Follow These 5 Tips to Choose New Cabinets

Gretchen Becker
Written by Gretchen Becker
Updated April 23, 2014
Homeowners can choose from custom, semi-custom and stock cabinets. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte member William H.)

Need more storage space or want to become organized? Cabinets often become the center of a kitchen, utility room, entertainment space or bathroom.

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Want more storage space or need to declutter? Cabinets, whether custom, semi-custom or stock, often become the center of a kitchen, utility room, entertainment space or bathroom.

Follow these five tips from highly rated experts on how to choose the best cupboards to obtain a functional space that fits your lifestyle.

Measure your space

Standard and most semi-custom cabinets come only in 3-inch increments and 12-inch or 24-inch depths. Custom cabinets come in any shape, size and depth desired.

When hanging space and cabinet measurements don’t add up, homeowners may choose to use fillers that create dead spaces or just decide to live with blank walls, says Steve Medeiros, owner of highly rated True Grain Woodworks in Oceanside, Calif.

“If you’ve ever tried to fill a wall with standard-sized factory cabinets, you can’t, and the compromises and limited choices start before you’ve even gotten off the ground,” says San Diego member Scott Marks, who hired Medeiros to install custom office cabinets in his home.

Set a budget

Custom cabinets can cost twice as much as stock, but if you can dream it, a cabinetmaker can build it. Semi-custom cupboard prices usually fall somewhere in the middle.

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Custom cabinets tend to come in all-wood varieties, whereas semi-custom and standard cabinets often have manufactured parts that might not be as durable, service providers say.

“In any of these worlds, if you stay with the standard sizes for the majority and customize those things you need to, you can keep your costs down,” says John Petrie, owner of highly rated Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Consider the function

What do you want to do with the space? Perhaps your goal is organization or maybe better access to your belongings or cooking ingredients.

“With pantries, it doesn’t have to be a standard three- or four-shelf pantry,” says Allison Stein, office manager at Louisville Cabinets & Countertops in Kentucky. They can have double French doors, pull-out trays, soft closures and custom sizes.

Taste the difference

Will your cabinets hang on display in your kitchen for all of your guests to see, or will they serve a functional purpose in the form of a bathroom vanity that few ever view? Do you want gray, blue, black, or can you live with standard white, espresso or cherry?

Those questions might lead you to one type of cabinet over another, experts say. “A lot of bathroom vanities are great for semi-custom cabinets,” Stein says. “Most people don’t pay too much attention in powder rooms.”

Check your timetable

Pre-made stock cabinets sit on store shelves or in a warehouse ready to take home at purchase. Semi-custom varieties can take up to two weeks for installation, and customers can wait a month or two for custom cuts.

Also consider how long you’re staying in the house. If it’s just for a year or two, a stock cabinet will save you money down the road.

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