Semi-custom cabinets are essentially a ”custom” cabinet made to order specifically for your project. Most semi-custom cabinet vs custom cabinets manufacturers offers over 100+ different door styles and 75+ paint and stain options. If you’re dead set on a specific color, these cabinet lines also offer a custom paint program where you can pick any color that large paint companies like Sherwin Williams carry. Options like plywood boxes, soft-close hardware, and full-overlay doors come standard. If you’d like to save about 10% off your cabinetry, you can downgrade to a furniture board box.
Semi-custom cabinets are manufactured in American factories in a controlled environment allowing for the highest quality product. The cabinets arrive finished from the manufacturer so you don’t have to deal with cabinet painters (and a mess) like you would with custom cabinets. The engineered semi-custom finishing process can have over a dozen steps including pre-treatment, bottom coats, and multiple top coats. The manufacturers use UV-cure ovens and heat treatments to produce a baked-on, long-lasting finish. With such a high-quality cabinet product they can stand by, these vendors offer a limited lifetime warranty that is transferable.
A common misconception people have is that there isn’t flexibility in cabinet sizes and that large fillers are needed to make up for space in between cabinets or near a wall. This is simply not true. Semi-custom cabinets offer width, depth, and height modifications up to ⅛” in some lines. There isn’t much, if anything, that a semi-custom kitchen design can’t do compared to a shop-built design.
Custom Cabinets are what’s considered a “shop-built” cabinet and are made by local carpenters. These cabinets can vary wildly in cost and build quality. Typically, higher-end custom cabinets cost between 15-30% more than a semi-custom cabinet. Although the design is also fully flexible like semi-custom, these cabinets do come with a finish disadvantage.
Most local “shop-built” cabinet companies will install the cabinets unfinished and then spray your cabinets on-site. This can lead to highly variable finish quality due to uncontrolled conditions and also more time under construction in your home due to the extra step of spraying paint, letting things dry, and then cleaning up the mess. Most custom cabinet companies have not been around for decades like semi-custom companies and do not offer warranties on their products. If paint bubbles or a door warps over time, you’re SOL and stuck making these repairs on your own.
In summary, it’s important to be clear on what cabinet type you’re looking for and make the best decision for your home. If a high-quality product with a great warranty is something your home deserves, semi-custom cabinets are for you.