Questions to ask when hiring the right cabinet-maker.

Disclosure: I participated in a trade for labor with Ryan Reeder Cabinets only.  Thoughts and opinions are 100% mine. 

 Our kitchen and bathroom cabinets have been repaired and repainted and I couldn’t be happier (revisit our process here).  I know it’s a little pre-mature to be singing praises after only a few short weeks but there is such a huge difference in the quality this go-around.  Ryan Reeder did a first rate job and the next time I do another custom kitchen I’ll be using him start to finish.  You can also count on me doing a review in a year from now to update you.  In the meantime…here are a few before and after shots.





Cabinet after 4men1lady

When we hired our cabinet maker three years ago we felt fairly comfortable that he would do a good job but their were a few red flags.   When I talked with Ryan I felt 100% confident that he knew what he was doing.  I pumped him with a lot of questions and he agreed to allow me to share some of his answers.

how to hire the right cabinet maker (4men1lady

 What questions should people ask cabinet makers when they start a kitchen/bath remodel?
– If they are looking for painted cabinets – what type of wood are they bidding – maple is recommended for painted cabinets it is hard/durable and it holds the paint really well. Popular and alder are softer woods where the paint/wood will get dinged easier.

– What look and feel are you going for with your cabinets – you need to understand the difference between European, face frame overlay and face frame inset? (The face frame with inset doors are the most desirable cabinets).

-Know what kind of hardware is being used – soft close, drawer runners, drawer boxes (and is the hardware included in the bid).

– Are moldings included in the bids (they should be)?

– What are end panels made of and how are they applied to the cabinets?

– What type of finish is being used? Most shops use a precatalized laquer, I use a conversion varnish which has a higher build up and is more resistance to water (same with the paint that I use).

What are some red flags to look for?
– If they are selling a face frame overlay cabinet – it is a production cabinet.

– If the bid doesn’t include a 4 to 7 inch crown molding in bid they are trying to under bid.

– If someone bids a printed job as poplar or alder they are trying to under bid.

– They should be able to show door samples that are perfectly smooth and have a great finish – that is what your cabinets will look like.

– If it is a painted job and you can see the wood grain – huge red flag…

– If bid does not include soft close they are trying to under bid as well.

What makes your process different than what one might receive from a kitchen manufacturing company?
– The main way I can answer this is that my work is custom – it is my name, my business, and my reputation. My shop is small so every product that leaves my shop goes through me and I am personally doing the work. But other than that, I use a high quality product, and I sand more and put on more product so that my cabinets are more durable and smoother. I do believe that a lot of the difference is that I don’t want my name on anything that is not to the quality that I would want in my own home.

 Thanks Ryan for those insights!

Some other tips I myself would add when shopping for a cabinet maker…

-Do they warranty their work?
-How long have they been in business?
-Ask for references/portfolio and if any of their past clients would allow you to come see their cabinets?
-Read any reviews that may have been written online about them such as sites like Angie’s List.

Be sure to check out Ryan Reeder’s website!



  1. Thank you so much for this post! I have a question when it comes to our cabinets: I was thinking I might order maple painted white factory cabinet doors and drawer faces in the style I like and was hoping to find someone to paint the cabinet boxes to match. Does that sound like a far fetched plan? I plan to meet with some folks before I order the cabinets, feels like an overwhelming decision because it’s such a huge and iffy project. Thank you soooo much!

  2. hey, do you know what paint color you used for the grey? and if so, will you share?! thanks!


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