditional butt hinges. Basic, high-quality euro-hinges cost about $10 a pair; fancy versions that open really wide go for twice that.
  • In an effort to reduce costs, some hinge manufacturers have created a plastic-and-metal version of the original all-metal European hinge.
  • Although these work well at first, offering the same easy adjustments as their all-metal cousins, plastic/metal hybrids rarely age gracefully. The plastic parts often break after 5 or 10 years use, letting the door sag and bind with its neighbour.
  • If you’re paying good money for kitchen cabinets, demand the best in hinges. The world leader in European hinges is a company called Blum. You can expect very consistent and precise gaps between doors hung on all-metal hinges of this kind, so don’t be shy to demand silky smooth door performance.

Mechanical Drawer Slides Eliminate Sticky Kitchen Cabinet Drawers

Another feature that makes modern cabinets easier to build and more reliable is the mechanical drawer slide — those metal and plastic tracks usually seen along the bottom edge of drawer sides. These have eliminated the frustration of sticky, all-wood drawers that were common even in commercial cabinets built as late as the early 1970’s.

  • Industrial designers have got the mechanical drawer slide down pat, at least as far as performance goes.
  • Even the cheap, ubiquitous versions work flawlessly for years. But they’ll never win a beauty contest.
  • Do you want mechanical drawer performance without the industrial appearance? There are options.
  • If you ask around, you’ll find a little-known style of drawer slide that’s completely invisible since it operates underneath the drawer, not on the sides.
  • These are more expensive than side-mounted styles, but the cost premium is minuscule compared to the tens of thousands of dollars you’ll easily spend on new cabinets.
  • Ask for bottom-mounted drawer slides.

Child-Proof Kitchen Cabinet Door Latches

I’ve got young kids around my house, so I know what it’s like to keep the little darlings out of the cereal cupboard. Hardware stores everywhere sell flexible nylon hooks that mount to the inside of doors to make them childproof, but if you’re having new cabinets built there’s a better way.

  • Ask for a hidden magnetic latch system called Rev-A-Lock.
  • It’s the only one I know of that locks cabinet doors completely shut automatically.
  • Opening the door requires a separate, hand-held magnetic knob that activates the latch from the outside.
  • This system is slick and reliable, and can be deactivated when the kids become more interested in phone calls than cake pans.
  • Rev-A-Lok latches have been in continuous use at my place since 1990 without a hitch, except for those times when we lose the knob.

Posted on November 19th, 2010

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