I am having my kitchen completely redone and now going back and forth with a
cabinet maker on the final design and layout. He is going to build all the
cabinets and drawers with 3/4" plywood, and the doors would be solid wood
which he would order from somewhere. I will go pick out any hardware and he
would install them and basically I can call out any size cabinet
(width-wise) to fit my space so this is the custom aspect of it.
However he has a limited number of door styles. The one I like is shaker
style, however I would like a wide rail (say like 5 to 6")
standard shaker rail:
wide shaker rail:
In fact I want it to be even thicker than that. He told me he does not have
a supplier for it, but I see it everywhere even at Lowes and Home Depot. My
thought is if this is custom, shouldn't the door style be cusotm too? I
cannot imagine a simple door like that is hard to make.
Second, I wanted all drawers to be a flat panel - no rail. Whether it is a
4" deep drawer or 14" deep drawer - all drawers no rail. He said the deep
drawers comes with rails, so here is another issue.
I think there must be quite a few cabinet makers here, if you cater to
custom cabinetry, to what degree do you customize?
Second question is, how would a customer be able to see the final color,
texture, construction etc...of a cabinet? Do you do a sample? Do you take
them to a previous client's home to visit? How do you do it (if there is
not a show room).
Third, how do you structure payment? What is the usual, customary and fair
payment, percentage wise how much you pay upon contract signing etc...and
how much more at what milestone?
Thanks in advance,
It sounds to me like you're getting semi-custom cabinets. There's nothing
wrong with that, if that's what you want. Your cabinet guy has apparently
made the decision that he farms out the doors (and drawer fronts?) and
concentrates on making carcases. It could be that he just doesn't like
dealing with solid wood, because if you don't make the doors or drawer
fronts (and you're making the drawers from ply), that only leaves sheet
goods. There are only so many places that make doors/drawer fronts, so
you're stuck with what they offer as far as choice of style goes. Is it
hard to build doors? No, but it can be time-consuming, which is why your
guy may have chosen to farm it out.
Honestly, I imagine you're paying a pretty penny for these cabinets. If you
don't like what this guy is telling you, I'm sure you can find another who
will make exactly what you want to spec. Of course, you might be paying
more than you're paying now.
As far as samples go, I'd probably arrange a visit to a former client,
because I doubt a small shop (which I'm guessing this is) has a lot of room
to be storing samples. When I have made stuff for other people, I take a
sample of the wood I'll be using, sand it down, and apply a test finish for
I'm not in the business, and I've never ordered custom cabinets, so I don't
know that is usual and customary as payment goes.
Thank Todd. I think you are right that he farms out the doors. He told me
I can spec any width cabinets so I asked him if it's ok to make a cabinet
width of 34-3/4" and he said sure, any width is fine. However that also
changes the door width he farms out so this means whoever he works with can
make any width door. If that's the case they should be able to make any
As far as samples I would like to see a sample of the door with the wood
species and color applied just so there is no misunderstanding. I don't
even mind paying for it. I also need to know if the drawers are constructed
dove tailed, nailed or stapled, what the drawer bottom is made of, how far
out the door swings (hinges) etc...so just a door is not really sufficient.
I went to Lowes and chose the top of the line cabinet and asked for the most
premium options with solid wood drawers, and still he is more than twice the
$ of the Lowes estimate. So I think I should be able to get a more custom
Not really. Places that make the doors mass-produce the rails and stiles
for the doors. Yes, they can cut them to any length, but doing a different
width is a whole different ballgame. These door places make their money by
being efficient, and setting up to cut a special rail and stile width
doesn't fall along those lines.
After reading your comments, I would suggest one of two things. Either a)
find yourself a *big* custom cabinet shop. They will likely have all kinds
of samples so you can look at their work to your heart's content. Be
prepared to pay 150-200% of the custom number you have now. Or b) go back
to Lowes. If you're dead set on getting cabinets that are not in 3-inch
increments, ask Lowes if you can order a custom width cabinet. I don't know
your kitchen layout, but if you were just going in between two wall, for
example, you would only need one custom base and one custom wall
cabinet...the rest could be standard. If you can get a custom width from
Lowes, it will obviously be more expensive, but it will be much less
expensive than your current quote.
First things first: Have you seen any of his work? DO NOT proceed unless
you do ... pictures will do as long as you can verify them, but hands-on is
better, particularly if you can talk to the owners at the same time. And
make sure you have references and actually talk to them.
An OPTION (which will indeed give you a "custom job", which you are NOT
getting in your original description):
Have him build and install the cabinet boxes to the agreed upon design (what
size and grade of plywood, face frame or Euro?)
_You_ order the drawers, doors and drawer fronts from a third/fourth party,
either on your own after getting the opening sizes, or with the advice and
counsel of the cabinet maker ... preferably the latter.
There are many companies (the Internet shrinks the world for you) that do
drawer boxes of solid wood, dovetailed like you want, if you would like to
get away from plywood drawers.
You may have to go with another company for the doors and drawer fronts,
maybe not. DAGS.
Here's one that does custon drawers to your spec and you can check on the
prices online for the drawer sizes you need ... I am not recommending this
company, just illustrating some of your online options:
VERY IMPORTANT: Consult with your cabinet maker beforehand and decide upon
door HINGES and drawer SLIDES, _BEFORE_ you order doors, drawers and drawer
fronts and make sure they are availabe ...THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT!.
VERY IMPORTANT: The SIZE (!!width, height and depth as well as the THICKNESS
of the drawer material!!) of your drawer boxes are VERY dependent upon which
DRAWER SLIDES you use ...THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT!
VERY IMPORTANT: the size (width and height) of the doors is dependent upon
which DOOR HINGE you use and the OVERLAY you want ...THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT!
Work out something with him ... he probably has a preferred payment
Not unreasonable for a "turn key" project is 1/3rd down, 1/3rd upon
installation of the boxes, final payment upon installation of the drawer's,
doors, drawer fronts, associated hardware, FINISHING, and your TOTAL
satisfaction ... but it's not a hard and fast rule. You want something you
both can live with that will be comfortable for you and will give him
incentive to finish the next step, including completing the job.
If he doesn't do the finishing, be sure to obtain some scrap from the
cabinet maker, and door/drawer front vendor, to use for finish testing.
It sounds to me as though you've already found that your guy can not
or will not customize to your specs. My suggestion would be to keep
looking. If you still want the guy to do the carcasses, look for a
door company on your own. Honestly, for the right price, someone will
build those doors for you.
Depending on your location you might also find a specialty shop that
will build and finish the cabinets to your specs. We have a couple
specialty kitchen shops in this area and we're not a large city. Both
are known for their high prices but also have a good reputation for
quality. I'm sure you could also find a cabinet shop that would build
the boxes and doors for you but might not finish or do the
installation. If you want to be your own contractor, these shops
should save you money.
We have painters follow us so I don't really have to deal with the
finish end. Normally they will pick up samples of the material we use
and work out color and finish style for approval by the customer.
As far as looking at the type of construction of the boxes, we would
take (or send) a customer to any number of jobs to see our product.
Any company should be able to do the same and give you references.
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