Home Depot vs. Custom Cabinets

redheadeddaughterApril 17, 2014

Hello, I'm mostly a lurker but I wanted to post my experience with cabinetry prices for a medium to large size kitchen. I drafted out my ideas roughly and sent them to a custom local shop and at around the same time, had a HD kitchen designer give me a rough quote for the same space. Here are the numbers:

Home Depot: $58k and the design has alot of filler - Decora line (which was the only line that could get some of the options I wanted)

Custom (well respected) Cabs: $29-35k depending on how many bells and whistles (arched bases, corbels, etc.). And I get inset cabinets. Which I'd never heard of before GW and now can't seem to live without. ;)

The Home Depot kitchen designer, although very nice, took more than 5 weeks to provide a quote. The custom guy took less than 24 hours.

HD has alot of sales and specials that could bring that price down, but I was still surprised by the incredible range of pricing for the same cabinet (all cabinet details e.g. soft close drawers, wood type, were exactly the same.

In our area at least, it's worth giving a local company a shot at your kitchen! Has anyone had a similar experience? Or do I need to be wary that the custom guy is giving me a great up front quote and then won't be able to follow through?

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One thing about Home Depot -- the price I ended up paying for my cabinets was well under half of the quoted list price.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 7:00PM
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Well that would make a huge difference! I think the promotion they have now would bring the price down about 10k or so...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 7:12PM
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You know I think Decora is Dynesty(Omega). Sounds like you have quite a bit of cabinetry square footage?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 7:31PM
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What finish will they be? How does the cabinetmaker finish his cabinets? Does he do that himself?

Durability of finish would be my concern there.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 11:37PM
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I think custom cabinetry is often great value, and underlooked as an option. My neighbour just got an incredible kitchen installed by a custom cabinet maker - excellent quality and loaded with really nifty features. Guy is a total perfectionist.

Going IKEA is cheaper for me, but if I was doing more high end cabinetry I would do custom but specify all my features in detail. I think high end hardware would be a must for me.

Keep in mind also that you can get someone different to do the boxes (cabinet maker) vs. the fronts (cabinet door company). I'm getting custom fronts for a very reasonable price, done by a company that just does fronts. They have custom painting, staining, specify door details, etc. They fabricate everything there.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:41AM
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I'm going to second the finish question. Factory finishes are more durable than what a local shop can produce. That's a factor to consider.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 1:00AM
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I had a similar experience with Lowe's. After discounts, a shaker overlay design quote was several thousand higher than custom beaded inset, and both included installation. You have to decide whether a sturdy factory finish is worth the $23,000 price difference that you were quoted. Cabinets in my house were all painted 19 years ago by a good professional painter, and the paint job still looks fine, no chips, etc. The cabinets themselves are over 50 years old and plywood, so I am replacing them, but not because of the paint finish.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 7:41AM
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Another Lowes or HD consideration to mitigate price, is their cost of installation is known to be way higher than most. In other words, they recoup those discounts.

Many savvy customers arrange outside installation. It's not like Lowes or HD installers are all good anyway: some are, some aren't.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:02AM
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If a "custom" guy buys boxes from one company and doors from another, then he's an assembler, not a custom cabinet maker. If he just builds boxes and turns you loose to find your own finisher, then he's not a custom cabinet maker. If he won't build you a sample, with the finish that you choose, and let you test it yourself to see if it passes the KCMA tests that 99% of all factory finished cabinets will pass, then it's not worth getting "custom". It's not worth spending money twice to replace cabinets that won't last but a few years before looking worn out.

"Custom" is the most abused word in cabinetry. It encompasses some of the nastiest hack work you've ever seen, and some of the most expensive exquisite made to fit furniture. Most guys, unfortunately, are on the lower end rather than the higher end. Be sure that you know not only the materials, but the entire process that a "custom" guy uses in order to be sure that you're getting a truly accurate comparison. The devil is in the details. Usually the finish details.

