Cabinetry 101

By Sean Walsh

Make an Informed Cabinets Purchasing Experience

Our founder and CEO, Sean Walsh, is a life-long woodworker and cabinet maker. Glean from his experience and save yourself some headaches. He wrote this for you!



Are you looking to make an informed cabinet buying decision? After all, purchasing kitchen cabinetry is a pretty momentous occasion for your kitchen. It’s a little like getting married. You will live with your cabinets, spend a bunch of money on your cabinets, and enter into this relationship hoping it lasts! Yet, there are so many unknown variables as to how it will really work out in the end.

Purchasing kitchen cabinets is a rather large investment. Your kitchen cabinetry is an integral part of your kitchen design and a significant element when measuring a house’s value and how fast it would resell.

For many the destination of their cabinetry quest is value. They have a new kitchen dream that they’re stretching to financially grab hold of. For others, they know exactly what they want, and they have the money to make it happen. And for others…well, they’re somewhere in between.
The things they all have in common is the desire to find cabinetry that enhances their kitchen’s style, adds comfort and functionality to their kitchens and affordability.

Rest assured, everything you need to know about kitchen cabinets, how to choose well and how to avoid making major cabinetry purchasing mistakes, is in this guide.

Your kitchen should be as one of a kind as your family. So, your new kitchen cabinets should be as unique as you; one size does not fit all.

At the end of the day, if you want pink cabinets that are the absolute lowest cost, and you do not care about how long they last, then these are the cabinets that are perfect for you. It’s not my intent to make a case for the perfect cabinets, but rather to provide you with factual information that will help you find your perfect cabinetry–while at the same time avoiding unforeseen pitfalls.

You’re going to have to live with your decision! That means you will love your cabinetry day after day, and year after year, or regret your cabinetry, for life. And possibly, fork out still more money for more new cabinets.

I have created this guide to be the ultimate cheat sheet to make sure that you have all the knowledge you need to do it right the first time. This is the ultimate cheat sheet– an in depth behind the scenes tutorial on how to make this new relationship with your cabinets amazing. So, without further ado, here is everything you need to know about buying kitchen cabinets. The following guide will help you achieve your happy cabinet mojo.

Cabinet Construction

Anyone who has ever had to live with poorly constructed cabinets and cheaply made components can tell horror stories about unsightly cabinetry: drawer failure, peeling paint and degrading finishes, sagging shelves, separating joints, falling wall cabinets, broken lazy Susan’s, doors falling apart, and other kitchen calamities.

Cabinets do not stand the test of time because they are made with shoddy construction techniques and cheap subpar materials. Good quality cabinets will last for years and take a pretty fair amount of abuse.

Framed or frameless construction

How a cabinet is built does vary from one manufacturer to another, but they are all alike in some key ways. There are two basic design styles: framed and frameless. What you choose depends on your preference, the only difference is the amount of accessibility you will have to the interior of the cabinet.

Framed Kitchen Cabinets

Framed cabinets are built with a ‘’frame’’ around the outer edge of the cabinet box. It’s much like a picture frame on the front of the cabinet. The door hinges attach to the frame.
Framed cabinets are a must in a Traditional style kitchen. Framed cabinets provide a nice door overlay. Overlay simply means the amount the doors cover or ‘’lays-over’’ the face frame. The frame also gives the cabinet some added stability.

Types of Overlays

There are three types of overlay:
● Partial-Overlay or Half-Overlay when the doors and drawers only cover part of the frame.
● Full-Overlay when the doors and drawers completely cover the face frame.
● Full-Inset when the doors and drawers are constructed to fit within the opening of the face frame.

Frameless Kitchen Cabinets

Frameless cabinets offer a little more accessibility than framed cabinets. It’s simply a little easier to remove large items—platters, boxes, pots and pans, etc.—from the cabinet since there’s no frame partly blocking the cabinet opening. Drawers can be made wider than with framed cabinets so there’s just a little more room inside the drawer boxes as well.
This type of cabinet is known as ‘’European’’ and is popular in Contemporary style kitchens—although this is not carved in stone. The cabinet doors are usually full-overlay.
There’s no good or bad, right or wrong other than personal preference and possibly the kitchen style. They both work equally well.

