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Affordable white kitchen - RTA?

15 years ago

Google led me to a goldmine here! I have learned much from reading along these threads and many of my questions have been answered along the way, but I wondered if anyone has any suggestions for my particular situation.

I have a 1960's ranch in CT that is in need of kitchen remodeling and a few cosmetic changes. The current kitchen is L shaped and measures 13 x 15. The cabinets were built in place by a previous owner and stained a medium cherry color. We have replaced the ancient appliances with white ones but are wrestling with the idea of changing the cabinets. Due to the plummeting real estate values around us, we cannot justify or borrow for a full scale remodel and have considered painting the existing cabs (although they are partial overlay slab doors and we think they'd look cheesy with a white finish), new doors or refacing.

The real problem is that the cabinets are oddly sized and not effectively laid out at all. Removing any one of the cabinets (or the range hood, as we discovered in our attempt to replace with a microwave/hood combo) means literally cutting the unit into pieces. And so it seems that in order to fix any of the problems, we have to do the whole deal.

I have been wondering what the most cost effective way to replace the cabinets would be if what I'm looking for is a white finish (preferably painted) decent quality and a relatively simple layout. I've read about RTA cabinets but I'm leery, I've looked at the lower end choices at HD and been unimpressed, I've priced Kraftmaid units in a new larger configuration (14k for painted finish). I am planning on checking a few local lumberyards for their solutions.

As I intend these cabinets to stay a painted finish, can I get away with a cheaper wood? I am considering a shaker style, and after reading here I think I want frameless to maximize the storage. I am willing to use stock sizes and don't need much in custom accomodations, low ceilings will necessitate only 30 inch uppers which helps. I guess I'm just hoping Paulines is still hanging around and can steer me in the right direction with some tips. This process is overwhelming to say the least.

The other piece of the puzzle is that we hope to take down the wall between the kitchen and rarely used DR to open the flow and light. In an ideal world, we will be able to create a small breakfast bar facing the DR windows out of 18in deep cabs and a countertop. The floors are currently a hideous gray/brown lino that I optimistically believe may once have been white - we will add new vinyl floor for now. Current backsplash is cream tile and will have to be replaced. Countertops will be whatever fits the budget for now but we hope to upgrade to silestone at some point.

Any tips are more than appreciated, and I do have photos and drawings if requested.



Comments (28)

  • 15 years ago

    Hmmm...have you looked at Ikea? They are quite affordable and if they have a door style that suits you, can be worth the trouble of the limited sizes.

  • 15 years ago

    If you don't have an Ikea nearby, do you have any custom cabinet places around? They can be surprisingly affordable and you won't have any wasted filler space.

    Also, a painted finish is usually more expensive than a light stain or natural clear finish.

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  • 15 years ago

    We have both stained and white painted cabinets in our kitchen. The white painted were more expensive and our KD tried to talk us out of them. Maybe it's a guy thing but he definitely felt the higher cost and not being able to see the wood grain was a real drawback. I don't know if you will face a similar situation with painted vs. stained but you may be surprised at how pricey painted can be so make sure you check out the price difference.

    Another consideration is how long you intend to be in this house. Is this long term or are you trying to fix up for resale? If resale is in mind talk to a broker or go to open houses to see what is expected in your market. If you are intending to stay for a while I think it would be a good idea to replace your cabinets with what you want, what will make you happy in addition to being more functional. Also, what makes you happy and is functional will be more likely to sell, in my opinion, if you do need to sell sooner than your expect. HTH.

  • 15 years ago

    I have white Ikea Adel cabinets - they were easy to assemble and if you do a search here on Ikea, you'll find all of us who have them are very happy with them. The Finished Kitchens Blog (link in the "new to the forum" post) lets you search for Ikea kitchens. The Ikea kitchen team at the New Haven store were really helpful with my planning too - go on a weekday, not a weekend, and you'll get their full attention.
    The quality is sturdy, assembly is easy, and the extra whistles and bells are great.

  • 15 years ago

    The problem with the larger national companies like Krafmaid is that they don't use paint grade wood for painted finishes so you are paying for finish grade wood plus the extra cost of the painted finish. Conestoga Woods offers paint grade as part of their wood selection and has a nice line of RTA cabinets. Never went through the full pricing process but it might be an option.

