How To Lower The Cost Of Kitchen Cabinets

This page is part of the affordable kitchen remodeling series, created to help homeowners design an elegant kitchen that fits their budget. You can access the entire series here.

This is part one of the three part series called; “How To Lower Your Kitchen Remodeling Costs”.

Part one deals strictly with cabinets since it’s the most expensive part of any kitchen remodel and it’s also where you can save the most money. In part two we will cover countertops, floors, lighting, and appliances. And finally, in part three I have a few simple cheats that will put more money back in your pocket, or make room in your budget for an upgrade somewhere else in the kitchen.

This series is geared towards those of us that are replacing kitchen cabinets and countertops, and things like appliances and flooring too. If you’re looking for advice such as how to paint your laminate countertops to look like granite or how to prepare your existing cabinets for a fresh coat of paint, this probably isn’t the right article for you.

If that’s what you want to do here’s a fantastic article on painting cabinets and another on adding a faux finish to countertops.

Still with me?

Good, because if you take just a couple pieces of advice from this series you’re going to save thousands of dollars on your kitchen remodel.

How To Save Money On Kitchen Cabinets

I’ve got lot’s of options for you here, and by exploring your options instead of just heading to Lowe’s to get a quote you can save some serious cash.

To save the most money explore and get a quote for each of the options I recommend below. It definitely will require some legwork from you, but it has the potential to slash the cost of your cabinets literally in half and you’ll be surprised by what you’ll learn about cabinetry by going through the process.

In the end you’ll have a greater understanding of what goes into a quality cabinet, where it’s perfectly acceptable to cut corners to save money, what’s worth paying a little extra for, as well as having a deeper appreciation for the cabinetry that you do end up buying.

Have Your Existing Cabinets Professionally Repainted

Having your kitchen cabinets professionally repainted is a far cry from stripping and painting them yourself, and if they are in good shape this is a very inexpensive option.

The proper way to have this done is to first have all the doors and hardware removed. If you’re replacing your countertop have that removed first too. Then they will paint the frames and any other parts that can’t be taken back to their shop.

Next they will pack up your doors and drawers and take them back to their shop to paint them in a controlled environment to give them the most consistent and durable finish possible.

Replace The Doors And Drawer Faces

If your cabinets are structurally sound, doors and drawers open and close properly, constructed of plywood or MDF, solid wood side panels and face frames, then they’re an excellent candidate for a facelift.

Think of it as owning owning a car that runs great, can get you from point A to B for another 10 years, but has peeling paint from sitting in the hot summer sun year after year or has hail damage from a fluke storm. You wouldn’t take out a loan for $20,000 to buy a new car when you could repair and repaint your existing car for $3,000 would you? Of course not, so why throw away perfectly good kitchen cabinets because they are worn or outdated.

Replacing the doors and drawer faces is called cabinet refacing and there are a lot of companies that specialize in it. It’s definitely worth it to have a local company come over for a consultation to see if yours can be refaced and to give you a price quote.

By refacing instead of replacing you can save thousands of dollars and still end up with a kitchen that looks brand new.

Replacing Your Cabinets Completely

Even if you have no choice but to completely remove your existing cabinetry there are still lot’s of ways to save money.

The most important advice I can give you is to not run to the local big box store, pick out come cabinets, and set up a date to have them installed. While getting a quote from a big box store should be part of your process of shopping around there are much better options.

Framed Versus Frameless Cabinet Styles

A stop sign used as a viusl cue to alert you that something important is coming up.

Don't skip this section. It's super important to understand.

Before having a chat with any sales rep at any store it’s important to have an understanding of the two types of basic cabinet construction. They are called frameless, sometimes referred to as full access, and framed.

To understand the difference between framed and frameless, watch this video. It’s only about three minutes long but when it’s over you’ll understand more about cabinet construction than 90% of the people that are in the market for a new kitchen.

Semi-Custom Kitchen Cabinets

Semi-custom is a happy medium between buying full custom cabinetry and ones that come off the shelf exactly as they are. You can even get a fully custom sizes from them for that tricky spot between the sink and stove, if you have a small kitchen, or to fit perfectly against the trim for a door if your kitchen leads directly outside. Whatever custom size you need they will make while using standard sizes as often as possible.

