Big Box store kitchen design as good as custom?

“Big Box” Store Kitchen Design vs. Custom

We’ve done some research into the “big box” store kitchen design experience, what you can expect and how it differs from working with a custom kitchen designer.

If you are just starting out on your kitchen remodel journey and are not sure where to begin, we know that the process can be overwhelming and intimidating.

We’re here to help you navigate the many, many choices you will have to make on the road to getting your ideal kitchen.

Taking the First Step: Who Will Help Me?

There are three people/businesses who will get you to a new kitchen:

  1. Kitchen designer
  2. Design/build firm
  3. “Big box” store

Disclaimer: KDP was established to match you with a kitchen designer who will guide you through the process to getting a new kitchen. We are not recommending or endorsing the “big box” as a source. The information presented here is just that – information.

Reason #1 to Choose Home Depot: One-stop Shopping

You can’t beat buying everything in one place and paying one company. At Home Depot, you can get it all with one-stop shopping:

  • Appliances
  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Sinks
  • Cabinet hardware
  • Faucets
  • Moldings and trim
  • Lighting
  • Flooring
  • Everything else that could be needed, like caulk, insulation, plumbing supplies, etc.

Reason #2 to Choose Home Depot: Wide Selection

Every item you will need for your new kitchen can be found at Home Depot. Within each of the items listed above, there are myriad choices – colors, finishes, configurations and – of course – price points. If Home Depot doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it.

A word of warning: Although their selection is huge, the designers have orders from store management to push you toward certain items. They may not be what you want, but the designer makes them appear to be superior to your choices. Maybe this won’t be an issue for you, but it will be a problem for others.

Reason #3 to Choose Home Depot: Financing

Big Box Stores offer financing

They finance. Home Depot offers financing options, including The Home Depot Consumer Credit Card and The Home Depot Project Loan.

To help you determine how much you need to finance, they give you several helpful project calculators:  

  1. Cabinets
  2. Countertops
  3. Appliances.

What You Get at Home Depot

Home Depot has approximately 2000 stores in North America, so there’s bound to be one near you. Each of these stores provides many tools to help you navigate the kitchen remodel process, such as charts, photos, calculators and stories intended to help you figure out how to get a new kitchen.

According to their website, the process to getting a new kitchen couldn’t be simpler – three steps only:

Step 1.

Free Kitchen Design Services. Working with a kitchen designer at Home Depot is completely free, from your initial consultation to the final reveal of your updated kitchen.

During your free consultation, you’ll meet your kitchen designer, who will provide expert design advice based on your goals, budget and style preferences with no obligation to buy. This consultation typically lasts about 1-1.5 hours.

Step 2.

“One-Stop Shopping. From highly rated cabinet and countertop brands to free design services and professional installation, everything you need for your kitchen remodel is under one roof.

Step 3.

No project Too Big or Small. Whether you’re planning a full kitchen remodel or just a few updates, we have solutions to fit any budget and any space.”

(These three Items above are taken verbatim from The Home Depot website.)

Beyond the Three Steps

But wait and not so fast. As you drill down, you’ll discover there’s lots more to getting a new kitchen from Home Depot than appears in their three simple steps.

Site Analysis.

A certified installer will come to your home to perform a site analysis and collect measurements. The fine print: This is not free. A $99 measure deposit is needed to schedule your site analysis and will be credited to the cost of your installation. Local prices may vary.

Product Selection.

With your designer, you will select cabinets, countertops, appliances and upgrades. This critical step is not mentioned unless you dig way down into the supplemental timelines on the Home Depot site. Product selection is not included in the first “free” meeting with the kitchen designer. You will have to schedule at least one more meeting with the designer.

Design Reveal.

Once we have your kitchen measurements and you’ve made all product selections, it’s time for the kitchen design reveal. You will see full-color digital 3D renderings of your new kitchen as well as a 2D floor plan. Again – At what point in their scenario have you made your product selections?

Order and Pay. Then Get It Installed.

We’ve re-worded this heading. The website says “order and get it installed”. Evidently nothing happens until you pay. Is this like a construction loan where you pay in several installments? Or do you pay a deposit here for materials, then pay the balance on completion? Or is everything paid upfront, based on quotes? This information is not available to the casual web surfer.

Your Home Depot kitchen designer will connect you with a Home Depot-authorized contractor to get everything ordered and installed. Does this mean your kitchen designer doesn’t order your cabinets and other components? That this is handed off to a “authorized contractor”?

Before installations, the installer will come to your home to make sure your design will work in your space and provide you with a quote for labor. What isn’t said, the installer is a sub-contractor, not associated with Home Depot.

Installation typically takes 2-8 weeks, plus time to fabricate and deliver your cabinets, countertops and other materials, which varies depending on the customizations you select. This is an extraordinarily short time frame. Cabinets alone can take 6 weeks from order to delivery. In another location on the Home Depot site, the production lead time is quoted in a range from 1-6 weeks. This is truly not possible with a total kitchen re-do.

A Full Project Timeline, According to The Home Depot

1. Site Analysis. 1-2 weeks.

Home Depot installer (elsewhere called “authorized contractor”) will perform a kitchen site analysis and collect measurements.

