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Why Are Kitchen Cabinets So Expensive? (And Ways to Save)

If you’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel, you might be wondering: why are kitchen cabinets so expensive?

They seem simple enough, just wood and hardware.

But, many homeowners find that kitchen cabinets take up more of their remodel budget than expected.

In this article, I break down why kitchen cabinets are so expensive.

You’ll learn which factors have the most significant impact on price and how you can reduce the cost.

Plus, I share the average cost of kitchen cabinets across 21 major cities in the United States.

So, if you need new kitchen cabinets and want to make the most of your money, keep reading.


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Why Kitchen Cabinets Are So Expensive

There are multiple reasons why kitchen cabinets are so expensive. Materials, manufacturing, and labor costs all play a factor. Below, I’ll break down each of the costs associated with kitchen cabinets.

Wood Cost

Wood is expensive, and the price fluctuates based on market conditions (supply and demand).

Plus, the wood used for cabinet making tends to be more costly than general construction lumber, like treated pine.

The five most common types of wood for cabinet making are:

  • Oak
  • Hickory
  • Pine
  • Maple
  • Cherry

Other woods like mahogany and birch are also popular. But these choices are often even more expensive.

wood cabinets

Of the popular wood types for building cabinets, cherry is typically on the high end of the price range and pine on the low end. Oak and maple are in the middle.

Both oak and maple come in multiple colors and can be stained in a range of finishes. So, if you are looking for the most options for your money, oak and maple are great wood choices.

Hardware Cost

Building cabinets requires the use of metal hardware, like hinges, rails, handles, and latches. Most hardware is designed for the specific cabinet, so it costs a premium.

Kitchen cabinet hardware

There are also specialty pieces of hardware, like soft closing doors or pop-up latches. Specialty hardware will further raise the cost of your kitchen cabinets.

Lastly, hardware can have different finishes or patenas that change the price. Basic silver hardware will be cheaper than brushed or plated hardware.

Manufacturing

Kitchen cabinets can be mass-produced or custom-made. Custom cabinets are more popular, but mass-produced, ready-made cabinets are more cost-effective.

When you buy a set of mass-manufactured cabinets from a store like Home Depot, you buy a one-size-fits-all solution. That is cheaper for the manufacturer because they don’t need to design cabinets to fit your specific kitchen. However, you will need to make your space work with your cabinets instead of the other way around.

Custom cabinetry is designed specifically for your space. It also offers more material and assembly choices and styles.

For example, frameless cabinet designs are cheaper because the manufacturer doesn’t need to build a frame.

Door styles with extensive molding require more hand finishing than simple shaker-style doors.

Lastly, cabinet doors inset into the cabinet box are more expensive than doors that overlay because they require more precision.

The unique specifications of custom cabinetry raise the price of your kitchen cabinets.

Labor Cost

All kitchen cabinets, even mass-manufactured, need to be assembled and installed by hand. Unless you can install your kitchen cabinets yourself, you will need to budget for a professional to install them.

With simple mass-manufactured cabinets, you might feel comfortable taking your time and installing the cabinets yourself.

However, more complex and customized cabinets should only be installed by professionals, which can get expensive.

Added Functionalities

Many modern kitchen cabinets have added features and functionalities that raise the price.

You can get lazy susans or roll or pull out pantries. You can choose built-in cutting boards and step stools. Pull-out trash brackets, built-in wine racks, and custom spice pantries are other options. The list goes on and on.

Every extra functionality you add to your cabinets costs you twice. You pay for the accessory along with the cost of the labor for installation.

These special items add up fast, so if you are looking to cut costs, try to be selective when choosing your cabinet upgrades.

Shipping Costs

The lumber and hardware used to assemble your kitchen cabinets are heavy and bulky. There is a high cost to the manufacturer or retailer to ship these materials, and they pass that cost on to you.

The cost of shipping your cabinet materials depends on how far you are from the manufacturer or retailer.

Some sellers may offer free shipping for a short distance if you spend enough money. However, most sellers require you to pay for shipping, which can get quite expensive.

Removal

Removing old cabinets is not an expense many people think about when renovating their kitchen, but it’s something you should consider. Demolition is labor, and labor always costs money.

If you choose to remove your cabinets yourself, be careful. If you damage the walls or other parts of your kitchen, that can result in an unplanned expense.

Also, even if you remove your old cabinets yourself, you will likely need to pay a junk removal service or a dump fee to get rid of them.

Pro tip: If your old cabinets are in good condition, you might be able to sell them or at least get someone to pick them up for free.

Delivery

Depending upon how far you are located from your cabinet builder, delivery can be expensive. The manufacturer probably delivers with a large box truck, which requires fuel and upkeep. The cost of delivering your cabinets will get passed on to you.

You can cut down on the cost of delivering your cabinets by picking them up yourself, but make sure you are prepared for the amount of work that it takes.

You will need a large vehicle to transport your assembled cabinets and enough people to help you safely load and off-load them.

How to Reduce the Cost of Kitchen Cabinets

Now that you know why kitchen cabinets are so expensive, let’s look at the most effective ways to bring down the costs.

Rethink Your Materials

The best way to bring down the cost of your kitchen cabinets is to choose a more affordable wood.

If you had originally planned on specialty woods like mahogany, try to look at some oak options. If you planned for oak, take a look at some pine.

With different stains and finishes, you can make more affordable treated pine appear like expensive hardwood.

Even if pine is out of your budget, you can go with a particle-board option with a wood veneer. This option looks like solid wood, but it’s made of a compressed wood byproduct. While this is a very affordable option, it’s not very durable.

