Cabinets are an integral part to any kitchen. No matter how big or how small the space, the cabinetry undeniably acts as the bones, setting the stage for the overall vibe of the kitchen. Whether you are contemplating remodeling your existing kitchen or preparing for a new construction endeavor, the subject of cabinetry is sure to come up. To reduce the stress of the unknown, I'm going to break down the main differences between the various cabinet options so you can navigate your way through the decision making process with ease.
In general cabinetry is divided into three categories:
Some companies specialize in one versus the other and some companies carry all three. One is not necessarily better than the other, the best choice for you lies in the space you have and the dollars you are willing to invest.
There are many stock cabinetry companies out there, all with their own offerings; but typically what sets stock cabinets apart from custom and semi-custom are the limitations. In general stock cabinetry comes the way it comes. Meaning if you are looking for a 3-drawer base cabinet, the only decision you will need to make regarding the size is the width you prefer. With most stock cabinetry lines all offerings come in 3" intervals (24", 27" 30", 33", 36", etc...) Say you select a 30" 3-drawer base cabinet, that cabinet will come with a predetermined height and depth. With wall cabinets you will be able to select both your desired width and your height.
So you might choose a 24" wide by 42" high wall cabinet, but the depth is typically pre-determined. Now, a lot of these details will be worked out for you by your kitchen designer or contractor, it is just important for you to understand that most spaces are not going to accept cabinetry in 3" increments perfectly, so fillers will be utilized to offset the difference and sometimes precise balance will be unachievable.
Other limitations lie in finish, door style and general cabinet configuration offerings. Most stock cabinet lines have a variety of different door styles and finishes to select from. However, you would not be able to look at one of their cabinet doors and say "I want this door, but I don't want this moulding around the edge" or "I like this white paint, but can you make it creamier?" Things come the way they come. You may also find certain desired cabinet aesthetics are unavailable. Say, you want to do a large 42" base cabinet with two doors and 3 drawers going across the top, if that configuration is part of their catalog, great, but if it's not, you will likely have to go a different direction.
The benefit of stock cabinetry is the pricing and lead times. Stock cabinetry is most always going to be less expensive than custom or semi-custom cabinetry and it is because of the limitations listed above the companies are able to achieve this. Stock Cabinet companies can make the same box, over and over again, allowing them to keep their prices low and often times their lead times shorter.
A few examples of Stock Cabinetry Lines:
Wellborn - Ashland Alabama
The Home Depot also offers several cabinetry lines with some cabinets available for "Pick Up In Store Today options."
With semi-custom there are still some limitations, but you will have more flexibility with dimensions. For example, instead of 3" increments you may be able to alter widths, depths and heights by 1" to achieve desired sizes. In addition there are typically opportunities to "customize" certain elements, such as finishes or door styles. In some cases, certain semi-custom lines will even have the option to create a custom detail or piece (hood, furniture leg, etc...) based on a drawing you provide. In general semi-custom is the mid-option in terms of price, lead times and customization.
Examples of a Semi-Custom Cabinetry Line:
Kraftmaid - Ohio
Within the world of custom cabinetry the options and opportunities are endless.
To put it simply, if you can dream it, it can be made. Custom cabinets not only allow you to make your kitchen and the details inside of it your own, but cabinetry can be made to any size (think a base cabinet that is 22 3/16" wide) to fit your specific space, so all storage opportunities can be captured. For obvious reasons custom cabinetry is typically the most expensive option and the lead times can be the longest because a lot of the work is done by hand and each cabinet is made to fit a specific space, so nothing can be pre-made.
Some Custom Cabinetry companies:
Bell Kitchen & Bath Studios - Alpharetta, GA
William Ohs - Denver Colorado
Christopher Peacock - Multiple national and international locations
The good news? Great kitchens are not synonymous with any one specific type of cabinetry; all 3 of these options have and will continue to be a part of beautiful kitchens. The choices you make for you and your space need to compliment your specific needs, dreams and budget. Knowledge is power, so go shop your cabinetry with confidence!