There are many suppliers of kitchen units who offer a vast choice of styles, colors and individual shapes. Care is needed if you decide to mix units from different suppliers, since they are not all interchangeable.
The commonest material used for these units is particleboard, with special fixings supplied. The quality of the board varies, with the higher priced units generally being made with better grades or with solid wood.
Most of the drawers operate on steel runners, which are finished in a variety of ways to achieve smooth, silent operation. Doors are normally hung with special hinges that can be adjusted in three directions to ensure the doors align accurately and shut neatly. These hinges also incorporate a spring return to hold the doors shut, thus eliminating the need for catches that used to be a constant source of trouble.
The way in which the doors are finished is one of the main features affecting the choice of unit or system. The cheaper models normally have plastic laminate-faced particleboard doors. As the price increases, the finish improves. Top of the range are solid wooden doors. These incorporate attractive molded contours, which can take different forms – from basic panelling to more complex styles.
How the cabinets are supplied again depends on the price you pay. The less expensive ones normally come as factory-assembled carcases to which you have to fit doors, drawers and other internal fittings. Although the quality of these instructions has improved considerably over the years, there are still some manufacturers who leave much to be desired in this respect. As the price increases, the cabinets are normally delivered pre-assembled and very carefully packed.
The height of the base cabinets that fit beneath countertops varies between manufacturers – from 34 to 35in. Most units are designed with a depth to suit 24in wide countertops, although some are available for the smaller size of 20in.
Cabinets can be bought in standard lengths from all suppliers, although not all lengths are available in all styles. The normal dimensions include 12, 16, 20, 24, 32 and 36in.
To take up the odd spare space, manufacturers produce a range of ingenious devices such as towel rails and ironing boards that slide away underneath the countertop when not in use.
You can also choose from a range of taller cabinets to house ovens, refrigerators or for food storage. These are normally 2ft wide. The side panels can normally be obtained in white or colored laminate to suit your decor.
To provide added storage, wall cabinets are available in matching styles and colors. These are normally about 2ft 4in high and 11in deep and come in a similar range of lengths to the base cabinets, with various shelf and door configurations.
You can also get bridging units, which are about 11in high and come in a limited range of lengths. They are intended to be fitted high on the wall between two deep cabinets, thus allowing you to work comfortably and safely on the surface beneath them.