    I just picked up a magazine where some folks bought cabinets from cabparts and then ordered custom doors (Conestoga does custom doors). Cabparts can do custom sizes. Folks in the article figured they saved significantly doing it this way.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Cabinetmaker Choice a Conestoga dealer

  • 15 years ago

    Wow, thanks everyone!

    Let's see, we do plan to stay (or rather can't afford to leave) for a while - 5-10 years at least so I feel that an investment in something that really solves some of the kitchen problems is worth it.

    I did go to a custom place today and picked up catalogs but wasn't able to speak with anyone directly just yet. I think I will work on my graph paper design to get my sizes down and then go in to see what it would cost. I got brochures for Merillat, Kountry Kraft and RockGlen by Woodharbor. Anyone have thoughts on those?

    I noticed the same problem with Kraftmaid too, caryscott, you have to pay for maple in order to get a painted finish and I really don't like the thermofoil look. It seems like a smaller outfit might have access to a lesser grade wood that is made for paint, but is that a good investment? I will check out the Conestoga link as well.

    I did find an internet site that sells the cabinets unpainted and RTA but I'm not that confident about my painting skills.

    I will check out IKEA, thanks for the tip about the New Haven store Sara.

    Thanks for your thoughts :-)

  • 15 years ago

    If you decide you like Ikea, I strongly recommend you look at (lots of GW folk over there too): other people who love Ikea, who are full of ideas and support.
    Ikea has an on-line planner, but it won't work on my Mac, so I did the whole thing on squared paper, then talked it through with the Ikea kitchen people. They helped me work out what I needed for hinges, shelves etc, and put together a "draft order". It stays in their system for about 3 weeks, giving you time to go home and think about it first. Then when you're ready to make the order, you can do the whole thing in the kitchen department - no lining up at the registers. You can have all of it delivered too, which was well worth it for us. Plus you can return anything you don't use, within 90 days, for a full refund.
    If you go to New Haven on a weekday, try and go in the morning: you can usually park really close to the door then, and the place is reeeeeeeally quiet.

    Good luck and have fun!

  • 15 years ago

    We are doing IKEA cabinet boxes, with all the fittings and soft close, etc. and custom doors. We are using paint grade wood and painting them, ourselves. We are adding molding and fillers and panels to give it a custom look. The custom doors were less than most of the IKEA doors, strangely enough.

    The assembly of the boxes is a breeze, too. Once you do one, the rest come together in 15 minutes. The high cabs take a little longer. Even the Blum Tandembox drawers are easy-peasy. They just snap together. If you need to modify them, they are very hacker-friendly. I know, as we have modified a couple so far.

    IKEA cabs have a 25-year warranty. (Well, not the hacked ones, but the rest of them...)

  • 15 years ago

    We used Kabinart from We have a creamy white cabinet. They also carry other lines. You should check them out. We saved a ton and really like them.

  • 15 years ago

    I need to clarify-- we modified a couple of cabinet boxes, NOT the drawers.

  • 15 years ago

    A custom place is not going to have brochures for Merillat, et al. They build the cabinets themselves.

  • 15 years ago

    I don't think Ikea has white WOOD cabinets, but it's worth looking at their stuff for ideas if nothing else (if they're close).

  • 15 years ago

    We are going with Scherr's RTA cabinets. They are frameless, have tons of door styles and are custom built - you can get any size. I have found them to be very nice to work with, they are very reasonably priced and have gotten good reviews on GW. We are just starting the process so I can't give you any more info, but thought I'd share what I've found.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Scherr's cabinets

  • 15 years ago

    Thanks, surveymom, Scherr's looks like it might be the kind of thing I'm looking for - boy there is a lot of info on that site! I did check out the IKEA choices but it seems like they are made of particleboard. While I realize that affordable comes from lower quality products, I am afraid of something that might sag or fall apart. I still may check the store location to get a feel for them.

    I am wondering if I can get away with a little breakfast bar where the wall to the dining room was. How shallow a cabinet can I use to mount a countertop and overhang for a bar? Space wise - a 15 inch deep set of cabinets with 24 inch countertop would work.

    *head spinning with details*

  • 15 years ago

    Just an FYI... for an "eating" overhang it is recommended you have 15"-18" though as a parking/snack spot 12" will do. Really.... any smaller then that might be uncomfortable.