Joinery Methods

Dovetail Joints

This is an age old method of joining two pieces of wood together to form such things as drawer boxes. The ends are notched with V-shaped cuts that mesh with the matching notches on the other panel. These notches fasten together very tight are considered the most solid way of building a drawer box.

Mortise and tenon

Mortise and tenon is another method of joinery. When this method is used a square post on one piece of wood is fitted within a square hole on the other. Sometimes cabinet’s face frames are fitted together using mortise and tenon.


This method of construction is when a groove is cut into a piece of wood or panel that the edge of another piece or panel fits into. This is used to fit the side of a cabinet drawer box to the bottom.


No, this isn’t the ’’rascally’’ kind that Elmer Fudd chases through the woods, it’s much like a dado but creates a 90-degree angle. One side is open.

Butt joint

For a butt joint two pieces of wood are brought together or ‘’butted’’ edge to edge. Nails, glue or screws hold the butt joint together.

Metal fasteners and glue

Metal fasteners are used often in cabinet joinery. They can be used alone or to reinforce the joinery method. Good joinery methods are what makes the strongest joints in any given cabinet.

Kitchen Cabinetry Types and Styles

Base Cabinets, Walls and Tall Cabinets

Most kitchen designs are made up of base cabinets, wall cabinets, and tall pantry cabinets. The base cabinets hold the countertop and if using slab stone such as marble or granite the base cabinets should have some type of reinforcement. Also, the ‘’farmhouse’’ or ‘’apron’’ sinks that are so popular are very heavy and need a specialized type of sink base. The cabinets making up the kitchen island are base cabinets. Today, the base cabinets often hold built-in appliances such as microwaves, beverage coolers, dishwashers, and even ovens.

Base cabinets are generally 24 inches deep and can be various sizes in width. Stock cabinets come in basic sizes and use ‘’spacers or fillers’’ to make up for any size deficient on a given wall of cabinetry. These are just blank strips of wood and can be made attractive with decorative wood work such as pilasters. Stock cabinetry can be as interesting and beautiful as custom with just a little creativity.

Wall cabinets are usually 12 inches deep and 30, 36, and 42 inches tall. While base cabinets are almost always 34 ½ inches high, wall cabinets can be various heights and widths, and can get very creative—they’re the focal point of the kitchen. Even using stock and semi-custom cabinets a good designer can really make a statement with clear or art glass inserts, lighted cabinets, and cabinets that soar from countertop to ceiling. The varied heights are usually for esthetic reasons, but shorter and lower wall cabinets can be for handicap accessible kitchen designs.

Tall cabinets are pantry cabinets or for wall ovens or refrigeration units. Although they are not always included, they do make for a well-appointed kitchen.

Kitchen Cabinets Storage Basics

The kitchen is primarily a large storage room. There has to be storage space for food, small appliances, glassware, dinnerware, cookbooks, bakeware, serving pieces, cleaning supplies, flatware, pots and pans and food prep/cooking tools. And there must be enough storage space for what you have and what you will have. So, how much storage do you need? Well, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) the standard measure for storage space is called the ‘’shelf/drawer frontage.’’ This is found by multiplying the cabinet width and cabinet depth and the number of shelves and drawers.

The NKBA recommends a total shelf/drawer frontage of:
● 1400” for a kitchen less than 150 square feet (a small kitchen)
● 1700” for a kitchen 151 to 350 square feet (a medium kitchen)
● 2000” for a large kitchen greater than 350 square feet (a large kitchen)

These recommendations, unlike building codes, are not written in stone but they do serve as a guide to creating a kitchen that is organized and functional vs a kitchen that is not. They do not have to be perfectly met as long as there is enough storage for the kitchen size and the family.

