Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinet Material – Quality or Price?

A personal situation prompted me to write about cabinetry and why I wish I would have had the option to upgrade to a more expensive, durable and quality cabinetry in my current home (not built by Crown).

A few months ago, I noticed the side of our cabinetry (veneered box) as well as the base attached to it was bubbling a bit.  I commented to my husband that I thought the dishwasher (which is situated next to this particular cabinet) was leaking…we’ll get to the part where I was right a little later. 🙂  He thought it was leaking down the side where the door sealed, but I was confident it was leaking beneath, causing the underside of the cabinet frame to be exposed to water.  After a few more weeks when the “honey do” list was still not completed or investigated properly and we were now seeing puddles on the floor, I removed the bottom of the dishwasher during its drain and found the culprit (well I saw it – after my husband removed it, he discovered the drain gasket was bad – on a year old dishwasher).  Needless to say, our cabinet on the right side of the dishwasher looks terrible, and had better quality been installed, we may have been saved from having to replace or repair this area.

What are your options for cabinet boxes that might save you one day from the perils of a bad dishwasher…

  • Particleboard is made from wood particles mixed with resin and bonded by pressure. This is typically used in most on cabinet bases that are covered in veneer, in homes that are not custom.  Particle Board can buckle in certain situations, as it is more susceptible to moisture than plywood.  Particle board is also more likely to have failed hinges and shelf pins, especially when the grade is poor.
  • Medium-density fiberboard is a high-quality substrate material made from smaller fibers than particleboard. It offers superior screw-holding power, clean edges, and a very smooth surface.  MDF is extremely heavy!  Note: Formaldehyde is still used in the process of bonding MDF boards.   In some cases, it will out perform wood, due to the tendency for wood to expand and contract during weather changes, such as heat and humidity.
  • Plywood is made by laminating thin layers of wood to each other. Varying the direction of the grain gives plywood equal strength in every direction. The layers are bonded with glue under heat and pressure. When exposed to moisture, plywood can de-laminate.  Plywood is a more expensive option than MDF.
  • Solid Wood is exactly what is means: solid wood box and cabinet construction.  This may not be your best bet (although most expensive and highest quality) if  you live in an area of high humidity, as it is likely to warp and expand/contract over time. However, no other product mentioned above will achieve the elegant look and feel of solid wood doors and cabinet boxes.

Make sure you do your due diligence when the time comes to choose your cabinetry and take these pointers into consideration.

Has anyone else had a similar story to share, or experience with any of these types of cabinets?  Please feel free to comment!

Is Marble Right for you…or your kitchen and bath?

Many of us love the look of marble for our kitchen and bathroom counter tops, but is it right for you in the long run?

Marble, although a beautiful and clean surface that can enhance just about any kitchen or bathroom (and sometimes can be a less expensive alternative), is very porous and is subject to staining as well as scratching, unlike its rival, granite.  A honed finish is found to be more durable than glossy, however maintenance and cleaning on a regular basis is a must if you want marble to work for you.

What’s good about marble, you ask?  The beautiful bright color and surface and elegance in the veining that cannot be achieved with most granite or other counter top selections.  Marble is naturally cool to the touch.  It is easily available at most local stone yards, and the more typical choices (Carrera) are typically less expensive than other natural stone counter tops (although choosing a more exotic color may cost you dearly).

Counter tops can be an expensive portion of the cost for your new home or renovation.  Make sure you do your research and choose what is best for you and your family, because you will be the one living with this decision, perhaps for quite a few years!

Let us know if you have any materials in question we can help with!

Advanced House Framing – The Pros and Cons

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What is Advanced House Framing, or what some term it: Optimum Value Engineering (OVE)?  OVE is a method of framing in order to reduce the amount of waste during residential home framing.  Structural values are not affected with the use of less lumber, while energy efficiency is boosted by the use of insulation, resulting in a higher R-Value overall.

