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Kitchen Cabinet Knobs And Pulls

There's More To Consider Than Just Looks

Kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls may seem like just mundane hardware, whose sole purpose is to provide a means for opening and closing the cupboards. But they don't have to be just that. With hundreds of styles available you can dress up your kitchen cabinets any way you choose.

Choosing them however is probably the toughest job because there's so many choices available.

And while you might think that this is purely a decision governed by what cabinet knobs look nice, you might want to re-think that position. Sure, they have to look good. But as this article will show you, some of those cute and trendy cabinet knobs can be a nuisance. There's a lot to be said for how they "feel".

Nobody can make the choices for you but hopefully this article can help by pointing out some considerations before you choose (yes, they're simple items but there are some things you might not have thought of when it comes to choosing cabinet knobs).

So before you take off on your cabinet knob shopping spree, take a gander at the information below. It may reveal a nugget of information that'll help you make the right choice. Remember, you'll be touching this hardware several times on a daily basis!

A Knob Is Just A Knob...Or Is It? -- Some Basics To Understand

Let's start with some basic terminology that's pretty universal when you're talking about cabinets:

  • Knobs are attached to a cabinet drawer or door with one screw (one attachment point).
  • Pulls have two attachment points (or more, as in the case of a bin pull with three screw holes). Pulls are just another name for handle.

Most if not all the places that sell cabinet hardware including online retailers will segregate it into those two groups -- knobs and pulls.

When you're dealing with pulls, you'll see something referred to as the "center-to-center" dimension. It may be indicated as "drill centers", "C to C" or just "CC" within a hardware listing. This dimension refers to the distance between the attachment points on the pull.

Cabinet pull center-to-center dimension

This dimension is particularly important if you're replacing the pulls on existing cabinets because you'll need to match your existing cabinet handle's CC spacing with the new pulls. Otherwise you'll have to drill new holes and plug the old ones, which is something you probably won't want to do.

There is a way (sometimes) to get away with using a new pull that has a different CC dimension than your existing hardware. There's a piece of hardware called a "backplate" that attaches to the cabinet pull and covers existing holes. Some pulls are made with the backplate already attached to the pull or you can purchase the backplate separately. This trick works if the new cabinet pull is larger or has a larger CC dimension than your existing one. Once the backplate is installed it covers the existing holes from the old cabinet pull.

cabinet pull and backplate

cabinet pull with backplate

Cabinet Pull & Backplate
The Picture On The Right Shows How It Would Be Installed On The Cabinet

The height of a cabinet pull (sometimes referred to as "projection") is the distance that the handle projects out from the surface of the cabinet. Pulls with greater projection are easier to grasp since there's more finger room. This might be important for people with infirm or arthritic hands or those who have trouble grasping.

Knobs And Pulls - Lots Of Variety And Not Just For New Cabinets

The choices for kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls are as numerous as snowflakes in a blizzard. Their styles are just as varied too. And despite their sometimes diminutive size relative to the rest of the cabinets, they really can 'make or break' a cabinet's look.

Publisher's Comments

This point was revealed to me in an "aha!" moment while looking through a cabinet brochure. I had never placed a lot of emphasis on the impact that cabinet knobs and handles had on the overall look of cabinetry. That was until I saw a picture of some otherwise beautiful cabinets with large, round, matching-wood knobs. For me those knobs really marginalized the look of the cabinets and didn't gel with the style of cabinets nor the kitchen. Later I saw similar cabinets but with different knobs and pulls. It was a much better look.

From that standpoint, buying new knobs and pulls can be an inexpensive way to upgrade the look of your existing cabinets. You might even want to replace your cabinet doors which, when combined with new knobs and pulls, could achieve a refreshing kitchen upgrade at a fraction of the cost and time associated with a full remodel.

The message here? There's plenty of choices for new kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls out there. If you're buying new cabinets, you're not limited to the hardware offered by the cabinet maker.

