Skip navigation

July 2, 2021

Chances are you have heard of millwork and might have even pondered: “What does a millworker do?”  You also might have wondered if cabinets are considered millwork.  Below, we answer these questions, explaining what this material is in construction, helping readers obtain a thorough understanding of this essential component of the building process.

What is Millwork?

Millwork is a type of carpentry, ultimately falling under the umbrella of the overarching category of woodworking.  This type of woodwork comes from within a mill where the cutting and construction of items is with raw lumber.  In fact, any building product made in a mill definitely qualifies.  Examples of this type of woodwork include cabinetry, crown moldings, wall paneling, doors, trim and molding.  Contrary to popular belief, this woodwork does not encompass siding or ceilings.

People often confuse millwork with casework yet these two terms do not mean exactly the same thing.  Millwork is different from casework in that is custom made.  This customized wood working includes pieces such as shelving, cabinetry, custom storage and more.  In short, this particular woodwork is fully customizable for the more subtle requirements of a certain space.  The end product fits perfectly into the space in question.  If the item’s construction is not directly into the space, it is a form of furniture rather than millwork.

Are Cabinets Considered Millwork?

Indeed, cabinets are often in the millwork category.  Though some contractors have a specific category designated for cabinets, most agree cabinetry is a form of this woodwork.  Wood cabinets fall under the umbrella of this woodwork as they have a wood-centric design. Their construction takes place in a mill and they fit within a specific space.  Cabinetmakers must be completely certain that they have purchased enough of the millwork in question as there is the potential for inconsistencies in production based on the time at which it occurs.

Millwork Finishing

Millwork finishing can be with either paint, stain or sealant.  The wood species in question along with the property owner’s idiosyncratic preferences ultimately determine whether sealant, paint or stain will act as sealant.  Traditionalists prefer that the entirety of this material that is part of the property has a finishing with the exact same hue.  However, as time progresses, more property owners are choosing a combination of colors for their millwork finishing as well as the wood species used to make that material.  Some choose to use painted doors on door frames that have stained finish.  Others choose to mix two distinct wood species such as cherry and maple rather than use the same wood species throughout the entirety of the millwork.  In short, beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder in the context of this specific woodwork.

Architectural Millwork

Architectural millwork and architectural woodwork are interchangeable terms used in place of one another with regularity.  This branch of work means the item consists of wood.  Architectural millwork is a bit different in that it has the potential to incorporate non-wood materials like plastic laminates.  However, the definition of architectural millwork depends on the individual answering the question.

Academic institutions typically define architectural woodwork as the wood that an individual sees when a building reaches completion.  Examples of architectural millwork include cabinetry, doors, shelving, paneling and stairs.  This means just about everything consisting of wood that is part of a building or connecting to the inside of a building qualifies as architectural millwork.

However, in order to qualify as architectural millwork, the item in question does not necessarily have to be built directly into a structure.  Something such as a free-standing piece also qualifies.  This means a kitchen island on wheels falls under the umbrella of architectural millwork.  Furthermore, the architectural version of this woodwork can be customizable, semi-customizable, or stock, meaning it is straight off the shelf.

Common Materials

Millwork’s characterization is in accordance with the wood species that makes it.  Each wood type has a distinct uniqueness.  The material used ultimately shapes its aesthetic as well as its feel.  However, some types of wood species are more popular than others.  Cedar wood is a common component in millwork as it has a striking red hue along with straight grain.  Add in the fact that cedar wood has a cedar scent and holds strong in all types of environments and it is that much easier to understand why it is so popular.

Mahogany is commonplace in millwork as many view it as a luxurious material. This is thanks to its perfectly straight grain aesthetic and eye-catching dark red brown hue.  Maple is also popular as it is of comparably high quality and can help build items in either a dark brown or light brown color.  Red oak is popular for its strength and luxurious aesthetic.  Walnut receives admiration for its durability and rich brown hue.

The Types of Millwork Services

Millwork that many see as complete service is overarching, involving the material’s process in its entirety.  This type of service is typically applicable to multi-unit housing and commercial buildings.  Though standard millwork is the norm, those who opt for a custom profile variant are quick to tout its merits.  Custom profile versions of this woodwork are of the highest quality, ensuring the end result makes an indelible impact while standing the test of time.  This approach provides the cabinetry or other item with unique character that ultimately improves the property’s value.

Millwork construction that has curved edges or rounded edges is made with custom radius of this material.  Examples of the custom radius variation include kitchen counter corners, arches, handrails, circular windows and bending stairways.

How Much Does It Cost?

There is no concrete answer to this question.  The total cost of items made through the millwork process is typically around two or three times the cost of the materials used for the project.  This means the materials used to make the cabinetry, shelving or other items will ultimately dictate the price of the woodwork.  Furthermore, the magnitude and specifications of the project also shape its price.  If the millwork is particularly subtle or large, its price will be much higher.