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Fine Handcrafted Opinions
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In several remodels I've done, I've built my own cabinets. Same with my own houses. I set up in the living room with a stack of plywood, a stack of 1x material of whatever wood species, all my tools, and a 4x8 plywood table to build face frames on.

I build the bottom of the base around the room first, then pocket screw the face frame to the front, and drop in 3/4 plywood for dividers in the drawer boxes. Then I build the upper boxes and install them as they're built. It's simple, me and a helper can knock out a normal house in about a day.

Then I measure for and order the drawer boxes and doors/drawer fronts. They come with hinges and slides already on. A week later when they deliver I go back and install them.

2 days on the job with a helper, and I'm done. They're built a little different, better in some ways, not better in others, but the finished cabinets look and function as good as most any shop built custom cabinets do.

My question: why couldn't a cabinet business work this way? I'm half seriously considering it, and I wondered if anyone has tried it or knows anyone who does it. My target market would be middle class new construction. $150-$300k or so.

I've also thought of offering to finish the cabinets as well, because it would be easy to stain and lacquer or paint the boxes when you're done, and do all the doors/drawers in a small shop (which would generally get a better finish) before you bring to install.

I think I could be very competitive on price doing it this way.

Pros: no need for a big shop. Use someone else's electricity. No hauling cabinets all over, or storing them.

Cons: need the house mostly to yourself for a couple days, so the builder can't have other trades in your way. Might be tougher to do really ornate stuff in the field than a shop.

Any thoughts? Am I crazy? Would any other builders consider hiring a cabinet guy who built them like this?
 

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I guess I wonder why the separation between when you do the on-site work, order and then installation?

At a minimum, order the drawers, doors, etc... to coincide when you are there the first time or better yet, just order a set of cabinets...
 

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Have you asked any builders about it? What do they say?

You'd be bucking the trend, and you'd have a few problems to solve:
  • Price - in that market, cabinetry is very competitively priced.Houses are designed for stock.
  • Finishes - You'd have to offer a variety of finishes, and in the middle part of the market, people don't want custom finishes, they want slick and manufactured-looking.
  • Availability - Builders want to order and get their cabinets on their schedule, not to wait in line while you finish another house.
  • Warranty - New construction in that market, you need to have a warranty program, and you should expect to get claims.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
KAP said:
I guess I wonder why the separation between when you do the on-site work, order and then installation? At a minimum, order the drawers, doors, etc... to coincide when you are there the first time or better yet, just order a set of cabinets...
Because it's much easier to measure for the doors and drawers after the face frames are built than to build the face frames to predetermined dimensions. I can almost always have fronts and boxes less than a week after I order them. That would be a slight down side, but really, it wouldn't slow down anything else much at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
CarpenterSFO said:
Have you asked any builders about it? What do they say? You'd be bucking the trend, and you'd have a few problems to solve: [*]Price - in that market, cabinetry is very competitively priced.Houses are designed for stock. [*]Finishes - You'd have to offer a variety of finishes, and in the middle part of the market, people don't want custom finishes, they want slick and manufactured-looking. [*]Availability - Builders want to order and get their cabinets on their schedule, not to wait in line while you finish another house. [*]Warranty - New construction in that market, you need to have a warranty program, and you should expect to get claims.
I do have one builder who does spec homes that is very interested. I'm gonna try it with my best worker on a weekend and see how it goes.

Definitely bucking the trend.

Very few builders, at least very few good ones, around here use prefab or stock cabinets. I don't know anyone who likes manufactured looking over custom.

Finishes are no problem. Stained and lacquered is most common here, some paint. I don't care either way. Bout the same work.

Scheduling should be as good or better than a shop, since I wouldn't start until a house was actually ready, thus not having to sit on a batch of cabinets in a shop when the drywallers are delayed 2 weeks or some such.
 

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Ya, you're crazy.

Well, at least if you are trying to build cabinets like I do. Especially the finish portion of it.

Especially if you are building an entire kitchen in a few days.
 

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A lot of the smaller 50's-70's homes in town were all site built... I've heard over half of them were all done by the same guy:eek:

We had a cabinet salesman called JimmyCabinet on here... I think he was in DFW.
 

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I know. I've taken some of them out. They are build like a rock, big nails into the studs. But they looked like site built cabinets.
 