  • 15 years ago

    Everyone's bottom line is different but I am attaching the link to Cabico's finished kitchen gallery. Cabico lists whether the cabinet construcion is particleboard or plywood. It's possible that the folks whose kitchens are shown paid tens of thousands of dollars for high end cabinetry that is sagging and coming apart but as Cabico, like most manufacturers, offers the identical limited lifetime warranty for particleboard as for plywood construction it doesn't seem likely. Ikea kitchens come with a 25 year warranty and there are numerous folks here who have been very happy with their product (not for a full 25 years but for a few years at least). Conestoga has a plywood RTA cabinet line.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Cabico gallery

  • 15 years ago

    Where in CT are you? Anywhere near Norwalk? If so, one option you might consider is Green Demolitions. I am pasting the link to their website below; they sell model kitchens donated by showrooms or kitchens donated from houses being renovated or torn down in Fairfield County. You can get a lightly used, very nice kitchen usually for a fraction of what it would cost new, oftentimes w/ countertop and/or appliances. They may not have the look you want at the time you need the cabinets, but it's worth checking out. If you go be sure to bring your measurements. Link below. HTH.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Green Demolitions

  • 15 years ago

    Check out Accent Building Products, they have Marsh/High Point cabinets which are assembled, plywood construction option, price out comparably to Ikea. Lots of finish options incl ivory shaker. All prices are online so it can give you an idea of what your cabinets might cost. Shipping is $39.95 for cabinet orders over $500. You can go to to find a local vendor to check out the cabs. We are considering the same idea as you and are also considering Conestoga Wood cabs as well. Check out Maplecraft usa website, they are a vendor also for Conestoga and, like Scherr's, offer doors, etc.

    Here is a link that might be useful: accent building products

  • 15 years ago

    >While I realize that affordable comes from lower quality products, I am afraid of something that might sag or fall apart.

    They have a 25 year warranty. Affordable can come from lower quality, but it can also come from economy of scale, you know.

  • 15 years ago

    nessie, that is great info!

  • 15 years ago

    OK, I went yesterday to Matz Lumber in Danbury with my graph paper layout and got some good info. The cabinet guy there quoted me $6300 for my layout (actually, he improved my layout) in 2 different products both including crown moulding. He did explain that they are "builder grade" but also very sturdy and attractive.

    The two manufacturers are Debut and Legacy. Anyone familiar with either brand? Both have all wood dovetail drawers with the soft close mechanism, other construction is consistent between the two, plywood and particle board mix although the Debut would come with all wood sides. The thing I would have to give up is full overlay. Both products are only in partial overlay at that price - goes up to 9000 for the full overlay product.

    The other factor is the color. According to him, white is no longer as popular so one vendor (Legacy) does not offer a white finish, the other offers a Bisque only. The Bisque is pretty but will not work with my white appliances (which are too new to replace soon). After much review I am now considering the medium maple finish which did look nice with white appliances and still lightens up the cherry color of our current mess.

    Need opinions

    How important is full overlay to you? Would it be a deal breaker? Would it be worth the extra $$?

    Which door do you like? Both of these are partial overlay - Madison Maple - Legacy Camden

    His advice is to take the legacy product because it has a more upscale look but there are some things I'm not crazy about with what's available.

    I know I need to decide based on what I personally like but I feel like I've been looking at them so long that I can't tell anymore.

    Does it look cheesy to have a simple door style as opposed to an upscale look? I guess I think I like the cheaper looking one more!

    Any opinions are more than welcome as my husband has just about had it with my questions!


  • 15 years ago

    Can I add a "second" on the request for experience with cabinets from Legacy / Debut.

  • 15 years ago

    I tend to think that partial overlay is a little bit more retro which doesn' seem at odds with the look you want to achieve. I think lighter mid tone or even light maple are good choices with white applances. To be perfectly candid I really hate the Camden door style for me it is very busy (too much detail). I think with partial overlay you will get a nicer look from a more simple door and drawer style like the Madison. I think with the white appliances and the Madison in partial overlay tou are starting to develop a design direcion - is it one you like?

  • 15 years ago

    Thank you caryscott! That's exactly how I felt about the Camden. I felt like I must be missing something because the KD kept telling me I'd be crazy to pass it up for the same price as the Madison and it would look more "upscale".

    I guess the truth is that I'm not very upscale myself LOL. I want simple, I NEED affordable, I like white but I could live with the medium wood. This much I Thanks a million for the reinforcement. RC - I think I may post a separate thread about the Debut/Legacy cabs to see if it catches anyones eye.


  • 15 years ago

    Who says simple can't be upscale?

    I guess, I prefer to call it "Classic".

