Design Tips

Reno Bible lists factors to help you choose between custom cabinets or prefab cabinets

Custom Cabinets or Prefab?

Kitchens are expensive to renovate. Every trade gets involved in a kitchen renovation and you need to be prepared for the cost and the time involved with these types of renovations. You will need an electrician, a plumber, a tiler, a stone fabricator and more often than not, a cabinet maker. Your cabinets will likely be the most expensive part of your kitchen.

Is it worth it to go custom when it comes to cabinets? Or is it better to go with prefabricated cabinets that can be purchased at a store? Read on to understand the pros and cons of custom cabinets vs prefab.

Reno Bible helps you decide between a prefab cabinet or a custom one in today’s article
Shaker door in BM Hamilton Blue – As featured in the Reno Bible Modern Farmhouse spec.

1. Finishes – If you have your cabinets made by a millworker, you have the option of choosing any finish you want for your cabinets. That means you can choose any paint colour or wood stain option you like. Millworkers can also custom match a stain for you or source out any type of wood. Did you know that a custom painted or custom stained finish is one of the most expensive finishes for cabinets?

In order for a millworker to get the finish just right, they need to spray paint your cabinets, sand them and then paint them again to get that perfect shop finish that we’re all familiar with. The pros of going with a prefabricated product includes the fact that because the cabinets are produced on a mass scale, the price to paint them is not as expensive, and so you pay less for these cabinets. The con is that you only have a few colour options to choose from.

Decide on what kind of prefab cabinet will fit your preference in today’s article by Reno Bible
Shaker door in BM Hamilton Blue – As featured in the Reno Bible Modern Farmhouse spec.

2. Custom Fit – As a designer, I prefer to design kitchens with custom millwork. I like that I can fill a room perfectly and have the cabinets fit to their respective space without any unsightly fillers. When dealing with prefabricated cabinets, it’s always a challenge to get the product to fit flawlessly into a space. I always need to bring some sort of custom element into a kitchen design that uses prefab cabinets so that the kitchen design looks intentional. If you’re left with a space that’s more than 4 inches, a good way to fill it may be by incorporating wine storage, a bookshelf or even a small counter.

You can even buy a large gable (made of the same finish as your cabinets) and build anything with the matching material. The biggest challenge with store-bought cabinets is that they force you to think within a box. By bringing custom elements to your store-bought millwork, you’re able to take liberties with the design and not have to stick to the standard layout.

Decide on if a prefab cabinet will fit your preference based on price and other factors in today’s article by Reno Bible
Custom Kitchen design – As featured in the Reno Bible Eclectic Chic Spec Book

3. Price – This is where you’ll see the largest discrepancy between custom and prefab cabinets. Depending on where you purchase your cabinets from, you can see a cost difference of anywhere from 150% to 500% more for custom. Bear in mind, this is for the cost of the cabinets only. Once you factor in the install, the price difference does shrink considerably.

It won’t necessarily cost you any less to have prefab cabinets installed. If there are problems with the product during install (which happens more often than not) the installer then has to deal with the store to remedy the issue. This will often cause delays as large stores tend to have long lineups.

Reno Bible helps you decide between a prefab or custom cabinet one in today’s article
Custom Kitchen design – As featured in the Reno Bible Enduring Modern Spec Book

4. Install – This is where the second biggest divide occurs between custom and prefab cabinets. With custom cabinets, your millworker is responsible for making your cabinets fit and function perfectly. That means, even if they messed up with the fabrication of your cabinets, they need to fix it by either remaking the product or by cutting it on site to fit perfectly.

When ordering custom millwork, this type of work goes without saying. Millworkers tend to take pride in their work and will do everything they should to make it perfect. If you’ve gone with a prefabricated product, their installers generally won’t make overly complicated cuts to the product during install, so if something isn’t fitting right, you’re the one left to deal with it.

Reno Bible helps you decide between a prefab or custom cabinet one in today’s article based on cabinet depth and other factors
JENN AIR Counter Depth Fridge – As featured in the Tradition Whimsy Spec Book

5. Cabinet Depth – This issue is separate from the custom fit issue because even if you are able to magically make your store bought cabinets fit perfectly within your space, you do need to deal with potential depth issues as well. Standard off the shelf base and tall cabinets will typically come 24” deep.

But what do you do if your fridge is 31” deep? That means you will need to live with your fridge sticking out 7” from your cabinets. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s also not the greatest thing if you’ve just spent thousands of dollars renovating your kitchen. The best way to deal with these potential issues is by going with appliances that are counter depth. They will still likely stick out from your cabinets a bit, but it won’t be offensive.

View the available cabinet components and other factors from Reno Bible in today’s article to help you decide between custom or prefab cabinets
RICHELIEU Garbage Centre – As featured in the Asian Empire Spec Book

6. Cabinet Components – The range of amazing interior components these days could make anyone who’s in the market for a new kitchen drool in excitement. At one time, interior cabinet components could only be purchased and installed by millworkers who produced custom cabinets. Today, store-bought kitchens now offer a decent selection of important interior components. They may not have the same variety, but the offerings are good. You can now get interior organizers for your corner cabinets, your garbage centers, and your drawers. If you’re not too fussed about getting the latest and greatest gadgets for your kitchen cabinets, the off-the-shelf offerings should suffice just fine.

Reno Bible helps you decide between a prefab cabinet or a custom one in today’s blog
Ikea Metal drawer

7. Drawer and Door Hardware – This is another area where prefab kitchens have come a long way. There was a time when I would have to specify soft closing hinges and drawer slides for my designs. Today, all store bought kitchens come with soft close hinges and drawer slides. If you’ve come across a store that doesn’t offer these, then you should consider shopping elsewhere. The other topic that comes up often is the interior finish of the drawers. Some millworkers take immense pride in the detailing and finishing of their drawers. There are many different types of drawer joints, and if your drawers are made of wood, you will have joint options.

These days, most store-bought and even custom millwork drawers are being built with metal sides and slides. Because these are interior elements that aren’t seen, it’s a good way to save money on your kitchen renovation. If you want the interior of your drawers to be built with wood and some fancy joint action, don’t forget to mention this to your millworker. This is not automatically included when going with custom cabinets.

Conclusion – In the end, there are some really great prefab kitchens to choose from. But bear in mind, you will have a limited selection of finishes and interior components. You will have to come up with creative ways to make your kitchen fit. You will need to tolerate the headaches of dealing with a store vs a custom millwork shop, but you may save quite a bit of money in the process. Renovations are stressful. If you’re up to the task of taking on more of the work in order to save some money, then prefabricated cabinets may be the right choice for you.

Stressed about planning your upcoming kitchen renovation? Explore our library of interior design styles and take the quiz to get your free design package. Find popular styles such as an eclectic rustic kitchen or modern timeless kitchen. Get inspired and get started today!

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