The Palmer Group

How Do You Spot A Decent Kitchen Cabinet?

To the trained eye of a Realtor/Builder like Commonwealth Estates Residential Brokerage it’s easy to spot the makings of a good kitchen cabinet.  If you know what to look for you can spot a stock cabinet kitchen, a semi-custom kitchen, or a true custom kitchen.  Below we give you a quick overview of the differences between the three and we also provide you with important information on the different things that will determine and drive the door and drawer pricing and slide components.

Stock Cabinets

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Stock Cabinet.

As the name suggest stock cabinets are already constructed and readily available usually being held at the manufactures warehouse.  The manufacture is not building the cabinets to your unique specs .  Instead the different cabinets are all sizes that meet industry standards.  I believe the widths of the cabinets start at around 9 inches and then they go up in increments of 3 inches.  Typically the largest you can buy is a 48 inch cabinet.  To accommodate sizes outside of the 3 inch increments, the manufacturer provides filler strips to close any gaps between the cabinet and the wall or an appliance.  These filler strips are an easy way to quickly identify a Stock Cabinet.

Because the cabinets are stock the manufacturer will usually have less to choose from with regards to wood species, door and drawer styles, and finish selections.  The manufactures tend to choose and carry only the most popular.  The costs for stock cabinets can vary depending on the style, finish, and amenities.   Like anything, there is really low costs options and then some pretty pricey options as well.  Buying stock does not necessarily mean you’ve bought cheap cabinets.


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The name of the game here is flexibility.  Partly stock and partly custom a customer has more options available to them.  When buying Semi-Custom expect all the offerings of stock cabinets with less of the limitations.  A step up from stock, semi custom cabinets also typically come in 3″ increments but they have the ability to incorporate certain custom aspects like increased or reduced depths.

Semi-custom cabinets have greater wood, door and drawer, and wood selections than stock.  Construction begins when an order is finalized, so modifications can be made as the cabinets are somewhat built to suit.  It may take a little while longer to get a semi-custom kitchen but the increase in the options and the more custom look might be worth the wait.

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Custom Cabinets

The only restriction with custom cabinets is – Your Wallet !

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The sky is the limit when it comes to the design and style possibilities that come with that of  custom cabinetry.

There tend to be two kinds of custom cabinets: Those made by a custom manufacture (such as Wood Mode) and those made by a local “custom” woodworking shop (like Dodd Woodworking)  Local cabinet makers produce the box, frame, and sometimes the drawers in their shop.  They will either fabricate the doors or order them from a company.  You may want to ask the local cabinet maker how much of it is done in-house.  Don’t assume that ordering the doors somewhere else indicates a lack of skill.  Most of the local companies in our area procure the doors from top Canadian manufactures who produce high-quality doors and drawers at a much better price point than doing it in the shop and it speeds up the whole process.

Another point to consider when going with a local shop is the finish.  Make sure to inquire about the finish process and make sure doors, drawers, and cabinets all get the same finishing treatment.  We have found the hardest finishes for the local shops tend to be the Painted finish.

Custom manufactures can make unfitted pieces, provide almost any finish color or door style, and make nearly any size cabinet you want.  If you have a color you want to match, a good custom cabinet shop can get you an exact equivalent.   Custom by far is the most flexible and most expensive of the three types of cabinetry and it can take up to 6 to 8 weeks for delivery.

Other things to Consider

Most furniture and cabinets use what is called “overlay” construction.  The design behind overlay is the door and drawer headers are in front of the cabinet’s face frame and are slightly larger than the opening in the frame, so they overlap or “overlay” them.

Inset cabinets are fundamentally different.  Inset doors and drawer headers are fitted inside the face frame in a precisely-sized opening.  “We use the inset door and drawer style almost exclusively in all of our remodeling and building projects.”  As you can imagine, this requires a higher level of precision craftsmanship in the manufacturing process meaning your going to be paying significantly more for this particular style.

Drawer construction

Drawers tend to constructed of solid wood or MDF and they are either framed or flat slab fronts.  The thing we look for in the drawer construction is how the drawer joints are joined together.  There are basically 3 different types of joints – Dovetail, Mortise-and-tenon, or but joints.

The manufactures will sometimes use glue to hold the drawers together or they will use staples and brads for additional support or to help let the glue set up.  All of these are acceptable forms of drawer construction and the one we prefer is the dovetail.  “In our opinion the dovetail joint provides the most strength.”


In our marketplace your basically seeing three types of door slides – the Full extension slides attach to the bottom or sides of the drawer and provide full access to the drawer interior.  Their ball-bearing system adds stability and strength and stronger versions can be used to store heavier items like files or cookware.

Ball bearing slides attach to the bottom of the drawer sides.  Usually standard on high-end cabinets they offer smooth and quiet operation.  Their concealed runners mounted to the bottom of the drawer don’t get as dirty as those mounted on the side.  They allow for a wider drawer box with more usable interior space.

Track and roller slides attach to the drawer sides and these we are seeing less and less of.  The slides attach to the drawer sides and their epoxy coated steel tracks and nylon rollers offer quiet operation but are less stable than ball bearing ones.

If you would like help with your next kitchen project or if you want an evaluation on a homes quality of kitchen cabinets please feel free to email us at [email protected] or call 508-596-7377.  Being a realtor/builder chances are we’ve probably seen the kitchen your interested in.

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We are Massachusetts real estate specialists. With over 30 years experience selling, buying, and developing homes we have earned our distinction in a crowded market of agents claiming to be #1. If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller meeting with us, contact us at 508-596-7377 or [email protected].


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