If you’ve been to a home design consultation, somebody may have presented cabinet options in good, better, and best categories. For homeowners, this is intended to make the selection process easier. However, it is important that you understand exactly what “good, better, and best” actually means in order to make an educated selection.
As a remodel design company, Lamont Bros. has spent over a decade guiding homeowners through the home renovation process. As one of the most important features in any home, we pay special attention to cabinet selections throughout our process.
In this article, you’ll learn about why we classify cabinets in either a good, better, or best category, and how each one can affect your remodel, your budget, and your lifestyle.
What makes a cabinet “good, better, or best?”
When presented with “good, better, best” cabinetry options, most people assume the differences among them are the quality of materials. Believe it or not, the overall quality of cabinetry materials doesn’t change much from “good” to “best.”
Instead, the category of cabinet lines is more greatly influenced by how customizable the cabinetry is considered to be. How much a cabinet system can be tailored to the individual’s lifestyle will more directly affect the homeowner than the materials used to build them.
The quality of construction (not necessarily materials) may also increase. The higher-end cabinets tend to feature greater attention to detail in the final fit and finish. As a result, better and best cabinetry will have fewer small imperfections by their final installation.
Cabinets come in standardized sizing options – most base cabinets are 24 inches deep and 34.5 inches high. The available width begins at 9 inches and increases to 42 inches by increments of 3 inches in between (i.e. 12 in, 15 in, 18 in, etc).
Deviating from standard sizes requires additional work by the cabinet manufacturer. This means the cabinetry becomes more expensive the more you customize.
It is worth noting that there are poor-quality cabinets available for lower costs than those listed in this article. However, we don’t include poor or mediocre cabinets in our projects, nor will we discuss them here.
Below is a description of each category, as well as a price range for what they would cost in the average-sized kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinetry.
Good Cabinets – $18,000-$25,000
Lines classified as “Good” are just that – good cabinets. At Lamont Bros, our most popular good cabinet line is Fabuwood, from New Jersey. With plywood box construction and maple dovetail drawers, the quality of these systems is not easily outdone.
Good cabinets are the cheapest option because of the limited variations available within a given line. Cabinets in the good category are only offered in the standard sizing options, with customization limited to depth. Height and width cannot be changed.
They also do not feature the same fine attention to detail as “better” or “best” cabinets. For example, the construction of the boxes may not be perfectly square. They will be close, but they may have some minor offset. For this reason, most good-level cabinet lines don’t have frameless or inset options. Additionally, the dovetail joints in the drawers are not sanded flat, and the underside of the wall cabinets are unfinished.
The style and finish options are extremely limited in this category. There are typically 5-7 available door styles, the most common being a simple shaker door. Good cabinetry also offers about 12 different finish options, ranging from white paint to natural stained oak.
Things to consider:
- Lower cost than higher-end cabinets
- Fewer customization options, limited door styles & finishes
- Less attention to fit and finish, chance for minor imperfections is higher
- Cheaper materials that generally don’t affect quality
- May use non-branded import hardware instead of industry standard setting hardware
Who are these for?
Good level cabinetry is great for someone who is on a budget, wants a product to last a long time, and can compromise on fit, finish, and customization options.
Better Cabinets – $30,000-$35,000
Getting into the “better” cabinet selections increases the customizability significantly. We would classify both Crystal Current and Dura Supreme lines as better cabinet options.
In better-level cabinets, the fit and finish qualities greatly improve. Frame construction tends to be more standardized and closer to square, making installation much easier. However, the dovetail joints and wall cabinet undersides still feature unfinished surfaces.
The cost of better cabinet options increases about 30-50% from the “good” lines, while offering substantially more size, finish, material, and style options, as well.
In addition to depth adjustments available in good cabinets, better options can be altered in terms of width, as well. If your kitchen remodel requires any custom-sized cabinets, you’ll likely need to go with the better category.
Better cabinetry also has a wider selection of finish styles. There are about 120 different options included in the paint and stain lineup, so you’re likely to find a finish color that suits your wish list. For those who want more options in door styles, better cabinets generally offer between 20 and 30 to choose from.
Additionally, it is important to note that better cabinetry comes with more insert options, as well. This means a wider selection of organizing trays, specialty appliance storage, and pull-out shelves to fit your needs.
Things to consider:
- Mid-range cost, up to 50% more than “good” cabinets.
- Many more door styles, finishes, and customization options
- Improvement in fit and finish from “good” level, but not completely perfect
- Good balance between price, quality, and customizability
Who are these for?
