New luxury home features kitchen seen here facing the refrigerator and pantry cabinets looking between the black kitchen island and the professional cooktop set in white inset cabinets, the aisle decorated with a brown patterned rug

The Pros and Cons of Buying Kitchen Cabinets Online

In today’s online world, where you can buy everything from shoes to mattresses to SUVs over the internet, would you buy your kitchen cabinets online?

When faced with this question, most homeowners balk. “Cabinetry is such a major purchase that I could never buy them over the internet!”

But in fact, buying kitchen cabinets over the internet can be a surprisingly pleasant experience. It’s a fairly simple process, and it also eliminates a lot of the inconvenient appointments associated with visits to local kitchen dealerships or big box stores.

If you’re remodeling your kitchen and wondering if you should buy your kitchens online, weigh some of the advantages and disadvantages to see if buying cabinets online is right for you.

What are the disadvantages of buying cabinets online?

1. There’s no showroom to go see and touch the cabinets.

If you can’t see and touch the product, can you trust its quality? It’s a question that’s been asked since the early days of e-commerce, and a major deterrent to conducting major purchases – like cabinetry – over the internet.

Whether you’re considering cabinets from a local dealer or online store for your project, take some of these steps to determine whether the company offers good service, quality, and value.

  • Order cabinet samples. Even if it’s not the full box, ordering a cabinet sample will give you a realistic look of the wood quality and the finish color, which may or may not look the same in your kitchen as it does through the computer screen.
  • Know your cabinets. Take the time to learn about how to identify quality cabinetry and you’ll know how to start comparing the products of different cabinet suppliers. Many online companies, you’ll quickly see, are re-sellers of lower quality ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets.
  • Browse galleries. Photo galleries are virtual showrooms that contain hundreds of real kitchens. Use them to assess whether you like the layouts, styles, and products of the company.
  • Read reviews. Nearly 70% of consumers rely on online reviews before making a purchase. The more that a company is consistently well-reviewed (especially on independent, third-party sites like BBB), the more you can be certain of a good experience.
  • Test-drive the cabinets. If you happen to be remodeling your whole house, you have the luxury of being able to test-drive a cabinet supplier. Get cabinetry for a lower-commitment project, such as a bathroom, home office, or laundry room.

2. Internet brands are younger and less established.

The online market for cabinets is still pretty new. CliqStudios was founded in just 2010. At that time, our first callers grilled us with questions to make sure we were legitimate.

After designing over 100,000 kitchens and establishing a strong reputation among homeowners and contractors nationwide, we hear less of that.

Nevertheless, the point remains that you want to know what kind of business you’re dealing with. Questions you’ll want to have answer:

  • How long has this business been around? Where are they located?
  • How are their reviews on third-party sites like Houzz and the Better Business Bureau?
  • What’s the level of experience of their design staff?
  • What kind of cabinets do they sell? RTA, stock, semi-custom, or custom?
  • If the cabinets are pre-assembled, how are they assembled?
  • Do they make their own cabinets, or are they re-sellers rebranding other people’s product?

3. You are responsible for taking measurements and hiring installers.

Are you looking for an all-in-one solution? Do you want a single person to be responsible for designing your space, ordering products and materials, coordinating subtractors and overseeing the work?

If you are, online cabinet companies only offer a partial solution. With online companies, homeowners still must measure their space and install their cabinets. Taking accurate measurements is not necessarily difficult, but many homeowners do not want the responsibility, and so they hire a contractor to aid with measurements and installation. If you aren’t going to install cabinets yourself, you can use referral services like Houzz and HomeAdvisor to find people to install the cabinets for you.

maple carlton cabinets with glasses and a book in foreground

What are the advantages of buying kitchen cabinets online?

1. You can save a ton of money.

Since cabinetry is such a huge investment to your home and a large part of the kitchen remodeling budget, you want to make sure you’re getting the most value for every dollar. If you have a limited budget, the online option might be best for you.

