500-Mile Kitchen Project: Local Kitchen Cabinets



JK: It been a few months since I wrote about my 500-mile kitchen project, my attempt at a complete kitchen renovation using local materials and products. Not much was happening due permit woes and a foundation project, but it looks like we’re back on track.Β 

When renovating a kitchen, nothing impacts your style and budget more than the kitchen cabinets. The good news is that that there are a wide variety of both local and green options available these days. Not only is the kitchen cabinetry industry dominated by domestic manufacturers large and small, but every cabinet company I researched had some kind of sustainability statement on their website. But, can you find inexpensive, locally produced kitchen cabinets? That depends on where you happen to live. While stock cabinets, the most affordable type of kitchen cabinets, may be a challenge to find locally, semi-custom kitchen cabinets (the next step up) should not be hard to find.

A good place to start is with the The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA). They have a manufacturer listing that is searchable by cabinet type, cabinet material and state that will give you several local vendors in a split second. Another online resource is cabinets-match.com that has a zip-code searchable listing of local cabinets contractors (although not necessarily cabinet makers).Β  The leads I received were very helpful.

Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets are “the most affordable type of cabinets. They are pre-made so you won’t have as many choices in terms of size, design etc. Stock cabinets are usually made of wood veneer or a laminate material that is adhered to MDF or particle board.”

You can find the website for locally produced stock cabinets through the KCMA manufacturer listing and then contact them for a distributor in your area. The fact is, however, there may not be any stock manufacturers in your area. For example, my search showed only one stock cabinet manufacturer in the whole state of California.Β  All their kitchen cabinets were traditional and since that was not what I was looking for I had to move on to the next option.

Semi-Custom Cabinets

Semi-custom cabinets “are one step below custom cabinets when it comes to price and the number of options available. They are factory made versus being made by a specific woodworker. Given advances in cabinet manufacturing technology, many still offer a wide variety of options when it comes to selecting your cabinet style, size, shape, etc.”

Truth be told, before I checked the KCMA listing I started my kitchen cabinet search looking for semi-custom cabinets at a kitchen and bath store. Kitchen and bath stores are great places to start because the staff are highly knowledgeable, they often offer free design services and they can tell you exactly where the cabinet lines they sell are made. In my case, the store Kristin, of Indigo Design, recommended dealt exclusively with kitchen cabinets from Minnesota (Plato Woodworks), South Dakota (Showplace Wood Products), Washington state (Pacific Crest Industries) and Canada (Columbia). Sadly, nothing within 500 miles because I certainly could have found terrific cabinets from several of these vendors. The KCMA manufacturer listing, however, turned up several excellent local semi-custom cabinet factories.

Custom Cabinets

The last option is custom cabinetry: “This offers the most options for style and design. With custom cabinets you’ll have multiple choices for wood type, shape, size, glaze, finish, hardware, frame style and more. This is the most expensive option when it comes to cabinetry.” In addition to the KCMA list, your contractor, architect or design professional is likely to know of a local custom cabinet maker.

In the end I went with a custom cabinet maker, Case 540 in nearby Alameda.Β  Partners Nadja and Derek jumped right in and took the 500-mile goals very seriously. They sourced as much of the core materials from within 500 miles as they could and provided me with a declaration of origin for all the cabinet components. I know it was the most expensive option so not for everyone, but the kitchen is the focal point for our family so we bit the bullet and spent the extra money.Β  Also, in the spirit of sourcing locally, cabinets made 10 miles from my house from raw materials sourced within 500 miles, like eucalyptus veneer from Presidio Park in San Francisco and MDF core from Southern Oregon, makes my little, local heart happy.

Photo: Case 540

Written by Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan writes about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for Insteading (and EatDrinkBetter.com before the two sites merged) and is the author of Greening Your Small Business. She is an Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone and was named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster, an MFA and an MBA – follow her on Twitter.

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