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Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

Posted by babushka_cat (My Page) on
Thu, May 20, 10 at 0:09

I am grappling with which cabinetry to purchase - custom or semi custom. Will be remodeling a small 11x13 kitchen, inset style cabinetry, creamy white paint. Am over budget already but thinking this may not be the place to compromise. The options i am debating:

1. semi custom quote from omega/dynasty: $10,300. The pro's: more affordable than custom, really like the KD I am working with at shop. Con's: i don't love any of the white paint colors (one is too white, one too tan), does not maximize storage in small kitchen due to spacers in semi custom configuration, installation costs higher due to more pieces to install

2. custom: got one quote for $12,000 but not confident he can deliver (did not validate he can do inset, was a bit of an odd ball). Guessing the other two quotes will come in the range of 12K - 15K to be confirmed early next week. Pro's: maximizes storage space, can select the exact paint color i want, install costs will come down bit as less pieces to install. Con's: higher cost, already over budget

3. semi-custom with custom paint color: got a quote on dura supreme semi custom but painted my preferred benjamin moore white dove $15,000

if i go custom will need to revisit my budget to see where i can save some money but will still end up over budget. thoughts anyone? my brain hurts....


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

We have exactly the same dilemma (and, it sounds like, the same budget and same cabinetry!) I'm leaning strongly towards going custom right now simply to get the cabinets we need for our space, but DH is resisting a bit because of the price tag (and because he likes Ikea fine, but we have to have so much filler with frameless for our layout that it seems like a bad plan). We got a range of custom quotes (in the East Bay, where I think you are too?) from $8K to $16K. Liked the $16K guy the best, but just not sure we can swing the cost. I was unimpressed with the work of the $8K guy, and he couldn't do inset. So it does seem like you get what you pay for, to some extent...

The other thing to consider in California is paint finishes---you don't get the same kind of catalyzed finish with local custom cabinets that you do with some lines made elsewhere because of the environmental regulations. Pros and cons to that on the durability and air quality fronts, I think.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

thanks for the reply - glad to hear i am not the only one! yes, east bay for me.

keep me posted on your assessment. i too am leaning towards custom. checking to see how much the install costs will come down by going custom. there will be a reduction but will not be enough to make up the difference. for me the color is a big deal - a bad white is not good....now need to review the budget to see what i can give up :(


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

How does inset maximize your space? Have you measured the drawer width on an inset cabinet before and compared it to the width of a framed cabinet or dare I say a frameless if you are that concerned with space?

What pieces are you getting in the custom configuration that decrease the list of items to install from the semi custom? At 10.5k in a kitchen that size for semi custom I can not imagine you have that many extra fluted fillers or turned posts you can do. Even if you have extended stiles on the cabinets from your custom guy you still have to rip the stile to make the cabinet fit which takes time on the installers part if they are going to nickle and dime you to death. You should be able to get a price per box that allows for fillers. I have never seen a contractor who counts the fillers as extra items to install when they are doing a price per box variation there of.

If you shop around more you will find there are several other less expensive semi custom brands that do custom paints. I have seen countless nice linen white cabinets from so many different brands what makes Benjamin Moore the God of the paint world on here?

I read that to many people on this board shop the expensive brands at "trusted" retail stores that turn out to be mid to high end priced products. Those that post on here feel the price is to high and turn the the shade tree cabinet builder! What written warranty do you get from this custom person you are thinking of using? Do some more shopping around post an add on craigs list that you are looking for cabinets. Send your drawings to interested individuals to give you a quote. Gather several quotes to see what patterns develop. If you knew the truth the cabinet prices varry from cabinet supplier to cabinet supplier and the method of mark up does as well. The pattern you see when the quotes come back will speak louder then the sales person/ designer ever does.

