Talking costs and budgets isn't exactly the fun side of designing a kitchen. But it's something you should consider way before deciding on a color, or a tile or what fancy coffee machine you want to buy for your new space. And a good place to start when considering the expense of designing a new kitchen (or updating your old one) is the cost of new kitchen cabinets. These are the bones of the kitchen and probably where you are going to be spending a large chunk of cash.
Now, as with anything to do with renovation costs, putting an exact price on something is tricky. The cost of modern kitchen cabinets will depend on your layout, the size of your space, the material you want to go with, whether you want to go bespoke, semi-custom or stock – and that's just naming a few.
So to make it slightly simpler and to give you more of an idea of what you would expect to pay for various types of cabinets, we've broken it down for you.
What's the average price of new kitchen cabinets?
Due to the pretty much endless amount of options, materials and designs available the average cost of new kitchen cabinets varies massively. Typically, costs will range from around $3,000 to upwards of $30,000.
It totally depends on what type you go for, what materials you choose, and how big your space is. Here we will break down the different options so you can make the best decision for your home and budget.
What's the difference between custom, semi-custom and stock kitchen cabinets?
What type of kitchen cabinet you are going for is the biggest decision you will make that will affect costs. Are you going for custom, semi-custom or ready-to-assemble/stock? The three categories refer to how the cabinets have been manufactured. There are pros and cons to each and the price difference can vary massively.
Top piece of advice though from designer Dana Lynch – 'One thing I can say about costs is to look at the TOTAL job. A fully installed custom job may be say $50,000 and an IKEA kitchen looks like its $10,000. Great, right? Now add shipping, receiving, assembly, installation, and the hassle of not getting all the parts to the IKEA job and you could very easily wind up close to the total cost of a semi-custom or custom job.' Wise words.
How much do stock kitchen cabinets cost?
Stock cabinets are the cheapest option, they are ready-made to standard sizes and there's zero customization available – they come as they are and you will have to play around with how they will be installed into your space. We are talking about the Lowe's, Home Depot, IKEA kitchens end of the spectrum. It's not that the quality can't be great, because it can, and stock kitchens can be a good choice if you are designing or remodeling a kitchen on a budget, but you don't have the options or the flexibility as you do with bespoke cabinetry.
'Factory-assembled cabinets are often constructed from pre-cut components at standardized/set dimensions. This tends to keep pricing low but does mean that there is little flexibility to accommodate custom sizes, shaping or internal layout preferences, leaving these finer details to be accommodated on-site by the fitter.' explains Elizabeth Sherwin, Creative Director of Naked Kitchens.
The cost of these kinds of cabinets will vary on the size of your space and the design you go for – 'In-stock cabinets generally can start around $100-$150 per linear foot and a total would be $2,500-$7,500 installed.' explains designer Max Humphrey.
How much do semi-custom kitchen cabinets cost?
Then you've got semi-custom cabinets. These are somewhere in between stock and custom. There are certain elements you can change like the kitchen cabinet color, finish, what's going on inside the cabinets and although the sizes are still standard you have more options there too. There's a step up in price from RTA cabinets but no where near as much as going totally bespoke. 'Semi-custom is typically around half of what a custom cabinet would cost. I’d budget around $7,500 to $12,000 for semi-custom.' advises Max.
'I often suggest working with a combination of standard and custom cabinets to ensure that all of your kitchen storage (and sometimes style!) needs have been accommodated, whilst still keeping a track of the overall budget,' suggests Elizabeth Sherwin. 'We would suggest that this balance of bespoke and standard units is a fantastic way to achieve your dream kitchen without breaking the bank.'
'I love the freedom of custom. There are far less boundaries in terms of how creative you can be. Dreaming up a new concept in your head and seeing it come to life never gets old. That said some of the finish options out there with semi-custom and stock are pretty impressive.' says designer Kelsey Leigh. 'With semi-custom you still have lots of great options, finish and door styles to choose from and some really cool storage features – you are just more limited on shape. Again, the decision really depends on your project, how long you plan to occupy the space, and your goals. You usually get what you pay for so that is also something to keep in mind as you weigh your options.'
How much do custom kitchen cabinets cost?
And finally, the option of everyone's dreams, custom cabinetry. This type is designed for your space and your space only, and able to fit around whichever kitchen trends you're currently loving. You can decide on size, designs, color, finish, material, the lot, and the layout will slide perfectly into your home.
'I tend to encourage my clients to go the custom route in many areas of the home (bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc) not just kitchen cabinet units,' says Max. 'That way you get exactly what you want and can really cater the look and layout to your tastes. I’d budget at least $500 per linear foot for custom cabinets (not including labor/install costs).'
'Custom cabinets can easily start at about $500 per linear foot and go up towards $1,000 depending on the bells and whistles. That can add up to $15,000-$30,000 in cabinet costs alone so it’s definitely an investment.' continues Max.
But as Dana says 'When it comes to custom cost is all over the board (want dovetailed walnut drawers?) but can easily be 2x semi-custom unless you find a shop that's either newer, needs the work or works with builders on a more volume basis.'
How much do different cabinet materials cost?
