They keep your dishware neatly stacked and your countertops clear of clutter. Most importantly, they're the unifying backdrop to your kitchen's overall design. They're your kitchen cabinets. According to experts, they're such an important element of your kitchen remodel that you can expect to spend nearly half of your remodeling budget on them. (No pressure, though!) Make the best cabinetry decision to complete your dream kitchen with these tips on hand.

1. Budget accordingly: Experts suggest devoting the lion's share of your kitchen remodeling budget –- about 40 percent -- to cabinets.

2. Finish comes first: Among buyers, stained is the number-one choice for a finish style, and brushed nickel is the first choice for hardware.

3. Glazing: While a charming antique finish, it adds 10 to 20 percent to the overall cost.

4. Optical illusions: The single knob on a drawer should be oriented slightly higher than center. If it's placed at the actual center, it will appear off-center when viewed from standing height.

5. Dominant design: The best drawers are constructed with dovetail joinery, solid wood sides, and a plywood bottom.

6. Over-the-top options: When it comes to drawer design, look for something called an "over-travel slide." Unlike other styles, this design extends the drawer past the front of the cabinet, allowing complete access to the inside.

7. Framed vs. frameless: A framed cabinet design gives the kitchen a classic look, whereas a frameless design evokes a sleek, modern look.

8. The warranty is a secret hint to quality: Experts claim that a lower-end product will have a short, limited warranty, while a high-end product will offer longer warranty options.

9. Drawer slide mounts matter: Side mounts can handle the heaviest storage (75 pounds and higher); center mounts are ideal for small, lightweight storage (35- to 50-pound capacity).

10. MDF vs. plywood: Medium-density fiberboard is less expensive than plywood, but more expensive than particleboard.

11. Trim tricks: If you are putting in new wood trim to match your new cabinets, it's cheaper to order prefinished trim than it is to have the painting or staining done on-site.

12. Close quietly: Look for drawer models that have a "soft close" feature -- this stops them from slamming shut.

13. Look up: A soffit is a structure that bridges the gap between the top of a cabinet and the ceiling. Opting to install cabinets without soffits is one way to keep down the cost of labor.

14. Your cabinet "emergency repair kit": It should include the following items: several hinges, two or three drawer guidance systems, several pulls, a repair kit, a pint-sized amount of the stain coat used to finish your cabinets, and the name and address of the cabinet manufacturer (as well as the style name).


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