One of the first questions homeowners remodeling their kitchen or building a new home want to know when they call or come into our showroom is: How much do custom kitchen cabinets cost? Although this is a very difficult question to answer, I will do my best to explain some general pricing guidelines.
You generally have three options when purchasing kitchen and bathroom cabinetry: stock, semi-custom, and custom. Stock cabinets are those which have already been built, finished, and are being stocked in a large warehouse somewhere. You are unable to customize any aspect, what you see is what you get. Semi-custom cabinets are able to be customized to some degree. Typically you're able to modify widths and depths by 1" increments; however, finishes and styles are still limited. Custom would be having a cabinet maker design and build you one-of-a-kind cabinets from scratch. Most skilled cabinet shops are able to build any size, style, or finish you'd like.
This article will be focus solely on custom cabinets.
Custom Cabinet Price Ranges
As with any custom-built product and with so many options available, price ranges for custom cabinetry can vary drastically. Just as a base Ford F-150 can start around 24K with a basic package, it can quickly cost over 50K once you add power windows, a bigger engine, stereo system, leather interior, chrome finishes, extended cab, four-wheel drive, upgraded wheels, dual exhaust, spray-on bedliner, navigation system, etc.
Let’s say you want to know the cost of one 30” base cabinet. Seems easy enough to price, right? But it’s not so easy unless you know exactly what you want. Here are a few of the questions we’d have to discuss before I could quote you a price:
- What type of wood do you want? Maple, Oak, Cherry, Walnut, Mahogany, Sapele, Bubinga, Wenge?
- Do you want two doors and a top drawer? Or just two doors? Or a drawer bank with a three drawer bank? Four drawers?
- What type of finish do you want? Natural? Painted? Stained? What type of stain? Any distressing or glaze?
- What do you want inside the cabinet? One shelf? Two rollout shelves? Dividers? Knife block? Dovetail drawers?
As you can see, pricing custom cabinets can get a bit tricky.
That 30” base cabinet might range from $500 - $1,500+. Now imagine how large that price range becomes when you’re talking about an entire kitchen.
How much are cabinets per linear foot?
Ah yes, the per linear foot discussion. If you’ve been researching cabinets for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve come across this phrase a few times. Pricing cabinets per linear foot is a common price comparison widely used in the industry. Funny thing is, no one seems to agree or know what an actual “linear foot” is. If professionals are confused, you know the average homeowner is. The dictionary definition of a linear foot is, “a unit of linear measure equal to 12 inches”.
Here’s an example of where the confusion lies: You have an eight foot long wall with base and upper cabinets with a dishwasher in the middle. Some argue that a linear foot is 12 inches of the base and upper cabinets together (total of 8 linear feet in the example). Others claim that a linear foot is base plus uppers (total of 16 linear feet). And what about the empty dishwasher space? Some people include the empty space in the calculation; some don’t.
But the real issue is, what about all the variables and options? I don’t know what wood, finish, style, cabinet configurations, etc. that you want in your kitchen. As we discussed in the 30” cabinet example above, there are way too many variables and options for you to choose from in order to give you a fair quote using per linear foot.
Back to the vehicle analogy, here are a few of the common “add-ons” when purchasing custom cabinetry:
- Pullout spice racks
- Decorative feet/toe-kick
- Stacked crown molding
- Light rail
- End panels
- Pantry cabinets
- Rollout shelves
- Dovetail drawers
- Cedar lined
- Glass front doors
- Matching wood countertops
- Drawer dividers
- Peg and board system
- Lazy susan
- Corbels and onlays
- Appliance panels
- Custom wood vent hood
Long story short, pricing custom cabinets per linear foot just doesn’t work. At least not for us.
How custom cabinets should be quoted
Similar to how each of the cabinets we build is built from scratch, so too should every custom cabinet quote. No two projects are ever the same. Each client has needs and desires that are unique to their situation.
The only way to properly quote a custom cabinet project is to sit down with the homeowner and discuss the project in detail. The “per linear foot” method might work with stock or semi-custom cabinets, but not custom.
Another variable to custom cabinet pricing
Keep in mind that prices vary wildly between custom cabinet shops around the country. The custom cabinet industry is made up of many small mom and pop operations. You will find a few medium size manufacturing facilities (like ours), but also quite a few one man shops.
With such a diverse and scattered industry, price fluctuations can be pretty large between two companies. Couple this fact with regional difference in cost of labor and overhead, and price swings are substantial. The difference between custom cabinets in San Francisco or Boston versus Central Florida is huge.
Our average priced medium sized kitchen costs $12,000 - $17,000 (some higher, some lower), but in a major city that same kitchen might cost $25,000-$40,000.
How much do you want to spend?
So the answer to the question of how much do custom kitchen cabinets cost is….it depends. I know that's not what you wanted to hear. But it's true.
It’s similar to calling a custom home builder and asking him how much a new home costs. Or calling a custom jeweler and asking how much a diamond ring costs. There’s absolutely no way they could come close to providing an answer without consulting with you for some time.
The cost of custom cabinets ultimately comes down to the question of: What do you want? But typically after a short consultation we can come up with a "ballpark estimate" based on what you describe.
Advantage of buying custom cabinets
A huge advantage to buying custom is that there is only “one hand in the cookie jar”. If you’re buying a pre-made cabinet from a big box store or any big manufacturer, by the time the price gets to you, 4-6 different hands have touched it. And each of those hands took profit. By the time that cabinet gets to you (the retail customer) and in a catalog, the markup is huge.
The beauty of custom cabinets is that you’re buying straight from the source. The cabinet maker buys wood and hardware and turns it into cabinets. No middlemen. No shipping fees. And no sales tax. Often times, a custom cabinet maker’s price is less expensive than semi-custom cabinet lines. We hear it all time.
Where do I start?
If you are serious about finding out how much your custom cabinet project will cost, I suggest scheduling an appointment with a kitchen designer or cabinet maker. Come prepared with pictures and ideas of cabinets styles you like. You’ll need a basic layout of your space with dimensions. After an hour or so of gaining a basic understanding of your wants and needs, he/she should be able to provide you with a ballpark price for custom cabinets.