Buying Cabinets? – Big Box Stores vs Local Cabinet Showrooms

Cabinet IQ, working process

So you’re ready to start a kitchen remodel and need to find a location to purchase cabinetry and countertops. A natural thought is to visit your local big box store like Home Depot or Lowes. This is where you usually buy your home improvement supplies so it’s probably your first thought, right? When remodeling the heart of your home, we urge you to consider otherwise. In this article, we will describe the differences in products, pricing and customer service experience between a local cabinet store like Cabinet IQ and the big box stores. This factual information is gathered from both client feedback and discussions with former big box kitchen designers.

Differences in Cabinet Store Customer Experience

A big box store does have nice cabinet samples and rotating kitchen designers on staff. Typically the designers don’t work 9-5 full-time and are hard to reach when discussing your project. When designing kitchen cabinet layouts, there are usually several design revisions. Going back and forth on email is a frustrating process when you can’t reach your designer directly.  When you don’t have a direct line to your designer and don’t know their work schedule, it’s tough to design what your dream kitchen looks like. In a big box store environment, you’re one of dozens of people in line to get the designer’s attention. You may not get the thoughtful kitchen cabinetry design you’re expecting. It’s no wonder you’ll feel like just a number. The designers are just cranking out free designs trying to meet a quota.

Another important point to note is that the designer from the big box store will never step foot in your home. When discussing your project and learning your wants, needs and style, having your kitchen designer visit your home is crucial. Due to lawsuits a long time ago, kitchen designers at Home Depot and Lowes are no longer allowed to visit your home. Big box companies use subcontractors to measure your space and they pass along the bare bones kitchen measurement information to the designer. The designer takes these measurements and designs a kitchen they think is best for your home. It may or may not be what you had imagined. They may design the base cabinets to be longer than you imagined in your head. 

With a local cabinet store, the kitchen designer will visit your home to gain a complete understanding of your project and what you’re looking for. It’s your opportunity in person to discuss lazy susans, pantry cabinets and where you want the wall cabinets. They’re also more available by telephone and email during the week. You’re able to set up design appointments in the cabinet showroom with uninterrupted time focused on your project. In the showroom, the kitchen designer can explain the difference between stock and semi-custom cabinets and show you all the finish options and storage solutions.

In the big box stores, constant interruptions will occur as the designer is responsible for picking up the phone and answering questions for window shoppers as they rudely interrupt your meeting. Big box kitchen designers also have additional store responsibilities that pull their focus away from your project. An example is re-stocking toilets on the shelves of the plumbing aisle (This is a true story from a former Lowe’s employee).


Concentrated and personalized attention for you and your remodel project is what you’re seeking. A local cabinet company like Cabinet IQ wins in the customer experience category by a landslide.

Differences in Pricing and Products

When it comes to cabinet pricing, the linear ft price at the big box stores needs to be taken with a grain of salt. They purposefully display the cabinet price for the cheapest particle board boxes, least expensive door styles and 30” upper cabinets (42” upper cabinets are normally used in kitchens these days). Most shoppers don’t know this until it’s too late. When it comes to getting the actual price for your kitchen, it’s often 30-70% more than you were expecting. Sticker shock is never a good thing and ruins your experience. 


Big box stores and local companies usually both carry  national brands like Kraftmaid cabinets. However, there is a difference in the specific lines that are carried. The big box stores carry Kraftmaid Core while local cabinet companies like Cabinet IQ carry Kraftmaid Vantage. Here are the main differences: Kraftmaid Vantage comes standard with all-plywood construction while Core is particle board. If you want to make Core into all-plywood, it’s an upcharge. Vantage cabinet box sizes can be customized to fit your kitchen size while Core customizations are very expensive. Vantage cabinets come with finished painted interiors for open shelving and glass cabinets. This again is a huge price increase when choosing Kraftmaid Core at the big box stores.

A local cabinet company will shoot you straight from the get go and will provide you with the info you need to make the smart choice for your remodel. Here is a guide on The 10 Factors That Affect the Price of Cabinets so you can learn what to expect.

Differences in Installation People and Processes

When it comes to cabinet installation, the box box stores outsource ALL of their installations to third party contractors. While these subcontractors do have to pass background checks and drug screenings, there is a wildly varying skill level amongst them. Rolling the dice on who comes to remodel the heart of your home is not a safe bet. Subcontractors also work on their own schedules and at their own pace. This makes it very difficult to know your kitchen remodel project schedule. It’s then hard to plan the other work that’s needed in your home including countertops and tile backsplash. 

With local cabinet companies like Cabinet IQ, full-time installers are a crucial part of the team. They’re well-trained not only in their installation craft but in the business systems and processes that make your remodel project run smoothly. These valued full-time staff members are polite, courteous and follow strict guidelines on professional processes. 

If an issue arises during a 3rd party Home Depot or Lowes install, you could wait hours on the phone and days or weeks before a solution and timeline is provided to you. Large companies with layers of red tape create an inefficient communication process. The full-time installers at Cabinet IQ work in harmony with the internal operations team so your project starts and ends on the dates agreed upon. If an issue arises during an install with a local cabinet company, you have a direct line to the operations team who will quickly work on a resolution. With the heart of your home torn apart, you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of disputes between a 3rd party contractor and Home Depot department manager.

Which Choice is Best For You?

In summary, consider the overall experience you’d like to have for your project. If strong communication and personalized attention is what you’re looking for, a local cabinet company like Cabinet IQ is a great fit for you. Some may think the big box stores are cheaper than local companies but it’s simply not true either. With one visit to Home Depot and Cabinet IQ to compare, you’ll understand why Cabinet IQ is the highest-rated cabinet company in Central Texas. We don’t exist to just sell you cabinets, we exist to be the hero of your kitchen remodel journey. We look forward to seeing you in one of our showrooms soon.

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