Kitchen Cabinetry- Custom Made vs. Custom Manufactured

Kitchen cabinetry is one of the three most significant selections, along with appliances and countertops that you’ll be purchasing for your new kitchen project. Understanding the difference between Custom Made and Custom Manufactured will help you make smart buying decisions and not waste money on features you don’t need.

In most cases unless your kitchen is quite small, cabinetry will consume a large part of your budget. Choose wisely and you’ll have more money to get the other goodies on your wish list.

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There are many decisions for cabinetry style, design and the finish, but the quality is very important. My advice over the years has been to buy the best that their budget will allow. Kitchen cabinetry gets a lot of use and abuse and I assure you, you’ll never regret buying good quality.

.Many regional variables will affect costs; your local market, labor costs, the services as well as where you decide to purchase your cabinetry; through your designer, a local cabinet shop, a local kitchen retailer or a home center.
The layout, design details and kitchen size are all variable, which make discussing actual costs for your project difficult. There are many good quality cabinet companies. Over time you’ll see many of our favorites featured here on the KDN but today we’re talking about the pros and cons of custom-made vs. custom manufactured cabinetry.

custom kitchen cabinets

Custom Made – Local Shop

Considered the granddaddy of luxury and the most expensive option. These are hand made and finished in a local shop.

Pros

American and locally made – 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.

custom kitchen islands

Cons

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.

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More Expensive– Typically custom made can 25 – 40% more expensive.  This can go much higher depending on the material selection, details, finishes and the complexity of your design.

Longer Lead Times –This will depend on how busy the shop is or isn’t.

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 and find out how long they’ve been in business. Ask to see a project that is perhaps older to see how it has held up over time.

custom cabinets

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.

Pros

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 – Many of these companies have been around for years and have reputations to uphold, marketing slogans to support and 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.

custom cabinets kitchen

Cons

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.

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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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