Kitchen Cabinetry Styles

Back in the day, kitchen styles and their coordinating cabinet door styles were pretty cut and dry. There were certain cabinets that were used for Traditional style kitchens, and certain styles that were used for Contemporary style kitchens. And then came styles such as Country and we had cabinet styles that we used for that. Today, we have many kitchen styles, but the cabinet door styles used are far more flexible and have far more to do with personal taste than style absolutes.

However, that said, kitchens generally look nicer with either square or raised panel cabinet doors with more detail like beading. Transitional kitchens use raised or recessed doors—almost anything goes. Today’s Contemporary is still ‘’clean’’ but more decorative than in the past and can go either way—raised or recessed– as well as slab doors without detail work like beading. Farmhouse is yesterday’s County and then some and anything goes –recessed doors, often beadboard, and raised square doors. And Shaker is a style for all styles– casual forms of Traditional, Transitional, Contemporary, Farmhouse, rustic you name it!

Shaker-Style Cabinets

Shaker style kitchen cabinets are the most popular in kitchens today. They work well any style kitchen other than very modern. Shaker is an old style but only gaining popularity. Each Shaker style cabinet door has five pieces: stiles (vertical side pieces), rails (horizontal pieces on top and bottom, and a recessed panel in the middle.

● Simple and look great in almost any kitchen style
● Timeless, never goes out of style
● Can dress it up or down with millwork, various types of countertops
● Mixes well with glass inserts
● Widely available and reasonably priced

● None

Glass Front Cabinets

Glass front cabinets are super popular with good reason—they give every kitchen a shot of class. You may not want all glass front doors, it’s okay to mix and match with your lower cabinet doors. Sometimes glass front cabinets are used on base cabinets for display cabinets. These are usually in kitchen islands. Glass fronts can be plain or with four or more panes of glass.

● Glass front cabinets brighten the kitchen with a nice reflection. They brighten a dark room and reflect light from windows. Glass will also reflect your overhead lighting.
● Glass front cabinets protect your collections from dust, grease, and kitchen grime. They also protect against breakage. Nothing makes your treasures look more beautiful than glass.
● You can add lighting inside your cabinets to show your crystal, china, as well as your everyday dishware. The light lends a very soft welcoming look to the kitchen at night.
● Glass front doors also let you add style and class to the interior on the cabinets—install beadboard, or paint the interior to match or contrast with wall color.
● Glass front doors can be accented with sheets of window film that turns your glass frosty, snowy, or ‘’etched’’ with various designs. And best of all, theres no commitment because they peel right off.
● You can buy artistic mullions –wooden glass overlays for cabinet glass doors– online and change the whole look of your kitchen. They go on easy and come off easy.

● Dishes, etc. have to be kept neat and tidy inside cabinets unless semi-opaque.
● The glass needs to be durable high quality.
● You’ll need to find a glass cutter or cut to order glass company.
● Adding glass to cabinets increases costs.

White Cabinets

White cabinets are the favorite of homeowners and designers alike hands down. White is clean, bright, easy to design with, a neutral, timeless, and a classic. It’s prized for its simplicity. If you’ve been planning a redo you’ve almost certainly at least considered white cabinets or an all-white kitchen. All-white have been around for a long time and don’t expect them to disappear anytime soon. Contemporary kitchens love it because it’s ‘’clean’’ and uncomplicated.

● White cabinets make a great backdrop for other colors or finishes. If you have in mind a certain countertop or backsplash that is very dramatic or beautiful, white highlight it and compliments it without ever overpowering.
● White rises above passing trends so your kitchen will never look old and dated.
● White works in any style kitchen from an elegant Traditional to Farmhouse to Modern to Victorian.
● Because it is so versatile, white is super easy to update—just change your tile, countertop, appliance finishes, and metals and you have a new kitchen or even a whole new style! Even just a change of backsplash will give a fresh new take.
● If you become tired of an all-white kitchen just adding a few pops of color here and there will give it a great new look for very little money.
● White reflects white. White doors with glass inserts reflect it even more. So if your kitchen is dark, white will brighten it. If it’s small it will make it appear larger and more airy.
● Finally, white is the perfect backdrop for dark accent cabinets. If you love the look of black cabinets, for example, but you’re afraid it will make your kitchen dark use it as an accent such as an island and the white cabinets will balance the black perfectly.

