Understanding Custom Cabinetry and What That Means

If you’re planning a new kitchen, bath, entertainment center or other room in which quality and craftsmanship will play a major role in your home then it is essential to understand the definition of cabinetry basics.  First off, custom cabinetry is defined as cabinetry which is built to the particular specifications, wants (such as color and style) and needs of the homeowner. That can be done locally or not as locally as cabinetry is constructed based on plans and drawings, not on the proximity of the customer to the manufacturer. Many homeowners aren’t aware that in addition to the integrity of the construction, the outer finish of a cabinet is what truly distinguishes its quality, value and longevity. Despite popular belief, a local shop most likely can’t provide the quality and custom product with lasting value.

Medallion Cabinetry - Loxley White Icing Cabinetry

Medallion Cabinetry - Loxley White Icing Cabinetry

onstruction methods can vary dramatically with custom shops just as they can with factories that mass produce modular. It can be seen in the quality of the material types, sizes and fasteners that go into the construction. On the surface it may appear that using a local cabinet shop creates an advantage by eliminating the middle mad and gives the homeowner easier access to the source but that is simply not true.

Ovation Cabinetry Custom Color. 

Ovation Cabinetry Custom Color. 

ost custom shops install the cabinetry unfinished, minus the doors and drawer fronts and may even finish the cabinets on site.  Unfortunately the water based finish will not hold up like a kiln dried wood with a conversion varnish baked on in a controlled dust free environment.  In California there is a CARB law (California Air Resources Board) that states you cannot use certain glues or finishes in the state of California, the result is a less durable water based finish that can be applied by local cabinet shops.

When it comes to the finish it starts with the kiln drying. The secret in a cabinet’s longevity and ability to hold up to daily wear and tear lies in its manufacturing process. The kiln drying is the defining line for both construction and finish. Because kilns are large, expensive machines, they are afforded only by large manufacturers.

Most local custom cabinet builders follow a finishing process that involves sanding a piece of wood, staining it once, applying two layers of top coat and drying it before the piece is assembled to the rest of the cabinet. The problem with such a simplified technique is the finish can easily flake off, scrape, dent and stain, no matter how intricate the design and details are, and despite what could be a rich, colorful and visually appealing exterior. Considering the fact that cabinetry has to endure so much wear and tear in a typical home, the durability of the finish is no trivial matter

 

By investing into these million dollar machines a uniform color is achieved by toning and spray-staining the wood, the investment into these machines clearly makes the difference in how your cabinetry will stand the test of time in your home. The wood is then baked again before a catalyzed sealer is applied. A hand sealer is wiped on, speck distressing is applied and matte or standard sheen varnish is sprayed on to create lasting durability and beauty. Next, a catalyzed oven-baked varnish top coat with ultraviolet screen inhibitors is put on to provide maximum resistance to scuffing, moisture, dents, fading from UV rays and most household chemicals. Surfaces are cleaned, an optional glaze is hand applied, and an additional finish coat is administered. The wood is baked one last time to seal in everything, followed by a final layer of top coat. 

Handless Cabinetry 

Handless Cabinetry 

 

The moral of the story? The next time you shop for new cabinetry for your kitchen or other area of your home, Consider the integrity of the finish itself, which can tell you a lot about the expected lifespan of one of the most significant home improvement investments you’ll ever make. 

When a customer asks me this question (usually in response to how high my prices are) I hand them a pre-printed index card with this on it: "Custom" means "built to project-specific dimensions, standards and specifications". We are designing and building to suit a specific situation/space for a specific client in a specific home or office.  "Stock" means "one size fits all, what you see is what you get". The storage cabinets available at local big box stores are an example of "stock" cabinets.This has always worked, and it clearly demonstrates the difference between us and the big-box stores.

At Signature Designs Kitchen Bath we partner with the finest cabinetry manufactures to offer you the customization's and warranties you expect for your home.