The presence of a certification seal from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) is one quick way of assessing cabinet quality. The association formerly was known as the National Kitchen Cabinet Association. Its standards for strength, construction, and finish quality have been adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and represent a baseline of quality to help you compare different manufacturers' products. The only drawback to using the seal as a guideline is that not all cabinet manufacturers are KCMA members, and the products of those who are not, which may exceed the standards, are not tested.
Still, the seal is a useful guide. Kitchen cabinets are tested by independent laboratories-tests measure more than 60 performance requirements-before certification is granted. Once a year, products are retested after an unannounced visit to the manufacturer's assembly plant. If the cabinets do not pass the tests again, the manufacturer is given some time to correct deficiencies. Certification is removed if the deficiencies are not corrected within that time.
The tests simulate the wear and tear that the kitchen cabinet structure would need to withstand over a 10-year period, and that the finish would need to withstand over a five-year period. They measure the cabinets' ability to withstand heavy loads and impact, and finish tests measure resistance to heat and humidity, extreme temperature changes, water and detergent and food and beverage stains.
Among the KCMA's general requirements for certification are the following: • All cabinets must be fully enclosed with backs, bottoms, sides, and tops on wall cabinets; and backs, bottoms, and sides on base cabinets, except for kitchen sink fronts, sink bases, and oven and refrigerator cabinets. • All cabinets that rest on the floor must have a toe space at least 2 inches deep and 3 inches high. • Utility cabinets must meet the same requirements as base and wall cabinets. • Doors must be properly aligned and must close without excessive binding or looseness. • All materials must ensure rigidity. Face-frames must provide rigid construction, whereas the ends, tops, bottoms, and backs of frameless cabinets must be thick enough to provide rigid construction. • Corner or lineal bracing must be provided where necessary to ensure rigidity and the proper joining of components. • All wood parts must be dried to a moisture con¬tent of 10 percent or less at the time of fabrication. • All exposed plywood and composition board edges must be filed and sanded, edge-banded, or otherwise finished. • All exposed parts of cabinets must have nails and staples set and holes filled. • All exposed construction joints must be fitted in a workmanlike manner. • There should be no sign of looseness in connections between cabinets and hinges or doors and hinges.
In addition, cabinet finish should be free of ridges and other imperfections, scratches, and residue. Door finish should show no discoloration, blistering, whitening, or swelling. And all interior exposed sur¬faces in the cabinet and drawers should have at least one coat of clear finish.
While certification is not the end all for selecting kitchen cabinets, it is a nice touch. There are plenty of excellent kitchen cabinets that have no certification.