Some of the most important decisions you make when remodeling your kitchen, bathroom, or basement revolve around cabinetry. What type of wood, what door and drawer style, what finish, and what accessories do you want? One of the other questions that we often discuss with our clients is the difference between custom cabinets and manufactured or box cabinets. Many people have a perception that custom cabinets are better, but are they really? Here is some information to help you understand the difference. First, let’s define each type of cabinet:
Custom Cabinet: As the name implies, custom cabinets are made specifically to order for a project. There isn’t a catalog of standard sizes and details. These are typically made in a local shop. This kitchen renovation features custom cabinets. There are several round cabinets, refrigerator panels, and varying heights. The stained cabinet door panels are a ratton material with a natural finish. The enameled cabinets have a hand applied seven step finish that includes a glaze and a rub through.
Box or Manufactured Cabinet: These cabinets are made in standard sizes with a variety of options. They are ordered from a catalog using specialized nomenclature to describe each cabinet. As you might expect, these are produced in a factory setting. In this kitchen remodel we were able to use almost all standard size cabinets. This helped keep the project affordable while still creating a beautiful new kitchen.
There is actually a third choice that many people are not aware of called Semi-Custom Cabinets. These are cabinets that are made in a factory, and the manufacturer allows for modification of the standard catalog sizes, drawing of custom features, and even creating unique stains and finishes.
As you can see from these descriptions, there aren’t just two choices, custom cabinets versus box cabinets. There is a spectrum of choices related to customization. You want to move more toward customization if:
You are going to match existing cabinets.
You are modifying some cabinets for new appliances or minor layout changes.
The floor plan or layout of the cabinets is complex.
You want a one of kind style or are replicating a classic design style.
You desire a rare wood species or a unique finish.
Mixing Cabinet Types: There are situations where we use both types of cabinets. In this project the kitchen features semi-custom cabinetry and the family room entertainment center and mantel was created using custom cabinets.
Quality: It is important to stress that custom cabinets are not necessarily higher quality, nor are manufactured cabinets. Both types come in a wide range of quality. We have seen manufactured cabinets with really thin particle board boxes that have literally slid down the wall. Likewise, almost everyone has seen custom cabinets without backs, apparently because some builders believe that consumers only care about what they can see. How cabinets are built matters for the durability and longevity of the kitchen, bathroom, or basement.
Cabinet Finish: One feature of some box cabinets that is hard for custom cabinet shops to match is the use of a heat cured catalyzed varnish. This requires a controlled factory setting. These durable top coats over the stain or enamel can help protect the cabinets from the wear and tear of busy families.
Price: In general, customization adds to the cost of cabinets. However, it is only one variable that impacts cost. Others are the wood species for the doors, the type of finish, the quality of the cabinet box, the type of drawer glides and hinges, and other factors. We have ordered kitchen cabinets for $4,000 and for $40,000, and everything in between. Because cabinetry is a large component of most renovation budgets it is often an area where lower priced contractors try to cut costs.
At New Spaces our professional designers explore and educate our clients about cabinet options in order to ensure you receive the quality and features that you desire and that are appropriate for the project and budget. Considering a cabinet upgrade for your home? Check out our Ultimate Guide for Kitchen Cabinets or learn more about the cabinet features that are available. You can also take a closer look at our portfolio of Kitchens or Bathrooms for additional inspiration. We would be honored to help with your project, so don't hesitate to reach out with questions or to schedule a consultation.