Kitchen cabinetry is one of three significant selections you’ll need to make for your kitchen renovation, along with appliances and countertops.
Our goal is to help you understand the differences between custom made cabinetry and cabinetry from manufacturers that make custom cabinetry. This will help you make a more informed and smarter buying decision. We don’t want you to waste money on features you may not need or want to pay for.
Unless the space is quite small, kitchen cabinetry will consume a large part of your budget. Choose wisely and it will save you money to splurge on other costlier materials on your wish list.
There are many decisions for kitchen cabinetry that affects cost; the construction style and quality, the overall design and the finish.
Our advice over the years for our clients has been to purchase the best quality that the budget will allow. Kitchen cabinetry gets a lot of use and abuse and you’ll never regret buying good quality.
Regional variables affect costs like overhead, shipping distances, sourcing, labor costs and the services provided are all factored into how cabinetry is priced. Conversely, where you purchase your cabinetry, whether it be through a designer, a local cabinet shop, a kitchen retailer or a home center will affect your cost and likely the services that come along with it. This is one place where you typically get what you pay for. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s always wise to invest in a good plan with the best design talent in your region.
The layout, design details and kitchen size are all variables which make discussing actual costs for your own project difficult.
There are many good quality cabinet companies. In our resources you’ll see many of our favorites featured, but today we’re talking about the pros and cons of custom-made vs. custom manufactured cabinetry.
Custom Made – Local Shop
Considered the granddaddy of luxury and the most expensive option. These are hand made and finished in a local shop.
American made or locally sourced – which we love to support.
Fully customizable –The sky’s the limit regarding interior fittings, door styles, custom made hardware and finishes like a cathedral in Rome.
If you want your cabinetry to look like the inside of your yacht, it’s possible. Depending on the shop’s capability, you can typically accomplish anything you want.
Furniture Quality -Made with superior quality woods and materials and interior choices. Being made and shipped locally makes it possible for many sections of cabinets to can be built as one for a seamless, furniture quality.
Finish – Most small shops cannot afford the advanced technology machinery for quality, long lasting finishing techniques. This is one of the most significant differences between a shop made cabinet and a highly manufactured one.
More Expensive– Custom, hand-made cabinets are more expensive. Think of it as man vs. machine. It can be 25 – 50% or higher depending on the material selected, details, finishes and the complexity of your design.
Longer Lead Times – Depends on how busy the shop is but standard is 8 – 12 weeks.
Lack of Consistency and Quality Control –The variable of man made vs. the precision and efficiency of a machine.
Warranty – This varies greatly from one shop to another. One year is common.
Always ask. Find out how long they’ve been in business and ask to see a project that is older to see how it has held up over time and check out one currently in production in the shop.
Custom Made – Manufactured by large reputable companies
Custom cabinetry manufacturers like Crystal Cabinetworks, Wood-Mode, SieMatic, Downsview and Poggenpohl, are just a few great companies with beautifully made cabinetry that are custom made in their manufacturing facilities.
Many American Made – There are dozens of good American companies to choose from as well as Canadian and European companies that have been around for 60 – 70 years and have great reputations for quality and service.
Custom Made – These custom cabinets are made to order for your kitchen, they are not sitting in the factory waiting to be shipped. About 85% of their cabinetry is made to standard sizes although they have the capability to fulfill highly custom pieces or one off pieces for clients on demand.
Finishes –They produce an outstanding consistent finish due to the machinery and facilities.
Affordable – Because they are technically mass-produced they are more affordable. Remember man vs. machine theory. They offer cabinetry at affordable prices because of their sophisticated technology and economies of scale for everything from purchasing to production
Consistency of Products, Quality Control and Superior Finishes – Most all the companies we feature have been around for years. They have reputations to uphold and limited lifetime warranties to stand behind.
Warranty – Many have limited lifetime warranties on finishes and defects. This is a nice insurance policy to have in the event of a problem. They usually have lifetime warranties on all moving parts, cabinetry construction, drawer slides, hinges, etc…
Lead Times – Because of their size and the hundreds of cabinets they make and ship each day, their production schedules are well-oiled machines. Lead times vary in busier seasons but they tend to be more consistent.
Finish– Sometimes the finishes can be too perfect for their own good but I’ve been able to work with my manufacturers to alter finishes and create custom colors.
This is so beneficial to a client because the cabinetry remains affordable but when you have a particular client or a specific request they can usually accommodate you.
Replacement Parts – Yes the big manufacturers are the most cost efficient way to go BUT when something is wrong or damaged you have to wait 2- 4 weeks to have a replacement part shipped. This can be a huge inconvenience. It doesn’t matter whose fault the damage or wrong part is, it holds up the final installation and clients usually aren’t happy.
Shipping– Items can get damaged in shipping long distances.
Making a final decision about which type of cabinetry is right for you has as much to do with what you need and want as it does the budget. As a kitchen designer with an affluent clientele, regardless of the fact that my clients can well afford my custom shop, its not always necessary and it’s not always how they want to spend their money. I have always counsel and manage my clients budgets like it was my own and apply some practicality where needed and splurge where we really will appreciate it. It’s different for every client, which is why kitchen design is so personal. Make sure your designer has your best interest at heart when helping you prioritize how to spend your money. Decide what’s most important to you and your family.
Photos –Cabinetry – Crystal Cabinetworks
John Bessler for New Canaan Kitchens – Styling Karin Lidbeck-Brent.
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