Use these expert tips to help make the right purchase for your home.
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Whether you're building a new home or want to renovate your current space, one of the biggest showpieces in the kitchen is your cabinets. As you begin planning your remodel, you'll need to choose from either stock kitchen cabinets or custom cabinets.

With stock cabinetry, speed of installation and cost are on your side, while custom cabinets allow you to add special features and detailed craftsmanship. "There are two major factors in distinguishing stock versus custom cabinets: product selection and pricing," says Eugene Makanev, president of RTA Cabinet Supply LLC, a supplier of ready-to-assemble and pre-assembled cabinetry. Although custom cabinets can be significantly more expensive, they're not always of higher quality.

"Stock cabinets are pre-manufactured; they can be supplied as ready-to-assemble or pre-assembled. Custom cabinets are made to order; they can be customized to almost any color, size, and shape," Makanev says. If you're ready to dive into cabinet shopping, here are the expert tips you need to know for choosing kitchen cabinets you'll love for years to come.

angled shot white kitchen gray graphic porcelain floor tile
Credit: John Bessler

Plan Desired Installation Time

Cabinet installation timelines vary by type. "Custom cabinets are normally more labor-intensive and time-consuming to install since they often come with additional accessories, unusual construction features, and require a custom approach," says Makanev. "Custom cabinets are also more expensive and involve longer lead times. It means installers have to be more careful with measuring and preparation." Be sure to factor in what type of cabinets you plan to use when outlining your renovation timeline.

Choose Special Features

If you're interested in adding one-of-a-kind features, such as an appliance garage or a coffee station, to your new cabinet layout, custom cabinets might be the answer. "Custom sizes, hardware, and moldings are in-demand features and the custom cabinet sizes will help to fully utilize all available kitchen space," says Makanev. "The ability to choose custom hardware or integrate organizing options will add functionality to any kitchen, and cabinet moldings play an important role in the overall kitchen look."

According to David Steckel, home expert at Thumbtack, other custom cabinet features include hidden doors to adjacent rooms; ladders within a drawer to reach upper cabinets; charging stations; hydraulics; and endless storage opportunities.

However, not all cabinet storage features are limited to custom installations. "Be aware that these days, stock cabinets come with more features," he says. For example, appliance garages are available in some stock cabinet lines and a coffee station can be created on-site with the right carpentry skills.

Pay Attention to Pricing

Cost is a major factor when deciding between custom and stock cabinetry. "An average 10-foot by 10-foot kitchen with stock cabinets costs about $3,500," says Makanev. "Custom cabinet pricing is difficult to determine without knowing all project specifications and homeowner's ideas, but custom cabinets with regular features will normally start at $7,000 for a 10-foot by 10-foot kitchen. Usually, custom cabinets go in larger homes with larger kitchens and involve high-end features, which makes pricing even higher."

Consider the Rule of Three

"I've always managed my own expectations and my customer's expectations with the Rule of Three," says Steckel. This dictates that in any given situation, you can only choose two out of three objectives: speed, cost, and quality. "If quality is what is driving your decision-making process, stock cabinets are not for you. If speed or cost is your main objective, you are going with stock," says Steckel. "There are amazing installers that solely work on stock cabinet installations and can perform magic with an IKEA kitchen who will cost more than others but will do an amazing job. There are also custom millworkers who produce kitchens that can fall apart but were 50% less in price than the next company. Whichever type of cabinetry you go for, make sure you choose a pro based on their portfolio of similar work, quality, reviews, and price."

Comments (3)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
July 24, 2021
There has been semi-custom cabinets available for some time that a customer can choose most materials, finishes, upgrades and organizing inserts. They fall in between custom and stock cabinetry in price and quality. It is a happy medium when one really doesn't need custom but desires the quality and features most of custom cabinetry with a lower cost.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
July 24, 2021
There has been semi-custom cabinets available for some time that a customer can choose most materials, finishes, upgrades and organizing inserts. They fall in between custom and stock cabinetry in price and quality. It is a happy medium when one really doesn't need custom but desires the quality and features most of custom cabinetry with a lower cost.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
June 26, 2021
So I appreciate that you took the time to write this article. My thought though (being a custom cabinet maker/designer) is that you did not take the time to talk to a custom cabinet maker as well. I get this question from many of my potential clients and many of them choose to go with me, not only for the quality, but for what custom has to offer. With custom cabinets, the client can choose color, material, sizing, and more. Many custom cabinet shops also have an expert to go thru the cabinets and the give options to work with in the budget. I pride myself in helping my clients' vision come to life, in a way that will give them the quality that they want. Thank you for listening, Warm Regards, Meredith C. Cedar Forest Cabinetry, Nokesville, VA