Your kitchn would be considered 24 lineal feet based on your 11x13 definition. I priced a 43 lineal foot kitchen last week with a up down in and out cabinet configuration using a 60x60 cabinet hood with mantle corbels and crown molding under the mantle in a painted linen white cabinet. The color of the linen white is so close to the picturs of the benjamin more off white kitcens I see posted on here that I bet I could post pictures of the next kitchen I do with it an I would get so much praise on its look. The cabinet I used comes with a 1 written warranty, has a raised panel full overlay door style with glaze, 5 piece drawer fronts with dove tail soft close full extension drawers, all plywood construction boxes and shelves for $11,860 Kraftmaid using my written list of items was $22,300. I will give you the Kraftmaid warranty is better but look at the price diffence. Kraftmaid has a hight price point that allows them the cash flow to offer a life time Limited warranty. The real point is there are options when you have a limited budget.

I did that same design in a stained cabinet with the same specs for cabinet construction and warranty with a 42" hood that had to built on site with cabinets and pieces I would order for $7,942.00 almost 1/3 of Kraftmaid price.

Point being I read the posts day after day to understand the mentality of perspective buyers. It seems people are scared of the smaller retail stores that are family owned or run by a owner operator self employed man or woman. My expierence is they actually know more about it then the big places you are shoping. The small stores actually had to convince the cabinet companies they sell products for that they knew what they are doing on all angles of the business not just that they can click a mouse and put one symbol next to another on a computer screen like a kitchen designer does to get hired at a larger company. The smaller retail store will actually use a custom company with a building bigger then the mall you live close to that has been in business for decades and give you warranty that will actually be worth something over the shade tree custom cabinet maker who you admit does not know if he is even up to the task of inset door styles. Even if the self employed store owner has closed up shop or moved on your warranty comes from the cabient maker directly they will stand behind your kitchen wether the store you went thru is there or not.

If I can offer a high quality cabinet and design at that prices mentioned above, I can also be competitve in the custom world.

Now I will give you that it is so annoying how most cabinet companies shy away from producing inset door products. I even have suppliers that keep them in stock from china that would never figure out if I did not tell you. (I wish they did white!) The actual factory can do it the buyer of the product who stocks it has not created a inventory in a painted option. It is not as easy to get the tight tolerances to line up right so most semi custom companies avoid producing it.

None the less If know where to get multiple brands at lower prices then what you have mentioned I would bet most other men and women who own smaller more personalized kitchen and bath stores know where to get them to. It may not be the same company I use but the quality is probably just as good. There are plenty of good places to get things from.

Conclusion. I suspect you are seeking the wrong alternative to your budget. And no I am not fishing for a kitchen. I should change my profile to not show my email address. I just get frustrated when I see so many people on here say they either shop from a big box or similar establishment store or go the the shade tree cabinet makers. There are so many more quality choices at great prices in between.

I bet I could do 5 kitchens in Chinese cabinets (which have the CARB certification for green methods and safe chemicals by the way) using up down in out cabinet configurations with fluted fillers, turn posts, etc, and post all the pictures on here and the details of the kitchen like so many people do (which I love to see). I know the reaction would be just as favorable as the comments on the custom kitchens posted here.

So it is time to think out of the box a little and realize your dreams can be affordable!


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

Dave, when you say "Chinese Cabinets" do you mean RTA's? And how does the finish compare?

Honestly, I find your tone a bit insulting. It's like we are all idiots and you are here to save the day. No thanks.

Babs--I think the semi-custom with custom paint sounds like a good idea.

What about getting out of area customs from a reputable yet well priced cabinet maker and having them shipped to you. Some people on here have gotten awesome prices on customs.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

"...does not maximize storage in small kitchen due to spacers in semi custom configuration..."

