Off the Shelf Cabinets vs Custom Cabinets: The Differences

Stock Cabinets

If you go to a large home improvement store, stock or store cabinets are what you see. Typically, each store will have a very basic, unfinished cabinet line stored in store, ready to buy and take home that day. Usually these are your cheapest option, but there are very limited selections. Most of the time you or a contractor will have to finish these. Don’t expect anything spectacular, in their most basic form these are usually cabinets. Typically, the drawer fronts are made of glued wood strips rather than a single piece of wood. Doors are usually doors with panels instead of doors with raised wood panels. Typically, the carcasses of the cabinets will be cut from the particle board and, if there is a back panel, it is usually 1/8 “hardboard. Countertop fastening brackets will be small, plastic corner brackets with a single screw hole for fastening to the counter.

Typically, stocked cabinets are available in extremely limited sizes, and while most cabinets are available in increments of 3, “some stock cabinets may only be available in increments of 6.” This is important with regard to the overall layout of your kitchen remodel, as stock cabinets are mass-produced to the same size and specifications without regard to where they are going. Usually, when using stock cabinets, you will need fillers and end panels to create a finished look. To match the front of the cabinets, the end of each cabinet that is exposed on both the upper and base cabinets will have to be finished. This will include finished panels cutting and fitting onto the carcass of the cabinet itself. Keep in mind that it is not important to finish the ends if you run your cabinets wall to wall, as the wall will hide the ends.

Special Order Cabinets

They would be ordered from your local home improvement store or local lumberyard to upgrade from store cabinets. Quality will be much higher than stock cabinets, but as for what you can order, your options are still somewhat limited. Wait for laminated interiors in either white or maple colour, solid wood drawers and doors, and upgrades like soft closing hinges or soft drawer slides. These cabinets are ready to be installed and finished. Typically, these will be offered in all 3 “increments, usually ranging from 12 inches wide to 36 or even 48 inches wide. Doors and drawer fronts may be somewhat customizable in styles and colors, but options are still limited. Still expect 1/2” thick carcasses (the box part of the cabinets) and 1/8 “to 1/4” thick cabinet backs.

Semi-Custom Cabinets

Usually, semi-custom cabinets are offered by specialty shops dealing with a specific line of cabinets, but not making them themselves. The customer will be able to choose the color, finish, door and drawer style, as well as many upgrades such as slides for ball bearings and soft closing hinges. The dealer will work with you, including any fillers or other pieces that may be needed to install the cabinets properly. Although you can frequently choose your own colors and so on, the dealer will have limited options as they can only offer what their supplier offers. Usually, a semi-custom cabinet dealer can also offer the cabinets to be installed and combine them into a single lump sum for you.

Custom Cabinets

Custom cabinets are the best quality cabinets you can find almost always. Usually, the firm will visit your kitchen or bathroom and take field measurements themselves and design a functional layout for your project together with you. The cabinetmaker has to make each unit individually in terms of quality, so quality is going to be very high. Cabinet carcasses are typically made of 5/8 “or 3/4” material, whether it is a laminate material for easy cleaning or a hardwood plywood, it will be substantially stronger than particle board or fiber board of medium density. You will typically see 1/2 “thick material for cabinet backs, with thicker areas specifically made for mounting screws. The tops will always incorporate a countertop fastening strip at the front and rear of base cabinets, which you will not see in stock cabinets. As far as design and aesthetics are concerned, the only limitations are your imagination and budget.

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