1. Know your manufacturer.
Yesterday’s stock cabinet manufacturer is today’s semi-custom manufacturer. They may have a wider selection of finishes, door styles, convenience features and customization. However, they still sand, finish and produce like a stock cabinet manufacturer
2. More options? Better quality?
Did you gain significantly in finish options, door styles, convenience features and customization from a stock cabinet line? Unless you gain these things, plus better quality overall, you are still competing with stock cabinet suppliers. Only now you have semi-custom expectations and price.
3. Higher price = better quality finish?
Are they offering the entire Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore fan deck at a premium price, but without changing their production process to produce a high-quality finish? No designer wants the scenario where their customer’s expectations increased due to cost, but product quality didn’t coincide with additional cost
4. Wood species.
Has the company moved beyond standard wood species, like Oak, Hickory, Maple, and Cherry? Do they offer Rustic Maple, Red Birch, Walnut, Alder, etc.?
5. Factory installed accessories.
Do they offer enough factory installed accessories? For instance, will the manufacturer source any Rev-A-Shelf or Hafele accessory you specify? Or are they limited to what they offer in their spec book?
6. “Flush” finished ends.
Most “flush” finished ends are “near flush” in semi-custom, an important point to clarify if they are factory installed or field applied. A true flush end is almost a standard in the kitchen remodel market today.
Sanding of dovetail joints in drawers should be smooth in Semi-custom. How is their sanding? If dovetail joints are rough, it is fair to ask about sanding quality for door/ drawer fronts and face frames. Hand sanding may not be part of their process. Sanding is often an entry level job that has critical importance to final finish quality.
8. Architectural accents.
Can you source architectural accents from Art for Every Day, Enkeboll, White River, etc.? Or are your choices limited to those in the manufacturer’s spec book? If the manufacturer hasn’t stayed on top of design trends, you may not have the design options you need for today’s style demands.
9. Custom range hoods.
Do they custom build hoods? Or at least source from a company like Stanisci?
10. Finish quality
Is their finishing clean? Is there more “grit” in the corners or on the solid stock of fronts than you like?
For the increased price of semi-custom over stock cabinets, you should expect to see better quality, easier designing because the spec book is broader, and enough value that you can compete with premium custom designers. And you should expect to pay less.