If you're thinking of buying new cabinets because yours are looking outdated but they're still in good shape, consider some new knobs and pulls instead. This might offer the style change you're looking for. There's a style out there to suit everyone's taste.

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What'll They Cost?

Just as there's a seemingly endless variety of knobs and pulls available, there's an equally wide range of prices too. You'll find knobs for under $1 as well as larger pulls for over $300 (yes, that's three-hundred). The good news here is that with the amount of selection that's available, you should be able to find knobs and pulls that work for you from both a style and cost perspective.

For a quick example of what cabinet knobs and pulls might cost for a typical kitchen, consider these scenarios (we've chosen $10 as our average cost per cabinet knob/pull):

  • A medium-sized kitchen can have approximately 40 cabinet doors and drawers requiring an equivalent number of knobs and pulls. Using an average cost of about $10.00 per knob/pull, the total cost rolls up to $400.00.
  • A larger kitchen may require on the order of about 70 cabinet knobs and pulls. With an average piece-part price of $10.00, the total cost for hardware is $700.00.

Again, these figures assume an arbitrary $10 average for each hardware piece and the total cost could vary widely based on the specific cost of hardware that you choose.

If you want to get a quick feel for prices, check out some of the online resources and browse their selections. See the resources section below for online retailers that carry cabinet knobs and pulls.


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Some Practical Considerations To Think About First

Often it's easy to get swept up in the process of choosing the knobs and pulls for your kitchen cabinets, particularly with all the style choices available. What gets overlooked are some of the more practical considerations that go along with those choices.

Before you make any final decisions on which cabinet knobs and pulls to buy consider the following points. They may help you refine your ultimate choice.

  • Knobs vs. Pulls - Cabinet knobs are harder to grasp and pull than cabinet pulls (handles). That's because they utilize finger strength to 'clutch' the knob in order to pull it. Cabinet pulls are easier to open because they allow for the hand or most of the fingers to grasp the handle. This may be important for people who have difficulty using their fingers and hands such as arthritics, disabled or elderly people.
  • The Feel Is Important - How a knob or pull feels in your hand is important -- you'll be using some of them numerous times a day, everyday.

    trendy kitchen cabinet knob

    Those interesting starfish knobs may look nice but they can also feel awkward. Make a point to actually feel the knobs and pulls you're considering. If you're ordering online, purchase some samples first. You'd be surprised by the number of knobs that look benign that turn out to feel uncomfortable every time you grasp them.
  • This turtle-shaped cabinet knob adds an interesting look but it's feet poke your fingers everytime you grasp it to open the cupboard door.


  • Knobs/Pulls That Catch Clothing - Cabinet knobs, depending on style and shape,

    Cabinet pull with free ends

    can catch on clothing such as pockets and pleats on waist-high and lower cabinets. The same applies to handles that have extensions. Fuller, round knobs are less likely to snag clothing than knobs with flatter faces or irregular shapes.
  • Notice how the ends of this cabinet pull extend out beyond the posts that attach it to the cabinet drawer. These "free ends" are what tend to catch in pants pockets and other parts of clothing.

Publisher's Comments

I can offer some real-world experience on this. I consistently snag a pleat on a particular article of clothing that I own on the lower cabinet knobs in front of our countertop workspace. It happens surprisingly often. Luckily, no torn pleats or knee ligaments (yet) but it certainly is annoying. The point here is to be aware that some knobs and pulls are "catchier" than others (like star-shaped or flat-faced round knobs).

  • Drop Handles - Drop handles are cabinet pulls that hang or dangle vertically from a small hook or loop. They require you to pick them up to the horizontal position in order to pull a cabinet drawer open. If you're thinking of this style, consider the finger-lift motion you'll have to do each time in order to pull them up to open the drawer. It may be annoying for some.
  • Size Matters - The size of the knob or pull makes a difference depending on the size of the door or drawer they're attached to and how easy it is to open.

    small cabinet knob

    The smaller the knob and the larger or 'stickier' the door/drawer is to open, the harder you'll have to grasp and pull on that small knob. New cabinets usually have easy-open doors and drawers but some, including older cabinets (if you're just replacing knobs) use mechanical or magnetic "catches" to keep the door closed. They offer more resistance to opening and require more strength when using a small knob.