Interesting that you need spacers with Omega Dynasty. I have Omega Dynasty cabinets and the only place I needed spacers is where the WD handle stuck out further than anticipated so the corner cabinet was a an inch or two too narrow and we needed to add the spacers (either that, or wait for another cabinet to be ordered.) We have one Dynasty cabinet that's 31.5" wide...definitely not standard width! We also have three Omega Custom, one for the MW drawer & two wall cabinets (the wall cabinets are Custom only b/c it was cheaper to order Custom than to modify a semi-custom w/finished insides & shelves). The advantage of Omega is that you can "mix & match" Dynasty & Custom cabinets...i.e., have mostly semi-custom (Dynasty) and only get Custom where/when needed.

While I understand about the paint, I don't understand about the filler.

As to a custom cabinetmaker, there are many very good custom cabinetmakers out there, but there are many not-so-good ones as well. Just b/c someone is a "custom cabinetmaker" does not make him/her a good cabinetmaker. And, it's not just their skill at cabinetry...how are their business skills? E.g., How are they at meeting schedules? Do they stay within the cost they quote you? How do they deal with issues? What is their warranty?, etc..... These are questions you need to ask not only of the cabinetmakers, but also the cabinet stores.

With a custom cabinetmaker, what recourse do you have if they drop the ball? Sometimes you can go "over the heads" of people at cabinet stores or even go to the manufacturer (at least for warranty issues).

If you decide to go with a custom cabinetmaker, be sure to ask to see samples of his/her work in inset cabinets and with a painted finish... Keep in mind, too, that inset and paint are often upgrades to stained wood and non-inset. You said you didn't tell your cabinetmaker you wanted inset...well you may not have a true estimate then.

Right now, you're comparing apples to bananas...painted inset (Dynasty & Dura Supreme) to unknown (cabinetmaker).

Know also that inset offer the least "maximization" of space, frameless the most.


As to where to compromise...it depends. You're not compromising on cabinet quality if you switch to frameless or non-inset framed cabinets. You're compromising on style. So, what's more important to you? The inset style vs a full-overlay framed or frameless? Cost? Risk (with unknown cabinetmaker)?

Should you "bust the budget further..."? That's up to you...can you afford to? Is it worth the extra money to you?

We cannot answer these questions for you...the answers are up to you & your DH.


Good luck with your decision & with whatever you decide!


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

buehl, as usual, said it all and very well.

I'll just add that we have Omega Dynasty and Omega Custom in our baths and we could not be more pleased with those.

In the kitchen, we have semi-custom Kraftmaid and they are fine, but we mixed in a couple of custom cabs that we could not get from Kraftmaid. Our local small kitchen retailer sold us the Kraftmaid and made the custom cabs in the same wood species and stain. I have to say that the custom cabs, while well made and nice, don't have the durable finish the Kraftmaid cabs have. One of the custom pieces is a washer/dryer cab and gets opened/closed daily with some exposure to water and detergent. We are pretty careful (household is only me and DH) and the custom finish is not holding up as well as the factory finish. So, just a word of caution to ask your custom shop about their finishes and to check with their past customers for references on same. Color is one thing. Durability is another. Best of luck to you.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

With custom, I think it's also critical to talk to references and go see cabinets in people's homes, tricky as that is for some cabinetmakers. With the cabinetmaker who gave the lowest bid, I found the cabinets they had installed (in another client's home) were all just slightly wonky---which they apologized for, but really, if these are the cabinets you're choosing to show me, that doesn't give me a lot of confidence! I got the impression there that it was more that they were still learning---they seemed very well intentioned---but no thanks. With another carpenter-cabinetmaker, I called the reference---and the couple talked my ear off about all the problems they'd had with him! Umm. Oops.

To Dave's point, prices do vary---for instance, we got quotes that were $2500 from two different dealers of identical cabinets and layouts. I ended up going to the websites of the semi-custom lines we liked and finding local dealers, and then pricing at each. And more importantly, prices of both semi-custom cabinets and custom work vary a lot regionally, and the Bay Area is one of the most expensive areas of the country. Woohoo. :) (This is honestly one of the biggest sells for Ikea in these parts, I think---since they set their prices nationally, they end up "cheaper" here relatively than in parts of the country where you can get quality custom or semi-custom for not that much more.)