● Too much white with a flat cabinet door style can make the kitchen look less ‘’clean’’ and more ‘’clinical’’ and cold. A raised door style or a Shaker style door can help warm it up and make the kitchen more welcoming. Or add a dramatic color to the countertops or backsplash.
● White cabinets do need more cleaning. It doesn’t get dirtier than any other color but it shows every smudge. A high quality paint finish is essential and wiping spills and drips off right away solves the problem quick as a wink.
● Without a high quality paint finish scratches, worn finish and corners will be easier to see. You get what you pay for, don’t skimp on white cabinets.
● Without a high-quality finish, bright white can discolor in time, particularly if exposed to a lot of direct sunlight. To head off this problem make sure you choose a quality finish, or choose an off white rather than a bright white. Even if it does fade a bit it won’t be a big problem.
● What it comes down to is quality. You really do get what you pay for. Very inexpensive cabinets will show the wear and tear and age less gracefully. If the finish is high quality, white cabinets will have as long a life span as any color or wood finish.



A bad finish on your cabinetry will be heartbreaking, embarrassing, and significantly reduce your home’s resale value. You might pass it off as ‘’distressed’’ but it’s still bad. Today good quality cabinets have painted finishes that are silky smooth and stay that way. Stained wood finishes are rich and gleaming and stand the test of time.

At the end of the day, finishes can be broken down into these categories:
1. Lacquer
2. Waterborne Finish
3. Conversion Varnish
4. Urethane

Solvent Based Lacquer

A standard pre-catalyzed solvent based lacquer is a very common finish amongst woodworkers. The shelf life of this type of lacquer is long due to the fact that it is formulated to air cure, and the costs are low. This finish has lower solids making it easier to apply, has a long pot life (it does not begin to harden or cure too quick) which makes clean up and use a breeze. All said and done it is a decent finish when applied correctly.

Lacquer is ideal for built in furniture, architectural millwork, interior doors, and other types of furniture. Generally, lacquer is softer, more susceptible to moisture damage and staining, and less resistant to chemicals.
It’s not ideal for kitchen cabinets.

Water Based Lacquer/Urethanes/Conversion Varnish

Conversion Varnish and 2k Urethanes
For the sake of adding value to the reader, I will only cover the best finishes that should be used on high-dollar custom cabinetry.

The Best Environment Friendly Options

So, the question that must be asked is this: are you more concerned about the quality and durability of your cabinetry, or the environment? If you are an environmentally conscious person, and you are willing to sacrifice the durability of your cabinetry in the process, then you will want to look into using a water based (aka waterborne) urethane or conversion varnish– NOT lacquer. Urethanes and varnish will always have more solids. This produces a thicker, more durable finish. However, all waterborne finishes will always be softer than a true solvent (chemical) based finish.

Although they’re softer, they can provide additional durability in the same way rubber can be more durable than plastic in certain situations where cracking is an issue.

The Best, Most Durable Finishes

In Europe it is very common that 2K Urethanes are used for woodworking and cabinetry. Here in the United States, they are less common. For the most part, mainstream cabinet makers in the US, would consider Conversion Varnish to be the best. They would be wrong.

Europe wins this one. Essentially 2K Urethane is an automobile grade finish. And as we know, automobile finishes last a long time, stand up against moisture–and lots of it, and handle hot and cold all season long year after year. Conversion Varnish is the industry standard, but it is not the absolute best.

Your beautiful custom kitchen cabinetry will cost at most hundreds more if it is finished with 2k Urethane verses Conversion Varnish. When spending tens of thousands of dollars on kitchen cabinets, it is well worth it!