3 year old "custom" cabinets.

Here is a link that might be useful: KCMA

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:13AM
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Interesting on the paint finish. I have a custom bathroom vanity, less than a year old, and it already has a very small chip. And this is in the master bathroom so no kid use even.

I also painted kitchen cabinets myself in a previous house. Not as good as a professional painter, to be sure. But I was careful to sand, clean, prime, etc per all the advice I could find here and on the paint forum. I had chips within three years.

So when we do this kitchen remodel (different house) I am going to go with a factory paint finish. (We will have custom boxes in some places for sure due to a wierd old kitchen, but that will be depth and we will go with Barker doors or whatever similar source my contractor wants that I agree to).

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:43AM
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My choices were Lowes, another lumber yard that sells cabinets, a paint/flooring store that sells cabinets (with a reputation for being expensive on everything), and a handful of custom cabinet makers. One of my kitchen remodel goals was to improve efficiency in a fixed space, so I wanted custom to make the best use of my space.

So I don't have bids to compare, but I'm comfortable that I got a fair price to get exactly what I wanted, have it done right, and installed to perfection. I have a 10'x10' U-shaped kitchen, plus a 5' wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinets. I paid about $19K for the cabinets and installation. When two of the drawer bases had the wrong drawer sizes, they were corrected within days; when a door front didn't look good, the installer immediately called the shop and had them start making a new one.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:56AM
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Way too general of a statement to say that " Factory finishes are more durable than what a local shop can produce"

There are plenty of local cabinet makers that produce finishes that would meet or surpass the KCMA tests....actually I have found that there are numerous local shops that are AWI Premium Grade certified, I would take that over KCMA certified any day

I am sure there are small shops that use a pre-cat lacquer out there, but there are just as many that use a conversion varnish and even catalyzed polyurethanes

Like anything, do your homework, request samples and go from there....

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 11:12AM
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"One thing about Home Depot -- the price I ended up paying for my cabinets was well under half of the quoted list price."

It bugs the hell out of me to do business with a company that gives me a quote of a gazillion dollars and then tells me I can save 50 or whatever percent if I buy under some "specials" deadline. Especially when they are always running a "special" ... as soon as one ends, another begins. Just give me your best honest price and I'd be happy. I really don't get the point of that inflated price/save money on our "sale" marketing ploy.

My neighbor's custom cabinet finish (stained) was peeling within a year. My factory finished bath cabinet (painted) was peeling within a year. I can't really say that one is better or worse than another when it comes to factory and custom finishes ... there appear to be great jobs and hack jobs on both sides of the fence.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:39PM
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As for finish: I'm kind of hoping for a worn painted look after a while (and a waxed finish on the wood). I don't want a factory finish... so that works against a Decora type cabinet. Unless I want to pay more for the distressing. ;)

I'm actually thinking of painting them myself with a Farrow and Ball Color. Has anyone done that?

I will be sure to ask for a "test" cupboard (which I will be happy to pay for. That's a great idea.

As for the sales... they are timed around holidays it seems. But with a construction loan and a build schedule (not a remodel) I don't think I want my cabinetry quote wavering 10-25k depending on when I need to purchase them. I'm also worried about the delivery schedule. And I don't like the fillers.

My husband thought that HD would come back far cheaper than custom... so if it's even close there is no question we are going with the local guy. Plus, I can stalk him if he is running late with delivery or something. ;) And I like to give business to local companies when possible - so that's another plus!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 3:02PM
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I had the same experience. I LOVE my cabinet maker, he did such a great job not only on building my cabinets but also on installing them. The granite templater asked for his name because he said he had never seen cabinets so perfectly square level and plumb.
I kind of took a chance on him, he has been building cabinets for about 15 years but only recently decided to open his own shop. So, for now he is one guy, doing everything but from the work I have seen, and the high praise I have heard from EVERYONE, he won't be a one man shop for long.