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

daveinorlando,
Please define "shade tree cabinet maker." Am not acquainted with this term. Are you saying that this is the local custom shop or someone else lower on the status ladder? Is this your term or an industry term?

In my case, DH and I set up a strategy that was wrong in premise. We bid out "shaker" and plain slab door styles from two local custom shops, two big box stores, and one small-town-near-city builder center--probably the most like the vendor you appear to represent. Bids varied widely but we got a lot of information about the vendors that way. What we did not learn was the limits of each vendor's offerings. Too early, we decided to go with one of the local custom shops. The mistake I made was to not decide for sure that those were the actual cabinets we wanted; after DH was certain this was his man for the job, I started cruising for a more elaborate door style, chronicled elsewhere on this forum. I was the problem--my defection threw the comparison data into a cocked hat. The chosen shop did not make that style. For the sake of the marriage, I backed off.

The shop we are using is highly competent in certain things and we're getting the advantage that this shop offers, including customization of certain pieces and maximization of the space. But if I had really pursued -- and had been willing to pay for-- a more elaborate door style, we used the wrong strategy. We should have made up our minds earlier, or asked for bids on more styles.

An advertisement here: The guy from ProBuild in Hastings, Minn. was excellent at matching customer needs with the one of the 5 cupboard companies he represents, including one with a cupboard style and wood that I coveted and would gladly buy in another lifetime on a parallel planet.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

daveinorlando,
Please define "shade tree cabinet maker." Am not acquainted with this term. Are you saying that this is the local custom shop or someone else lower on the status ladder? Is this your term or an industry term?

Not Dave - obviously - but I took "shade tree cabinet maker" to be someone who's the epitome of a one-man operation. The phrase brought to mind a guy in his overalls, chewing on a piece of straw, sitting underneath the shade tree, waiting for someone to drive out in a horse-drawn cart (heehee), jump down and ask him 'bout them there cabinets he builds up in his garage or barn.

Maybe I have a vivid imagination.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

I can see the filler thing if you need to have certain things end up in exact placement, particularly using ikea which has few cabinet sizes to choose from. It's an indictment of ikea, not frameless cabinets in general.

Some of those issues can be overcome by using experienced ikea installers and the next larger size cabinet, but you can't overcome the fixed drawer sizes and trying to customize the sizes of the fronts is not for the faint of heart - including me...

If you can afford some extra, you could get some extra odd size or special cabinets from Scherrs and marry them to some ikea bases, or get all the doors and drawer fronts from a third party like Scherrs for all of the cabinets - either finished or unfinished.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

I've got a similar size kitchen with the Dynasty/Omega inset cabinets in pearl finish. Will be installed within next few weeks. Same dilemna on 'the whites' when I ordered but ended up selecting the pearl finish. I plan on using carrera marble countertops. Can't wait...

Good quality built cabinets. How many cabinets did you get for that price? What area are you in?


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

thanks all for the lively debate and suggestions. by your comments i see i did not communicate clearly on a couple of points. re: low end custom guy my sentence should have read HE did not validate he can do inset, was a bit of an odd ball. i asked to see samples of inset but he could not show me any and asked me if i really wanted inset. when he gave me the quote he stated the quote was for inset but by then i lost the faith in him. so in theory the quotes are all apples to apples but i am not confident in him. have another quote coming in on monday so will know soon.

space lost is a nominal issue in a space so small, totally agree.

you have all give me good stuff to think about - thanks!


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

Ooooh, would DEF not go with someone who has not done inset before. You don't want to end up with huge gaps between door and frame!