So, make sure your cabinet maker is going to use 2K Urethane, or at least a high quality Conversion Varnish. NOT Lacquer. Lacquer is softer, more susceptible to scratching and moisture, and should be used for furniture only, not kitchen cabinets.



We all know that cabinets are made of wood, right? Well, yes but there are various kinds of wood and wood products that go into today’s cabinets. Don’t cringe when you see the words ’’wood products’’ because honestly they’re not all bad. Cabinets are not made like you would build a house. In general, custom cabinets will be built with the best. Semi-custom and stock, less expensive woods. (More about this later).

Solid wood

Solid wood is wood all the way through. The only variation might be if wood is joined together in some way. It is industry standard to consider plywood as “solid wood.”

Medium density fiberboard (MDF)

This is an engineered wood, meaning man made. It is made of wood fibers. These fibers are combined with an adhesive and are compressed and made into boards and panels. It performs very well depending on the use. MDF has a fine texture and is quite dense and heavy. It’s used for cabinet boxes, shelves and parts of cabinet doors.

Particle board

Particle board is engineered from wood chips and particles combined with adhesive and fused together into boards and panels. Particle board is often used in cabinetry.


Plywood is familiar to most of us. It’s made of thin wood layers that are glued together with the grain arranged in varying angles to make it rigid and stable. Plywood is used for shelving, cabinet boxes and doors.

Custom, Semi-Custom and Stock Cabinets

The Differences Between Stock, Semi-Custom and Custom Cabinets

Are you completely confused when it comes to choosing the best cabinet type for new home build or reno?! Did you even know that there ARE different types of cabinets to choose from?! (It’s ok if you say NO! That’s why I’m here!). This kitchen cabinets guide will help you understand the differences between cabinet types (stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinets) so that you can make the best decision for YOUR home!

I’ll provide a basic overview of each type of cabinet … as well as the pros and cons of all three.

Cabinet Layout Design

The color and door style may be the first things homeowners think of when considering new cabinets, as important as these things are, it’s good to look at your layout first. The layout and space you have in your kitchen will determine whether you will go need custom cabinets, semi-custom or you can get away with stock cabinets. If your kitchen is round or octagon shaped, you will need custom or semi-custom cabinets to fit. Even if your kitchen layout is very unusual in size or shape you may still be able to use a combination of semi-custom or stock cabinets rather than face the major cost of full custom.

Please note, at any time, in any kitchen, kitchen cabinets can be used that are not custom. HOWEVER, the final result may be subpar when compared to custom kitchen cabinetry that was handcrafted to fit.

Custom Kitchen Cabinets

Price range: $500 to $1,200 per linear foot (per linear foot of an upper and lower cabinet combined)

Custom Kitchen Cabinets are made to your exact specifications. There are no walls that confine them. They can be any size, any shape, any color, and made out of any wood species. Custom cabinetry is for those who know exactly what they want, do not want to compromise, and are not intimidated by the sticker price to do so.

This type of cabinetry can be built in small garage sized shops, in massive facilities, and everything in between.

What to expect from custom kitchen cabinets?

Many think that custom cabinetry is the best just because it is custom. Not so. Custom cabinetry can be amazing, and custom kitchen cabinetry can be crap. In fact, little Johnny can head out to the back yard, butcher some wood with his “Big Beginners” tool set and make custom cabinetry. It would not be much to look at, but it sure would be one of a kind. Custom.

Many custom cabinet makers have chosen to be the best. They pride themselves in creating a superior product. They have the experience, the patience, and the tools to be the best.

Their cabinetry is going to look and perform much better than the custom shop who is trying to compete with mass manufactured cabinetry lines to stay in business. One is quality focused. The other is price focused. These are the two extremes.

Custom Kitchen Cabinets – Wood Species

The type of wood that top of the line cabinetry is crafted from can vary widely depending on the look and feel the customer is seeking. Typical woods would be Mahogany (this would be very rare for kitchen cabinets), Cherry, Walnut, Oak, Birch, and Maple. These are the most common wood species that a custom cabinet maker would use the most of. However, a custom cabinets shop can use anything and everything as long as the wood species is toolable, stable, and available.

