The Cost of Kitchen Cabinets:
How to Get a Good Value
and Keep the Quality

What's the usual cost of kitchen cabinets?  Well... that depends.

I was excited to find a quote actually attached to this kitchen cabinet display for less than $10,000.

Until I realized it was dated 2005.

And no, it didn't include the counters, sink, or faucet.  Or installation. 

To get an idea about pricing, buying cabinets is a lot like buying a home.  You can buy a house for $100,000 with three bedrooms and 2 baths, or another 3bed/2bath for $1,000,000.

Both sleep at least three, but the million dollar home has a lot more benefits or features. Perhaps the only difference is that one is in Manhattan, and another is in the middle of nowhere.

Perhaps one is 1000 square feet and the other 10,000.

Or, maybe they are right next to each other, the same size, same floorplan, but one has gold toilet seats.

Ok, goofy example, but you get the idea!

Variables in the cost of kitchen cabinets

There are so many variables that can change the cost of a home.  Likewise for the cost of kitchen cabinets.

When you understand where the costs come from, you can have more control over them. Only you can decide if gold toilet seats are worth the extra expense!

In fact, ther are so many variables for the cost of kitchen cabinets, that it's difficult to even give a good ballpark, unless you have your kitchen design finished.  Then, you can price shop different suppliers.

Manufacturers sometimes give you a price on a 10x10 "example" L shaped kitchen, but they are notoriously wrong, even at the Big Box stores.  They may forget to add essentials and common upgrades like trim, skins, fillers, installation, plywood sides, toe kicks, hardware, etc.  

Check the fine print- this $3518 "typical" kitchen is the starting price for cabinets only.  Wood type? Cabinet construction? Drawer glide types?  We don't know, but I'll eat my hat if it's not the cheapest grade they've got!

They are useful to a point, maybe giving you an idea that cherry cabinets are more expensive than birch, for example (if that).  But that's about it. 

To keep the cost of kitchen cabinets in check, you've got to know what affects their cost, and whether certain upgrades are worth it for you, before you can evaluate whether a quoted price is a good deal, or just a rotten investment.

There are two huge influences on cost:

  • Materials
  • Construction

Cheat Sheet:
Kitchen Cabinet Cost Secrets

Custom does not always cost more than stock or semi-custom cabinets.  You can save thousands with this knowledge alone!

Kitchen Cabinet Materials Cost

There's a world of difference in price between MDF doors and solid mahogany, even if they're the same style and cut with the same saw blade (unlikely anyway).

For example, a single door can be as cheap as $10 for MDF (sawdust and glue, essentially), to around $100 for a raised panel door in a specialty wood like mahogany, with mortise and tenon joinery.  Of course, materials prices vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. 

Here's a lovely oak shaker style door, I believe they have put an inlay to mimic antique square nails in the corners.  Too bad after the all the labor costs on the door, the installer didn't use a jig to drill holes for the knobs! 

But materials costs don't stop at the doors- don't forget the cabinet box holding everything, interior "extras" like pull-out shelves, and the hardware (knobs, pulls, hinges and drawer glides).

All of these have cheap, mid-grade, and high-end versions.

Price range? Try $10 to $50 just for a set of drawer glides. 

Think that's a pretty big range?  Check out cabinet knobs.  Under a buck... to over $30 a piece, easy.

Which extras and upgrades you choose depends on your personal budget, priorities and preferences. 

But I would recommend going at least mid-grade for things that are harder to change out later.  Cabinet boxes are hard to change.  Knobs are easy to change later, and even doors and drawer fronts can be switched out with ease compared to the boxes themselves.

To really cut down on the cost of kitchen cabinets, lots of people just refresh their current cabinets instead of changing the structure too.  Learn more about money saving alternatives for kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen Cabinet Construction Cost

The cost of construction varies too- slab doors are cheaper to make, since there are no stiles, rails, or center panels that must be separately milled and pieced together.

When you piece a door together, it takes special tools and labor.  When you specify dovetail joints on drawers to strengthen them, you add labor.  And labor isn't cheap.

Also, the stronger the joints on the cabinet boxes themselves, the more labor it took to get them that way.

Then, you may choose to pay someone to install your cabinets (finishing construction): leveling them, cutting skins to fit, mitering the molding, securing them to walls and each other, and more. 

Did I mention (good) labor isn't cheap?

Here's what happens when they cover a gap between stock cabinets with a trim piece, and don't get it together perfectly.  This inside corner on an upper cabinet has been filled with non-matching, pink hued wood putty that is now falling out.  The gap was too large for putty.

The cost of kitchen cabinets: What else affects it?

Well, here's a short list:

  • The economy
  • How much money the salesperson thinks you have
  • Supply and demand
  • Your geographic location
  • The time of year
  • How knowledgeable the salesperson thinks you are about cabinetry
  • The number of competitors in your area
  • How close the salesperson is to meeting a quota

While you can't single handedly control the economy, you can educate yourself about kitchen cabinets, and guard against some unnecessary costs.

Most importantly, price shop your cabinets.
The easiest way to do this is to have a kitchen plan in hand, and simply have several places give you a quote.

Do not avoid a cabinet company because they make "custom" cabinets and you fear it will cost more.  It might be less... 

Thousands less!  My last kitchen was.  Each local market is different though.  You may be better off custom, stock, or semi-custom, depending on your situation.  Learn more about cheap kitchen cabinets here.


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