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

thanks for the reply sabjmita, i totally agree. i just did not have any confidence in him. met with a family owned cabinet place this week, really liked them, waiting for quote to come in. i hope i can afford them, their work was really lovely!

sixmag - i think the pearl finish and marble will look stunning!!! i was considering marble but ruled it out because of the etching. if i was going the marble route i think pearl would work perfectly. i am in N CA, very small kitchen, ~ 12 cabs total, no bells and whistles.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

One piece of advice I have is to go with your gut about *anyone* you get quotes from. Sometimes you meet with someone and you get a feeling and usually you're right. We bought our Shiloh cabinets because we liked the quality (inset as well), price and read good reviews from other owners on here. HOWEVER, the guy we worked with has been a pain and I kind of had that feeling from the get get go but I thought it might be me (yadda, yadda, yadda), and no - it was not. I do love my cabinets but dealing with this guy (a one man shop) who sold them to us and installed them has been the one and only disappointment in the entire kitchen remodel... :(
Also, at the end of the day you can easily upgrade many finishes. You could go without a backsplash and paint the wall or use a cheaper tile and swap it out later. You could even go cheaper on an appliance and easily upgrade in 5 years. Changing out cabinets and upgrading them is not so easy. It's essentially the framework of the kitchen and I think you want them to remain in 20 years and maybe just need a new paint job while you upgrade everything else :-)
Oh and on the paint. I had a friend just run into an issue and almost every custom cabinet shop she contacted said if she gave them her new cabinets for a week they could spray them in her correct color for her. So you could buy the cabinets and then have someone else spray them. They just did this with IKEA cabs on "Sarah's House" (hgtv). Good Luck!


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

Babushka, looking forward to hearing if you can get the cabs you want. We have a local cabinetmaker in Oakland/SF building our cabinets and went that route because we didn't want a lot of fillers either. As the planning has progressed, it turns out that every cabinet is custom, except one. We only have 9 cabinets though. I agree with chris - trust your gut! So hope that the quote comes in right where you need it.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

Sorry you did not like my tone. I get passionate sometimes. I re read the post and see why you would be a little offended.

That said, the guy you met who you were led to believe was a custom guy is "a shade tree cabinet maker to me" A shade tree mechanic has talent but is cheaper because he does not have all the equipment a normal car repair shop does. They have their place in society for sure but cabinets are not that easy or we all would make our own.

I hope the family owned store works out for you. The right place like that can get you a good price on your cabinets. Go to more than one. Different cabinet companies charge different prices for their cabinets and then the stores mark them up differently.

For example if you want a great price on your cabinets and want to chose the benjamin moore color if you go away from inset look at Brandom cabinets (which is running 16 hours a day 5 days a week which is rare today by cabinet companies) from texas or Door components from Alabama. Both companies will custom make things needed and you can use the modular sizes where it is ok.

Bridgewood with their "Advantage" series which is their most popular door styles and colors is one the best large custom companies that small stores sel that are kraftmaid like prices You can also get anything from their custom division and of course they will do custom colors. When some one wants custom I start with them usually. They have true distressing options and all cabinets can be modified in height width or depth with the lowest cost I have ever seen as a store owner.

NAC North American Cabinets in Canada actually (go figure) is a good company that will do inset I have not honestly priced them yet to see where they come in. the book is huge and I will be doing it next week.

6 square cabinets has 2 door styles in one color white only which is a really good off white color they have great prices to the dealers. It is a product made in china and assembled in the mid west. They are the only ones in the import bracket that offer lifetime warranty they do not tell you it is made in china. They make any items they are missing in their facility so they never have back orders like many imports do.

Kabinart does not offer custom colors and they have limited white colors which is hit or miss the white fanatics of the world! I do not mean that in a bad way. They are a very low priced cabinet line that is very good and has a good selection of products to chose from.

Wellborn Forrest is another extremly affordable product. As well they are on my hit list to acquire as a supplier of mine in the coming weeks

Mid Continet is a good company at great prices if the retail store keeps their prices low.

If you want to go as low as it gets check out wwww.Fabuwood.com they do not sell direct but I think their white in the wellington doors style is every bit as beautiful as the benjamin moore pictures I see on here.