Usually your local lumber yard will have the most options for you to choose from. Most lumber yards carry multiple different lines for you to choose from at multiple different starting prices. You’ll be able to select from many different door options, paint colors, finishes; you name it and it’s an option.

But don’t go to just one lumber yard to get a quote. Go to at least two because sometimes a sales rep at one lumber yard or the other either doesn’t care enough to try to save you the most money or in some cases they don’t have enough options for you to choose from.

In my experience most quality cabinets end up being bought from a lumber yard, so if you’re starting from scratch getting a quote from two or three of them should be your top priority.

Don’t Assume You Can’t Afford Fully Custom Cabinets

It’s a common misconception that fully custom cabinetry, handcrafted by a local cabinet maker, cost much more than what the big box stores have in stock.

Let your local custom cabinet shop come into your home and give you a quote before you make a decision. Because they are fully custom you can explore all sorts of options with them that can bring the price inline with what the bog box stores charge.

The biggest benefit to hiring a local craftsman versus buying them off the shelf at Lowe’s or Home Depot is that the quality of them will be astronomically better.

Ready To Assemble Cabinets (RTA)

As a general rule ready to assemble cabinets are frameless but they aren’t even close to the quality of the ones you’ll get from a lumber yard. They are an option but in most cases they are low quality and aren’t going to hold up as well for the long haul. In some cases doors will start to fall off and drawers will stop operating smoothly in just a year or two. This is pretty typical of IKEA ready to assemble cabinetry, especially for their lower end lines.

RTA is also only an option if you’re going to assemble them yourself. If you you plan to have a contractor assemble them for you any money that you saved by purchasing RTA will quickly be eaten up by the extra labor you’ll have to pay your contractor to assemble them.

If you do assemble them yourself you have to be sure that all the corners are at or are very close to 90 degrees. It’s very common for them to be out of square or not level which make them harder to install and for countertops to be installed on.

You should explore this option and talk about it with your contractor if you are using one, but I don’t recommend RTA cabinets.

Unfinished Cabinets

Unfinished is a much cheaper options than painted or stained, but the savings comes with a sacrifice. Obviously they still have to be painted or stained. Staining isn’t hard to do well even for someone that’s never done it before but mistakes can happen. Hiring a pro would be a wise decision.

Painting is quite a bit harder to get right than staining, so if you do decide to purchase unfinished cabinetry with the intention of painting them it’s best to leave it to a professional.

Any saving you make by purchasing unfinished cabinets is going to be quickly eaten up by the cost of staining or painting them. I’d cross this off the list, it’s just not worth the trouble.

Strategically Utilize Open Shelving Instead Of Installing Upper Cabinets

If you really want to save a lot of money utilize shelving instead of having any uppers. In a smaller kitchen you can get away with this but if you have a large kitchen I would only do this strategically.

An example of a kitchen utilizing strategic open shelving.

In the right space you can even get away with having no uppers or shelving at all.

A small kitchen with no upper cabinets at all.

Do Your Own Demolition

Doing demolition yourself is going to save you a lot of money, especially if you have a truck and can haul the scrap to the dump yourself instead of paying to rent a dumpster.

How To Get Someone To Remove And Haul Your Cabinetry Away For Free

If your kitchen cabinets are in decent shape try this trick. Put them up on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for free as long as whomever wants them is willing to come to your home, unscrew them from the wall, and take them away.

You can usually find someone that will be happy to take them off your hands and use them for storage in their garage or basement.

Part two of this series is called “How To Lower The Cost Of Kitchen Countertops, Floors, Lighting, and Appliances”. You’re probably here on this page because I sent you this article by email today. If that’s the case then you’ll get part two tomorrow.

If you’re not on the list and want to get part two fill in the form below. I’ll send you a link to our kitchen design toolkit which includes a link to this page as well as some fun kitchen design tools that will help you design your new kitchen.

I want to give you a chance to explore the full toolkit before part two arrives in your inbox tomorrow.



Page Last Updated On Feb 14, 2019 by Scott Jenkins