Underneath the umbrella of “carpentry,” which refers to a broad spectrum of wood working, there are two categories that share similarities, but also important differences: millwork and casework. In a construction budget,  “carpentry” is used almost as a catch-all for woodworking. The term is not defined as specifically as millwork or casework. In any given construction budget, you will very likely have all three categories: carpentry, millwork and casework. To understand the difference between millwork and casework, keep reading below:

Millwork is any type of woodwork or building product that is produced in a mill. This could include anything from doors, molding, trim, flooring, wall paneling, crown moldings, etc. However, millwork does not include flooring, ceilings or siding.  The real difference between millwork and casework is that millwork is custom made. It will include any type of custom wood working pieces such as cabinets shelving, custom storage, even elevator surrounds fall into millwork, because this work has to be customized for the specific space. To be considered millwork, the finished product must be built into the space. Otherwise, it would be considered furniture. When budgeting millwork, a rule of thumb is that the total cost of millwork items will be two to three times the cost of the materials required.

Casework literally refers to making boxes. Whether for cabinetry, bookcases, or other storage boxes, casework refers to making boxes.  However, the main difference between casework and millwork is that casework refers to stock goods- think Ikea. Casework is storage, shelving, cabinetry, etc. that you can purchase ready-made. Casework is not custom, but made was standard dimensions and measurements. For this reason, casework is typically less expensive than millwork. Usually casework is assembled cabinetry; if not completely assembled, it is at least partially assembled.

Katie Boova
Katie Boova is Marketing Manager at Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers, a real-estate consulting firm that provides owner’s representation and project management services. More about Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers as well as additional blog posts can be found here.
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