Updated on: November 15, 2021
As one of the most influential- and costly- purchases in a home, cabinets set the tone for both remodels and new builds. Their cost can range from the hundreds to the tens of thousands, depending on everything from wood species and finish, cabinet construction, the door and drawer hardware, to the bells & whistles selected to optimize storage. From lower end stock cabinets to higher end custom cabinets, there is a product for every project. What then, makes a cabinet custom?
Custom cabinets are just that: custom designed to fit the space they are built for. From a sleek appliance garage to a cozy beverage nook, every inch of space is thoughtfully considered in a design. The cabinets are constructed with high-quality materials, meant to last the lifetime of the kitchen. They generally arrive assembled, ready for install by either a contractor or handy DIYer. It’s important to note that custom cabinets usually take weeks to months to ship, as they are created solely for the project at hand. If this sounds overwhelming, professional kitchen designers can help navigate even the most challenging floorplans by utilizing all opportunities to create a truly custom space. On the other end of the cabinet spectrum lives stock cabinetry. These pre-made cabinets, often the least expensive cabinet option, can be ordered and received quickly. However, the cheap price tag does come with some caveats. Stock cabinets are designed for rapid mass production, with minimal room for customization… and while they might be a quick solution, critical storage opportunities may be left on the table due to size and/or availability constraints.
Custom cabinets often feature premium plywood box construction, carefully inspected to ensure only top-grade material is used. Doors and drawers are outfitted with soft close hinges and drawer slides, and all drawer boxes will generally include full extension undermount runners to ensure maximum accessibility. These cabinets are built to last the strongest slams and jams, with drawer boxes utilizing extra-sturdy dovetail joinery. While the construction of a stock cabinet may at first appear comparable to that of custom cabinetry, the wear and tear is often visible after only a few short years. A popular example of stock cabinetry is Ready to Assemble (RTA). RTA cabinets ship quickly but arrive in pieces… leaving the buyer to put them together. Because the buyer is responsible for assembly, they are also responsible for the structural integrity of the cabinets. This time-consuming activity may lead to slip-ups, delay the project, and/or compromise the overall construction.
Looking for a specific shade of blue for perimeter cabinets? How about a rub-through finish or hand-applied glaze for your kitchen island? Custom cabinets offer a surplus of finish options and enhancements higher-end kitchens often demand, as well as the freedom to work around (and even enhance!) unusual footprints. Not sure where to start? Popular options and modifications found in a custom kitchen often include a change to cabinet depth, preparation for glass doors, and selecting hinge location.
Using custom cabinets in a project opens the door (literally and figuratively) to an enormous range of profiles and colors available to match any style. Whether a project includes rub through enhancements for a rustic charm, or a hand-applied glaze for a touch of traditional whimsy, a consistent, quality finish to suit the style of the space is paramount-- one size (or more appropriately, style) doesn’t fit all! Stock cabinets, on the other hand, can be a bit more constrictive. Colors and finishes are often extremely limited, and there may not be an option to “go back for seconds” if more cabinets are needed or a mistake is made. Stuck between two (or more) finishes? Ordering sample doors prior to purchase can help determine an appropriate style and color choice within the project’s own light and surroundings.
Cabinet depth is often tailored to meet the needs of custom kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry or mud rooms. Changing the depth of the cabinets can increase storage, avoid obstacles, and create focal points within the room. For example, a standard depth wall cabinet measures 12 inches deep. Depending on the demands of the space, this depth can be decreased to a minimum depth of only 6 inches or increased to a maximum depth of a whopping 24 inches! Customized depth cabinets offer less on-site modifications and often allow you to make use of every available inch.
A timeless yet on-trend option often seen in custom kitchens is glass in cabinet doors. Cabinets prepped for glass are created without a center panel, allowing either total visibility (clear glass) to showcase the contents of the cabinet, or partial visibility (opaque glass) to create interest without the upkeep. Prep for glass doors on custom cabinets can also include a matching finished interior, rather than being limited to the natural finish on a standard cabinet.
Hinges are factory-installed on either the left or right side. Proper hinge placement must be thoughtfully considered when designing a custom kitchen; doing so can avoid awkward cabinet door openings or doors hitting appliances, and maximize use of space.
From furniture style accents to modern uplift doors to handy mixer lifts, there are endless custom options available to enhance a project and add that “something extra”. Unsure what custom options will work best in your design? Get help from one of our expert kitchen designers! Submit your design request here.
The craftsmanship that goes into custom cabinetry almost certainly demands a higher price than stock cabinets, but this cost may equalize or fall lower if the project’s lifetime is considered: a custom kitchen built with high-quality materials could outlive a stock kitchen several times over! Stock cabinetry, however, remains popular as a budget-friendly option to flippers and DIYers alike. According to HomeAdvisor (2021), custom cabinetry can cost anywhere from $500 to $1200 per linear foot, while stock cabinetry costs range from $100 to $300 per linear foot.