The difference between millwork, casework and retail fixtures

Bob Galinsky | November 19, 2019


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Here at F.C. Dadson, we like to say that we create retail environments. That’s a deliberately broad term, because we do a lot of stuff. We build custom cabinets, countertops, desks, lockers, doors and other staples. We build retail kiosks and tradeshow displays. We make nursing “pods”. And we make purely decorative fixtures of all shapes, colors and sizes.

Sometimes it seems like terms like millwork, casework, and retail fixtures are used almost interchangeably. Because we make so many different items, it seems important to define exactly what those items are - are they millwork? Casework? Retail fixtures?

Here is my attempt, using a number of sources, to define these terms:

Millwork: The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of millwork is “woodwork (such as doors, sashes, or trim) manufactured at a mill.” This is kind of an old-fashioned definition, because even though our company produces millwork, we wouldn’t call our factory a mill. Millwork can include doors, trims, molding, cabinets, shelving, or storage. Custom millwork is tailor-made to the customer’s needs, and can serve both decorative and practical purposes.


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Casework: The dictionary definition has nothing to do with construction, and applies more to police detectives and social workers. In the construction trade, however, casework refers to the assembly of box-shaped pieces. These can be cabinets, drawers, and bookcases. Casework is stock goods; it is not custom made to fit the space.

The main difference between millwork and casework is that millwork is custom made. This means that, even though F.C. Dadson produces plenty of drawers and cabinets, we make millwork and not casework. All of our jobs are custom and are made to fit the specific space. We do have specific product designs for our customers that ensure consistency across all their retail locations, but we only produce to order. We don’t make generic casework to stock.

Retail fixtures: A retail fixture is any piece of furniture or equipment that is used to display products. A shelf is a retail fixture, and so is a slatwall, a peg hook, a dump bin, and even a mannequin. At F.C. Dadson, we do produce a variety of retail fixtures. Our customers need places to display their products, which run the gamut from apparel to hair products to food, drink, and candy. We also make retail fixtures that are mostly or purely decorative, including a fire engine for a kids’ haircut chain and a wall with a ninja logo for a computer coding school.

So to sum up, at F.C. Dadson we often produce products that looks like casework, except they are custom-made so therefore they’re millwork. We also make retail fixtures, which are a specific kind of millwork.

Does that clear things up? I hope so. If you would like to see examples of our millwork and retail fixtures, you can check them out here. And if you have questions about any of our millwork, retail fixtures, or retail buildout services, don’t hesitate to contact us anytime!