What is the difference between stock, semi-custom and custom cabinetry?
Another part of kitchen cabinetry that tends to be misunderstood involves the terms stock, semi- custom and custom. Contrary to what many people think, these terms are not related to the quality of the cabinets but rather, how they are manufactured. Here are the basic definitions:
Stock cabinetry is pre-manufactured in specific sizes, typically 3” increments, with few options of “customization” other than some limited choices the manufacturer might offer. They are off-the-shelf products in a limited range of styles.
Semi-custom cabinets are like stock in that they’re also pre-manufactured but come with a wider array of options and sizes than pure stock cabinets. With semi-custom you have some ability to pick and choose various details to tailor an otherwise pre-built stock cabinet. In other words, you have some “customization” choices.
Custom cabinets are built to the customer’s specifications with no limitation on size, style choices, wood grade or finish. They may be fancy or they may be plain but the difference is that they are made to suit your specific design requirements, in whatever size, form, colour, and material you can get someone to produce for you.
If these definitions still don’t clear things up for you, consider the following analogy:
Stock cabinets are like the car you buy right off the dealer’s lot. You have to take it for what it is, no ability to choose any options or upgrades.
Semi-custom cabinets are similar to that car that you factory-order through the dealer, with the ability to specify colour, upholstery and other options. It’s still a Ford or a Chrysler and it is mass-produced, but you have a list of options to choose from and have some say in the makeup of the final product.
Custom cabinets are analogous to walking into the dealership and having them build a completely new car for you, per your design, from the ground up, with no boundaries whatsoever. And it doesn’t have to look anything like a Ford or a Chrysler.
If there’s anything to take away from this discussion on stock, semi-custom and custom cabinetry, remember that we are talking about the way in which the cabinetry is manufactured and not about the quality or decorative style.
Custom cabinets don’t necessarily imply quality cabinets. Hand-build, made-to-order cabinets can still be poorly constructed. Conversely stock cabinets that are mass produced in mass quantities and limited sizes can also be manufactured with solid construction and quality materials.