    This knob doesn't have much surface area to grasp (notice how much of the fingers are still exposed) therefore making it harder to grasp and pull. These types of knobs don't "mushroom out" very much and have a wide mounting post making for a minimal grasping surface.

  • Short vs. Tall - "Shorter" knobs and pulls (the distance between the surface of the cabinet and the grasping part of the knob or pull) make your fingers contact the cabinet more than taller ones.

    Wear from cabinet knob

    Over time that will tend to wear on the cabinet finish. Darker cabinet finishes will tend to lighten as the finish wears around the knob and lighter finishes will darken from dirt.

    The cabinet finish around this knob has worn off revealing the lighter wood color underneath the stain. Preventing your fingers from touching the cabinet surface may not be completely unavoidable but taller knobs or using pulls (handles) will help.
  • Get Samples - Get samples, both to see how they'll look on your cabinets as well as to make sure they'll feel right (see #2 above). Some online sellers of kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls offer samples as do offline stores. You typically have to pay for the samples but you'll either be able to return them for full price or get a percentage of your cost back if you end up making a full purchase.
  • Buy More Than You Need - Yes, cabinet knobs and pulls can be expensive but it may be good insurance down the road. Styles come and go and if you ever break or damage a knob or pull you'll be able to replace it. If the style line is no longer in production however, you're forced to find a close match (which is possible, depending on style), living with an odd-ball, or replacing all the knobs. Granted, it's not often that knobs and pulls break but buying one or two extras might be beneficial.
  • Consider 2 Pulls On Long Drawers - Using two average-sized pulls instead of one on a long drawer (for example, a drawer greater than 30" long) may provide better visual balance even though you only need one to actually open the drawer. A pull with a 3" center-to-center dimension may look dwarfed by the drawer. You could use longer pulls, such as an 18" handle but depending on style, you might reduce cost by going with two smaller handles instead.
  • Crooked Knobs - Square, triangular or irregularly-shaped cabinet knobs have a tendency to 'go crooked' whereas round ones don't. If the knob loosens a bit, which does happen occasionally, it can rotate slightly, putting it out of line with adjacent knobs. It's easily fixed but it's something to consider if you're a stickler on visual details.

  • Understand The Finish - Finishes on knobs and pulls may wear and change over time, depending on the material used. Oil rubbed bronze will wear and reveal a different color in the wear areas. Brass will tarnish if it's not protected with a lacquer or periodically polished.
  • Knobs/Pull Get Dirty - Remember that kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls are prone to getting dirty over time. Grease spatters, dirty hands and spilled food stuffs all contribute to a buildup over time. Knobs or handles with intricate designs may be difficult to clean.

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Where To Buy Them - Retail Stores And The Internet

Kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls can be purchased from a number of sources. Home centers and even hardware outlets stock cabinet knobs though the selection of choices may vary widely. There are also specialty stores that focus exclusively on cabinet knobs and pulls.

You can also buy online through the internet as there are now numerous online sellers offering a wide range of cabinet hardware. Each venue offers its own advantages and disadvantages.

Buying From A Store

One of the advantages of buying (or at least browsing) at a bricks-and-mortar store is the ability to touch and feel the hardware. You can also see the size of the hardware, which is not always evident when looking at pictures in a catalog or on the internet.

You can find cabinet hardware retailers in your area by looking in the phone book under either "cabinet hardware" or just "hardware". Some of the specialty stores that carry hardware for just cabinets may be listed under the "hardware" section.

