Kitchen Cabinets – Custom or Pre-made?

Drafting off my two recent posts on Ikea kitchen cabinets (here and here), I thought I’d continue the theme and talk about custom made cabinets.

As I mentioned, in all my rental houses, I use Ikea cabinets and couldn’t be happier with them. They look good, they stand up to renters and if something happened to them, they’d be cost effective to replace.

Now, in my own home where I personally live, I went the custom cabinet route. I have a very large kitchen and have a ton of cabinetry. Our contractor at the time recommended that we custom order from a company in Vermont that hand-makes each cabinet according to your kitchen’s specs and then, when the entire selection of cabinetry you ordered is complete, they ship them to you en masse and you have your contractor install them.

The contractor called this type of cabinetry a “little secret”. You see where we live it is quite fashionable (and very expensive, which I suppose is what makes it fashionable) to have a carpenter come to your house and handcraft the cabinets right at your home. Custom built-ins in the truest sense of the word! The cabinets I have are of the exact same quality and made to my exact request, but they cost a fraction of the price of having a carpenter come to your house and do it right on site.

kitchen cabs

My cabinets are gorgeous solid cherry wood. The drawers are tongue and groove construction. The “mechanicals”, the drawer slides and door hinges are first rate…self-closing drawers, hidden, silent door hinges and custom additions such as a wooden knife drawer and graduated in-drawer spice rack. A deluxe and custom experience if ever there was one! All at a fraction of the cost.

What’s the catch, you ask? Pure and simple…timing. My cabinets took a little over three months to merely construct. They then had to be shipped down to me from Vermont on a big box truck and then my contractor had to install them. For me, waiting three months was a-ok because there was so much else to do in my house, the kitchen wasn’t going to be done immediately any way. It actually worked to my advantage. The cabinets makers worked in Vermont while my contractor worked on the rest of the house in Connecticut. Less mess, less workers getting in each other’s way and an overall great experience.

In the interim of ordering the cabinets, we changed contractors on the project for myriad reasons. When the cabinets were delivered, the new contractor was on the case and helped the guys remove them from the truck. After they were all brought into the house, my contractor, actually a Master Carpenter by trade, sheepishly asked me about the cost of the cabinets. I showed him the bill of sale the truck driver had just handed me and my contractor’s eyes widened. He couldn’t believe they cost so little. He told me he thought he might start ordering them for some of his other jobs. He, as a Master Carpenter, was one of the guys that built the cabinets right at the home…the “expensive” cabinets. To say he might start buying them himself was quite a testimony to the quality of the craftsmanship. Seven years later, my cabinets look and work just as well as they did the day they arrived. I could not be happier.

Having cabinets that were exactly as I wanted them was important to me and worth the extra cost in my budget. Had this “little secret” from Vermont not presented itself, I would have had the cabinets made by a carpenter on premises for a lot more money. My kitchen is the epicenter of my house and my husband and I agreed early on in our renovation process that it should reap the lion share of the renovation budget.

If you are going to re-do your kitchen, either for yourself or re-sale, take a look at this ideabook from Houzz that explains cabinet construction and some of the aspects of custom vs. pre-made.

Good luck!


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