Online companies operate at lower costs than the brick-and-mortar stores. By selling cabinets directly to consumers over the internet, online companies can operate without the overhead of retail spaces or large inventories. By operating at much lower costs, online companies can pass big savings to their customers.

Use CliqStudios as an example: The typical CliqStudios customer saves 30-40% off semi-custom cabinetry compared to the same order from a large home improvement center.
Line by line quote comparison of a home improvement center quote for cabinets versus cliqstudios cabinet quote

In the cabinet industry, it’s common for dealers to charge extra for “upgrades.” An extra 20% to upgrade to plywood construction. An extra 18% to upgrade to a painted finish. But these are huge expenses for homeowners. Online companies such as CliqStudios include desirable features like plywood construction, dovetailed drawers, and soft-close hinges in our base product with no extra charges.

2. Designing and shopping happens at a better place and time.

This is your one and only kitchen remodel. You’re buying cabinets, the most prominent fixture in the hub that is your kitchen, and one of the largest single purchases of your life. Where do you want to be while shopping and planning? A big box warehouse, surrounded by beeping forklifts and other customers asking where the restrooms are? You deserve to plan your project in a place where your thoughts can be clear and calm.

Buying cabinets online:

  • Shop at your own time and pace, at home or during a lunch break
  • Instantly browse thousands of photos of real kitchens
  • Communicate with your kitchen designer by phone, email, or screen-share
  • Choose from a curated selection of “just-right” style and finish combinations

Buying cabinets in the store:

  • Drive to the store during retail hours or weekends
  • View a limited number of barebones showroom kitchens
  • Return for several time-consuming appointments with a kitchen designer
  • Return to the store each time you have a question or concern
  • Wade through a large number of atypical or old-fashioned styles and finishes

3. The best kitchen designers would much rather work in a full-time design studio than a retail store.

Your designer is critical to your project’s success. He or she is entrusted with making sure that your wants, needs, and ideas are accurately translated into your remodeling plans.

How do you ensure that you get a professional and passionate designer? If you don’t have a personal connection or word-of-mouth referral, there’s a basic reason why you’re more likely to have a good experience working with a kitchen designer over the internet than at the store.

Designers in design studios work as professionals. We have over 100 kitchen designers on our CliqStudios design team, and the typical CliqStudios designer has 10 years of professional experience and a degree in interior design. Whereas a designer at a big box store or dealership is lucky to design two or three kitchens a week, here they design closer to 10 kitchens per week. This allows designers to do what they love to do best: design kitchens.

Designers in retail stores work retail jobs. Not only are the hours long and the pay low, but at the retail store, designers are responsible for duties besides designing kitchens. Since designers must serve walk-in customers and attend to several departments with little to no assistance from others, any design job has the possibility of being rushed and interrupted.

A cabinet dealer may have a single designer. A big box store? No more than three or four. Our smallest studio has 22 designers. Centralizing designers into a single studio boosts collaboration, cross-training and creativity. New employees are supported by seasoned designers, and everyone shares ideas and perspectives. It’s a win-win for us and our customers.

rockford painted linen shaker cabinets

Summary

When weighing the advantages and disadvantages of buying cabinets online, consider the local suppliers in your area and compare them to online options. With the same kitchen layout, get quotes from local as well as virtual dealers to see how they compare. You might even end up ordering a sample. Ready to get started?

CliqStudios customers say this about buying kitchen cabinets online:

“I was very skeptical of buying cabinets online when I began looking into CliqStudios. I am happy to report that my skepticism was entirely unwarranted.”
– Michele C.,  Athens, OH
“Buying cabinets online was a bit scary, but the layout and finish are top notch, and we spent about half as much on cabinets as a local contractor had estimated!”
– Kitty W., Lakeland, FL
“Working with a remote designer was very easy, and in many ways more convenient than working with the local retailer.”
– Konstantin F., Concord, CA

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