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Do you feel overwhelmed by the choices between Stock cabinetry or Custom cabinetry for your project? Read on and find out the basic differences between the top 3 categories.As a wood worker’s daughter and a kitchen and bath designer, I can talk about cabinets ALL. DAY. 

There are so many differences in the materials, finishes, hardware, accessories, and the list goes on and on. This is why the topic can be overwhelming.The choice between stock cabinets and custom cabinets can have the greatest effect on cost and the finished look.  Which type do I chose? How long will they last in my house? Should I invest in the cabinets or put my investment into something else?


Have no fear… here is a breakdown of the 3 major categories of cabinets. The pros and cons between the options will help you consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Stock Cabinets

The name lends itself to encourage the buyer to walk in, load up the product and purchase. Done. Next day…  Project begins!  This scenario can happen, but not often.


This line of cabinetry comes in very limited sizes, materials and door style selections. Even more so with size availability in store. Stock cabinet lines typically can give you more options if you pre-order. This will require more time for planning than originally thought, however the lead time is still less than the other categories.

Stock cabinets are made to the manufacturer’s specifications using a 3” nomenclature system between sizes. These cabinets are “Customized” to your space rather than made “custom.”  For example: If you have 37 ½” of wall space, you buy a 36” stock cabinet and cut down a 1 ½” spacer to fill in the rest. The use of fillers or spacers is necessary in every kitchen.  However, using more to accommodate Stock cabinet sizes may result in less usable cabinet space.



The type of material used for stock cabinets is comprised of particle board with a veneer.  This product will meet with industry guidelines and standards. The manufacturer will ensure these cabinets can maintain the weight of stone counter tops.  They will also meet the requirements for the cabinets to withstand the wear and tear a kitchen takes.   Average life span of these cabinets…5- 10 years.


The pricing of these cabinets are generally much lower than the next two categories.  Economical pricing can be very appealing to a smaller budget.  The look and feel of these cabinets coupled with the much lower price point, can create a beautiful looking space. Is that not the ultimate goal of any renovation?!

My recommendation:

Is to use these cabinets in a project that has a straight forward layout, in need of a quick update or secondary storage.  A Handy do-it-yourself-er can install these cabinets.



Semi- Custom Cabinets

This category of cabinets is similar to stock cabinets.  However they have more options in sizing, materials finishes and accessories.  Because of these features, the order time on these cabinets is longer. Typically 6-8 weeks.


Like stock cabinets, Semi- custom cabinets come in a 3” increment nomenclature specified by the manufacturer. Unlike stock cabinets, Semi- custom can give the option of creating some custom cabinets to best fit a space. Back to my original example:  If you have a 37 ½” wall space, you can order a cabinet made to a 37” dimension. Again, cut down a now ½” spacer or filler to finish the difference. This will allow more usable cabinet space and use less fillers or spacers.


The materials, finishes and hardware used for semi-custom cabinets is generally higher quality with more options to choose from.  Door styles and colours choices are also greater. Average life span of these cabinets…10- 15 years.


The pricing of Semi-custom cabinets is higher than stock cabinets for obvious reasons.  With higher quality and the ability to custom order a particular size, may increase the price. Be aware of how many cabinets’ sizes you change in your order.  Some manufacturers can charge a high premium for each change. Potentially, pricing you out of the benefits of using a semi-custom line.

Semi-custom cabinetry prices do not always include to have it professionally installed.  So, be aware of what that additional cost could be.

The look and feel of these cabinets will be more than pleasing and will give you enjoyment for years and years to come.


My recommendation:

Use these cabinets in a project that has an increased budget with a client looking for higher quality.  Projects that have a difficult layout or require more detail are best suited for this type of cabinetry. A very handy do-it-yourself-er or a professional would be the best choice to install these cabinets.


Custom Cabinets

The name implies exactly how it sounds… Custom.  The options for materials, finishes, hardware and sizes are endless.  For these reasons, the order time is longer and typically takes 8-10 weeks.

For the most popular whites from Benjamin Moore


A team of professional cabinet makers or Master carpenters create each cabinet.  What this means for your space is that your cabinets will fit exactly to 1/4” of your wall space or less. This will almost eliminate the use of fillers and spacers, creating more usable cabinet space and storage.

In the previous two categories, cabinets are traditionally ordered based on a size chart, with little to no knowledge of the layout or configuration the cabinets will be put into.

Custom cabinets are traditionally drawn, then assembled by the makers in the shop before install.  This is to ensure that every piece can be installed quickly spending less time on the install site.


Materials, hardware and finishes can vary, with many options available in this category.  Traditionally, Custom Cabinets manufacturers do not work with Materials that are less than a medium to high grade. The availability of solid wood cabinets can be the bonus for some clients.  The previous categories of cabinets do not normally offer this high of a quality. Average life span of these cabinets…15-25 years.


Pricing for custom cabinetry can be a similar price or higher than the semi-custom cabinets. Understandably,with higher quality materials comes higher prices.  That being said… Custom cabinetry can also be economical in comparison.   The install price is included and there is no premium upcharge to change the cabinets sizes.

The look and feel of these cabinets will definitely give the “Custom” look you maybe trying to acheive!  They will also give you years and years of functionality and quality.

My recommendation:

Custom Cabinets are a perfect fit for a project that has an increased budget and is looking for a lifetime’s worth of quality from their cabinets.  These cabinets are best used in any space. They can be built and configured in whatever way we can dream up!

Thinking about renovating a space in your home?

Not sure which way you should go with your cabinetry?

Then, simply start with – A PLAN! Ask us those lingering questions about the design, planning and execution of your renovation. 


We look forward to hearing about your exciting project and to answer those questions!