Custom cabinets -- apples to apples

The folks at LWi Custom Cabinets liked last month's blog post by Debra Blessman CPBD. (See Should you get competitive bids?) In fact, it spurred Joshua Cade to sit down and write a post for LWi's own blog about choosing a custom cabinetmaker. He agreed to let me re-publish it here for our Solluna Builders readers. Here's what Joshua has to say:


Always compare apples to apples. It’s an old saying, and one that still holds true.

In today’s faster and cheaper world, a lot of the most important decisions are based solely on price and how fast we can get it. Sometimes faster and cheaper is just that. When you’re comparing remote controls, you might stand there for 20 minutes looking at all the options before you decide. You pride yourself on finding the most bang for your buck, and move on. Maybe later you realize that you should have taken a little more time, and bought that one that was $5 more. We all do it, and usually end up buying twice.

Value and lowest price aren’t the same thing.

Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling your existing home, if you’re like most people, you have done your homework. You’ve looked at all the latest websites, schemed and dreamed, and come armed with a big book of ideas and plans. Taking all of those pictures and convenience hardware options and integrating them into your exact space isn’t easy. The cabinets in your home add beauty and function, and they get a lot of daily use, so it pays to take your time and make good choices.

Factors to consider when choosing a custom cabinet maker

Here are four factors to consider when choosing a custom cabinet maker:

Customer Service

Customer service is probably one of the most important considerations. If you’re waiting two weeks for a bid from one company, and another has already met you, provided samples and designs, and accurate pricing, then you shouldn’t keep waiting. The same way you’re waiting for a bid from that other cabinetmaker is likely how you’ll be waiting 6 weeks late on your cabinets, and then waiting again for them to come and do their punch work. There is a "serve" in customer service.

Find a cabinetmaker who wants your business and takes care of your needs and questions quickly and efficiently. Never overlook how you are treated just for the potential “savings."


What your cabinets are made out of and how they’re put together are important.

Do you want to save, say, $1,000 bucks but live with puttied nail holes that don’t match scattered across the face of your $15,000 dream kitchen?

Did you consider asking how the face frames will be attached? Get the cabinetmaker to explain it to you.

Are you painting your cabinets? Check your quote. Are you being quoted “paint grade” by one company and “paint grade maple” by another? Most people don’t know that what’s specified as “paint grade” is usually a combination of wood species and man-made pressed board that could never take paint evenly. “Paint grade maple” is just that -- solid white maple. The nebulous combination of “paint grade” might save you a little money up front, but what are you going to have to live with?

You’ve put so much time and thought into your dream kitchen, don't pinch pennies when it comes to quality.


The most beautiful cabinets in the world can still be ruined by a poor finish, and the ugliest can be made beautiful by a good finish. The finish is really what you see when you look at cabinets.

Another choice you must make is whether to have the cabinets finished by the cabinetmaker, or finished on the job site.  Are you really comparing the same things when you look at pre-finished and job-finished? The guys that painted your walls might charge less to put some stain or paint on your cabinets, but consider what that's going to look like in your home that you’ve worked so hard for. Wouldn’t you rather your project be finished in a dust-free controlled environment by experienced professionals using state of the art processes? You might save $500 having those painters “stain and finish” your cabinets, but who’s going to pay them to put the cabinets all back together when they’re through? How many options and samples do you think the wall painters will have for your unique finish? What is the finished product going to look like when you’re through, and isn’t it worth, say, an extra $500 to be happy with the finish?


Getting your new dream kitchen installed properly is probably the most crucial step. You’ve approved your designs and finishes and can’t wait to see what it all is going to REALLY look like.

Will the same craftsmen who designed and built your cabinets also install them? Some cabinet companies “sub out” their installs to other individuals whom you’ve never met and it's likely they've never seen your cabinets before the morning they arrive at your home.

Ask a lot of questions. Are you comparing a sub-out install to an employee install? Will your project manager be there to oversee the crew? Will the installers even speak your language? It might be a wash price-wise, but you can bet that if your cabinet price has installation as a separate line item, your cabinet install is being subbed-out to the lowest bidder.

Having the people who know your cabinets inside and out also install them not only saves you time, it also produces a better end result.


A better result is what you're looking for.  So please take your time. Ask lots of questions. Ask the cabinetmaker to educate you and explain about his materials and techniques. Make good choices and you'll enjoy your beautiful cabinets for many years to come.