VERY IMPORTANT: Paint Grade Cabinets

If you are paying top dollar for custom cabinets, be warned! Not all custom shops will give you what you’re paying for. When paying top dollar for top of the line paint grade custom cabinets, they should be made out of American

Hard Maple or Yellow Birch.

Many custom shops will make you beautiful paint grade cabinetry using Alder, Poplar, or Soft Maple. This is not good! These species of woods are much softer. Meaning you will have high dollar cabinetry that is prone to dents and dings. Wood will of course always dent and get dings, however cabinetry made with Hard Maple or Yellow Birch will always put up a better fight!

Technical Insights

Hardwood density is measured by a method referred to as “Janka Hardness.” This is a measure that ultimately determines how dense a wood species is. Just for reference, here is the Janka Hardness of the five wood species I mentioned:

Hard Maple: 1,450
Yellow Birch: 1,260
Alder: 590
Soft Maple (there are four major species): 700-950
Poplar: 540

Hard Maple and Birch are going to cost more money, but you are talking hundreds of dollars for a larger kitchen, not thousands. If you have found a custom cabinet maker who is going to charge you top dollar and then skimp on the wood species, look elsewhere.

Buyer be Warned! As you can see from these numbers, at best the other species of wood are around 35% less dense. Denser cabinetry means greater durability. Greater durability means lasting beauty!

It is also important to know this as many cabinet makers, both large and small, WILL NOT warranty dents and dings since they are “normal wear and tear.” On paper that looks reasonable. However, if your cabinetry is made out of a softer wood, it will ultimately dent and ding more. Having this knowledge will ensure you can ask the right questions and can avoid this pitfall.

Custom Kitchen Cabinets – Wood Finish

Your cabinetry can be hand crafted with the finest wood species available, but if it does not have a high quality finish, then certain peril will follow.
It is almost impossible to determine the quality of the finish by looking at the end result. You must know exactly what is being used and how it is being used to determine if your kitchen cabinets truly do have a quality finish or not.

I have watched “high dollar” custom cabinet makers apply low dollar finishes, all the while their customer has no idea. By the time they see the finished product, it is smooth and looks good. By not knowing the technical aspects of finishes, they ended up paying for more than they got.

When considering the costs of custom kitchen cabinets, there are two finishes that shine. The best is a 2k urethane, and the runner up is conversion varnish. When looking for durability, and ultimately cabinetry that will look amazing for many years, then look to these finishes.

If you are chemically sensitive, or concerned about the environment, then look to waterborne finishes. As you may have guessed, waterborne finishes are water based and not chemical based. You will sacrifice on durability though. However, there are some pretty amazing waterborne finishes that will perform well and will benefit our environment and your home.

Custom Kitchen Cabinets – Box Construction “The Carcass”

I know, it is not the most glorious term, but the “box” part of a cabinet is referred to as the ‘’carcass.’’ This is another very important aspect that determines the overall quality of your new custom cabinets.
Depending on who is making the cabinets, and what the customer desires, there can be many options as far as materials and assembly processes for the carcass.

Particle board

Particle board has a bad rap because it has earned it. When the particle board gets wet it ultimately expands, and then falls apart. Not the best choice for wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms. However, the game is changing. Manufacturers like Georgia Pacific are making moisture resistant particle boards for just such purposes as cabinetry.
Can quality custom cabinetry be made using particle board? Sure. It just needs to be moisture resistant particle board.
That being said, particle board is a less expensive option, does not take fasteners as well as plywood, does not glue as well as plywood, and struggles with various joinery techniques, unlike plywood.
So ultimately, it’s cheaper, because it’s inferior in many aspects to plywood.


There is no debate that plywood is better in nearly every manner than particle board, except one. Plywood that is only finished on one side is more prone to warping than particle board as it absorbs moisture on one side and not the other. Particle board on the other hand, is not as prone to warping as it is made out of particles (more stable) and usually either comes with both sides unfinished or both sides finished.