Better-level cabinets are great for someone who doesn’t need a premium or fully custom product, but still wants a good balance of more options, cost, and quality of fit and finish.
Best Cabinets – $40,000+
If you decide to shell out the money for the “best” cabinet lines, expect to get exactly what you want. Options in this category are fully customizable, whether they be the base, wall, or island cabinets. At Lamont Bros., we consider Crystal Keyline and Encore cabinets to be in the “best” category.
The cost of best cabinets can increase well above 60% from good cabinet lines; we’ve seen some clients willing to drop well over $60,000 on kitchen cabinets alone.
Paying for the best-level cabinetry essentially means paying for complete perfection and full customizability. Some options available in best cabinets are:
- Custom door sizes on pantry cabinets
- Vertical bookmatching of woodgrain
- Combined cabinet boxes
- Integrated lighting
- Taller cabinets
- Sanded dovetail joints
- 1″ thick shelves (provide additional stability and visibility)
- Finished underside of wall cabinets throughout the kitchen
Once you get into the best cabinetry, there isn’t a whole lot you can’t do. Fully custom sizes – depth, width, and height – are well within reach. A near-endless array of finish options from which to choose, and even the option to design your own door style.
On top of framed or frameless options, best cabinets also add inset doors to the list, which means the door sits on the inside of the face frame instead of on top of it.
Only about 10% of our clients choose to go with best-level cabinets, but those who do end up with a fully customized cabinet system to fit their needs.
Things to consider:
- Very expensive (Can be $60,000+)
- Near-perfect fit and finish quality on every surface
- Fully customizable sizes, functions, and appearances
Who are these for?
Best-level cabinetry is best suited to homeowners for whom price is of little concern compared to quality and customization. If you insist on having the under-side of your wall cabinets finished or need every aesthetic element to be perfect, this is the cabinet ranking for you.
Choosing the right cabinet category for you
After reading about how cabinets are classified, you may be wondering, “Should I get good, better, or best cabinets for me?” Of course, there are several factors to consider when choosing which cabinet line to go with. Here are a few things you should think about.
Which category fits my budget?
If you’re remodeling on a budget, one of the best ways to save money is by going with good cabinets. The build quality is still excellent, but there are more limitations on the aesthetic options and available sizes.
Cabinetry is the most expensive line item in most kitchen remodels, so keeping the cost low here is one of your most effective ways to save money.
Does my kitchen need any custom-built cabinets?
Any time a kitchen requires custom-sized cabinetry, you should automatically rules out the good category.
Since good cabinets only come in standard sizes, you need to figure out if a cabinet system of entirely standard-sized cabinets will fill your space out the way you want. If not, you’ll need to step it up to better or best cabinetry.
How long do you plan to live in the house you’re remodeling?
If the home you’re in is your forever home and you want to live there the rest of your life, then you probably won’t regret spending a few thousand dollars more to make sure your cabinetry fits your needs and lifestyle.
In this case, we recommend going with either better or best cabinetry – the available options are far greater, and you’ll have a better chance of finding cabinets that work well for you. If you’re going to live with them forever, don’t be shy about spending a little extra to make your cabinets exactly the way you want them.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to sell your home shortly after remodeling, you’re likely to get the highest return on your investment by spending less money on your cabinetry. Therefore, good cabinets would be the best choice if this more accurately describes you.
Do you have or expect to have young kids living in the house?
Unfortunately, it’s often true what people say about kids and nice things: you can only have one. Part of growing up is learning, and part of learning is destroying mommy and daddy’s precious cabinetry in as many creative ways as you can find.
In all seriousness, be aware that children tend to be unnecessarily rough on any finished surface. If you want to install your forever cabinets, maybe wait until the kids are old enough to understand why cheese graters shouldn’t be used on your cabinet doors.
If you just can’t wait that long, then consider going with at least a “better” level cabinet line. Many cabinet makers in this category offer laminate doors, so your cabinetry might stand a fighting chance.
For more information on cabinet door durability, check out this video!
Ready to learn more about kitchen design?
Now that you understand how we categorize our cabinetry into good, better, and best tiers, take the next step! Check out our Ultimate Kitchen Remodel Guide, where you can learn everything you need to know about remodeling your kitchen.
Curious about cabinet lines and want to talk with a design consultant about how some new cabinets might look in your own home? Click the button below to schedule a conversation, and we’ll get back to you by the end of the day.