By: Elizabeth Veatch

Base – Quite a few manufacturers supply a standard factory applied particleboard base. We have found that this type of base doesn’t fair well in transit or have much longevity. Specifying a ¾” moisture resistant plywood field built base assures base damage won’t occur prior to installation.  A moisture resistant plywood base also lowers risk associated with water damage.

Laminate Finish – When selecting a plastic laminate pay close attention to the finish number in addition to the color name.  If specifying only by color name, the manufacturer is likely to select their standard finish for you.  In the case of Wilsonart – an example of a full laminate description would be “Wilsonart Beige Pampas 4170-60”.

Hardware – We have found that a five (5) knuckle hinge holds up better in public installations.  We’ve worked with school districts that have opted for a more aesthetic concealed hinge – only to discover they lack the durability to withstand heavy duty use.

Countertop – Standing water is a concern for plastic laminate countertops.  When budget permits, a solid surface works well for heavily used sink locations.  If plastic laminate is being used, make sure there is no seam within 2’-0” of a sink.  A bountiful use of sealant and an integral backsplash behind the sink are both very important.  Upon project completion, make sure the owner/occupants have a copy of maintenance instructions for plastic laminate.  Laminate does not fair well with chemicals therefore heavy duty cleaners can leave behind damage.  Lastly, finish off the countertop with 3mm edge banding for the best durability.

Keying – Don’t forget keying!  You’ll need to determine how the occupants want each space keyed – individually or per room. Most often occupants select one keyway per room.  If replacing only a portion of cabinets in a room, you’ll need to note “match existing keyway.”  If it is not possible to match the existing keyway, you’ll need to note “replacement of all casework locks in room to match new.”

Vertical Fillers – Vertical fillers should never be less than 1” in width.  Any narrower than this and installation is nearly impossible due to construction tolerances.  When specifying fillers for upper cabinets or wardrobes, be sure to include a top/bottom filler to prevent debris/dust from building up in the void.