Differences: Custom vs. Semi Custom/Stock Cabinets?

pbx2_gwDecember 5, 2012

We are looking at a $10K difference in our kitchen between Custom vs. Semi Custom/Stock Cabinets.

Can you educate me on the pros & cons of each?

We are not building a McMansion or anything but it is a custom home with a budget that needs to be rationalized.

Thanks for any feedback.

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Custom vs Semi/Stock for me has only three differences. First, custom should have a unified face frame, the only joint in the wood is the vertical stile attaching to the horizontal stile. Second, the ability to use every little bit of space by odd/unique cabinets. And Third, the use of any material, color/stain and door profiles imaginable.

I understand in re-models of small/odd kitchens, there is value in custom cabinets. But most new builds will be just fine with semi custom in my opinion.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 10:56AM
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A lot of cabinet decisions have (or should have) to do with the actual style and design of the cabinent. For example, is "flush overlay" being considered? That's where only the door/drawer fronts are visible and the face frame and boxes cannot be seen.

On the other hand, exposed frame cabinets have the face frame visible between doors and drawer faces. Flush frame cabinets are those with the face of doors and drawers flush with the surface of the face frame.

There's lot more to cabinets than the style of the doors and drawers!

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 1:24PM
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It would help to know if 10k is 10% of your budget or 100% of your budget. I opted for custom cabinets and they were about 20% more than wood-mode and the final result is amazing.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 3:51PM
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My DH has cabinet-building skills. We have built several homes and usually purchased the cabinets for self-install. I like the "furniture" baked-on finish of the commercial cabinets.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Posted by milz50 (My Page) on Wed, Dec 5, 12 at 15:51
It would help to know if 10k is 10% of your budget or 100% of your budget. I opted for custom cabinets and they were about 20% more than wood-mode and the final result is amazing.

$10K would be ~30% of our total cabinet allowance.

I don't doubt what you see in quality but I wouldn't know what to look for besides the obvious being pointed out to me.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 5:00PM
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We got the same type of quote for our kitchen. There is a $10K difference between custom and semi-custom. This was for an apples to apples comparison: same hinges, same thickness of plywood in bases, same number of drawers, same drawer slides. I think we'll go with the semi-custom. Stock cabinets come in sizes that are multiples of 3", 9", 12", 15"...60", etc. When your kitchen has an inch or two space, they have matching spacers that fill in those spaces and look like extensions on the cabinets.

The factor I'm concerned about it the color of the stain. Most semi/custom stock will stain certain colors with or without glazes. If you want a certain stain color, they may not be as flexible as your custom cabinet guy. Another factor in durability is how long the shelf run is and how thick it is. Without good support, a long run will sag in the short term; a thinner shelf sags sooner. I will probably order a door from each before I make my decision. I ordered one door awhile back; when it got here, I realized the cherry wood the cabinet company was using wasn't top quality.

A great installer with an eye for detail is what makes ordinary cabinets shine. My son just had a bottom of the line series installed. We had them put plywood in the bottom of the sink base instead of particle board. They look high end because they go to the ceiling, there is a nice crown molding up there, and he doesn't have low end knobs. They are just a builder grade cabinet with a dark stain over birch. They won't last as long, but he doesn't need them to.

My builder cabinets I have now are 20yo and are just starting to show their wear. The funny thing is that my sister who is married to a contractor and have built their own houses with custom cabinets thought I had a custom job. No, I just had an installer who takes pride in his work, cabinets that went up to the ceiling, and plywood panels installed on unfinished sides.

I guess my conclusion is that I'd go with the customized in-stock cabinets and save the $$$.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 12:15AM
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The one thing about semi-custom is that you are dealing with a large corporation - for good and bad. Warranty coverage is a bit more reliable if the company is larger - that being said my semi-custom company went out of business about a year after building..... But haven't needed anything yet either (3.5 years)

There are a lot of semi-custom options now that can get very expensive.

I think the whole difference is hard to compare to someone else's experience. Sometimes custom is not that much more expensive. Comparing good custom to a cheap semi-custom is not particularly fair.

I personally see no significant advantage to custom if you can find a style/quality that you like in semi-custom as long as your space is pretty standard.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 5:53AM
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There are custom site built cabinets that are pretty horrible quality and are an abuse of the word "custom", and there are actual custom shop built cabinets that can be pretty darn great and that you can specify the exact wood, exact door profile, reveal, and any other detail that you might be interested in. The former are as cheap as they come, but mask themselves as being "custom" so have a huge markup for the builder. The latter will be more expensive than most manufactured cabinets. Neither will ever have a top coat that will be as durable as manufactured cabinets.

Manufactured cabinets will be able to be found at all price points and customization levels. The poor quality on the shelf that you find at a box store is "stock", as well as several lines that do "just in time" production, but only in certain sizes. Semi custom offer the ability to customize some details, like cabinet depth, or to finish the interior to match for glass. Fully custom lines like Omega will do anything your heart desires, from using the wood from an old tree on your property to making your 3'x 8' island all one piece rather than different pieces joined together.

And all of the decent quality manufactured cabinets will come with a two part catalyzed varnish that even the top custom cabinet shops won't be able to produce. Look up KCMA wear testing and you'll see what I'm talking about. Life time warranties. Ask any site builder or shop builder how long they are willing to warranty their product and if they would warranty it to KCMA specs. The good quality makers will at least give you 5 years of warranty, but will give you the "look of death" if you ask them about the cabinet standing up to alcohol or mustard, or being opened and closed 25,000 times.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 7:39AM
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Circus Peanut

There are many answers to this, and many differing opinions. Try posting this same query over at the Kitchens forum for lots more input.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 5:35PM
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I'm wondering if it's understandable that the design and style of cabinetry should be consistent with the design and style of one's house?

There are all sorts of design and quality options out there for cabinets, from Home Depot to Crown Point to locally built. What's important is to match design, style and quality of cabinetry with one's house.

Quality cabinets can be designed (in a factory or on-site) as flush overlay, exposed frame or flush frame. They can be painted or stained. They can be trimmed or trimless. The options are endless and nonsensical, until one understands and coordinates them with the overall design and character of one's home!

For example, a Colonial-style house will have completely different cabinetry than, say, a modern, or craftsman, or whatever style home.

It's not about how the cabinets are made; it's not about the style of the doors and drawers--it's about the style and character of the home.

Once one understands and has a compatible style in mind that fits the style of the house, then one can reasonably shop the options for where and how the cabinets are made.

Just a thought!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 6:49PM
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I'd make sure that the hardware is high end. Because having high end cabinets and the cheapest drawer slides (as I have seen several times in Dallas) is not a good trade-off.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 9:01PM
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