For Customers

Listed below are some of the questions about the projects (usually kitchens) we build for members of the community. We conform to several specific requirements, so please read through these and familiarize yourself with our process before contacting us.

Why do students build projects for members of the community?

NESAW is certainly unique in offering this feature as part of our five-month training program. In fact, we’re the only cabinetmaking school in the nation that does so. Our primary reason is to give students an opportunity to experience the entire project lifecycle from design and estimating to building and installation. It gives them the chance to work on real projects with real challenges, and it allows our instructors to demonstrate new techniques as the opportunity arises.

Employers value this experience because our graduates come to them with better design skills, better problem-solving skills, and better perspective on the industry. You can look at previous projects here.

Why do you mostly build kitchens?

We used to build a variety of projects, including custom desks and bookcases. However, we felt that kitchens provide more real-world experience because 1) they require a team of students working together on a common goal; 2) they are commonly built in cabinet shops; and 3) they come with a host of construction and installation challenges that provide excellent teaching opportunities. Plus, the look on the homeowners’ faces when they see their new kitchen for the first time is something every student remembers.

That said, we do occasionally still build built-in office millwork and other projects. Sometimes, we accept these as an extra project that students can work on for additional experience.

What does the average kitchen cost?

We charge a multiple of materials, which includes all solid wood, plywood, veneers, fasteners, and hardware (with the exception of decorative knobs or hinges). This helps cover our costs if students need to use extra materials over the course of the project.

The final cost depends entirely on the scope of the project. What’s important to remember is that these are custom projects, built to the specifications of the client. Although our kitchens will cost more than an off-the-shelf product, they will be significantly less expensive than those built by full-service cabinetmaking shops.

We can give you a preliminary estimate once we’ve talked to you and seen your space.

How can I be sure I’m getting quality work?

Our reputation depends on how well we teach our students and how well they build your project. We take every job very seriously and will work closely with you to make sure that you are satisfied with the end product. Our instructors monitor each project during construction and installation, offering advice and demonstrating techniques to ensure the highest quality.

You might also like to know that shop owners and other tradespeople go out of their way to comment on the quality and consistency of our students’ work. Most find it difficult to believe that students can produce such a high quality end product, particularly since many of them are new to the craft.

What types and styles of kitchen projects will you accept?

We prefer to work on kitchens that will utilize the existing footprint; although we do occasionally work on kitchens that are part of a major remodel, we find that it adds complexity to the project and the price necessarily increases.

Take a look at our projects page to see the style of kitchen we build. Since our goal is to teach cabinetmaking techniques, we have a prescribed system and style in place; we only build shaker-style cabinets with flat panel face frames on inset doors. Most of the kitchens we build are maple and cherry.

We apply a clear finish (a coat of shellac plus two coats of water-based lacquer) and do not stain or paint the cabinets. Part of our process is to teach students how to select solid wood and veneer and how to match the grain, so we want those selections to be visible.

What is the process like?

Here’s how it works:

1) You contact us with your ideas for your new kitchen.
2) We take a look at the space and see if it fits in the upcoming year’s schedule (based on number of students and size of the other kitchen)
3) If it’s a go, we get down & dirty with the exact specifications.
4) Our director draws the design via AutoCAD and you make changes as needed. An estimate is provided.
5) By mid December, the final design is approved and the final price established. Changes after this point are subject to a change fee.
6) A deposit of half the total amount is due by the first week in January so that we can order materials in bulk.
7) In February, you’ll meet the students working on your project and they will begin construction.
8) You’re welcome to visit the school at any time to see the work in progress.
9) You are responsible for removing the old cabinets and working with an electrician/plumber to make any needed changes.
10) Installation generally happens during the middle of May.

What else should I know?

It’s important to us that our customers be in the spirit of working with a school and students. We’re not a professional shop and although our work is very professional, our primary focus has to be on the education of the students.

We can’t accept frequent change orders, particularly once the project gets going in earnest. Because this is a school environment, there has to be some stability in the portion of the projects the students are assigned.

We welcome visits to see your kitchen in progress, but please give us a little notice in case we are in the middle of a lesson.

Okay, I’m sold! How do I get on your project list?

That’s an easy one! Just email Greg Larson at [email protected] or call us at 413.527.6103.