How essential is this? Not very, as long as the plywood comes from a reliable manufacturer and it’s finished on both sides.

MDF / Combi Core

MDF core sheet materials are basically a sheet of MDF with thin wood veneer on both sides. There is also Combi Core options that have various layers of wood veneers as well as two thin layers of MDF. The benefit of MDF as a core is that it is absolutely the most stable option. In fact, in the past when I have made custom front doors, I have laminated wood over the top of MDF to ensure the door does not warp.

That being said, water is MDF’s worst enemy! UNLESS, it is moisture resistant or waterproof MDF. There are now certain types of MDF that you can literally soak in water for days, weeks, and months, with ZERO effect.

So once again, cabinetry made with MDF can be as good, or even better, than cabinetry made with plywood, if it is moisture resistant. In fact, combi core plywood has the benefits of plywood (overall strength and the ability to hold screws better), and the stability of MDF.

Any custom cabinet maker who uses a moisture resistant version of this, and tells their customers it is the best, speaks truth!
Here is a great resource if you want to learn more about the different types of sheet goods.

When to Use Custom Kitchen Cabinets

Oxford dictionary defines custom as: ‘’made or done to order for a particular customer.’’
Oxford further defines particular as: ‘’insisting that something should be correct or suitable in every detail; fastidious.’’

So, there you have it. If you are insisting that something should be correct and suitable in every manner and detail, then you’re a custom cabinetry person. There is a catch though. You need to be willing to pay top dollar to have your way.

The cost of custom kitchen cabinets is typically around two times more than stock cabinetry lines. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine whether cabinets from your local custom cabinet maker are for you:

1. Am I not willing to compromise some of my wants?
2. Can I afford to pay around twice as much to get what I want?
3. Will my home’s value support the extra costs of going custom (if you even care about this)?
4. Do you want the absolute best quality cabinetry money can buy?

If you said yes to all of these, then custom is most likely your best choice.

Why to Use Custom Kitchen Cabinets

There are main reasons to use custom cabinets. Here are the highlights

1. You want to keep it local and support the American economy.
2. You are a custom cabinet maker.
3. Your brother-in-law is a cabinet maker.


Semi-Custom Kitchen Cabinets


Semi-Custom Kitchen Cabinets begin their journey with set forms and sizes. Set, but not in stone. In the appropriate situation that 80% of your kitchen cabinets can be normal sizes, and 20% are going to be out of the box irregular sizes, semi-custom are for you. For homeowners who have a pretty good idea of what they want, they’re willing to pay extra for it and yet have some flexibility, semi-custom custom cabinets would be a good fit.

Semi-custom cabinets are exactly how it sounds. They are prefabricated cabinets with options for extra detailing. The value propositions are: 1) They’re a lower cost alternative to custom cabinets 2) They offer a limited number of popular custom features. In some cases, they can be customized to meet your aesthetic and functional requirements. Basic cabinetry sizes still apply. However, you have the option to change certain dimensions, such as resizing cabinet drawers, door fronts, or increasing the depth.


There are features that are standard. When it comes to semi-custom, the statement “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be any truer. The least expensive will be made out of materials such as medium density fiberboard (MDF) and will be covered in a veneer; it’s not the highest quality, but it is still much better than prefabricated materials.


The cost for semi-custom cabinets will vary greatly depending on the materials that are used, and the amount of customization. However, since the customization options are limited, and are relatively easy for the maker to add, it should not result in a substantial expense. You can expect to spend 15%- 30% less than custom cabinets.

Semi-custom will be around $400 to $650 per linear foot

When You Should Choose Semi-Custom Cabinets

● When you don’t want to make changes to the existing layout of your kitchen.
● When you’re working with a smaller kitchen remodeling budget.
● When most of your budget has been allocated toward a different aspect of your kitchen.