Techniques of Advanced House Framing include:

  • Design floor and wall framing at 24” on center, rather than the standard 16” on center
  • In lieu of using studs for backing, install two-stud corner framing with drywall clips or scrap lumber (another example of eliminating waste)
  • Eliminate headers in non-load bearing walls
  • Utilize in-line framing in floor, wall and roofing areas (vertical to each other) to transfer the load downward

Cost savings in material and labor can be achieved by using this technique however, structural engineering must be utilized to ensure the installation will meet local and international residential and building codes.

The good, the bad, and the ugly…

Some advantages to OVE:

  • Lower material and labor costs (framing material)
  • Less environmental impact due to reduction of waste, and less disposal costs
  • Lower energy costs thanks to thermal bridging (additional insulation allows for fewer studs and rafters with increased R-value)
  • Less incidence of drywall issues, such as nail pops and cracking

The disadvantages of OVE:

  • Expect higher design and engineering costs
  • Expect potential issues with local building officials and inspectors due to the unorthodox design
  • If you hire a framer without experience in OVE, there is a potential for higher labor costs due to a learning curve
  • Although there are framing material savings, other material costs can increase including but not limited to: steel plates, drywall clips and subflooring
  • Some siding specifies nailers at 16” on center, making them incompatible with the 24” on center OVE framing
  • Energy savings are not significantly substantial, in some cases only resulting in an additional R-value of 1

When you are ready to start a new home build, or a remodel of your existing home, please take these tips and suggestions into consideration with your architect, engineer, building officials, and especially yourself.  An insignificant amount of lumber savings may result in higher costs in the long run, however it is up to your discretion whether the lessened environmental impact, a slightly more insulated house, and a home that is just as structurally sound as a standard framed home is more important to you, and worth the value.


Musings of an Energy Nerd (2010).

Advanced House Framing (2012).

Amanda Regelin, Sr. Project Manager (Residential and Commercial Divisions)

Please feel free to contact us at or 219-488-2400 for more useful tips, and don’t forget to view our latest projects at and

When to Hire a Public Adjuster

Earlier this year, one of our clients sustained serious damage from ice dams that formed during our treacherous winter.  Several areas of her oak hardwood flooring were cupped and buckled on much of the first floor of the house (almost 1600SF), walls were stained, cracking and tape joints were exposed, and window trims, floor base and door casings discolored in black (a possible indication of mold).

Our client contacted her insurance agent to file a claim for repairs, and he came to her home to make an evaluation as expected.  He then recommended a few of his favorite disaster repair companies to work up pricing so they could move along with the process and send her a check for the “agreed to” amount.

We opted to price up the work with our subcontractors, so our client would have a basis of comparison to the recommended contractors.  When pricing was complete by each party, it was determined that the other two bids were substantially lower and seemed to be lacking much of the appropriate work, which would in turn, devalue and depreciate the client’s home and home value.  She voiced her concerns to her agent, and asked many questions hope to understand why so many items were left out.  After her insurance premium had been increased over 40% per year, and received no response from the agent, she received a check in the mail for the lesser amount of the two prices submitted.

We suggested she contact a public adjuster to fight the needed work.  Public adjusters can help by:

  • Providing an educated opinion in his area of expertise
  • Evaluating your current homeowner insurance policy to determine what you are entitled to and what the insurer is required to provide legally
  • As public adjusters charge a fee (either hourly or based on a percentage of the settlement), there is incentive to reach a maximized agreement
  • Eliminating the stress you may feel by dealing with the insurance company (especially if they are unresponsive)

If you are in a situation where you feel you are not being treated fairly, and your claim is in excess of $10,000, it might be time to contact a public adjuster.

The process is on-going with this client, but we’ll post an update when a conclusion has been reached.

Amanda Regelin

Senior Project Manager (Residential and Commercial Divisions)

Please feel free to contact us at or 219-488-2400 for more useful tips, and don’t forget to view our latest projects at