Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Quality, at What Cost?

      The other evening, after dinner, I sat down in my favorite chair to read, and promptly fell asleep. This phenomenon is occurring more and more frequently of late, however, this night was unusual because I had a dream. A vivid, realistic dream, where I was having a glass of cold, whole milk with a box of crispy, fresh Mallomars! Alas, when I awoke and pined for such a treat (which has long been forbidden by both diet and doctor), I reflected that even if I had the ingredients to recreate the experience, the Mallomars wouldn’t be the same. Over the years, the chocolate, encapsulating the marshmallow and graham cracker has been reduced in thickness, until it has became incapable of containing the freshness of the magical, inner ingredients.
     As I analyzed my dream, looking for hidden, Freudian meanings, I realized that what was really on my mind had to be the quality of cabinetry, and how it has changed over the years. There are literally hundreds of cabinet manufacturers in our country alone, each with their own set of specifications, that change on a frequent basis. Have they paralleled the nefarious history of the Mallomar? The answer is a clear-cut, yes and no.
     Fortunately, most high- and mid-priced cabinets, such as custom and semi-custom, have maintained their integrity over the years. The biggest change has to do with the materials used in the construction of the cabinet “box”. Although, the doors and frames of the cabinets are usually made from solid wood, many higher-end cabinet companies have started to offer medium density fiberboard (MDF) internal components to reduce cost and help save our natural resources. Plywood boxes are available at an upcharge, however MDF does offer some advantages over plywood. These include greater dimensional stability, (resistance to warpage), and better insular qualities. MDF, also referred to as “engineered wood”, handles and lasts as long as plank wood, as long as it’s not frequently exposed to excessive moisture.
     If you do consider cabinets that have engineered wood in their construction, make sure that the manufacturer has been approved by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association and has received Environmental Stewardship Program certification. This certification ensures that the cabinets are made from approved materials, in a manner that has minimal impact on the environment.
     Unfortunately, the quality of stock cabinets has suffered the most over the years. Being at the economical end of the spectrum to begin with, it was only natural that, in many cases, the manufacturers’ have cut back on construction and material to keep the cabinets as inexpensive as possible. In some cases, the quality has deteriorated to an unacceptable level, although the low price still makes it tempting to some. Remember, you get what you pay for! To be safe, when purchasing stock cabinets, look for a minimum warranty term of five-years.
     Not all stock cabinet companies have cheapened their products, and not all semi-custom companies have maintained their standards. When you’re ready to purchase cabinets it pays to compare their specifications, with the help of a designer that you trust, balancing your budget with construction quality. For additional information check with the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer’s Association, www.kcma.org. After all, there’s nothing worse than biting into a stale Mallomar! 
     (For more info, visit us at www.dreamworkkitchens.com)