Value of Custom Kitchen Cabinets vs. Prefabricated Cabinets (RTA Cabinets)

Should I Choose Custom or Prefab/RTA Cabinets for My Kitchen?

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the cabinets are the soul. They serve as both a decorative and functional piece in a kitchen, and your buyers may shy away from outdated cabinetry. This is why you want to be sure new cabinets are part of your dream kitchen remodel.

Now, you just need to decide: are custom kitchen cabinets a better option than prefabricated kitchen cabinets?

Here are 7 areas to consider when comparing custom cabinets and prefabricated cabinet options:

  1. Uniqueness
  2. How Well They Fit Your Kitchen Space
  3. Choice of Appearance
  4. Eco-Friendly
  5. Quality & Longevity
  6. Amount of Storage Space
  7. Add-On Features

Note: Prefabricated (prefab) cabinets are sometimes called RTA cabinets (“RTA” stands for “ready to assemble”), standard cabinets, or stock cabinets. Basically, any kind of cabinet can be bought in a store (such as IKEA, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, etc). In this article, each of those terms means the same thing.

Stock Cabinets Example Photo
Your cabinet choices will stick with you for years to come (yikes!)

Custom Kitchen Cabinets vs Prefab Cabinets (7 Differences)

1. Uniqueness

There are many homes that still have stock cabinets, which do not offer a lot of uniqueness. You are choosing from a catalog that many other homeowners have already browsed through. While some homeowners are okay with not standing out from the crowd, many others enjoy having a kitchen that looks different from other kitchens. On top of that, it is going to be harder for custom cabinets to go out of style because they have their own look.

Summary:

  • Prefab Cabinets: 
    • Aren’t unique, but that might not matter to you
    • Don’t stand out from the crowd
  • Custom Cabinets:
    • Unique look guaranteed
    • Stand out from the crowd


2. Fit Your Kitchen Space

According to Zillow, custom kitchen cabinets are part of an upscale major kitchen remodel, as you are changing the entire cabinetry, rather than just the hardware or fronts. This is great because you can ensure your new cabinets fit your space. Stock cabinets only come in certain sizes, and this can create an awkward look or an inconvenience in your kitchen. This is not a problem with custom cabinets because you choose the height, length, and width.

Custom Cabinets Conform To Fit Your Space
Customize cabinets to fit your space

Summary:

  • Prefab Cabinets: 
    • Fine if you’re just changing the hardware or front of the cabinets
    • Only come in predetermined sizes
  • Custom Cabinets:
    • Come in any size
    • Are made to fit the exact dimensions of your kitchen

3. Choice of Appearance

You have total control over the appearance when you opt for custom cabinetry. You are the one choosing the solid wood it’s built from, the finish, drawer fronts and overall style. Stock and semi-custom cabinets offer limited (or no) choices for appearance. You are running the risk of these cabinets being outdated by the time you are ready to sell your home.

You’ll probably sell your home at some point. By choosing an appearance that is always in style or easily customizable, it gives buyers another incentive of buying your home.

Appearance of custom cabinets vs stock cabinets
Cabinet style options don’t have to be limited

Summary:

  • Prefab Cabinets: 
    • Limited choices, which is fine for some folks
    • Higher risk that they’ll quickly become outdated
  • Custom Cabinets:
    • Unlimited choices
    • Low risk that they’ll quickly become outdated

4. Eco-Friendly

If you are someone who lives an eco-friendly lifestyle, or you want to appeal to eco-friendly buyers, you want to create an eco-friendly kitchen. There is no guarantee that stock or semi-custom cabinets are made of eco-friendly materials. When you opt for custom kitchen cabinets, you can choose recycled or eco-friendly materials for them. One idea is to choose local materials to decrease your carbon footprint.

Summary:

  • Prefab Cabinets: 
    • Limited choices of eco-friendly products
    • Most are made halfway around the world
  • Custom Cabinets:
    • More choices to use recycled or eco-friendly materials
    • Can be locally-sourced


5. Quality & Longevity

According to The Washington Post, many stock cabinets are similar to those you would find on a store shelf. The materials may be of lesser quality, or they may have limited storage options, and both issues can decrease your value in the long run.

