Kitchen Cabinets: Stock, Semi-Custom, or Custom?

By Wendy Silverstein, Originally Published in Houseplans.com

An example of stock cabinets from IKEA (Lixtorp Door).

KITCHEN CABINETS: Stock, Semi-Custom, or Custom?

More than ever, the kitchen is the heart and soul of family life, so it’s important for new homeowners to pay particular attention to the planning, furnishing, and decoration of this vital space. Once the general layout and style of the kitchen have been determined, it’s time to consider what sort of cabinetry—stock, semi-custom, or custom—to install. Here are some factors to keep in mind.

Standard Cabinet Measurements
Cabinets can be configured in countless ways, but they're typically built and installed using well-established dimensions. Tried and true, they’re a good set of guidelines to work from.

● Distance between countertop and upper cabinets: 18 inches
● Upper cabinet depth: 12 inches
● Lower cabinet depth: 24 inches
● Countertop overhang: ¾ to 1 inch
● Countertop height: 36 inches
● Kickspace: 4 inches high, 3 inches deep

Stock Cabinets

The least expensive and quickest way to go, these cabinets are ready-made and sold by big box stores and home improvement centers in a finite number of styles, materials, configurations, and finishes.

● Materials: Cabinet boxes are usually ½-inch MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or particleboard faced with melamine. Doors and drawer fronts are typically MDF covered in thermofoil (plastic) or wood veneer.
● Hardware: Hinges and drawer glides are generally lightweight metal and the glides do not allow the drawers to extend fully.
● Size and fit: Upper and lower cabinet widths increase in 3-inch increments. Upper cabinet heights increase in 6-inch increments; the lower cabinet or countertop height is fixed.
● Delivery time: Because the product is readymade, it can be shipped as soon as it is ordered.

Semi-custom Cabinets
More expensive but more flexible, these cabinets can be ordered from home centers or kitchen showrooms in a wide range of styles, materials, configurations, and finishes, as long as they are in the manufacturer’s catalog.

● Materials: Cabinet boxes are generally ½-inch MDF but can often be upgraded to plywood. Doors and drawer fronts may be MDF with thermofoil (plastic foil heat sealed to the substrate, often mdf) or wood veneer but can also be solid wood.
● Hardware: Expect higher quality metal and drawer glides that are side mounted and extend fully.
● Size and fit: Widths for upper and lower cabinets usually increase in 1-inch increments. Upper cabinet heights vary in 6-inch increments; lower cabinet height is fixed.
● Delivery time: Generally cabinets ship five or six weeks after they’re ordered.

Custom Cabinets
Generally the most expensive option with the slowest delivery time, these cabinets are ordered from kitchen showrooms or local cabinetmakers and offer exact fit, fine detailing, and an almost unlimited choice of styles, materials, configurations, and finishes.

● Materials: Cabinet boxes are typically constructed of ¾-inch furniture-grade plywood; door and drawer fronts are generally solid wood.
● Hardware: High quality hinges and drawer glides offer features like soft closing doors and undermounted full-extension glides.
● Size and fit: Built to any width or height ensuring a precision fit.
● Delivery time: Expect eight to 10 weeks for domestic cabinet delivery; 14 to 16 weeks for imports; and eight weeks to six months for a cabinetmaker.

December 30, 2013