• The terms millwork and casework are often used interchangeably but while they are both forms of carpentry, they have significant differences.
  • Millwork is custom. Common examples of millwork include armoires, embellishments, and mantels.
  • Casework describes box-shaped woodwork that is generally comprised of modular, factory-made sections. Common examples of casework include dressers, desks, and tables.

Millwork and casework. They’re terms that people often use interchangeably. That’s understandable: Both are forms of carpentry, right?

Right, but while they are both forms of carpentry, they have significant differences.

Here’s a brief explainer on those differences.

Millwork is custom-made to a client’s precise specifications, which can be laborious and expensive, but also ensure a unique design.

Millwork is custom-made to a client’s precise specifications, which can be laborious and expensive, but also ensure a unique design.

What is millwork?

Millwork is custom. The term millwork derives from it being woodwork made in a mill.

What are examples of millwork?

Common examples of millwork include:

  • Armoires
  • Embellishments
  • Mantels

Vlad Nikabadze of Vlad Design Craft, subject of one of our earlier blogs, is an example of a builder of millwork. Vlad has designed tailored millwork for homes, studios, and shops throughout New York.

What are the advantages of millwork?

Millwork is tailored to a customer’s specification—what the customer wants is what he or she receives. It doesn’t get any more precise than that.

Millwork tends to be expensive because it’s built to that tailored specification, which entails more labor. You will often see millwork on display at museums, galleries, and other prestigious buildings.

What is architectural millwork?

Millwork designed within an architectural framework is referred to as architectural millwork. Architectural millwork includes moldings, elaborate accents, and other trim that are mounted onto a building’s structure.

You can see great resources for millwork on our Architectural Page. These include suggestions, catalogs, lists of specifications, and contact information.

Casework is manufactured or assembled from manufactured parts. This mass-market element usually provides affordability, but at the expense of uniqueness.

Casework is manufactured or assembled from manufactured parts. This mass-market element usually provides affordability but at the expense of uniqueness.

What is casework?

Casework describes box-shaped woodwork that is generally comprised of modular, factory-made sections. Movable, sectional casework is known as modular casework.

What are examples of casework?

Common examples of casework include:

  • Dressers
  • Desks
  • Tables

Casework tends to be much less expensive than millwork because it’s built en masse, with many—if not all—of its components either prefabricated via an assembly line or from a common template. Merillat is an example of a casework builder.

Are there reasons to consider casework over millwork? Vice-versa?

Simplified production is a key factor that dramatically reduces the cost of each piece of casework. Additionally, that modularity gives people more liberty on how and where that want to place their casework. Millwork, by comparison, tends to be very expensive and tailored to an environment.

Casework’s mass-market factor can bring disadvantages, however, such as a lack of uniqueness, as well as variable build and material quality. It also means that rather than accommodate the customer’s design, the customer may have to accommodate the manufacturer’s design.

If having a cohesive and tailored design is key, millwork is an optimal solution. Millwork is also important when factoring woodwork that needs to be measured to a specific size, as with kitchen cabinetry.

Are cabinets considered casework or millwork?

They can be either.

Many kitchen cabinets are custom made for that particular kitchen; moreover, they also tend to be integrated into the architectural structure (think about pantries and cupboards), thus making them examples of millwork.

By contrast, bedrooms and living rooms tend to use movable, manufactured cabinetry, such as chests and dressers. Those are examples of casework.

Explore Accuride’s movement solutions for modular casework on our Woodworking & Cabinetry section. Is there a topic in woodworking that you’d like to know more about? Is there something you wish we covered? Just leave a comment or reach out to us on social media!

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