    Classic by definition transcends time. That and quality, are worth the investment of your hard earned money.

    I,as many (caryscott,et al.), are bewildered at the expense of ordering the most expensive maple cabinetry, only to paint them... And pay one (or several upgrades) to achieve the right look and feel.

    My local cabinet shop has started using what they call an "opaque toner", it's used on any wood w/o a pronounced grain pattern. It looks like paint. Truly.

    The cabinets in my "newest" renovation (150+yrs) are Alder with this toner (ie. STAIN).
    They were the least expensive wood w/ no upcharge for color. I have a painted look w/o the expense of custom painted Maple cabinetry. Which previously was many, many upcharges.

    I just ran across a touch up pen and repair stick they gave me. The company who manufactures the toner is Mohawk (finishing products line). My "white" is called 'Intense Champagne'. Its a creamy white that's not stark. In an entire kitchen it reads white. I love it- the best of both worlds. * note of caution, Alder is a softer wood than Maple. Its not for everyone.

    Maybe you could ask your local cabinet shop...?

    I hope this is helpful in your research. Lucky you!, you found THS Kitchen forum in perfect time! The people and resources here are remarkable.


  • 15 years ago


    You mention early on that you are interested in frameless cabinets because they allow a more efficient use of the space that you have. Later in a comment about Ikea you state you are leary of them because they are made of particle board (its true they are)

    So I don't see why you would even consider either of the two options offered by your local lumberyard, given that: 1) They are both a face frame style, not frameless, and 2) Despite what the represententive at the lumber yard seems to have been claiming, both cabinet line are constructed almost exclusively from particle board (going by the images and details they list on their websites). The tops, sides, bottoms, shelves, and toekicks are all particle board, (and for the most part 1/2" particle board) that is glued and stapled together.

    The only parts of the cabinets that is not particle board, is the face frame, the drawer boxes and the doors and drawer fronts. Of the two the Debut cabinets seem to have slightly superior construction (again going by the images and details they list on their websites) Although in looking at it, the two "manufacturers" are actully two lines manufactured by the same company, which explains why many of the details of the construction seem so similar.

    Also if you read this site alot you'll find that in base cabinets: drawers == good whereas doors with shelves behind them == bad. If you have a smallish kitchen this can make an enormous difference in the amount of usuable storage you have.

    Lastly don't take what I have said as an attack on particle board, (some of my best friends have particle board cabinets :-) Many people who post here point out that details of the construction and details of the material are far more important than whether a cabinet is particle board or not.

    The cheapest plywood will fall apart long before high quality particle board. Ikea cabinets are touted as very high-quality, well-built cabinets, the one big complaint about them is that many people don't like any of the limited number of door styles that they offer.

  • 15 years ago

    Another option, which you've probably read about here, is Ikea cabinets with custom doors. One company often mentioned is Scherrs.

    I'm just finishing up a kitchen with Ikea cabinets and white-painted doors from Scherrs. I spent a total of $6,000 for a 24" pantry cabinet with a bunch of pull-outs inside, a 30" oven cabinet with drawers on the bottom, a 24" deep cabinet over the fridge, 30" sink cabinet, 36" cooktop cabinet with drawers, two other base cabinets with drawers, a lazy susan, 54" of 39" tall upper cabinets, a fan cabinet, finished end panels (one that's 9' tall), filler pieces, and a bunch of extra doors that will decorate the soffit.

    I got quotes from various other lines over the years, and couldn't have come close to this price any other way. I get the frameless cabinets, great drawers (though not dovetail, not that this is an issue for me), all the interior fittings, and a door style and finish that I love, all at a price I can afford.

    After much research, I decided that plywood construction, while nice, was something I was comfortable giving up. Ikea uses 3/4" particle board, and it's quite strong. It *is* heavy, though their system of hanging upper cabinets on a metal rail eliminates the need to hold the cabinets in place while they're shimmed. Once you get them up on the rail, the rail supports them while you play around to get them level and plumb.

    Just another data point for you to consider.:)

  • 15 years ago

    Another vote for Ikea with custom doors. We got our doors from a place called, which is quite a bit cheaper than Scherr's--about 1/3 less. From what I've heard, Scherr's has better service, but in the end it came down to money--we paid about $5800 total for the 23 Ikea cabinets and custom doors, which included having the doors painted. (Scherr's painting charges were very expensive.) I'm going to be posting pictures soon, so you can take a look.

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