Custom-Built Cabinets vs. Stock Cabinets: Which is Best for You?

Whether building a new home or renovating an existing one, selecting cabinets for your kitchen and bathroom spaces can be quite a process.
With so many cabinetry options, you may struggle to decide which type best suits your needs, design style, and budget. At Master Design Cabinetry, our team is dedicated to helping you understand your options so you can make the right choice for your home. So, that’s why we created this handy cabinet quality comparison guide!
Before deciding on new cabinets, consider the advantages and disadvantages of custom vs. semi-custom cabinets vs. stock.

Comparing Cabinet Grades

Cabinets are categorized into three general cabinet grades based on their quality of construction: stock, semi-custom, and custom-built cabinets. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each so that you can get a better idea of which fits your lifestyle and preferences.

1. Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets, commonly referred to as builder-grade cabinets, are at the bottom of the cabinet-grade scale. They are mass-produced by manufacturers based on industry-standard measurements and designs.
  • 12-inch depth for wall cabinets
  • 24-inch depth for base, oven, and utility cabinets
  • Starting width of 9 inches increases by 3 inches up to a maximum 48-inch width
Because they are made in standardized sizes and styles, stock cabinets have little to no room for customization. They come with a very limited selection of designs, finishes, and accessories, making them far less versatile than custom and semi-custom options. Additionally, the inability to alter measurements for stock cabinets makes them a less-than-ideal choice for rooms with unique layouts.
Although stock cabinets aren’t easily personalized, they’re the most budget-friendly and readily-available option. You can find them at any home improvement center, often pre-assembled and ready for installation, for an average price of $100-$300 per linear foot.
That said, we want to caution you that you generally get what you pay for when it comes to cabinets. While some manufacturers use higher-quality building practices and materials, most stock cabinets are made from low-grade wood or toxic, laminated particleboard and show signs of wear much sooner than higher-grade options.
So, if you opt for stock cabinets, be sure to do your research before selecting a brand.

Advantages of Stock Cabinets

  • Affordability: Most cost-effective cabinet grade for those with lower budgets
  • Availability: Ready for installation immediately or within a few days

Disadvantages of Stock Cabinets

  • Low Versatility: Limited size, design, accessory, and finish options
  • Not Durable: Lower-quality materials do not last as long

2. Semi-Custom Cabinets

Semi-custom cabinets are a great mid-range option if you’re looking for a bit more personalization without breaking the bank.
Much like stock cabinets, semi-custom cabinets are manufactured with standard sizes and style guidelines, but they allow for some customizing. Semi-custom cabinets range from stock cabinets with custom doors to made-to-order cabinets chosen from a manufacturer’s catalog.
The width and depth of semi-custom cabinets are standardized, but the dimensions can be adjusted by one inch compared to three inches for stock varieties. Because the dimensions are more flexible, choosing semi-custom cabinets instead of stock reduces the amount of wasted space in your kitchen or bathroom.
You also get a greater selection of materials, door designs, colors, and storage features with semi-custom cabinets to better fit your style. The customizability will cost you more, though, as semi-custom cabinets cost $150-$650 per linear foot on average.

Advantages of Semi-Custom Cabinets

  • Broader Selection: Greater say in design style, size, and materials
  • Mid-Range Cost: Customization without the custom price tag

Disadvantages of Semi-Custom Cabinets

  • Limited Options: Still restricted as far as what options you can choose from
  • Varied Quality: Semi-custom cabinets can still be built with low-quality materials and techniques

3. Custom-Built Cabinets

If you want complete control over what your cabinets look like, we recommend that you opt for custom cabinetry.
The highest cabinet grade, custom cabinets are one-of-a-kind and uniquely tailored to fit your space and design specifications. These made-to-order cabinets offer limitless possibilities in regards to size and style.
Working closely with your cabinetry maker, you have the flexibility to choose the exact measurements, design, material, finishes, and accessories to suit your space. Custom cabinetry solutions are especially ideal for kitchens and bathrooms that require irregular configurations.
Having precise measurements also reduces dead space and eliminates the need for cabinet fillers, allowing you to fully utilize all available space in the room. You can also request special features and storage solutions for increased functionality, such as built-in appliance garages, drawer organizers, and pull-out trash cans.
With custom-built cabinets, you’ll get a higher-quality product that’s unique to your home, but they come at an expense. Depending on the cabinetmaker and materials chosen, custom cabinets cost an average of $500-$1,200 per linear foot. And because they’re crafted by hand, custom cabinets typically take 10-12 weeks to complete.
That said, if you have the time and budget, we’re confident you’ll find the price and wait to be well worth it.

Advantages of Custom-Built Cabinets

  • Unlimited Options: Cabinets can be crafted to your exact specifications
  • Highest Quality: Typically made with better-quality materials and building practices

Disadvantages of Custom-Built Cabinets

  • Higher Cost: Much larger investment than lower-grade cabinetry options
  • Longer Lead TimeDesign and build process takes a minimum of 10 weeks

Are Custom Cabinets Worth the Money?

According to the 2022 Houzz Home Trends Survey, 23% of participating homeowners splurged on new cabinets in 2021. Why? Because cabinets are one of the most important features in your home, impacting both overall functionality and appearance.
So, if you’re comparing custom vs. semi-custom cabinets vs. stock and wondering if custom cabinets are worth the money, here are a few things to consider.

Why Custom Cabinets Are a Worthy Investment

There are a few significant reasons why custom-built cabinets are worth the extra cost.

Quality & Durability

Custom cabinets are built from higher-grade wood species by experienced craftsmen. And every aspect of the cabinet, from screws to shelves, is made from high-quality materials that can last up to 50 years if treated properly.

Precision Craftsmanship

The attention to detail and expertise that custom cabinet makers possess are unparalleled. While there are good quality stock and semi-custom cabinets available, they don’t come anywhere close to what you can expect from a skilled craftsman.
The time and labor spent constructing the cabinets are notable. Custom cabinet builders take their time to ensure that you get the exact size and look that you want.

One of a Kind

Unlike stock and semi-custom cabinets, custom cabinets are built specifically for you—leaving you with a high-end product that is uniquely yours. If you can dream it, we can do it!
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not custom cabinets are worth the money is entirely dependent on your needs and budget. But if your funds and timeline allow for it, we recommend opting for higher-quality made-to-order cabinets that can withstand decades of use.

Interested in adding custom-built cabinets to your home? Our Sales & Design team can help you explore your options. Schedule a free consultation today to get started!