Kitchen Cabinets: AWI's Quality Standards

When it comes to architectural cabinetry, did you know there are three grades of millwork established by the Architectural Woodwork Institute? These grades establish quality standards for the industry to clarify intent and expectations between the architect/designer and the millworker.

It can also be worthwhile for the owner to learn about the various grades of cabinetry. There is a world of detail outlined in the quality standards. Most of it is probably more technical than the average homeowner wants to concern themselves with. However, if you're one to get completely involved in the design of your kitchen, it might be helpful to be familiar with the standards when envisioning exactly what you want for your kitchen cabinets.

The three grades are Economy, Custom, and Premium. This applies to all millwork, not just kitchen cabinets. But kitchen cabinets are the one place where most of us encounter some form or another of millwork in the home. Here's a brief rundown of each grade:

Economy: This defines the minimum of the three standards. Tolerances are not as strict as in other grades and the finish is not as controlled. Expense will be less for this grade than the others. This is often used for cabinetry in utility spaces without a lot of public visibility.

Custom: This is the most common grade for high-end residential installations. Tolerances are more rigid than Economy grade and there is more control over many finishes. If a cabinet grade is not specified by the designer, this is the assumed level of quality that the millworker makes.

Premium: This is the high-dollar grade. It is reserved for very high end installations where quality is of more concern than economy. Inset cabinet doors might fall under this grade, as they require high tolerances in order to function properly. You would more often find this grade at a commercial reception desk or in an executive boardroom, but there are residential kitchen cabinets made to this standard.

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These are pretty loose descriptions of each grade. There are strict definitions described in full in the book of standards. If you are planning a custom kitchen construction or renovation or just want to find out more about every last detail of millwork grades, check out the Architectural Woodwork Institute for more information.

Related: Vintage Kitchen Fittings: The Hoosier Cabinet

(Images: A. Fillinger Inc., AWI)

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Regina is an architect who lives with her husband and son in Lawrence, KS. As a LEED Accredited Professional and longtime contributor to Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn, her focus is on healthy, sustainable living through design.

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