This post today is courtesy of the several hours I spent this week on a single custom kitchen.
Custom cabinets have a bewildering array of choices: door styles, woods, finishes, box construction, interior fittings, and moldings. Toekicks can be adjusted, as well as heights, widths, and depths. A single cabinet can be altered to have a different finish (and requires two or three separate ordering pages to complete).
For a homeowner, what are the differences you need to know about custom cabinets vs. ready-made or big-brand manufacturers?
They take longer to order
Stock cabinets take between 4-6 weeks (longer in the summer) to manufacturer and deliver. Writing up an order will take 1-2 days max. With less options, it’s also faster to design and helps with the decision process.
Custom cabinets take between 6-16 weeks (again, longer in the summer) to manufacture and deliver. Writing up an order takes 7-10 days to work on if you’re busy with other projects and approximately 2-3 days of solid work if we bunched all the time together.
Why? In some cases, it’s almost like we’re creating new furniture. Each and every single cabinet has between a 1/4-1/2 page of instructions to it: Recess the right kick 2-1/2″, add door panel right that matches base cabinet on right side, add flat panel 4″x 6″ for electrical box. In back right corner, add 4×4 chase for wiring, frame open shelf with profile to match doors, back of cabinet to have glazed beadboard with taupe paint in a flat sheen…
That may or may not include the time it takes to write up a special quote request to send to the factory for super-special designs you just had to design. *cough*.
You get the picture. The current kitchen that I’m working on has 26 cabinets. It’s a little order (relatively) for a custom kitchen; it’s only 15 or so pages. I remember a designer friend of mine holding a sheaf of paperwork for one of her designs.
6 items you should confirm with the designer
That part, the cabinet order, you don’t have to worry over. That’s why I or your trusty designer, keeps a pad and paper on my night table so when we wake up muttering about the 3-11/16″ crown mold will prevent a nearby door from opening, we’ll remember in the morning. Hah!
But you also need to be vigilant that the following items are the way you want them:
- cabinet box – is it plywood or construction board? How are the interiors finished?
- drawers – plain box, dovetailed solid wood or plywood
- drawer hardware – full-extension, self-close?
- door style – yes, I know you’ve looked at it 100 times. Please look at it once more and verify the color, the glazing, the sheen…especially if you’ve changed your mind a couple of times during the process.
- Heights – this is an especially important one, and something that is overlooked. Ask for an elevation showing the heights. You don’t want to be the homeowner who discovers that the wall cabinets were placed too high for you to reach!
- Crown molding and other trim – there’s only 7 million choices. If you have a designer, they’ll usually narrow it down to 2 or 3 that will look great.
Don’t skimp on installation
Please. This can make or break your kitchen. Custom cabinets should have a custom installer. There is a huge difference between a “box hanger” and a professional cabinet installer. There is also a difference between a finishing carpenter and a cabinet installer. Unless said finishing carpenter has cabinet experience, you are taking a big gamble. While there are always exceptions to every rule, my own experience makes me cautious.
Hope that helps!