Kitchen remodeling: Cabinets

Wooden toolbox filled with tools

Every kitchen renovation needs to start with a serious look at the cabinets. Professionals estimate that cabinets account for 60% of the cost of a kitchen renovation, so it's worth spending some time to really think about what you want and can afford.

Kitchen cabinets are priced by the lineal foot. Stock kitchen cabinets cost $75 to $250 per lineal foot. For a typical, 200 square-foot-kitchen with 30 lineal feet of cabinetry, that's $2,250 to $7,500. Semi-custom kitchen cabinets run about double that, or $150 to $500 per lineal foot. Custom kitchen cabinets can run $300 to $1,200 a lineal foot or more.

Those prices don't include professional installation. Some contractors charge a flat fee based on the number of kitchen cabinets to be installed while others charge a percentage of the total cost of the cabinets.

Start by choosing the right style and color for your kitchen. Kitchen cabinets run the gamut from elegant cherry or mahogany, to the charm of white-washed country French, the sophistication of lacquered contemporary or the casual warmth of oak. To get a sense of all the options, look at KitchenCraft's guide to door styles, wood types and stains.

Islands are one of the hottest trends in kitchens today. If you have the space, one's well worth considering, and it doesn't have to match your other kitchen cabinets. Indeed, it's fairly common for islands to stand apart from the other kitchen cabinets as a separate piece of furniture in a complementary color and style.

Some islands incorporate a sink or a cook top. They are the most costly type of island to install because they require new electrical and plumbing connections, and often require you to tear open the kitchen floor.

In terms of finishes, glazing is very popular. It adds a layer of richness while letting the beauty of the wood come through. This guide, again from KitchenCraft, shows the subtle differences between standard finishes and glazes. Glass panels can also add a special touch to your kitchen cabinets. If you think doors are meant to hide what's inside, not show it off, opt for textured glass.

Convenience is another important consideration. Fun, innovative features such as full-access corner cabinets, tilt-out bins for trash cans and built-in cutlery trays can make cooking and cleaning up easier and more enjoyable,

As you decide what you want your kitchen to look like, you'll also have to decide how much you can afford to spend and who will do the work.

At the top end are custom kitchen cabinets, beautiful pieces of furniture built specifically for your home to your specifications. The sky truly is the limit here, but you'll get exactly what you want and have a look that is unique as you are. These are ordered through and installed by kitchen designers or cabinet makers.

Somewhat less expensive are semi-custom cabinets, which offer a wide array of choice, but not to the degree of being the only cabinets exactly like them on the planet. Shop and order on-line, or from huge catalogues available at home improvement centers or through kitchen contractors.

With the amount of money you'll spend on custom or kitchen cabinets like these, you'll want them professionally installed.

There are several options for redoing cabinets on a more modest budget.

The least expensive option is to refinish or reface your existing cabinets.

If you live in an older home where the cabinets are made of solid wood, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything on the market today that's made better or will last longer. You'll also save thousands of dollars, not only in the cabinets and the installation, but also in repairing damage to the walls that can occur from ripping out the old cabinets.

Refacing glues new veneers over cabinet exteriors and replaces doors, drawer fronts and hardware such as hinges, handles and knobs. This will cost about half as much as replacing your cabinets.

Stock kitchen cabinets are the ones you see on the shelves at home improvement centers such as Lowe's. They come in a limited number of styles, woods or stains, and you'll have to make standard sizes work within your kitchen.

But they're half the cost of cabinets you have to order, come mostly assembled and are usually available to pick up and take home right away. They can also be customized with fancy hardware and moulding.

Finally there are ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets like the ones at IKEA, although plenty of other companies sell them as well. You pick out all the pieces, put them together and install them yourself. You'll save money and get a look that's pretty unique because you designed it yourself.

Stores like Lowes and IKEA offer installation. But the work can be done by a skilled do-it-yourselfer with sufficient time and patience.