Carpentry & CabinetsExpert Advice

Cost and Quality of Kitchen Cabinets

Q: What is the difference in cost and quality between brand names and custom made cabinets?

A: In considering your cabinet selection there are three general categories. These choices are referred to as stock, semi-custom, or custom.

Stock means just what it says. Usually available through a network of cabinet dealers or home improvement centers, these are cabinets that are produced in large quantities on a mass production scale. Large quantities of cabinet parts that are always the same size are stock piled by the manufacturer so cabinets can be assembled quickly.

This type of cabinet is only available in certain sizes with no modifications allowed to the cabinets available in the product range. Some suppliers even stock the stock sizes so you can go to the store and pick out enough cabinets and trim pieces to build your kitchen immediately. The advantages here are availability and cost.

Semi-custom defines a stock line of cabinets where the manufacturer will make simple modifications to cabinets at the time of production. These modifications are usually

limited to height, depth, and width adjustments. A semi-custom line may also offer more trim and molding options to finish the project with, and there may even be a few more finishes available as well.

Custom to me should mean just that. Draw a picture and we will make it! However, you will have a hard time finding cabinet sources that define custom this way. If you do, be prepared to pay a hefty price. In the world of manufactured cabinetry, custom can mean anything from slight modifications such as the semi custom description to anything you want. Almost every manufacturer starts out with a basic product line offering cabinets in standard sizes. When modifications are made such as height, depth, & width changes, the cabinetry becomes custom. The general difference production-wise between a semi custom and a custom manufacturer is the number of changes they are willing to make to their respective product lines. Most custom manufacturers will have a much greater selection of finish options, trims, and cabinet storage configurations available also.

Locally built cabinets are another option. You will find a wide range of quality, price, and options available. The most common reason to buy cabinets from a large manufacturer is the quality of the finish. That is not to say that a local shop cannot provide a quality finish but there are a precious few that have the facilities to do so. It is an expensive and highly regulated process and it takes a certain amount of skill that is hard to come by these days. The advantage of using a local shop is availability. If a problem occurs, it is a much faster source for required parts to resolve the problem.

Do not be swayed by the word custom. The definition of this word is in the mind of the beholder. There have been many award winning beautiful projects completed using stock cabinetry.

The most important thing to do is establish a budget first. Then shop around for cabinets that fit your budget. Remember that cabinets are harder to change than anything else in the kitchen. Everything else has to come out to change the cabinets. You will find a huge price range within all three of the cabinet categories so be sure to look at as many as you can until you are comfortable making a decision.

Good luck!

This information is brought to you by Darius Baker of D&J Kitchens & Baths in Sacramento, CA.

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