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Ya, you're crazy.

Well, at least if you are trying to build cabinets like I do. Especially the finish portion of it.

Especially if you are building an entire kitchen in a few days.
You build custom cabinets, hoss.

This is a good idea for entry level homes, IMO. Not my strong suit, but sounds like a good idea.
 

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He asked. I gave my opinion.
 

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I do have one builder who does spec homes that is very interested. I'm gonna try it with my best worker on a weekend and see how it goes.

Definitely bucking the trend.

Very few builders, at least very few good ones, around here use prefab or stock cabinets. I don't know anyone who likes manufactured looking over custom.

Finishes are no problem. Stained and lacquered is most common here, some paint. I don't care either way. Bout the same work.

Scheduling should be as good or better than a shop, since I wouldn't start until a house was actually ready, thus not having to sit on a batch of cabinets in a shop when the drywallers are delayed 2 weeks or some such.
It's been done for decades, my grandfather did it in the early sixties into seventies. New homes and remodels. You build raised panel doors on site?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Texas Wax said:
It's been done for decades, my grandfather did it in the early sixties into seventies. New homes and remodels. You build raised panel doors on site?
There's a couple shops locally that only build doors and/or drawer boxes. I've also had very good service ordering from a place in Arizona called Drawer Connection. They've been darn near spot on and ship for almost nothing, big or small order. I wouldn't try building doors and drawer boxes on site.
 

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Clayton, there nothing wrong or unique about what you want to do... it's just a profit killer...

If you know the dimensions, design it ahead, and when you have everything on hand, then build it... no sense making multiple trips...

The reason you don't see it done the way you describe much anymore is because there's better, more productive/profitable ways to do it...
 

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Would it not be quicker to build the cabinets in a shop, order the doors and draw fronts then when they come in your only putting the site out if commission for a day or 2 at most.

Also who finishes them Reason is I use a cabinet refinishing guy. He takes about 2 weeks to strip and refinish 30lf of base and wall cabinets. A week if that is doing the new finish so would this also be done on site?

Sounds like a awful lot of hassle
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
KAP said:
Clayton, there nothing wrong or unique about what you want to do... it's just a profit killer... If you know the dimensions, design it ahead, and when you have everything on hand, then build it... no sense making multiple trips... The reason you don't see it done the way you describe much anymore is because there's better, more productive/profitable ways to do it...
Ha! Well in my book there is something wrong with a profit killing business. If that's what it would be, then forget it.

I know everyone builds them in shops, but like I said, we've done this several times and got a decent system figured out. Every time we do it, me and the guys are looking at each other saying why wouldn't this work? It's fast and simple. Counting materials and labor, I come out paying about 1/2 - 2/3 of what I would have paid a cabinet guy on jobs where I do it this way.
 

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Of course it less for you. You are doing the work yourself. You are not making a profit off of it in the normal sense, you are saving money rather than making profit.

I'd still be interested in seeing a final product. But without the ability to feel it makes it hard to judge it. It can look fantastic on film but feel like sandpaper in real life.

And building it in the field you WILL be taking some short cuts because the tooling isn't really available to you there.

Show us some pics. With a lot of close ups of jointery.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Leo G said:
Of course it less for you. You are doing the work yourself. You are not making a profit off of it in the normal sense, you are saving money rather than making profit. I'd still be interested in seeing a final product. But without the ability to feel it makes it hard to judge it. It can look fantastic on film but feel like sandpaper in real life. And building it in the field you WILL be taking some short cuts because the tooling isn't really available to you there. Show us some pics. With a lot of close ups of jointery.
Most of these are from the first kitchen I did this way in my own house (so I cut some corners), and it definitely isn't something I'm terribly proud of on close inspection. We've gotten considerably better since then. Best pics I got right now.
 

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When I entered the home building world in 1977, we built the cabinets on site, and had the router template for the doors.....( remember the plywood doors with the Roam Ogee design?) and everything was "custom" per say.

Why not? Great idea, and everything would fit right, plus you could buy the drawer faces and doors early, and install as you finish. Plus, some cabinet shop is not holding you up 3 months on a build because they build one set of cabs at a time.

I think like Re-bath, it could be a great business model...and no, I would not use Rebath, but I hear in some markets it is all the rage. Instant gratification from clients, no waiting.
 
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