If you’re a budding A&D professional, you may not be familiar with the nuanced differences between millwork and casework. Though you’ve likely encountered both wood-based architectural elements in your job, understanding the differences between millwork and casework hugely impacts your design’s overall budget.
This post walks you through a general overview of both millwork and casework and then outlines the four key differences between the two products. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between these two woodworking elements to better inform yourself and future clients.
What is Millwork?
Millwork is a type of building material made in a factory or mill (as its name implies). Most interior woodwork projects involve some type of millwork, usually decorative in nature. Often, millwork is customized to a client’s preference and fitted to specific dimensions.
You’re most likely familiar with these common millwork products:
- Crown moldings
As you can see, millwork is critical to any design. While you can get semi-manufactured millwork, you should be familiar with the nuances of customizing millwork, as many design clients want bespoke pieces that fit a general aesthetic.
What is Casework?
Like millwork, casework is an essential woodworking product in the woodworking and design industry. You will hear several common wood products included in the term casework, including:
- Storage Cabinetry (most often built-in)
- Kitchen cabinets, islands, and drawers
While casework can be a type of millwork, millwork is never considered casework. You can find casework pre-fabricated in big-box home improvement stores and smaller building production businesses. Most often, companies build casework from a template for shoppers needing ready-to-use materials.
Depending on your design, casework can be a great way to cut costs while still delivering a pleasing design for your clients.
4 Key Differences Between Millwork & Casework
By reading through the general overview of millwork and casework, you’re likely starting to identify the differences between the two woodworking building materials. Even though both elements are produced in a factory or mill, the differences between millwork and casework get more nuanced.
From customization to installation techniques, there are four key differences between millwork and casework you should know.
The customization process is the most significant difference you will find between millwork and casework. Casework is produced in a mass-production factory with template-based production techniques. By manufacturing wholesale products, casework is considered modular and ready-made for the general shopper to install immediately with little, if any, customization. The best example of casework is ready-to-build Ikea products – mass-produced and easily installed.
In contrast, millwork is produced through a highly customized production process. Based on a specific design vision and unique dimensions, millwork artisans collaborate with designers to create bespoke pieces for a particular room or design element.
To reiterate a point we made earlier: casework can be considered millwork, but you must never conflate millwork as casework due to the highly customized nature of its production.
As you may have already deduced, there are significant differences in the pricing of casework and millwork. As casework is almost always mass-produced within a set of measurements, you will find buying casework can help you save money on your design budget. Be aware: while buying casework may save you money, you may spend more trying to get the pieces to work with your overall design.
Conversely, you should expect to pay a higher price for millwork. Not only is millwork highly customized, but it also has a more arduous labor process. A good millwork company will work with you and your design team to expertly install the woodworking elements onsite. It’s important to consider the extra labor in your budget.
High customization comes with a higher production complexity. Millwork is distinct from casework in that most designs are complex. If you decide to integrate millwork into your design, be prepared to work hand in hand with a millwork company on precise design drawings.
You and the millwork company should review each drawing carefully for accurate measurements and dimensions to ensure every piece of millwork is perfect for the space. In some cases, casework may also require detailed drawings, especially to meet certain woodworking standards.
The final key difference between casework and millwork is the installation process. Because casework is mass-produced with standard measurements for each product, installation is relatively straightforward. While you may struggle to make the pieces fit your unique layout, you likely won’t need a professional installation team to get the piece perfectly installed in your space.
On the other hand, installation time and process are widely different for millwork. Due to its specific measurements, millwork needs to be professionally installed. Additionally, millwork pieces should be fitted onsite by said professionals. Because of the custom nature of the millwork, be ready to extend the time you’ve allotted for installation.
Need help designing your bespoke millwork pieces for your next design? Our integrated millwork solutions are the perfect balance between design and purpose. Contact us today for a free quote and design advice.