As well as the type of kitchen cabinet you choose, the material it's made from will also affect the price. 'When considering the cost of kitchen cabinets, you should also take into consideration the materials used. For instance, solid wood kitchen cabinets are usually more expensive than other materials such as MDF. Other materials may include metal, glass, and even plastic finishes. Depending on the look you’re going for, more expensive materials may be necessary, but you can also find more cost-effective options, such as laminate cabinets.' explains Tim Wells of Garage Transformed.
'There are also different types of finishes available, both for stock and custom kitchen cabinets. Some popular finishes include stained, painted, and glazed cabinets, as well as specialty finishes such as antique and distressed. You may also find cabinets with decorative accents like glazes, beading, and appliques. Again, the type of finish you choose will depend on both your personal taste and budget.'
Solid wood cabinetry is most common with custom, or semi-custom cabinetry and is going to cost more than their MDF counterparts. Depending on the type of wood you choose, expect to pay anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000.
'With a bespoke kitchen you are able to specify every element, from the interior of the cupboards to the handle on the outside, so the price is heavily dependent on the materials you choose,' explains Charlie Smallbone of Ledbury Studio. 'Our solid wooden cupboards are handmade in our workshop and each one is crafted using traditional joinery methods such as dovetail and mortice and tenon joints. As such, you are not only paying for the quality of the wood, but also the time it takes to make that cupboard.'
There's also a difference in price in the woods available and the finish you are after. Oak, maple, cherry, and walnut are the most popular options, and the more exotic you get the more the price goes up. Wood is not a cheap material to work with but of them all, oak is the most 'affordable'.
'I love using oak or walnut wood for cabinetry and often use both in my designs. There is always a price difference in paint-grade wood and stain-grade wood. Stain-grade wood is always more expensive. Whether you’re painting or staining cabinetry, consider including a UV maple interior to your cabinets and drawers. The finish is less expensive than staining your entire interior but still gives a gorgeous, elevated bleached wood effect,' suggests Marie Flanigan.
For stock cabinets, the 'carcasses' tend to be made of cheaper materials, and then the fronts are where you have more options and the price can differ. 'Inexpensive kitchen brands generally have cupboards made from MDF, which are glued and screwed together because they’re not meant to be seen. Inevitably, this keeps the price down.' says Charlie.
You can still find stock cabinets that use MDF carcasses and solid wooden fronts, which would be a far cheaper option than going for solid wood throughout. But most commonly stock kitchen fronts tend to use veneer or laminate and for those, you're looking at prices starting at $2,000, so more than half the price of solid wood.
Plywood is also an option if you are on more of a budget. 'Plywood is a fantastically strong and stable material, making this a sensible choice for very large units. A real veneer is also a popular option for open shelving, glazed units and lovely wide larders,' says Elizabeth Sherwin. 'We would generally expect a cost difference in the region of 30-40% between the more cost-effective oak effect interiors vs oak veneered plywood.'
How much does installation cost?
Installing costs will vary due to whether you go stock or bespoke, the size of your space, who you choose for the job, where you live, etc. Are you being charged by the hour or for the whole job? Are you working with a kitchen fitter, a handyman, or a contractor who is overseeing the whole project? On average expect to pay between $70 - $150 per hour for your kitchen fitter if you are going with a stock kitchen and more like $100 - $200 if going for semi-custom or custom as it's a more complex job. But this really is very changeable depending on what and who you are working with.
Our one piece of advice, is don't scrimp on labor costs. This is not the place to save money. If you are spending money on a new kitchen it's so important to have it fitted by someone you trust and is going to do a good job. As Dana Lynch says, 'the key to using a less expensive or manufactured cabinet is a fantastic install. A bad install with lots of filler, trim, and quarter round to cover up all the problems is a dead giveaway of a lower-end product.'
'Installing new kitchen cabinets is a big decision in any home refresh or renovation project. It’s one that can be a lot of fun, but also that comes with a lot of questions! I would recommend asking every possible question of your contractor,' advises designer Kathy Kuo. 'Start with what your dream cabinet look might be, and then work backward in terms of inquiring about cost, the quality of materials, the amount of labor and time required. It’s also essential that you really trust your contractor (and everyone on your construction and design team) so take your time in vetting the pros you choose to hire.'
So save on your kitchen cabinets, splash out on the installation.
Extra costs to consider
'Consider that the project doesn't end with new cabinets,' says Kelsey Lee. 'Kitchen countertops, hardware, backsplash, and paint are all going to be necessary in a kitchen renovation. Oftentimes flooring, sheetrock and tear out, dumpster, etc. can contribute to unexpected costs too.'
Tear-out costs can be a big one we all forget about when looking at new cabinetry. Unless you plan on doing it yourself (an option we would only suggest if you know exactly what you are doing) hire a professional to dismantle your old kitchen and dispose of it. Expect to pay between $500 – $1,000 depending on the size of your old kitchen and how detailed the job is.
The February issue of Livingetc, out in January, comes with an extra 64 page kitchen and bathroom supplement. It's packed with information and inspiration to help you make the right choices for your remodel or redecoration. Buy a subscription now and have it delivered to your door at 50% off.
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Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.
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