A better way to search might be online through the local "maps" or "city" search functions at the major search engines. Put in the search term "cabinet hardware" plus your city to find local retailers.

Buying Kitchen Cabinet Knobs And Pulls Online

The internet offers a great venue for shopping kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls. The power of search and the convenience of thousands of virtual catalogs all in one place make shopping an easy and convenient experience.

Let's start with the disadvantages first....

  • Can't Touch And Feel - Obviously you can't touch and feel the hardware through your computer screen. Determining if the hardware is comfortable in your hands and fingers is important.
  • Difficult To Judge Scale (Size) - Closeup photos of hardware sometimes make it hard to judge the scale of the piece, even though the dimensions are usually listed. Seeing a knob mounted on a cabinet door or holding it in your hand sometimes gives a better real-world perspective.
  • Website Variability - Some web retailers are better than others when it comes to displaying products, search capabilities and policies on shipping and returns. Some hunting and searching for the right site may be required.
  • Shipping Cost, Return Policies, Fees, Etc. - With an online retailer, you'll have to pay for shipping which you won't do if you buy from a store. There are also policies you need to be aware of such as restocking fees, returns and sample policies.

...But there are advantages too...

  • Cost Savings - Online retailers of cabinet knobs and pulls can offer a discount over offline stores. Do you like what you see in an offline store but want to see if you can get it cheaper?? Take down the manufacturer name and product information and check online. Chances are you'll find it because the internet stores carry the same knob manufacturers as the offline stores (if not more).
  • Selection - The internet offers a practically endless variety of knobs and pulls from which to choose. It certainly offers many more than the cabinet manufacturers and a lot more than most offline stores.
  • Convenience - The beauty of shopping online is the convenience. There's no need to get in the car to start the process of looking for styles that suit your kitchen design. You can order samples to experience how they'll look and feel and then order them from the convenience of your home.

There are numerous internet companies that sell kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls. Just type "cabinet knobs and pulls" into a search engine to find online sources.

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Buying Knobs And Pulls Online

If you think you might like to buy your cabinet knobs online, be sure to understand some of the important differences in contrast to buying from a retail store:

  • Typical Online Format - Just like the bricks-and-mortar stores, the internet stores sell products made by the hardware manufacturers. Those manufacturers usually dictate terms like warranties, return policies, etc., rather than the online stores. The online sellers' websites typically have similar formats where the product information is grouped by manufacturer. The information is broken down further by various categories such as style or finish type.
  • Sample Policy - Some online stores have a sample policy whereas others do not. It's a good idea to get some samples to be sure they feel right and look okay on your cabinets.

    cabinet knobs

    Keep in mind you'll have to pay for the samples and will usually only get reimbursed a percentage of the sample's cost if you place an order.
  • Search Capabilities A website's search capability is both an important and convenient tool particularly because of the wide selection of products available. Good search capability means you can more quickly narrow your focus whether it's on a particular style or cost range. What you don't want is to get a result like "Item 1-25 of 12,164" (and that will happen if you can't sort and slice to a finer degree).
  • Minimum Order - some web retailers require a minimum order. If you're only looking for a few knobs you may not qualify at certain online sellers. The good news is that there are plenty of online merchants to choose from.
  • Shipping Charges - Be aware that some online sellers of cabinet hardware charge a shipping cost per manufacturer. This means that if you order hardware made by different manufacturers you may end up paying separate shipping fees, one for each manufacturer. The reason is because many online retailers have the product shipped directly from the manufacturer and not from a centralized warehouse that the internet store owns.
  • Returns And Restocking Fees - Because internet stores carry products made by various manufacturers the policies regarding returns and restocking fees will vary among manufacturer even within a given internet store. Policies vary with some accepting product returns and others not.

The bottom line on buying cabinet knobs and pulls online is to be aware of the seller's policies so there are no surprises. You will find this important information listed under links on their websites titled "terms and policies" or specifically "return policy", "shipping policy", etc.

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