Manufactured Cabinets VS Shop Made Cabinetry

Learn the difference between large manufacturers of kitchen cabinetry versus local shops.

If seeking a custom or semi-custom kitchen cabinet with a luxurious look and feel that will last a lifetime, consider a large manufacturer. They have the equipment, skills, and flexibility to craft cabinetry you'll fall in love with.

When most people hear “custom cabinets,” they immediately think of a local shop turning out high-end expensive cabinetry. In fact, large factories turn out custom cabinets, too and they are often superior to the cabinets made in small shops. The quality, finishes, and construction of the cabinets themselves, along with the stability, reputation and consistency of the factory are the most important factors that homeowners need to understand and consider when choosing cabinets. Where they’re made is secondary to high-quality craftsmanship and excellent customer service.

Manufactured or Locally Built Cabinetry?

Over the last 40 years, the kitchen cabinet industry has gone through a big transformation. From more durable finishes to environmentally friendly options, factory-made custom cabinets have become extremely popular. Here’s a brief comparison of what you can expect from custom cabinets made at a local shop versus in a factory.

Cabinet Finish

Factory make kitchen cabinets offer some key benefits:

  • A chemical baking process creates a highly durable finish that resists staining from most foods and liquids.

  • Finishes are done in a dedicated area with positive airflow, crucial for keeping dust out.

  • Humidity is controlled with misters, ensuring that the air and wood have optimal moisture content.

  • Doors are sanded with a combination of hand and equipment techniques for the smoothest possible surface.

In contrast, small local cabinet makers tend to:

  • Let finishes air drive, meaning they often never fully cure. This means the surface may absorb grime and food, which gives them a gummy look and feel.

  • Finish in a room at their shop or at the job site, both of which are exposed to high levels of dust.

  • Use orbital hand sanders and hand paint sprayers, which prevent achieving the same depth, consistency, and durability of factory finished cabinets.

The bottom line: Unless the local cabinet shop is equipped with a baking booth, its cabinets will not have the same quality as factory-finished ones.

Cabinet Materials & Quality

Top-quality kitchen cabinets are made like good furniture – with the best materials and highest standard of care. The belief that factory made custom cabinets are of a lower quality is far from the truth.

A large cabinet manufacturing facility:

  • Uses the best industry hardwood plywood, featuring high-end panels and face veneers.
  • Uses extremely durable particleboard or MDF.
  • Measures wood for moisture content before it’s received and monitors indoor humidity.
  • Can make doors in any wood or finish you want.

Small cabinet maker:

  • Do not take advantage of the benefits of particleboard or MDF.
  • Use often lower grade multipurpose materials.
  • Do not offer inset cabinet construction because they can’t control the moisture content well enough.

Design and Availability

True custom cabinets offer you complete flexibility in your project designs and give you a fitted look that doesn’t come with stock cabinetry. The major design difference between manufactured and locally built cabinets include:

  • Large manufacturing facilities have a larger pool of expert talent and are better equipped to give you are greater number of cutting edge design choices. They can also custom make decorative pieces and often have a larger variety in stock.
  • Local shops tend to have less design experience and training and often can’t show you a wide variety of displays and samples.

Delivery and Warranty

Large manufacturers can offer guaranteed lead times when you order, while local shops can’t always guarantee their delivery date. Because they’re smaller, setbacks often occur if a local shop owner or employee becomes ill or otherwise incapacitated. Other times, they can meet the deadline for cabinet delivery, but without the doors and drawer fronts, which are completed after installation. And manufacturers tend to offer lifetime warranties for their cabinets. Local shops may offer warranties, but what happens if they go out of business?

Finally, if you’re concerned about the environment, larger manufacturers are typically more “green,” with policies regarding waste reduction and recycling as well as energy conservation. Many use recycled or renewable materials in their products and processes. Most local shops can’t feasibly sustain earth-friendly practices, lacking the needed resources to offer a full line of green cabinetry or finishes. When you add together all the benefits of manufactured custom cabinetry, it’s easy to see why homeowners who choose them enjoy their decision every day.


About Toulmin Kitchen & Bath Design - We're West Alabama's award-winning, premier kitchen and bath showroom. We're experts who are known for a design-build process that makes the construction process stress-free. Contact us to schedule an appointment for a design consultation.