Custom vs. standard stock cabinets - which kitchen cabinets to choose?

Val Watson
Authored by Val Watson
Posted Friday, June 28, 2024 - 6:57am

Planning a kitchen remodel is hard and full of decisions. One of the most significant things you'll do is choose the cabinets. This includes the choice between one of the cabinet layouts - L-shaped, galley or one-wall and island kitchen settings. The types of units, like custom kitchen cabinets or stock RTA cabinets, can impact your kitchen's functionality, aesthetics, and budget. 

There is so much to consider when you come to a final decision that sometimes it even leads to postponing the kitchen upgrade to later. But when it is time to start, you have to start somewhere, and many designers suggest choosing the layout and type of kitchen cabinets first and building the renovation around them. Since this is the foundation of your kitchen, the cabinets should not only be beautiful and durable but also meet all the requirements. 

How can you decide if custom or store cabinets are best for your renovation? The project will determine whether stock or custom cabinets are the best choice for your kitchen renovation. Each one has their own pros and cons. We'll look at them so you can make a more informal decision.

Custom cabinet features

Custom cabinets are designed and built to your exact specifications. They offer the highest level of personalization, allowing you to choose everything from the materials and finishes to the hardware and layout. You may choose, for instance, custom-sized height, depth and inner shelf configuration. 

Supply and demand go hand in hand, so custom cabinets that becoming more popular lead to local cabinet manufacture growth. Local-sized manufacturers such as Cut2Size specialize in creating cabinets tailored to match your vision. While custom cabinet manufacturers used to perform the orders in 60 or more days, today's technologies allow projects to be completed in an average of 30 days. They come at a higher price, but for many homeowners, the investment is worth it, as they get a highly functional kitchen that stays for decades.

Custom cupboards are ideal for small kitchens, unique layouts, or homeowners who want a completely personalized space. They are perfect for those who have specific design visions or require cabinetry to fit unusual spaces or needs. If you're looking for top-tier quality and a bespoke design, custom cabinets are the way to go.

Custom cupboard cost and quality

But the freedom to customize your cabinets comes with a price. They tend to be more costly than standard modular units. Estimating the price of custom cabinetry is tricky because each of your choices will determine the final price. For example, costs vary based on materials (with solid wood options on top), finishes, and design complexity. Typically custom-made kitchen costs range from $600 to $1,200 per linear foot. However, the investment often pays off in terms of quality and longevity. Another bonus is that you are always able to cut it a bit - the amount you choose to spend is up to you as well.

Stock cabinet essentials

If you have a standard-sized kitchen, you're lucky. That means you can spend half as much money on it and still have high-quality cabinetry. The main benefit of stock cabinets is their standard layouts. Stores offer kitchen designs that are time-tested and match the general ergonomic and safety requirements. Stock cupboards are mass-produced and sold in standard sizes and popular styles, making them the most affordable option. They are a go-to choice for many homeowners due to their cost-effectiveness and immediate availability. While standard cabinets offer less customization, they are still good quality and variable choices.

Pre-fabricated cabinets are ideal for budget-conscious remodels, standard kitchen settings, or quick updates. They are perfect for projects with tight timelines. If you need a cost-effective and speedy solution, stores like Ikea may offer the best options. Additionally, if a unit gets damaged, it’s easy to replace it with an identical unit. However, the trade-off for this convenience is limited size and style options. This can sometimes result in the need for filler pieces or modifications to achieve a proper fit.

Store cabinet costs

Ready-made cupboards are the most budget-friendly option. Their average cost ranges between $120 and $380 per linear foot. Most homeowners spend between $6,000 and $15,000 on stock cabinets to fit a kitchen of average 10 to 10 ft. size. Because they are pre-fabricated, stock kitchen cabinets are available for quick purchase and installation, making them an excellent choice for those with tight timelines. However, the lower cost often means using less expensive materials such as particleboard or MDF. Despite this, there are still quality options within this category that offer decent durability and aesthetics.

You should keep in mind that even though cabinets arrive ready-made they still require assembly. Installing cabinets is best left to a professional unless you're an advanced DIY homeowner. Make sure you budget 10 to 20 percent of your cabinet cost to pay for professional installation.

Potential problems with cheap kitchen cabinets

You may be tempted by cheap kitchen cabinetry if your budget is limited and you plan to remodel your kitchen. Cheap cupboards may have some advantages, but they will not last long in your kitchen. What you pay is what you get. Potential problems with kitchen cabinets can arise from various factors such as material quality, installation, and usage. These units will show signs of poor quality after a certain period. The common issues are:

  • Loose hinges and hardware. One thing that will tell you about the quality is the smoothness of the hinges for cabinet doors, and drawer guides. Hinges, handles, and other hardware can become loose or misaligned, causing doors to hang improperly or not close correctly. 
  • Peeling or chipping finish. The poor finish is one thing that cheap cabinets have in common. Paint, veneer, or laminate finishes can peel, chip, or discolour over time, especially in high-use areas.
  • Drawer and door malfunction. Drawers may stick or not slide smoothly, and doors may not close properly due to misalignment, broken tracks, or worn-out slides. You can't expect drawers and doors to operate smoothly if you install low-quality kitchen cabinets. Even if the doors and drawers work well at first, they won't last long.

Choosing between different quality cabinets depends on your budget and personal preferences. Custom cabinets offer unparalleled personalization and quality, making them ideal for luxury and uniquely designed kitchens. Stock cabinets are the more affordable and readily available option, perfect for standard layouts and budget-friendly projects.

By understanding the differences in cost, quality, and customization options, you can make an informed decision that best suits your kitchen renovation needs. Whether you opt for the high-end custom route or the economical stock choice, the right cabinets will transform your kitchen into a functional and beautiful space.

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