By choosing to customize, you can choose high-quality materials for your cabinets. The cabinets are also handcrafted by a professional with years of experience. Wear and tear are inevitable in any piece, but it is less of an issue in custom cabinets because they can be made of the highest-quality materials available.

Custom cabinets in this island allow for extra storage space

Summary:

  • Prefab Cabinets: 
    • Typically made from fiberboard or cheaper-quality wood
    • Usually made in a factory (assembly line) and can have poor workmanship
  • Custom Cabinets:
    • Can be made from any high-quality wood you choose
    • Handcrafted by professionals

6. Amount of Storage Space

Stock, or base cabinets often feel like a “one-size-fits-all” afterthought for kitchens. They are standard cabinets for cups, dishes, and cookware. You may find there is not enough cabinet depth for your spices, cutlery, or special dishes, or even ideal room to swing the cabinet doors open.

Investing in custom-made cabinets is a great way to increase the function and value of your kitchen. Remember, you are choosing cabinets that fit your needs. You can design cabinets for organizing your spices, storing your cutlery and even displaying your fine china. Pair these cabinets with cabinets for standard kitchenware, and you are creating a kitchen that offers the best of both worlds.

Summary:

  • Prefab Cabinets: 
    • One size fits all
    • Limited to sizes available from the manufacturer
  • Custom Cabinets:
    • Designed to fit your specific needs
    • Unlimited storage capacity


7. Add-On Features & Capability

You have the option to add different features to your custom cabinets. Imagine cabinets that do not make noise when you close them. All you have to do is design your cabinets with soft-close hinges. You can even make it easier to access items in a lower cabinet by adding a roll-out tray. What seems like simple features can make a big difference to your family or potential buyers.

Stock and semi-custom cabinetry are good choices if you need a quick and lower-priced option for your kitchen. However, if you do not mind waiting for high-quality craftsmanship, it is best to look into a custom kitchen remodeling service. Remember, Zillow states that top-of-the-line custom cabinets are part of an upscale major kitchen remodel, which is helpful in increasing your value.

Style meets practicality – all custom cabinets are designed to give you exactly what you want

Summary:

  • Prefab Cabinets: 
    • Cheap and quick
    • Limited to features available from the manufacturer
  • Custom Cabinets:
    • Upscale and handcrafted
    • Unlimited features available


Ready to Get Your Dream Custom Cabinets?

When you choose custom kitchen cabinets, you work directly with the cabinet makers to create your custom-made cabinets. You are getting pieces that are durable, spacious, and are your unique style. Contact one of our experts today, and start creating the custom kitchen you’ve always wanted. See Our Custom Cabinets

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our expert kitchen cabinet designers! We can talk over the phone or in person at our Central PA showroom. Nationwide delivery. Get Started Today!


Frequently Asked Questions

You have questions, we have answers. We understand the remodeling process may be overwhelming but working with RM Kitchens is easy. With over 50 years of experience, RM Kitchens is well equipped to help you create your vision, generate the design, and manufacture your own custom cabinetry.

What is the Main Difference Between Prefab and Custom Cabinetry?

Everything from what the material is composed of, to how the dimensions are created and for what purpose. Prefabricated – Usually made from composite wood and non-wood particles. Premeasured to fit ‘most’ cabinet spaces. Depth, width, and cabinet door opening arc are generalized and aren’t fit for every kitchen space. Custom – Made from solid wood of your choice, and to your specifications, capacity and space requirements. Room for all your dishes, spices and cooking equipment with how you use them taken into consideration.

How long does it take to create custom cabinets?

Custom cabinetry is a process that takes more steps than you’d think but is a prime example of a worthwhile wait. We will do onsite consultation, measurements and take care in hand crafting your product so that you can enjoy functional, stylish and timeless cabinetry for years and years.

Do prefabricated cabinets cost more than custom cabinets?

At the first point of sale, most likely not. However, if you use your kitchen regularly, you will be replacing them over and over again if you remain in the home for an extended period of time. It’s recommended to go with custom cabinets for your dream kitchen – after all, it’s your home so why would you settle for something that will go out of style or break in a few years?