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Finding Kitchen Cabinets for Cheap

Tips for Saving Big on Kitchen Cabinets

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Finding Kitchen Cabinets for Cheap

It is possible to make stock cabinets look like custom with these tips.

Photo © David Papazian/Getty

Shopping for kitchen cabinets is like buying wine: The more you know, the more you tend to spend. But doing your research can save you quite a bit of money, because it is possible to find kitchen cabinets for cheap without resorting to cheap kitchen cabinets.

Here are a few things to know before you buy, plus tips for saving big on kitchen cabinets.

1) Know the lingo.

Below are the three main types of cabinets, and I’ve listed them in order of expense, from least to greatest.

Stock or Production Cabinets: These cabinets are readymade and usually sitting on the shelf at your local home decorator’s warehouse, ready for you to pick up and go. If you choose to have someone else do the installation, it will cost you extra.

Semi-Custom or Semi-Stock Cabinets: These cabinets are sold in modular units and offer more options than stock for details and storage features. Installation is usually not included in the price.

Custom: A cabinetmaker comes to your home and custom crafts cabinets for you. Installation is usually included in the final cost, but always double check.

2) Know how to save.

With a little creativity, it is possible to achieve a good look with all three types of cabinets. And with a bit of patience and legwork, it is possible to save big on all three types.

If you are handy, installing your cabinets yourself can save tons of money. And don’t feel that you have to book your installation from the same company you purchase your cabinets from. It may be cheaper to contract this out to a different source. Here are some other ways to save.

Saving on Stock Cabinets: Watch for seasonal sales or, if you don’t mind used, check your local reuse or Habitat store. If the stock cabinets come with hardware, check to see if you can purchase and install your own hardware instead. This may save you quite a bit of money.

The benefit of stock cabinets is that you don’t have to wait for delivery and installation. Most stock cabinets can be picked up the same day of the order.

Saving on Semi-Custom Cabinets: Steer clear of fancy, add-on features that you can easily do without. For example, a built-in wine rack or utensil drawer can cost 10-times as much as adding these things yourself. To save big, consider adding your hardware, under counter lighting and organizational features yourself.

Semi-Custom cabinets can take 8-12 weeks for delivery. Rushing delivery time may be possible, but this will usually cost you. Plan ahead to make sure you have your cabinets delivered on time … and on budget.

Saving on Custom Cabinets: Ask the cabinetmaker how you might can cut costs – making the sides of the cabinets from MDF or engineered wood can save thousands, or forgoing pricey hardware or installing your own can save quite a bit of money.

No matter how you try to save on custom cabinets, recognize that custom cabinets, even at their cheapest, can easily cost upwards of $500 per liner foot – which can add up fast. This is usually not an option for any sane, budget-conscious person. If you are really handy, consider building your own.

3) Know how to make cheap look like custom.

With a few handy DIY tricks, one can make even the cheapest stock cabinets look and feel like custom cabinets. The secret to creating a custom-cabinet look is to vary the cabinets’ profiles. Cabinets that are flat all the way across the front or are all the same height look like production work.

Have some cabinets jut out while others recede; raise some cabinets higher than the ones next to them. For example, consider adding a drop down space for a kitchen desk or workstation, or add an elevated cabinet and top for a kitchen island or bar.

Vary the faces of your cabinets by attaching molding or panels yourself. Consider painting one section of cabinets a standout color. Adding corbels, brackets, rope trim and/or feet or legs turn plain cabinets into custom ones at a bargain-store price.

    Decorator’s Hints:
  • For design help and to locate cabinet dealers near you, check out the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s website.

  • Don’t forget to factor in the cost of your kitchen countertop. Topping an inexpensive cabinet with a quality top will improve the look of any cabinet, but you don’t have to spend a fortune on countertops to achieve a beautiful look. Many like granite, but there are many other countertop options that look just as beautiful but don’t cost nearly as much.

  • If you are facing a kitchen remodel, understand upfront that your kitchen cabinets are probably going to be your biggest ticket item. But also know that kitchen cabinets and appliances only have a style-life of 10 years or less, meaning that what you love today will probably look outdated and worn in 5-10 years, so don’t feel pressured to spend more than you can afford. It’s much wiser to not invest heavily in a temporary item, and in 8 years when it’s time for another kitchen remodel, you’ll be glad that you didn’t.

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