What is an Unfinished Kitchen Cabinet?

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  • Written By: Morgan H.
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 13 May 2020
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When finishing or remodeling a kitchen, many people look for ways to personalize their cabinets. Unfinished kitchen cabinets are a great way to add custom stains, colors or design options to a kitchen to make them unique. The face frames and doors of an unfinished kitchen cabinet are left as bare wood, and the sides and toekicks of the box are also, so that custom design options may be added.

The box of an unfinished kitchen cabinet may be made of different materials, depending on the manufacturer. What are usually the least expensive cabinets may have particle board sides, easily recognized by the lack of a distinctive wood pattern or grain. Other manufacturers may veneer the sides of the particle board with a thin sheet of plywood. The more expensive cabinets may have an all-plywood construction, delineated by the distinctive woodgrain on the sides, and the visible layers of boards from a top-down view of the unfinished kitchen cabinet.

The face frame and doors of an unfinished kitchen cabinet may be made from a wide variety of woods. Most manufacturers will commonly use red oak, as it is a popular option for consumers who like the look of bold woodgrain in their kitchen. Red oak will be a harder wood, and may be less susceptible to damage from use over time. Other popular woods for kitchen cabinets include pine, maple and birch. These woods may have a finer grain than oak, and take stains and finishes differently.

An unfinished kitchen cabinet may need to be sanded or prepared before a finish is applied. When sanding the cabinets, many manufacturers recommend two different grits of sandpaper, a coarser for the initial sanding, and a fine grained sandpaper for the final pass. To finish an unfinished kitchen cabinet, many people will use an oil-based stain, or a satin or semi-gloss paint to add color to the bare wood. If the cabinet has been stained, an additional layer of protection may be added with a polyurethane or other clear topcoat.

Another consideration when using unfinished kitchen cabinets is the type of hardware that will be used after the finish coat is applied. There are many styles and colors of hardware available for the cabinets. They are most easily classified into knobs and pulls. Pulls are a wider type of hardware, that may afford a larger grip to open and close the cabinets. Common colors of cabinet hardware may include polished or antique brass, pewter, chrome, ceramic, or even brushed nickel finishes. This variety allows for a wide range of customization and design options.

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