I have other cabinets I want him to build eventually, guess I should get on it soon before he becomes much bigger and his prices go up!

Edited to add: I chose to finish my cabinets myself. He has a paint shop he sends his cabinets too but I wanted to do it. He gave me as many scrap pieces of ash as I wanted to test my stains on until I got the exact color I was looking for. So, I didn't paint them myself like you asked but I did stain them.

This post was edited by Texas_Gem on Fri, Apr 18, 14 at 15:26

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 3:16PM
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Here's the part that's bugging me:

The Home Depot kitchen designer, although very nice, took more than 5 weeks to provide a quote.

The normal routine in a HD is to make an appt, which generally happens within a few days of request. You go in with your sketches, the design person draws the whole thing out in their layout program. As he/she goes along you pop the various cupboards into their desired spaces. If you're iffy on what you want the design person will make suggestions, which may be more or less inspired. If there is too little or too much room, that is dealt with there. For a large kitchen such as yours, this might take 2 or more hours for the first pass through. The program itself is keeping track of the various options and totally up the pricing. Say you want to try out both Opt A and B. Enter A, print, replace some A components with B components, print. No mystery on a given layout or it's pricing. You could even go with an Opt A and B which are entirely different layouts. It adds to the time, but it's just time with your butt in the chair, not weeks. Personally, I'd break that up into different days as my eyes would be twirling after that much thinking.

If you are having them come out and measure, I'm sure that adds to the timeline. Once you have measurements, the rest is the same. In our case, we took the printouts home and studied them in place to be sure this was what we wanted. We discovered a measuring error of 1" which we corrected (our mistake) and took our time to be sure we were right where we wanted to be. We did pass up the best "deal" because we just aren't into being rushed on the planning. We got the next good deal for maybe $100 more. What's $100 on a project like this? Be sure.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 3:46PM
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As for the 5 weeks timeline: It took that long from the appointment to the first day I saw anything at all (price quote or cabinet layout). I had already sketched out everything with sizes. I also had to text the KD many times to get that response in 5 weeks. I think part of it was they have so many people that aren't serious. So I had to keep showing up and texting to prove I was serious.

I still didn't like it. ;) 5 weeks was too long.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 4:02PM
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Since the original poster prefers distressed it's moot, but this thread might be of some interest to anyone else concerned about durability and a painted finish.

Here is a link that might be useful: GW thread on paint durability

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 4:28PM
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Redhead- If you want a unique type of finish...can the custom cabinet maker do that for you? Would it be too expensive?

If not...maybe just distress the 'faux unfitted' pieces...like the hutches or island and have the rest of the cabinets with a regular finish. This might be easier and less expensive...if it still fits your 'overall idea' in your head. Sound like a great kitchen :)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 4:44PM
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My son bought Innermost cabinets from HD and it worked the way Suzannes described. (I was there as he wanted me available for advice as questions arose.) They wanted frameless to maximize storage and it's difficult around here to find a custom shop that does frameless.

He made an appointment - mainly because the one we went to has one person that does the kitchen layouts and she can't be there all of their opening hours. He already had a layout he wanted. This was for 2/3 of their kitchen. They are keeping the cabinet run with the sink and opening the kitchen adding an island with a cooktop and adding cabinets along another wall.

The KD put the cabinets into her computer as they spoke. She tried out a few options that he asked about so he could compare the prices. The designer printed out and saved the ones he asked to take home. He, his wife and I came back a second time when they made a few tweaks and placed the order.

They had 1 floor to ceiling pantry with pullout shelves, 1 cabinet for an under counter oven, 1 trash pullout, 6 lowers with drawers, 1 with doors and pull outs, 2 uppers, an over fridge cabinet, a panel for the island end and a panel for the side of the fridge. I don't recall the price exactly because they played with so many alternatives, but it was around $6-7 K.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 6:49PM
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