Kitchen and Bath

What Are the Different Kitchen Cabinet Grades and Which One is Right for Me?

There are so many options for kitchen cabinets these days that your choices are almost infinite. That’s why it’s so important to have a designer on your side who can help you navigate the options.

Kitchens come in different materials (like wood or MDF), door styles (for example Shaker, raised panel, or flat) and finishes (like stained or painted).

In this post we’re going to talk about grades, because this choice is so fundamental to your kitchen renovation project.


Roseglen Project, Copperstone Kitchens and Renovations.

What are the Grades of Kitchen Cabinets?

When we talk about ‘grades’ of kitchen cabinets, what we’re talking about is the manufacturing approach:

  1. Custom cabinets are built from the start to fit exact measurements.
  2. Semi-custom cabinets start from a wide range of standardized sizes, and then are closely adjusted to fit your kitchen.
  3. Stock cabinets are available in a smaller range of standard dimensions, starting at about 9” wide and increasing at 3” increments. To make them appear to fit the room, a lot of filler panels are generally needed between cabinets.

Here’s the important point some people miss: these grades aren’t always exactly the same thing as quality or cost.

For example, you could buy custom cabinets made from a top-of-the-line hardwood like maple, or in a less expensive wood. They’d still be made to fit for your kitchen, but the materials would make a difference in the final cost.

That’s the big secret about cabinet cost: custom and semi-custom cabinets can be a lot more budget friendly than most people think, and stock cabinets can be a lot more expensive. It’s all about the number of cabinets and drawers you need and the materials that go into them. (There are also variables like joinery type, but you get the idea.)

Let’s explore some of these grades in a bit more detail, so you can get an idea of what option might make the most sense for your kitchen.


We’ll make sure your cabinets work for your space. Wyndale Project, Copperstone Kitchens and Renovations.

1. Custom Cabinets

If you’ve got a small kitchen, every bit of storage space counts. That’s when you’ll want to choose custom cabinets, because you won’t have an inch of wasted space between the cabinet boxes. Your designer will be able to specify down to 1/16 of an inch the width, height, and depth of each box.

As you know, every kitchen is different and there are often cooking workflow issues that need to be solved during a kitchen redesign. That’s where fully customized cabinets really show their value.

When most people hear “custom cabinets” they think “expensive”. While custom cabinets can cost more, especially if you choose the best of everything, for some kitchens it can really be worth it. Once your designer learns about your space and your needs, they can help you decide if custom is a good idea.

2. Semi-Custom Cabinets

A good designer can select from semi-custom cabinet options so perfectly that you can’t tell that they’re not custom. For that reason, semi-custom cabinets are the Goldilocks solution for a lot of our clients.

You’re able to get almost as many creative storage solutions as with custom cabinets, and have a massive range of options for materials and finishes.

There may be the need to use an occasional filler panel to ensure good clearance for opening a door, for example, but these will be very minimal and only used when necessary for the proper operation of doors and drawers, or for symmetry. Our designers are excellent problem solvers and can arrange kitchen elements to make the best fit.

3. Stock Cabinets

These are the cabinets that you’ll get at big box stores.

We’ve found that they have some major downsides, so we don’t use them for our customers’ projects.

  • You lose a lot of storage space to filler panels when they’re arranged to fit the room.
  • They don’t have as many options.
  • They definitely aren’t as durable, as they’re often built from very cheap materials.

With stock cabinets the base price may look attractive, but once you start choosing options like hardwood the price will start approaching the same level as semi-custom or custom cabinets, without the value. If you’re looking for the perfect kitchen for your home, this is not the right solution.


In this small kitchen, our clients needed to include an eating area. Our designers made excellent use of cabinetry to provide the perfect solution. Fraser Project, Copperstone Kitchens and Renovations.

Copperstone Can Help You Create the Right Kitchen for Your Home

These days, your kitchen design options are almost limitless. This is a good thing, as it means there’s always a solution for any design problem.

But it creates a new challenge: how do you keep from being overwhelmed with all the choices? The answer is to have a great designer on your side who can help you realize your vision.

Copperstone is here to help. Our designers excel at innovative problem solving, so that your kitchen not only looks great, it is a joy to use as well.

I’m Ready to Start Creating My Perfect Kitchen