Riverruncabinetry.com sells an excellent linen white cabinet also it is called hampton linen the pictures are beautiful

Another post on here after my first comments mentioned they had used a custom company to make soem pieces they could not get from kraftmaid and the finish is not as durable that is very common from smaller work out of their house type custom guys. I would not go down that route personaly. I know many on here love their cabinets made by a local shade tree cabinet maker it is hit or miss with them. Particularly down the road.

If you want a top end cabinet that is custom as it gets then check out Old River cabinets in Richmond VA they make some of the best stuff out there. I have bought hoods from them and other items I could not get with chinese cabines when my customers have no where to go budget wise they custom match any paint any stain in any door style. Send them your sample and they will duplicate it and you will not be able to tell which is the original. Retail stores hate them because they will stab them in the back if they know who their customer is they sell directly to the public and try to get sales from retail stores as a supplier. It is best to buy from them direct. They blow Kraftmaid prices out of the water (meaning lower)and as custom as it gets. If you are on the east coast check them out if you want good stuff at Kraftmaid prices.

Some day measure the drawer width of a inset cabinet and a framed cabinet and you will see why my reaction was as it is stated when I read you wanted custom to maximize useable space those to things are not compatible if you think about it.

Best of luck to you



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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

First of all I think everyone needs to understand what "custom" really means. Custom is when you have someone build from scratch a specific sized item. You cannot get a "custom" anything from an RTA cabinet supplier. They end up placing fillers everywhere to make the cabinets fit. It's not a pretty look. Yes, I would bust the budget for custom cabinets because RTAs are made from cheap materials that will eventually fall apart and warp. Why waste your money? Besides, custom wood cabinets will increase the value of your home AND you can have it "your" way. I have a friend who contracted with Robin's Custom Woodworks, in Richmond, VA and they are so in love with the outcome, they do not ever want to leave their kitchen. My friend said, and I quote, "they did a spectacular job, they delivered on time and never had any issues with the whole process. My kitchen is more than I ever expected." Bottom line...you get what you pay for. If you want cheap, go cheap. If you want quality, go custom.....meaning "true custom."


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

"My friend said, and I quote"

I'll bet they did.

I'd also place money on the fact that the OP waited 4 years for your thoughtful response.


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

Really, Tamara?

Because I have a good friend who looked into using "Robin's Custom Woodworks", in Richmond, VA, and said "these people try to advertise by posting fake reviews on internet forums, I don't think I'd trust them."


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

"Yes, I would bust the budget for custom cabinets because RTAs are made from cheap materials that will eventually fall apart and warp."

IKEA cabinets are RTA and an excellent value for the money. Steel drawer boxes with coved sides, quality hinges, and dimensionally stable particleboard are not "cheap materials that will eventually fall apart and warp."


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

I also like the bit about RTA not being custom. The two terms are not mutually exclusive--just thinking about the definitions makes that obvious. Lots of people here are used Barkers RTA cabinets, which are custom. Spammers really do make themselves obvious, don't they?


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RE: Do I bust the budget further for custom cabinetry?

Trebuchet wrote this:

"IKEA cabinets are RTA and an excellent value for the money. Steel drawer boxes with coved sides, quality hinges, and dimensionally stable particleboard are not "cheap materials that will eventually fall apart and warp."

I have done my research and I agree with this. That's why I'm doing IKEA with custom fronts. I have seen some pretty fancy kitchens in design mags that went the same route. Now that I have the hardware in my semi-installed kitchen...I have to say I love the Blum experience. The AKARUM kitchen line of IKEA is being discontinued and it will be interesting to see if the new kitchen line (N.A. version of METOD) has a higher price point...my guess is it will because they can't make much of a profit on the boxes/hardware (my guess is it's the fronts where they make their profit). Obviously IKEA only works for those who want a frameless look.


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