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Mike Ambrose

Cabinets: Modular vs. Semi-Custom vs. Custom

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Cabinetry in general can take up a large portion of your renovation budget and can make a major impact on planning your project.  Whether you are looking for the WOW factor or simply looking for a quick face lift, knowing the different cabinetry options can help in making your decisions.  Modular, semi-custom, and custom cabinetry are the three basic options for cabinetry, each with advantages and disadvantages.

Modular cabinetry can be a great solution for those with a limited budget and looking to keep things simple.  Modular cabinetry is typically going to be defined as pre-made and sometimes referred to as stock or RTA (ready to assemble).  Components of the cabinetry such as cam lock screws and boxes are mass produced and can often be used universally throughout the catalog.  While appealing to the wallet, modular cabinetry can often handcuff your creativity and limit your design selections.  The major disadvantages typically start with the amount of options that are offered; mostly catalog sizes and limited styles/finishes.  Homeowners working with a non-standard layout or looking for unique features often struggle with modular cabinetry lines.  Typical turnaround times for modular cabinetry is less than that of custom or semi-custom due to the pre-manufactured components and simpler assembly requirements.  Homeowners will often design, order, and install their own modular cabinetry in order to maintain the limited budget and keep a hands on approach to their remodel project.

Combining the budget appeal of modular with the flexibility of custom, semi-custom cabinetry will offer the design options and budget most homeowners are looking for.  A semi-custom cabinetry line, although manufactured, will allow homeowners to select door style, wood species, finish, etc.  The catalog of features and sizes should allow the designer and homeowner to fully control the style and functionality that fits each induvial project.  Stock sizes and standard features can then be combined with available modifications and upgrades.  It is important to note that although they are manufactured, selecting upgraded finishes and adding the bells and whistles will increase your budget accordingly.  Turnaround times on a semi-custom cabinetry line will typically range between 3-5 weeks but will definitely be worth the wait.  Finding an experienced and knowledgeable designer will help walk the homeowner through the semi-custom cabinetry lines to determine what cabinet best fits the style and budget.  The larger semi-custom cabinetry manufactures will have software plugins that allow designers to render drawings and 3D perspectives.  Semi-custom cabinets really are the best option for homeowners looking for a little creative freedom and flexibility without spending the time and money on custom cabinetry.

Built from scratch, custom cabinetry will allow the dream kitchen (or bath) to become a reality.  Custom cabinetry is typically build by local carpenters or cabinet makers and eliminate any design restrictions.  Design flexibility such as door, wood, and color combinations now become infinite and are only limited by the homeowner’s creativity.  Custom cabinetry can alleviate headaches with the most unique sizes and challenging spaces within a project. Although accommodating, custom material and labor cost will be significantly higher than that of modular and semi-custom cabinetry.  Also, custom cabinetry doesn’t always equate to ‘better’ cabinetry.  Smaller cabinetry shops may not have appropriate tools or refined building technique as that of manufactures and can often produce a lesser product.  Along with a steep price tag, custom cabinets often have the longest completion time of 4-8 weeks depending on the size and complexity of the project.  Creative freedom matched with distinct craftsmanship make custom cabinets an appealing choice for those with a large budget and flexible project timeline.

Countertops 101

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our old countertops with the fake wood grain look have started to chip/peal and you’re losing friends because of it…….maybe a bit over the top but either way, it is time for a change.  You want to replace your countertops but you don’t know where to start.  As a homeowner, trying to sift through all of the available products can sometimes be overwhelming and seem like an impossible task.  Breaking down the elements can help simplify the process and a few factors should be considered while making the decision including material, durability, color, pattern, and budget.

There are plenty of countertop options. From glass to concrete, soapstone to marble, or even wood and stainless steel can add design interest and a contrasting texture to achieve an amazing look.  Keeping things simple, we are going to focus on the four major products that most AZ consumers are looking for: Laminate, Solid Surface, Granite, and Engineered Quartz.

Laminate: $
You have Formica (laminate)… by process of elimination, you don’t want laminate.  Not so fast.  Laminate countertop have jumped leaps and bounds within the past 15 years introducing unique textures, variances in colors and patterns,  depth, etc.  Advantage of laminate countertop include affordability and relativity low maintenance.   Drawbacks typically focus on performance including the possibility of scratching, burns, peeling, and joint separation.  Plain and simple, the laminate option is going to be a great way to get a new countertop with breaking the bank.  Popular manufactures include WilsonArt, Formica, and Pionite.

Solid Surface: $$
Most well know solid surface is Corian…..the ‘Kleenex’ of solid surface.  A very popular countertop choice in the 90’s has seen a decline in residential projects over the years.  Primarily comprised of polyester and acrylic, the solid surface products offer integrated sinks, seamless corners, and lack maintenance.  However, disadvantages include scratches, stains, burns (to the countertops not to the user), and overall has an artificial look.  From experiencing solid surface in my Gilbert, AZ residence for the past 10 years, the solid surface countertops offer minimal appeal and would be my least recommended out the of bunch.  Well known makers include DuPont Corian, LG Hi-Mac, and Samsung Staron.

Granite: $$ – $$$$
Let’s get ready to rock!…..granite that is.  A natural stone can transform a bland kitchen/bath into a thing of beauty with unique characteristics and one of a kind appeal.  Each slab of granite is going to vary by size, thickness, depth, color, pattern, veining, movement, etc.  Because of this, customer involvement is typically preferred through the slab selection process where viewing the material is recommended (hard hat, a-frame, cranes, etc).  You may select an entry level material that keeps budget similar to a solid surface, or you may select a piece from the Jurassic period that you would have to re-mortgage your home….depends on your taste.  Since granite is a natural stone, it will have pits/voids/fissures and maintenance is required through the occasional sealer.  For the Arizona market, generally speaking, granite will interest most home owners, retain its resale value, and provide above average performance.

Quartz: $$$
Engineered for it durability, quartz countertops is leading the charge with its superior performance.  Predominately composed of natural quartz (also combined with resins and magic so I have heard), the quartz offers the look and feel of granite without the maintenance.  Throughout the past few years, quartz manufactures have begun to offer a multitude of colors and patterns that are now appealing to those looking for that WOW factor.  Although usually starting at a high price point, the benefits of a quartz surface makes it worth the investment.  Manufactures include Cambria, Silestone, LG Viatera, Caesarstone, DuPont Zodiac, Hanstone, and many more.

For more information about any of the products discussed above, please visit our showroom location and speak to our trained team members about your questions.