2. Product Selection. 1 week.

With your designer, you will select all the products that will go into your new kitchen design, including items such as cabinets, door styles and colors, countertops, appliances and other features. Home Depot does not specify in its process when product selection will occur.

3. Design Reveal. 1-2 weeks.

Your kitchen designer will produce a 3D rendering and kitchen design based on your project goals and product selections.

4. Site Verifications. 1-2 weeks 

Home Depot installer will verify your design and provide a quote to utilize The Home Depot’s installation services.

5. Production. 1-6 weeks

Once ordered, production lead times can vary based on cabinet brand and level of customization, ranging from 1-6 weeks.

6. Installation.

Your installer will build a schedule for your kitchen project. Kitchen installers are backed by a 1-year labor guarantee.


Everything about working with Home Depot to get a new kitchen boils down to one word: convenience. You can get everything at one place, including the design work and financing. For first time remodelers, this convenience will be the deciding factor for them to chose Home Depot.


What was the Home Depot remodeling experience like for others? Consumer Affairs publishes verified reviews from homeowners. We excerpted several here.

Review #1.

Unless you are flipping a house or not going to keep your house very long, DON’T DO IT!!! After 6 months the drawers are starting to fail. Trim is coming loose. … They use subcontractors for everything which gives them a great excuse to blame the other guy for problems. One guy promised the world, then disappeared. Then the next guy does the same. Lots of nail holes not filled, large gaps between joints, easy close drawer slides failing, apron sink installation very shoddy, gaps between quartz countertops and support brackets, … trim falling off because it wasn’t nailed correctly, doors that don’t close because they hit the trim.

Review #2.

The end result looks good from a distance, but the quality is crap. … The first time I tried to put my pots and pans in one of the drawers, one of the supports for the drawer fell out of the cabinet wall!

Review #3.

I had been looking forward to having my kitchen remodeled for 15+ years. The lady at Home Depot told us it would take approximately 3 months. … It took them 3-1/2 months just to get started and 7-1/2 months to finish. …  my cabinets are falling off the walls, my plumbing is leaking off and on and my floor is lifting. I will never get another big project done from Home Depot again and not to mention, we are out a whole lot of money.

Review #4.

We were remodeling our kitchen with new cabinets, countertops and appliances. … We went to Home Depot …. Our designer [with whom we had an appointment] was helping someone else and after an hour of waiting, we left. We ended up working with a local supplier of kitchen cabinets and countertops. My opinion is these big box stores … greatly lack the skills and customer service required for kitchen design.

Review #5.

We ordered cabinets and they came damaged with chunks of the cabinet gone! They refuse to replace it! Their customer service is terrible and they don’t care about their customers at all. They have lost our business…

Review #6.

I ordered kitchen cabinets and countertops and the cabinets arrived with several of the boxes crushed. My local store’s kitchen department was not properly trained nor responsive and now they will not replace or refund me so I’m stuck with cracked cabinets I can’t use. Customer service was a waste of time …. I will never shop there again. Save your hard-earned money and shop at a local cabinet store, not Home Depot.

Review #7.

I will never do business again with Home Depot!!! They can’t get the job done correctly!! Have had so many issues the first week of installation from broken parts delivered to my home, to having my husband have to clean leaking water from our sink that they just installed to having them ask us to go buy parts for them! The cabinets they ordered and measured got installed and they are the wrong size and it looks like half the cabinet door is missing! … As soon as I called to speak to someone in that department I got nothing but voice mails and no call back! Go with another company, not Home Depot!

In fairness to Home Depot, they do have some positive reviews on their website. It seems that when people are unhappy, they go for a wider audience to vent grievances.

Another Big Box Store: Lowe’s

The inventory at Lowe’s is less than what Home Depot offers, but there’s still plenty to choose from. And Lowe’s offers the same major advantage as Home Depot: convenience, one-stop shopping and financing.

After searching Lowe’s website and comparing to Home Depot’s site, Home Depot has many more resources for a homeowner who wants to learn about the kitchen remodel process. Lowe’s is definitely geared more towards a D-I-Yer.

Their steps to getting a new kitchen are similar to Home Depot.

Step 1. Submit Your Information. They have a brief form for you to complete online with basic information about your project. They will contact you.

Step 2. Consult with a Kitchen Specialist.

Designers at the almost 1,970 North American stores often have interior-design backgrounds and all receive training, including information on the latest trends. Each store usually has just one designer, so if your ideas don’t click, you’ll need to go elsewhere.

Step 3. Schedule Your Measurement. Lowe’s uses local independent installers.

Step 4. Get Your Quote.

Cabinets at Lowe’s

Lowe’s offers stock, semi-custom and custom cabinets. And within each of these categories, you can access their online room planner to design your own kitchen. If you’re interested in doing that.

Resources at Lowes


You will be able to get a new kitchen through one of the big box stores. You won’t get the personalized attention you will get from a kitchen designer or design/build firm. However, many homeowners have been happy with their new kitchen from Home Depot or Lowe’s.

With the information we presented here, the decision is up to you which experience will be the right one for you and your family and your new kitchen.

KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.