J Carsten Remodeling has installed both box cabinets and full custom cabinets. Here are some differences:
Box cabinets, called so because the cabinet comes in a box, come in certain sizes (usually 3″ increments from 9″ to 48″ in width). They are usually made ahead of time and stocked by a distributor, in a box, on a shelf, ready for sale. Box cabinets are also usually made of thinner components to make them less expensive. Thus they often need “center stiles” (a divider that divides the middle of double-door cabinets to strengthen and support the overall box and shelves). Box cabinets also typically use less expensive hinges and drawer slides.
Customizable Box Cabinets
Customizable box cabinets are essentially box cabinets that can be ordered cut down in depth from the standard depths available at an extra charge. They are typically made to order. But in some cases they are essentially stock cabinets, where only the customized pieces in the order are made to order. Customizable product lines also typically encompass a greater variety of cabinets and some double-door cabinets available with no center stile (for roll-out shelves and other accessories). They might also make a few standard angled and/or radiused cabinets for use on the end of a run, where conditions are tight.
Custom manufactured cabinets can be ordered to any dimensions as long as they do not exceed the limits the manufacturer lists in their catalog, typically 48″ wide, and 96″ high. Maximum depths vary, depending on the type of cabinet involved. Designers can also order changes in the sizes and heights of doors and drawers, as well as customizing the mounting heights of ovens and other built-in appliances to suit the buyer. They typically use only the highest quality hardware and are made of thicker materials. So they are sturdier.
All customizations in manufactured cabinets carry an up-charge, and manufacturers typically base their standard offerings on basic cabinets very similar to stock cabinet catalogs. However custom manufacturers also offer many MORE cabinet types and accessories than box cabinets.
There the cabinets are designed and made in a local cabinet shop. There are fewer limitations on sizes with local custom. The only definite ones are limitations on the sizes of materials, like sheets of plywood and sizes of the raw wood boards. Cabinetmakers can also do things like matching boards for pattern and color consistency that manufacturers find difficult. They are also free to use both thinner and thicker components, and more or less expensive hardware to meet a budget.
Cabinetmakers also routinely build their cabinets in what they call “runs“. This is building what may be an entire wall of base or wall cabinets as one long cabinet. This cuts the cost of face frame material a bit and makes the spaces between doors consistent.
Box- Typically the cheapest upfront cost and thus are typically installed in lower budget situations. The best applications are for straight forward areas without tricky areas or angles that might require special cabinets. These cabinets are usually factory finished.
Customizable Box– Used in kitchens when the homeowner wants to maximize space in tricky areas or angled spaces. Typically the installation will involve a combination of custom and stock sizes. These cabinets are usually factory finished.
Manufactured Custom– Used in middle to high end kitchens. The cabinets are built to fit the specific area and may include special moldings, space for specialty appliances, or other customizable areas. These cabinets are usually factory finished.
Local Custom– Custom cabinets used to cost more than the box cabinets in nearly all cases. But lately, custom cabinets are closer in price than you might expect. Thus, you will see custom cabinets in all budget ranges. They are also used in applications where the cabinets are to be finished on site. They can be finished ahead of time in a local paint shop before installation.
Next time, I’ll go over which I prefer depending on the situation.
J Carsten Remodeling