When you're planning a new kitchen, you spend hours on the layout of the kitchen, the cabinet style and color, the counter tops and special features like a pull-out trash can. Yesterday we finalized my kitchen layout for my new house, yeah! So it was time to pick the cabinet hardware but that's not as easy as you think.
Fortunately I knew this was a decision that couldn't be put off for several reasons.
- Count the number of pulls you have today and you'll be surprised at the number. My new kitchen will have at least 48 pieces (keep reading to learn why there might be even more) of hardware, really!
- You don't want to install your cabinet hardware. It isn't difficult but it takes time and patience. By having your hardware arrive with your cabinets, the cabinet installers will install your cabinet hardware … and that's a good thing.
- When you delay picking your cabinet hardware, you get to live with ugly blue tape pulls. They aren't pretty. I know because I lived with them for nine months when my husband and I couldn't agree. Finally we let our decorator friend make the decision and I won, because she picked the ones I wanted at the beginning!
Why am I writing this article? I'm scared … yes, no one can be an expert on everything. Not being a fan of cabinet hardware, when my kitchen designer told me that drawers wider than 24 inches needed two pulls, I balked. We walked around the showroom and tested the ease with which you can open a 36 inch drawer with a single pull.
And if you're looking for more information about remodeling a kitchen …
- Kitchen Decorating Means What?
- Picking a Kitchen Cabinet Style Is Challenging
- Kitchen Pulls, Knobs & Other Hardware
- Budget Kitchen Renovations For Under $5,000
How Many Decisions When Picking Cabinet Hardware?
While a single pull seemed comfortable when opening drawers that were 30 to 36 inch drawers, I wanted to be really sure. So I started researching recommendations about cabinet hardware online. When I couldn't find any definitive rules it was time to visit a few stores. To start, I learned what you'll want to consider when picking cabinet hardware:
- Do you want cabinet knobs, pulls or a mixture of both?
- Size matters so decide if you want your cabinet hardware to make a statement like a nice piece of jewelry? or remain understated to avoid a room that feels cluttered.
- Style and color are important. Consider cabinet hardware that compliments the style of your home, kitchen cabinets, appliance color and light fixtures.
- Where would you like the hardware to go on your cabinets? There's some flexibility here but remember the hardware is there to serve a purpose so it needs to be easy to reach.
- Budget is your final configuration as you realize you might be buying 60 to 100 or more pieces of cabinet hardware.
Cabinet Hardware Types: Knobs, Pulls or Both?
Pay close attention to the space between the cabinet hardware and your cabinets. You need to grip the hardware comfortably without touching the cabinets or the finish can wear off over the years. So what type of hardware do you want:
- Cabinet knobs – are more traditional and typically less expensive than pulls. You only need one cabinet knob for cabinet doors and may need two knobs with larger, heavier cabinet drawers. Cabinet knobs being smaller than pulls, will draw less attention which can be very appealing.
- Cabinet pulls – are more contemporary and more functional for heavy drawers. One consideration when picking pulls is to think about t-shaped (versus u-shaped) pulls where the ends that stick out can catch clothing. Pulls are also a better choices for seniors with limited strength and flexibility to grip knobs.
- Combining cabinet pulls and knobs – are common in the kitchen. Most often you'll find knobs on cabinet doors and pulls on cabinet drawers. Another way to mix and match is to use knobs on the wall cabinets and pulls on base cabinets where all the drawers are.
Style & Color that Reflect Your Personality
Style is a personal choice. You simply know what you like … and designs that don't appeal to you. It may be possible to discover your style after viewing at least eight to ten cabinet hardware display boards. Look for similarities between the hardware you like. For me, I quickly discovered that I gravitated to hardware pulls that were slim. This is consistent with my view that cabinet hardware can often make a kitchen look cluttered.
You might find yourself overwhelmed by the number of hardware finishes available. So it's easier to break it down into several categories:
- Hardware color is typically based on the material used for the cabinet hardware. The big decision is warm versus cool colors. Chrome the most common material used for knobs and pulls is cool. Brass and bronze provide hardware that feels warmer. And you can find hardware in white, blue or red pieces but the choices are much more limited.
- Finishes mean you can find chrome cabinet knobs and pulls that range from shiny (polished) to matte, and smoky to charcoal.
You might not think hardware that's fouteen dollars per piece is that expensive. This would be true if you were buying 10 or 20 pieces but you're probably looking at 40 to 80 pieces for a kitchen so the dollars add up quickly. You also want to keep in mind that cabinet hardware will be near cabinet/door hinges, faucets and appliances.
Hardware costs add up quickly. I learned this first hand when remodeling two bathrooms for one of my handyman customers. He insisted on using bronze hardware in the master bathroom. When all the pieces were purchased, the total hardware cost was over eight hundred dollars. That's more than I expect to spend on the kitchen and two bathrooms in my new house … 15 years later.
To learn more about cabinet hardware choices, read The Best Hardware for Light Cabinets (they cover so much more).
Hardware Sizes that Match Cabinet Sizes
Remember this article started with my questioning if I could use a single pull on 36 inch drawers … or use two?
The size of the cabinet hardware you use is a personal choice. What's important is that you like the style and the hardware knobs and/or pulls you pick are functional. If your cabinets are pre-drilled, you'll need to buy hardware that fits the holes already there. You can fill the holes but it's a lot of work and you might not be happy with the results unless you're painting the cabinets.
For pulls, the size isn't what you think. You need to measure center-to-center, from the center of one screw hole to the center of the second hole. Don't get confused with the way you see the pulls as they're often bigger than the hidden screws. Here are guidelines to help you pick your hardware.
|Cabinet Size||Size||Knob Sizes||Pull Sizes|
|Large cabinets||36″ or larger||1-1/2″ or larger||6″, 8″, 10″ or 12″|
|Standard size cabinets||12″ to 36″||1-1/4″ or 1-3/8″||3″ or 4″ most common|
|Small cabinets||under 12″||under 1″||short t-pulls|
Buying & Installing Cabinet Hardware
Sometimes my experience running a handyman business brings back the strangest memories. One day I got a call from one of my technicians, to let us know he'd be at his customer's home for the entire day. There were over 90 pieces of cabinet hardware to install and the homeowner hadn't emptied any of the drawers.
Here are a few tips that should make buying and/or installing your new cabinet hardware easier.
- Find at least two or three styles that you like, preferably at different price points. If you have a budget, skip the really expensive cabinet hardware pieces that cost thirty dollars or more.
- Time permitting, buy a few different pieces of cabinet hardware. If you're replacing existing hardware, install them to see how you like them. If you can't install them, hold them up to cabinets like those you're getting. I liked one sample pull and didn't like the other.
- Measure twice to make sure you're ordering the right size pulls, measuring center-to-center (center of screws).
- Calculate the cost of your top two or three hardware choices. Then you'll be able to pick the cabinet hardware that fits your budget.
- Install three pulls and time yourself so you can estimate time to complete entire project. If you're going the do-it-yourself route with new cabinets, pick up a jig (here's one I found on Amazon) that will insure your cabinet hardware is spaced evenly across all your cabinets.
Many hardware manufacturers offer several lines of hardware, with different quality and pricing. You want to find a manufacturer that uses high-quality materials because cheaper metals will degrade faster with a higher risk of breaking or bending. For example, stainless steel hardware should be solid (not hollow) and have a durable finish.