Defining "Custom" in Custom Cabinetry | Sydney Designs
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Defining “Custom” in Custom Cabinetry

24 Feb Defining “Custom” in Custom Cabinetry

Defining “Custom” in Custom Cabinetry

In life, they say “you get what you pay for.” That’s certainly true when it comes to custom cabinetry.

But what exactly defines custom cabinetry? Does “custom” mean it’s built by a local shop, or can custom cabinetry truly be built by a national manufacturer who isn’t necessarily in the next town over?

Custom cabinetry is defined as cabinetry which is built to the particular specifications, wants (such as color and style) and needs of the homeowner. That can be done locally or not as locally as cabinetry is constructed based on plans and drawings, not on the proximity of the customer to the manufacturer. Many homeowners aren’t aware that in addition to the integrity of the construction, the outer finish of a cabinet is what truly distinguishes its quality, value and longevity. Despite popular belief, a local shop most likely can’t provide the quality and custom product with lasting value.

It’s all about the kiln drying. The secret in a cabinet’s longevity and ability to hold up to daily wear and tear lies in its manufacturing process. The kiln drying is the defining line for both construction and finish. Because kilns are large, expensive machines, they are afforded only by large manufacturers.

Wood-Mode and Brookhaven cabinetry’s longevity begins with selecting only the most premium woods. The wood is specially dried in kiln ovens multiple times to remove or add moisture as needed, which later prevents your cabinetry from expanding or shrinking respectively. How can you tell if wood has not been properly kilned? A common example is a shrunken center panel within a cabinet frame. You’ll note a completely stained or painted door, but there will be a line of natural wood showing on the center panel. What has happened is the wood has shrunken, causing the panel to shift and pull away from the frame leaving you with an exposed line of unfinished wood.

What else does proper drying ensure on your cabinetry? It ensures that the finish will apply correctly and not deteriorate. Wood-Mode and Brookhaven cabinetry is known in the kitchen and bath industry for having the most durable and long lasting finishes.

It’s the multi-step finishing process Wood-Mode uses that makes all the difference. This is particularly true for stained finishes which undergo up to a 25- step technique, although opaque finishes receive many of the same procedures.

Most local custom cabinet builders and even other manufacturers follow a finishing process that involves sanding a piece of wood, staining it once, applying two layers of top coat and drying it before the piece is assembled to the rest of the cabinet. The problem with such a simplified technique is the finish can easily flake off, scrape, dent and stain, no matter how intricate the design and details are, and despite what could be a rich, colorful and visually appealing exterior. Considering the fact that cabinetry has to endure so much wear and tear in a typical home, the durability of the finish is no trivial matter.

Wood-Mode and Brookhaven custom cabinetry is built to provide a tough-as- nails, yet esthetically exquisite finish that is guaranteed to last a lifetime. In fact, Wood-Mode and Brookhaven cabinetry comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

Amazingly, most of these steps at Wood-Mode are performed painstakingly by hand by a craftsman. Many other manufacturers don’t employ human beings in a lot of their finishing techniques, but Wood-Mode knows that it takes careful, patient hands and steady eyes of experienced professionals to make a superior product.

During finishing, the wood is hand and machine sanded and oven baked multiple times. Next, an extensive hand sanding is performed following each sprayed-on application. Up to twelve hand distressing options (creating dents, nicks, worm holes, rub-though, splits, rasping, joint cracks and edge wear) can be applied to give the wood an antiqued character and flavor if desired. The wood is then wetted to enhance the grain and promote deeper colors, followed by a hand wiped stain. Uniform color is achieved by toning and spray-staining the wood. To add further character and a furniture-like appearance to the wood, hand-padding, cow-tailing and hand-burnished may be applied.

The wood is then baked again before a catalyzed sealer is applied. A hand sealer is wiped on, speck distressing is applied and matte or standard sheen varnish is sprayed on to create lasting durability and beauty. Next, a catalyzed oven-baked

varnish top coat with ultraviolet screen inhibitors is put on to provide maximum resistance to scuffing, moisture, dents, fading from UV rays and most household chemicals. Surfaces are cleaned, an optional glaze is hand applied, and an additional finish coat is administered. The wood is baked one last time to seal in everything, followed by a final layer of top coat. Lastly, a meticulous hand buffing process is followed to create the smoothest, richest patina imaginable for your custom cabinetry.

This extensive practice creates the hardest, toughest, yet most beautiful finish in the industry. Locally built cabinets typically warranty the finish of their cabinets for one year. Wood-Mode and Brookhaven, by contrast, provide a limited lifetime warranty on their finishes. The more that human beings are involved in the creation of the cabinetry, the greater the end results. Colors will be consistent, sheen will be uniform, and fine detail will be preserved. You can’t get that kind of high-caliber finished product strictly from a machine or local shop.

Other manufacturers are building cabinets in a less controlled environment where, for example, dust particles can land on the surface and be fossilized into the cabinets; epoxy chemical coating may be used which can produce volatile organic compounds.

In addition to yielding an impressive finished product, Wood-Mode’s manufacturing practices are environmentally conscious. Wood-Mode uses a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) system integrated into their finishing system to destroy emissions generated in the cabinetry finishing process. The RTO equipment currently eliminates 99.4% of captured volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and does not require any fuel when operating under optimal sustainable conditions. In addition, sawdust and wood scrap generated during the cabinet manufacturing process are ground into particles. These particles are used as fuel to heat Wood-Mode’s 1.4 million square feet factory and office complex. It also provides steam to operate its dry kilns which are key to your cabinetry’s finish and integrity.

Beyond the fact that Wood-Mode does an exceptional job of ensuring that its factory atmosphere is clean and efficient for cabinetry production, homeowners can also rest assured that their cabinets aren’t going to smell like chemicals in a

factory once they’re installed – or worse yet, have the finish actually sprayed on in their own home.

In 2016, Wood-Mode Fine Custom Cabinetry will have been in business for 74 years. In those years, they’ve been the manufacturer providing cabinetry to many designers who’ve established kitchen and bath design firms in their own towns across the United States because they’ve had a product they could sell with confidence, and a company that would support them.

The moral of the story? The next time you shop for new cabinetry for your kitchen or other area of your home, “think outside the box” say the experts. Consider the integrity of the finish itself, which can tell you a lot about the expected lifespan of one of the most significant home improvement investments you’ll ever make.

For more information on what to look for when shopping for cabinetry, plus the latest designs and trends, visit

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