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Cabinetry 101

In our last Cabinetry 101 article about cabinetry construction we discussed cabinetry construction, you learned about the differences between face-frame, inset, and frameless cabinetry. This month we will discuss the difference between stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinetry.

Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets are generally the lowest cost options and come ready-to-assemble (RTA) or fully assembled.  These are the cabinets you see at the big box stores.  These cabinets come with the lowest price tag but also with the least options.  With limited materials, sizes, finishes and accessories you’ll have to decide what’s more important to you, spending as little as possible or having a functional space? When choosing this type of cabinetry, it’s very important to look at the construction and warranty of the product. 

  • Ensure that there are no cam locks, everything is glued, doweled, nailed and/or screwed together.
  • You should have a minimum of 5/8 inch thick construction for the sides and shelves.

When choosing stock cabinets keep in mind that you’ll need to utilize a lot more fillers to make up the difference between the cabinets that you can fit in the space and the total available space.

This photo is an example of stock cabinets, this kitchen was completed using Bellmont Cabinet Companies 1300 series.  The product is prefabricated in bulk, comes in 8 different door styles, and in the most popular sizes and configurations. This allows the product to be priced competitively for projects such as this rental.  

Semi-Custom Cabinetry

With semi-custom cabinetry there are almost unlimited options with size, finishes, materials used, and accessories.  We use both Semi-Custom and Custom Manufacturers at Cabinets by Trivonna.  For example, with Bellmont Cabinets we have approximately 88 different door styles with 10 different woods, more than 20 laminate, high gloss, and matte finish options. With paints, stains, glazes, distressing, and a custom paint program semi-custom cabinetry allows you to accomplish a more personalized look for your kitchen, at less expense than custom cabinets.  With semi-custom cabinetry we can customize the sizing up to 1/16th of an inch depending on the brand and series. Because of the customizability we are able to maximize your storage space and use the absolute bare minimum required fillers. Our manufacturers offer limited lifetime warranties. What this means is that over the course of your lifetime, if a hinge or drawer guide fails, if there is a manufacturing defect, etc. they will send replacements free of charge. They will not repair damage due to negligence or even normal wear and tear. For example, if you have painted cabinets and you don’t keep them dry… the paint will chip and crack. 99% of our projects are accomplished with semi-custom cabinetry, it’s extremely rare for us to need to go full custom with a project.

Custom Cabinetry

Custom cabinetry offers the most options for you.  Another manufacturer we work with DeWil’s Fine Cabinetry based out of Vancouver, WA is considered a semi-custom to full custom manufacturer.  These are our craftsmen.  They build one box at a time based on the orders sent to them.  They have a huge catalog of Face Frame, Frameless, and Inset cabinetry that we can customize for you, or they can create something from a sketch.  Fortunately, they have so many options and allow us to customize those options, so we don’t usually have to resort to full custom.  Although going full custom can sometimes be the most expensive way to go, our designers are able to make recommendations on material and finish to lower the cost.  Like semi-custom cabinets, most manufacturers offer limited lifetime warranties as well.

What Type of Cabinetry is Right for me?

If you’ve read through all of this super enlightening information, you still may be trying to decide what the heck you need! In order to do that you need to ask yourself some questions:

  • Is this for my home or is it a rental, flip property, or mother-in-law suite?
    • If it is a rental or flip, what type of demographic or price category am I trying to be in?
  • How long will I be in this home?
  • What’s most important? Having a functional and long lasting kitchen or spending as little as possible?
  • Do you want these cabinets to last a long time, or do you not care if things start to fall apart?
  • How much money do you want to spend?

If this is a rental or flip property for a modest property, stock cabinets might be a good way to go.  If this is a mid to high-end rental or flip property, semi-custom cabinets with drawers, spice pull outs, and other functional accessories are a must. High end finishes will help make the space pop and drive your profits higher.

If you’re planning on this being your forever home, Semi-custom or custom is the way to go. Not only will you get the look or style you want but you’ll be able to have a space with everything you need to ensure it’s more user friendly and functional.  Using drawers to bring heavy pots and pans out to you rather than cabinets you have to empty to get to that big pot in the back; having pull out spices and bottles, utensil organizers, and much more.  We specialize in designing to your lifestyle. Do you like to bake? Are you an entertainer?  Do you have a crazy life and just need things to be easier? We will take that and more into consideration as we design your space.

During your initial meeting with a designer they can help you decide which cabinetry is right for you as well as show you the various cabinet options. We specialize in design so we can figure out how to complete the puzzle for you.

Let’s Talk About Money….

Alright, now we know this subject can be a little touchy.  You need to really think about your budget before starting a project like this. Asking yourself the questions above will help you decide how much money you want to spend but you also need to think about quality and style.  Trivonna used to say that people always have a price, function, and a style that they want but they can only pick two.   This means that you cannot have an inset kitchen from a custom manufacturer and only pay $10,000.  So you have to decide which of the three are the most important.

You may be able to get stock cabinets for $400 a linear foot but they often need to be assembled and they utilize cam-locks rather than dowels and glue. These cabinets won’t last long. If you want a good quality semi-custom cabinet, you’ll need to spend anywhere from $500 to $1500 a linear foot.  If you want good quality, semi-custom and function… plan on at least $700 and up depending on the material and finish you’re looking for.

Because we specialize in cabinetry, we can make recommendations on how to save money; for example, paint is the most expensive finish you can choose and it’s the least durable if painted on wood. So if the initial design is over your budget let’s look for a stain that you love.

Now that you’ve read through all of this, you may feel even more overwhelmed than you did before. Here’s the thing… we don’t charge for our designs… so call and schedule an intake with a designer. Bring basic dimensions of your space with you and be ready to discuss your lifestyle, if you have any design elements in mind, and talk about how much you want to spend. Plan to spend at least an hour with your designer during this first meeting.  After the meeting is over the designer will work on a design for you and when you come back you’ll see 3D renderings like this one; they will walk you through each cabinet and talk price with you.  From that meeting you can decide if we are a right fit for you, if the cost is within your budget or if we need to make adjustments to bring down the price.

Long story short, designing a kitchen can be stressful, challenging, and overwhelming, we do our best to relieve a lot of that burden and make it easier and much more enjoyable for you. We specialize in cabinetry, would you let just anyone build your house? No, you’d want someone experienced with building homes… well come see someone who is experienced with cabinets and let us help you out.