Consider Alternate Finish

Some finishes are only available with more expensive wood choices. You will likely see samples of stains that only apply to expensive cherry or mahogany.

Also, some finishes, like grey wash or wood-burning, are more labor-intensive and more costly.

Other finishes allow you to choose a cheaper wood type. A good polyurethane will protect your cabinets and looks great with any wood type.

If your wood has a natural grain, Danish oil will bring it out. If nothing else, paint covers all wood the same, as long as it fits your style.

Choose a Mid-Range Brand

Even if you live somewhere rural, you’d be surprised how many cabinet builders are likely in your area. Each cabinet builder charges a different rate and sources their materials from different brands.

Just like any other product, some cabinet brands cost more than others. Brands that have long histories and have a solid reputation will charge more than a new company.

For example, manufacturers like Schuler or Aristokraft are more affordable than brands like Decora and Omega.

Go With Simple Functionality

Earlier I mentioned options like soft close drawers and lazy susans. All the extra bells and whistles you add to your cabinets make them more expensive.

To save money on your kitchen cabinets, forego some upgrades like tall sliding pantries or specialty hardware. Additions like custom spice racks or utensil organizers can be added later.

Also, some options, like lazy susans and cutting boards, can be bought separately and fit inside your cabinets. These are much cheaper than built-in options.

Shop Around for Deals

Like how cabinet prices vary across brands, they also vary across retailers. Different manufacturers and retailers might utilize national supply chains to bring their costs down.

In general, larger companies tend to charge less than smaller businesses because they sell more and buy in bulk.

If you aren’t in a huge hurry, shop around. See if any of the stores are willing to sell their display cabinets at a discount.

Also, keep an eye on the overall market. Cabinet prices change with many economic trends, so you can save a lot of money simply by being patient.

Refinish Instead of Replace

Before you start taking a sledgehammer to your old cabinets, consider refinishing them. You’d be surprised how much a new coat of paint, new doors, or new drawer pulls impact the aesthetic of the cabinets.

DIY

Handling some of the renovations on your own will save you money. Certain aspects should be handled by professionals, but there are jobs that even the most novice DIYer can handle.

If your cabinets arrive unfinished, a simple YouTube video can show you how to apply wood stains.

If you have an electric screwdriver, you can hang the doors and install the handles.

Furthermore, tearing out your old cabinets on your own is a great way to save money.

Anything you can do, no matter how small it seems, will help reduce costs.

How Much Do Kitchen Cabinets Actually Cost?

It isn’t easy to give a solid estimate of how much kitchen cabinets will cost because there are so many variables.

Those key variables include the type of cabinets (customer vs. semi-custom vs. stock), materials, finishes, features, and labor costs in your area.

For a ballpark estimate, I’ll be talking about the price of cabinets by linear foot. These price ranges include materials and installation.

For stock cabinets, you can expect to spend between $100 and $300 per linear foot. These cabinets are built with inexpensive materials, but the design options are limited.

Semi-custom cabinets will cost between $150 and $650 per linear foot. These cabinets are a great option if you want cabinets that fit your space without breaking the bank.

They’re made with affordable materials, but compared to stock cabinets, you’ll have more options for specialty finishes and features.

Lastly, custom cabinets can cost anywhere from $500 to $1200 per linear foot or even more. With custom cabinets, you can get exactly what you want. Any wood type, finish, hardware, or special features are available.

The more options and quality materials, the more you will have to pay. Also, because these estimates are based on linear feet, bigger kitchens will make the renovation more expensive.

Another important variable is where you live.

Kitchen cabinet prices vary significantly by region since supplies and labor costs fluctuate with local supply and demand.

To give you a better idea of how the price of kitchen cabinets compares across several major cities in the United States, check out the chart below.

Note: The data below is pulled from HomeAdvisor’s Kitchen Cabinet Costs Calculator, which uses information collected from over four thousand customers.

City and StateAverage Cost of Kitchen Cabinets (Low-End)Average Cost of Kitchen Cabinets (High-End)
Houston, TX$2,092$8,334
Dallas, TX$1,365$6,325
New York, NY$1,710$9,513
Chicago, IL$1,465$9,286
Los Angeles, CA$2,626$11,152
Boston, MA$1,774$11,854
Montgomery, AL$5,115$12,224
Phoenix, AZ$1,693$7,948
Denver, CO$1,041$4,743
Hartford, CT$5,416$16,920
Tallahassee, FL$2,461$7,112
Atlanta, GA$1,660$7,669
Honolulu, HI$3,100$10,325
Boise City, ID$5,768$9,741
Baton Rouge, LA$1,260$2,480
Minneapolis, MN$1,832$7,144
Columbus, OH$1,473$6,446
Oklahoma City, OK$3,842$19,736
Nashville, TN$2,837$8,826
Salt Lake City, UT$1,096$5,824
Richmond, VA$4,363$13,622

Final Thoughts

Kitchen cabinets can cause serious sticker shock. Even basic cabinets can get expensive quickly, and there seems to be no ceiling on how expensive custom cabinetry can get.

Different wood types and finishes, along with specialty hardware and functions, can significantly change your cabinets’ price. So does anything that requires extensive labor, including removal, manufacturing, shipping, delivery, and installation.

If you are trying to save money on your kitchen cabinets, the key is to be flexible.

Maybe instead of stained oak, you opt for painted pine. Perhaps you can buy a universal lazy susan and a separate garbage can.

Lastly, watch some YouTube videos and do some of the work yourself.

Before buying, examine your budget, shop around some local retailers, and make a list of where you can compromise.

As long as you plan ahead and leave room for contingencies, you’ll get the most for your money.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s been studying consumer buying behavior for over a decade and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn or via email.

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