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How to Decide Between Semi-Custom and Fully Custom Cabinetry

If you’ve started your search for new kitchen cabinetry, you’ve probably realized there are more choices than you ever thought possible. You’ve seen beautiful imagery of fabulous kitchen cabinetry and you’re hearing terms like semi-custom and fully custom thrown around on various websites.

So what’s the difference between semi-custom and fully custom cabinetry? And how do you decide which is right for your kitchen?

The truth is that either option might be the best choice for you.

The main difference between custom cabinetry and semi-custom cabinetry is that custom cabinetry is handcrafted in a shop like furniture and semi-custom cabinetry is manufactured in a production facility. Either approach can produce strong, durable and beautiful cabinetry that you’ll enjoy for many years to come.

Because they are built on a production line, semi-custom cabinets are built according to established standards and undergo rigorous quality control through each step of the construction process. While production translates into efficiency and cost savings, your choices will often be limited to the most popular sizes, finish options, wood types and door styles. Customizations are often permitted, but they come at a premium price.

When you choose custom cabinetry, your choices are virtually unlimited, which means you can have your cabinets built to fit your space perfectly, choose virtually any wood species, door style or finish you like. You’re also likely to receive more personalized attention because there are no predetermined styles or options. Because each cabinet is built individually and made to fit your space, custom cabinetry can come with a premium price tag, but custom cabinets don’t necessarily need to be high-end.

Of course, none of this is set in stone. There are situations where purchasing custom cabinetry turns out to be the more cost-effective choice and others where it’s far easier to outfit your home with semi-custom cabinetry and achieve a look that’s similar to custom options.

The key is to take your home’s unique features into consideration and balance that with your own style. Here are some factors to consider.

Cabinetry Sizes

If you’re upgrading the cabinets in an older home that doesn’t have standard-sized cabinetry, custom cabinetry might be a good option, especially if you want to preserve the existing cabinet layout. Custom cabinetry is also a good choice for very small or very large kitchens with unusual layouts, odd angles or other unique features since it allows you to make the best use of your available space. If you’d like to add unique cabinetry such as custom spice cabinets, cutlery storage areas, a coffee station or microwave area, custom cabinetry might also be the best choice.

The standard sizes of semi-custom cabinetry work well for many homes that were built with standard-sized cabinetry. They can also work well when the majority of your cabinetry is the same size. Semi-custom cabinetry is typically measured in 3″ increments, so any deviation from standard sizes often results in awkward gaps that can waste usable space.

If your kitchen layout is fairly standard, but you have a few unique cabinets, you may be able to purchase semi-custom cabinetry for the majority of your kitchen and have custom cabinetry made to replace those few oddly-sized cabinets. In these cases, be sure to price both semi-custom and custom options to see which works best for your needs and budget.


When choosing between semi-custom and fully custom cabinetry it’s important to consider your finish options, particularly the protective-topcoat that protects your cabinets from the ravages of every day wear and tear. Typically the topcoat used for fully custom cabinetry offers superior protection and will keep your cabinets looking better for a longer period of time.

Available Options

Do you prize the exotic and the unique? Do you want your kitchen to have that “wow” factor that everyone comments on when they first enter? Then you’ll likely be happiest with fully custom cabinetry that can be built with almost any wood species, door style and finish that you want. Custom cabinetry is also a great choice if you already have a certain look and feel in mind or know you want to use a certain stain, color or door style.

On the other hand, if you just want cabinets that are beautiful, durable and work well, you may be perfectly happy with the wide array of choices available in semi-custom cabinetry. You’ll find the most popular choices of wood species, door and drawer front styles and finish options in most lines of semi-custom cabinetry.

Lead Time

While both fully custom and semi-custom cabinetry is made to order, the lead time for semi-custom cabinetry is often more predictable due to a set manufacturing schedule. The lead time for custom cabinetry will often depend on how busy the custom cabinetry shop is at the time you place your order. The complexity of your project will also play a factor in how long your custom cabinetry order will take to complete.

If you need your cabinetry quickly, semi-custom cabinetry is likely your best option, but you may want to check with your custom cabinet maker just in case. If you place your order during a slower season, it might be possible to get fully custom cabinetry more quickly than expected.

Local Service

Most people end up choosing semi-custom cabinetry because they’ve visited a local dealer showroom. However, what they may not realize is that the cabinets they are viewing aren’t made locally. They are often manufactured on an assembly line in another state. If buying in your local area is important to you, custom cabinetry will be your best bet. Many cabinet shops handcraft their cabinets right in the local area and are able to offer pricing that’s competitive with many out-of-state semi-custom lines that need to be shipped to the customer.

Available Budget

We left your available budget for last because we don’t think that anything as important as kitchen cabinetry should be decided on price alone. Kitchen cabinets are like furniture for your kitchen and play a vital role in your daily life. Above all, you’ll want to choose cabinets you’ll be truly happy with and not let price be your only criterion.

It’s also important to point out, that while semi-custom cabinetry is often less expensive than fully custom cabinetry, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if you find yourself adding a lot of upgrades to any line of semi-custom cabinetry, those extra charges begin to add up quickly. In some cases it is best to get estimates for both semi-custom and fully custom cabinetry and compare the pros and cons of each before making a final decision.

As you can see there are many factors that go into choosing the best cabinetry for your home. The important thing to remember is that either semi-custom or fully custom cabinetry can help you create the beautiful, functional kitchen you’ve always wanted. Instead of focusing on the terms semi-custom or custom, pay more attention to getting what you truly want within the budget you have.

Looking for beautiful cabinetry for your kitchen? Red Rose Cabinetry can help you find the perfect cabinetry that suits your needs and budget. We offer both semi-custom cabinetry and our own line of fully custom cabinets. Visit our showroom in Lititz, PA to see a wide range of styles, colors, finishes, and hardware options you’ll love!