A question I typically hear fairly early in a consultation with a potential client is, “Is that a stock or custom cabinet?”. Years ago that was an easy question to answer. Stock cabinets were known to be lower in quality and price with custom cabinets being higher. Today the lines of stock and custom cabinets have blurred and in some cases crossed. In the next few paragraphs I hope to bring some clarity to this confusing topic.

The first problem when thinking stock vs. custom is there are far more than 2 price points of cabinets. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of cabinet manufacturers today. Each is slightly different. Trying to pigeon hole them into one of two categories isn’t going to be easy. When I am working with a client, or meeting with a potential client, I sometimes feel like they think all cabinets are the same or equal. Unfortunately, that mindset often leads to overlooking a product that would fit well within the parameters of one’s project, including price, design, and option availability.

The second challenge is that most cabinet manufacturers today make multiple product offerings or series. This makes comparing quotes very difficult because the series of cabinets you are considering may affect the cost as much as the manufacturer.

The third and biggest problem is what I mentioned in the opening paragraph. The word stock no longer means a cabinet of low quality and price. There are some manufactures that maintain stock sized cabinets, but make a high quality and high price cabinet out of materials previously only available in custom cabinets. One modest price cabinet in our showroom has construction specs similar to that of our highest priced cabinet line. If you are willing to forgo some design creativity and color selection, you can have an all wood cabinet, with dovetail drawers and soft close hinges at huge savings.

Looking at the other side of that coin, there are some manufactures that will offer special sized (custom) cabinets, however they are made of low quality materials. Durability, quality of finishes, life expectancy and other important attributes are sacrificed to offer an attractive price point. With most clients this is undesirable, but be aware these cabinets do exist.

Lastly the most popular category of cabinets today is semi-custom. This category goes by several names; semi-custom, limited custom, special stock, extra stock, and a variety of others. As the names would imply, these cabinets fit somewhere in the middle of stock and custom. They typically start with a fairly standard spec book, but each offers its own options, special features, and custom capabilities. While this category of cabinet is a great choice for most renovations, it makes comparing much more difficult. It is hard to compare apples to apples when shopping. Because of this I feel it is crucial to work with a kitchen specialist that can help you understand the subtle differences from one cabinet line to the next. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our designers. We will take the time to explain not only our offerings, but also compare them to other lines you may have been considering.

In closing here are a few definitions to know when looking for new cabinets.
• Stock Cabinets: standard sized cabinets typically in 3” increments, starting at 9” or 12” wide up to 36” or 48” wide. Extremely basic lines only offer cabinets sizes in 6” increments.
• Custom Cabinets: cabinets are built to exact dimensions in width, height, and depth. In true custom lines the number of doors and / or drawers can also be changed. And woods door styles and colors are almost unlimited.
• Semi-Custom: offerings somewhere between stock and custom and may vary widely from one manufacture to another.
• All Wood Cabinets: as the name implies, the entire cabinet is manufactured with real wood materials. This is an important consideration when selecting a cabinet manufacturer, and will have a much greater effect on cost than stock or custom will.