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The Differences Between Stock, Semi-Custom, and Custom Cabinets

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written by:

Carrie Barker


Are you completely confused when it comes to choosing the best cabinet type for new home build or reno?! Did you even know that there ARE different types of cabinets to choose from?! (It’s ok if you say NO! That’s why I’m here!)This post will help you understand the differences between cabinet types (stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinets) so that you can make the best decision for YOUR home!

I’ll provide a basic overview of each type of cabinet … as well as the pros and cons of all three. I’ll also let you know what I did in my own home, and what I recommend for YOU!

stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinets


Stock cabinets are ready-made cabinets that are pre-manufactured using standard measurements and styles. As you can imagine (by the word STOCK), they are mass produced and stocked in standard dimensions and options. These are the type of cabinets you can purchase from the big box home improvement stores.

What you see is what you get with stock cabinets! There are very limited options to choose from, and customization is not available at all (unless you do a DIY project after receiving your stock cabinet).

They are typically made from lower-grade wood and the interior of the cabinet is almost always made from particle board. 

There is GOOD NEWS too! Stock cabinets are the least expensive option AND they are ready-to-ship when ordered. There is typically no wait time for the cabinets to be produced.

PROS: affordable and quick delivery time

CONS: limited selection of styles, shapes, colors, wood type, dimensions, etc.

stock vs. semi-custom vs. custom cabinets

Stock Cabinets via Lowes


Semi-custom cabinets are basically stock cabinets with the OPTION for you to (slightly) customize some details (e.g. type of wood, choice of finish, cabinet depth, dimensions, etc.) without paying the high cost of custom cabinets.

While there isn’t much to explain about semi-custom cabinets, don’t let this fool you! They are a GREAT option … truly the best of both worlds!

PROS: able to modify some elements of the design without the cost of fully custom cabinets

CONS: can’t always get exactly what you want in terms of styles, sizes, colors, and wood types

hygge and west carved ogee black wallpaper

Semi-Custom Overlay Cabinets in Basement Bar

stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinets

Semi-Custom Overlay Cabinets in Basement Bar


Custom cabinets are the cream of the crop! They are built to YOUR specifications (i.e., measurements of your home) so you can get EXACTLY what you want! The choices and designs are absolutely endless … you can do just about anything you want as long as you find a cabinet maker that can recreate any photo of cabinets you show him/her!

Custom cabinets are created on a build-to-order basis and are typically made of the highest quality materials. While this is great, it also means that custom cabinets can take weeks or months to complete. Not good if you are on a time crunch!

They are certainly the most custom option available (obviously!), but they can be quite expensive. As with any product, however, there are various levels of custom cabinetry. There are ways to bring the cost down (e.g., stain rather than paint, less fancy door style, overlay instead of inset, etc.). Learn more about inset and overlay cabinets HERE.

PROS: the opportunities are endless so you can get exactly what you want. The materials are higher quality and the precise measurements meet your exact needs.

CONS: expensive and time consuming to create

white mudroom custom cabinets

Custom Overlay Cabinets in Mudroom

Kitchen Cabinet Storage

Custom Inset Cabinets in Kitchen

custom cabinet

Custom Inset Cabinet in Master Bathroom


We used custom cabinetry throughout the main levels of our home … some of it fancier (and more expensive) than others. That is, we did inset cabinets in the kitchen and Master bath but overlay cabinets in all other rooms. Learn more about inset and overlay cabinets HERE.

We opted for semi-custom cabinets in our basement (bar, bathroom, and built-ins). Let’s face it … it’s a BASEMENT so we didn’t see the need for custom cabinets. We DID want to have some flexibility in sizes and styles so we chose semi-custom over stock. We also wanted our basement design to be similar in caliber to our main living areas.

Although we were somewhat limited in our basement cabinet sizes, styles, and stains, we found beautiful options that honestly can pass for custom. WIN WIN!


stock vs semi-custom vs custom cabinets


As with ANY design decision, there is NO right or wrong answer … there are just personal preferences and, of course, varying budgets.

Two of the biggest factors to consider when choosing between stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinets are BUDGET and TIME FRAME! This is what the entire decision boils down to … what YOU can comfortably afford and how quickly YOU need your cabinets installed!

Stock cabinets are a great option if you have a limited budget and limited time frame for installation. Custom cabinets are a great option if you want EXACTLY what you want, and you have the budget and time to accomplish this. Semi-custom cabinets are the best of both worlds!

I hope you now feel less confused and more confident in choosing the best cabinet type for your home! Please sign up for my newsletter HERE so you are always the FIRST to know when I publish new home design and decor tips!

  1. I’m glad that your article brings up the fact that custom cabinets are the most beneficial for those who have the time and budget. I want to get new cabinets in my home. I’ll look into contacting a custom service provider to determine what the cost would be for their work.

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I designed my own custom home from the ground up, inside and out. A home that is cozy, comfy, laid out perfectly for the way my family lives, and makes us happy every single day. Oh, and did I mention I did this all without blowing the budget?! 

Yep, it’s true. I’ve been there, done that, and actually lived through it … and you will too. Pinkie promise!

a.k.a. Caroline on Design

I’m Carrie Barker.

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