Kitchen Cabinets: Custom or Stock?

 In Kitchen cabinets

When planning a renovation or a custom kitchen remodeling, your choice of kitchen cabinets is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make.

Kitchen cabinets are available in a wealth of styles and colours, and when you include your choice of ‘hardware’ – your cabinets’ hinges, doorknobs, and handles- it can seem like a truly dizzying level of variety that can be a little overwhelming, especially for those selecting a set of cabinets for the first time.

The most important starting point is to have a clear overall vision for the kitchen you want to create. From there, you’ll be able to make decisions about the style, type, and material of cabinet and the hardware that are necessary to execute your plan.

Kitchen Cabinet Options

When you’re deciding what kind of kitchen cabinets will best suit your new kitchen, you’ll first need to make an important choice – how much customization does your project require?

Those with an exacting design vision or a unique kitchen layout will always want to opt for custom-made kitchen cabinets. These are the highest quality option available, and are made to order based on your unique specifications and choice of materials. Not only will the design of your cabinets perfectly fit your aesthetic requirements, but you have the added advantage of also guaranteeing a kitchen that has the storage space to meet your entertaining and cooking needs. For example, if you’re planning on a chef’s-style kitchen with a spacious, modern look, custom white kitchen cabinets from painted hardwood could be a great choice.

The downside to this freedom and quality is of course increased cost, mostly because of the skilled labour required to manufacture the cabinets. If this presents a difficulty for your kitchen remodeling plans, then semi-custom or stock kitchen cabinets can be a great choice. While these products don’t offer you as much choice, they are easier on the budget.

Picking Quality Kitchen Cabinets

To ensure you’re happy with the final product, it’s important to select good quality kitchen cabinets. While cabinets have many different moving parts, here are a few important points to consider when choosing your new cabinets, whether you’re opting for custom or stock:

  • Material: This is probably the single most important factor to consider. The highest quality cabinets will be made from hardwoods such as oak or maple. No matter how the final product is finished, these materials look great and are incredibly sturdy and long-lasting. The next level of quality is considered to be all-plywood, while the last is medium-density fibreboard(MDF), an engineered wood product.
  • Back Panel Height: While less visible than the front of your cabinets, the back panel is no less important. The back panel provides your cabinet with much of its structural integrity, and cheaper cabinets without full back panels are prone to collapsing or warping.
  • Hinges: Soft-close hinges are considered the standard in the industry for high-quality cabinets. Not only do they prevent unpleasant banging noises when closing the doors, but they also prevent wear and tear, lasting longer.

Kitchen Cabinet Installation

As with every home project under the sun, some people opt to install their own kitchen cabinets themselves. However, it should be cautioned that it isn’t advisable for everyone. Let’s take a quick look at the installation process to understand why.

The first step is your cabinet layout. Whether you’ve opted for fully customized or stock kitchen cabinets, you will already have the dimensions of the kitchen and the cabinetry in hand. The ‘layout’ you’ll need to check is the final fit of the cabinetry into your actual space, which means adjusting the installation to the quirks of your kitchen to make sure that your cabinets sit together square and plumb and level.

You’ll need to carefully measure the dimensions of your kitchen again, and take care to note not only the high point of the ceiling but also any bumps or protuberances (even minor ones) along your walls or floor.

This is a critical process – imagine investing in a set of custom kitchen cabinets only to have them not sitting level at the end of the installation!

After this process is complete, the actual installation of the cabinets can begin, starting with any wall corner cabinets, onto the wall cabinets and finishing with any base cabinets located near the floor.

Given the expense typically associated with kitchen cabinets, and the need to get many small details correct, this installation is recommended for advanced DIYers only.


Kitchen cabinets are one of the most important components of a kitchen, giving it most of its character and feel. If you truly want to bring your design vision to life, custom kitchen cabinets are a great investment, particularly from long-lasting hardwood that will look great for decades to come. For those with less exacting needs, semi-custom or stock cabinets also do the job well, provided you know what to look for. Lastly, don’t forget to check all of the details during a cabinet install, down to your choice of cabinet hardware such as hinges, handles, and more.

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