There are three ways that cabinets can be prepared: stock, semi-custom and custom built.
Stock cabinets are built, cartoned, and warehoused. The actual cabinets are modular units, based on industry sizing standards. The standard sizes are based on multiples of the number 3. Cabinet widths start at 9" and run up to 48" in 3" increments. Some stock cabinet companies will produce half-sized cabinets. There are also standard height dimensions for base, wall, vanity and tall cabinets.
Because the cabinets are built before the order is accepted from the customer, there are a limited number of cabinet sizes one can choose from. Usually, there are no modifications allowed to the existing catalog. This is one of the limitations of stock cabinets.
Stock cabinets are available on a short lead time. Don't be confused by the meaning of the word stock. Stock means quicker availability, relatively limited selection, standard construction and lower cost. It does not mean that the cabinets are physically at the location where the order is placed. The cabinets are usually stored at a distribution warehouse ready for quick delivery.
Semi-custom cabinets offer the consumer a selection of cabinet options. All of the 'standard' cabinet configurations and sizes available from a stock cabinet company will be available from a semi-custom cabinet company - plus many more! Each of the cabinets will have a list of modifications available. The availability of size and style options allows the kitchen designer much greater freedom to create a kitchen layout that is tailored to the tastes and desires of the customer.
Some of the options typically available from a semi-custom cabinet company are:
- Cabinet front only
- Flush toespace
- Increased depth
- Matching Interior
- Reduced depth
- Reduced width
- Extended stiles
The point of offering these options on various cabinets is to allow greater flexibility in the design process - flexibility that allows one to create the kitchen of his/her dreams rather than another cookie-cutter kitchen.
Semi-custom cabinets are built after the order is received. Because the order must be placed into the production schedule and then manufactured, there is usually a longer lead-time than with stock cabinets.
Custom cabinets are, for the most part, constructed by local cabinet shops, which may also sell stock or semi-custom cabinets. They would have a shop equipped to produce the cabinet box, face frame, drawers and doors.
Custom cabinets allow the consumer complete freedom in the design and construction of the cabinetry. There is no 3" standard cabinet size to go by. If a 14 1/4" cabinet is needed, then that's what will be produced. On the other side of the coin, if a 72" section of cabinet is required for the design, a custom cabinetmaker can produce the cabinet as one unit. This is an advantage because the interior of the cabinet will be open - there will be no partitions. This offers greater flexibility and capacity for storage.
There are some limitations to what a custom cabinetmaker can or will produce, but generally speaking, custom cabinets will offer a more flexible, personalized kitchen layout. There is usually a greater cost involved, but the value received will be well worth it!
*Adapted from Kitchenet: The Kitchen & Bath Network