Every home has cabinets—in the kitchen, in the bathroom, and maybe in the laundry room or family room. When building a custom home on your land or a builder's, you can choose shop-built cabinets or job-built cabinets for these spaces. Both can be custom-designed to fit your space, but is one better than the other? Does one cost more than the other?
Your options for cabinets
Shop-built cabinets are designed and manufactured off-site at a shop that specializes in cabinets, then delivered to the home for installation. Some common perceptions (or misconceptions) about shop-built cabinets include thinking they're made of lower-quality materials and are mass-produced and cheap.
Job-built cabinets are made on-site from start to finish. Common perceptions (or misconceptions) about job-built cabinets include thinking they will be a better fit, have less wasted space, and be higher quality and more expensive.
So which of those are true? The reality is there are good and bad job-built cabinets and there are good and bad shop-built cabinets.
Benefits of shop-built cabinets
Since shop-built cabinets are made in a factory environment, there's a wide range of tools available that an on-site carpenter may not have. That means extra feature options, such as adjustable shelves, decorative finish details, and multi-panel doors.
Shop-built cabinets are also more precisely assembled, again because of the equipment available at the shop. You can get a fully custom design with the added benefit of precision manufacturing. Some shop-built cabinets come pre-finished, which is a much higher-quality finish than stain applied in the field. The downside is that scratches are harder to repair.
Benefits of job-built cabinets
Job-built cabinets can easily be changed during installation because the "factory" is on-site rather than across town or even in another state. Plus, a carpenter can hide any imperfections in the walls or floor more easily when working on-site.
Another benefit of job-built cabinets is the ability to build a cabinet to fit an irregular space. While shop-built cabinets can certainly be customized, there are some degrees of customization that work best with job-built cabinets.
The bottom line
In most cases, shop-built cabinets will be cheaper than job-built because of the buying power they have with the lumber supplier. The exact same cabinet will typically cost less if shop-built versus job-built.
There's no real quality difference between shop-built and job-built cabinets typically, but there are some features for shop-built cabinets that might not be available for job-built. Talk to your builder about which option is best for you.
Another note worth making: some clients ask us if they can buy their own cabinets and have us install them. Yes, you absolutely can do that, but buying power comes into play again here. We can always buy cabinets for a cheaper price than an individual because we buy a lot of cabinets.