Stock Kitchen Cabinets

Stock Kitchen Cabinets much like semi-custom, begin their journey in set sizes. However, their journey begins and ends there. Stock cabinetry comes in certain colors, certain sizes, and with certain options. And that’s it. Stock cabinetry is more affordable than semi-custom because there are no customization’s available. Everything is mass manufactured, thereby creating lower prices.

Cost and Installation

The cost of quality stock cabinets for an average-sized kitchen generally runs $6,000 to $18,000. Semi-custom cabinets would cost about 20% more than that. And full custom cabinets would cost even more.

Carve out $100-$300 per cabinet (depending on labor rates in your area) to have them professionally installed.

The Drawbacks of Stock Cabinets

Finish and color choices are limited. The most likely options are painted white, natural wood, or stained maple and cherry.
Stock cabinets come in set height and width sizes. If you want non standard sizes you’ll have to go semi-custom, or custom.
You could lose potential storage space. Filler strips are used to cover gaps created when the stock sizes don’t quite fill the space — whereas custom cabinets can be measured to take advantage of all space.
Warranties are limited. The industry standard is about 5 years, and they only cover product failure, not wear and tear.

Ready to Assemble (RTA) Kitchen Cabinets

What Are They

RTA Kitchen Cabinets (ready to assemble) are essentially unassembled stock cabinets. The major difference is availability. Many stock cabinetry options are made to order. RTA cabinets have already been made and are ready to ship. This means that cabinetry can be delivered much quicker and for less money. Unassembled cabinetry is the lowest price option available.

Price range

The price range is roughly $190 to $350 per linear foot

About (RTA) kitchen cabinets

In recent years homeowners have more to choose from and they often choose these things online. Is there anything you really can’t buy online today? Since ‘’some assembly required’’ no longer scares most of us, we’ve moved into an exciting time when we can buy almost anything, and have it delivered to our doorstep. One of the most exciting things to hit the cabinetry industry is ‘’Ready To Assemble’’

RTA kitchen cabinets are shipped in flat packages and are designed to be easily assembled with common household tools. Like most things we buy there are degrees of quality. There was a day when ‘’RTA’’ was synonymous with “low quality.” But from a good company most popular RTA cabinets are the same as any stock cabinet and often better than even semi-custom.

All cabinetry is built in pieces and assembled. So, basically stock isn’t much different than RTA. The cost is lower because the homeowner or contractor assembles them on site. The fact that the company doesn’t have to hire someone to do the assembly in the factory means the money saved is passed on to the customer. There is also a large amount of money saved shipping RTA cabinets, verses pre-assembled cabinetry as the footprint of them is much smaller.

A creative homeowner or kitchen designer can do much the same things as with semi-custom. Using various sizes of cabinets, you can put create islands, lighted display spaces, counter-to-ceiling class front china and glassware cabinets, paneled appliance fronts and garages, built-in microwave, warming drawer, coffee machine cabinets, and hutches. From millwork companies you can add inexpensive corbels, turned posts and table legs for an island, half columns or pilasters, and bun feet to give your cabinetry custom cabinetry style—your only limits are your imagination and ingenuity.

You can buy cabinet and drawer organizers for your RTA kitchen cabinetry and specialty units from many places on the internet like bottle racks to create a cabinet for your wine collection. You can get pull-out shelves and drawer inserts. These maximize space and organization and make working in your kitchen a joy.


But can you trust me to provide you the insight you need to make the right decision? Here is a glimpse into the experience I write from:

1. As a second generation craftsman, I have been around woodworking since I was born
2. For the last 24 years I have worked full time building homes, and crafting things out of wood
3. I owned a custom cabinetry and woodworking business for years. During this time, I crafted amazing high end wall units and kitchens; both building and EXTENSIVELY working with and applying the finishes.
4. And for the last four years I have worked in the retail world of cabinetry.

So, there you go. Basically, I have lived and breathed woodworking, cabinet making, and applying wood finishes for years!And now I have taken all of the knowledge I have gained and created this ultimate guide to kitchen cabinets for you to glean from.

Make the kitchen you have the kitchen you love!