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!
Let's start with some basic terminology that's pretty universal when you're talking about cabinets:
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.
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 & 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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let's start with the disadvantages first....
...But there are advantages too...
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.
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:
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.
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.