Why Are Kitchen Cabinets So Expensive? 

Home renovations can cost a lot and that is before considering specific items such as cabinets. If the high price tag of kitchen cabinets caught you off-guard, you’re not alone. While they may seem simple, new cabinets can cost thousands of dollars and custom cabinets cost even more. Why are kitchen cabinets so expensive and is there a way to reduce the cost?

The high price of kitchen cabinets is due to the materials used, the way the cabinets are made and their design. Custom cabinets are higher priced as they take more work and time to build. You can minimize costs by choosing simple designs, reducing the number of cabinets needed and even building your own cabinets. 

Here are 7 Reasons Why Cabinets Are So Expensive

Many factors contribute to the cost of cabinets. From the material to the installation, kitchen cabinets require a lot of time and skill.

1. Material

The material used for the cabinets makes a considerable difference to the end cost. Below is a summary of the more popular materials used to make kitchen cabinets:

Wood Veneer

At the lower end of the scale are wood veneer cabinets. These are typically made from either plywood or particleboard. Plywood is a popular material as it is cheaper than solid wood but still offers good durability and water resistance. These cabinets are finished with panels that give them a solid wood appearance. This lets you get great results when you’re on a low budget.


Another option that is similar to wood veneer cabinets is laminate cabinets.  These are also made of plywood or particleboard but they are finished with laminate. Laminate cabinets are an affordable option that suits the design and style of modern kitchens.

Solid Wood

As we move up the scale, we get to solid wood cabinets. The more popular options include oak, maple, cherry, and pine. Each type of wood has its own pros and cons, and the price varies depending on the material used.

Cherry wood is usually the more expensive option with oak in the middle and maple and pine on the lower end. Oak and maple tend to come in multiple colours and have a range of finish options so are both good choices if you need a bit more freedom when it comes to styling options.

Stainless Steel

The more expensive kitchen cabinet material is stainless steel. Even the lower cost stainless steel cabinets will still set you back by about 5 times more than a set of solid wood cabinets. While these cabinets look great, are easy to clean and are incredibly durable they aren’t the best option if you’re looking to save money.

2. Cabinet Per Foot

The cost of cabinets is usually calculated per linear foot. The average cost of kitchen cabinets per foot is $300 – $1500. The number of cabinets in a standard kitchen is often quite high. Even if your kitchen is quite small the cabinets per linear foot add up fast. There is such a huge range in the average price as there are so many variable factors that impact the overall cost. As the pricing is displayed as cabinet per linear foot, the total price of all the cabinets you need can come as a shock.

By measuring the length of the cabinets in your kitchen in inches and then dividing by 12 you will get the linear foot measurement. With this number in mind, it is easier to figure out how much all of the cabinets are going to cost. You can do the rough calculations yourself so you have a good idea of the ballpark figure before you receive a quote. Knowing the cabinet per foot measurement helps reduce pricing confusion and makes comparing cabinet options much easier.

Some other ways pricing is displayed is per cabinet or an estimate for a standard 10 x 10 kitchen. If your kitchen has irregular dimensions then calculating the size of cabinets you require is more challenging. Always take this price as a rough estimate as many factors can increase or decrease the end total.

3. Labor Costs

Labor expenses play a huge role in the overall cost of kitchen cabinets. Making, delivering and installing the cabinets is labor-intensive and requires both skill and time. When getting cabinets professionally installed it will usually involve a team of people as it takes at least two people to get the cabinets properly lined up and level. The number of people and the precision needed brings the cost to hang the cabinets up higher.

The amount of time all of this takes depends on the type of cabinets and whether they are custom made or not. You can expect to pay more if you also need your old cabinets professionally removed. To give you an idea of just how much it costs to hang the cabinets,  professional installation can cost almost half the price of the cabinets themselves. This is why taking on some of the installation or removal work yourself can help you save money.

4. Hardware Options

Of course, cabinets need to have knobs or handles and this also contributes towards the cost.

The price of each item will depend on the material and detailing but these costs will soon add up. The good thing is that the hardware rarely needs replacing.

As the hardware will impact the overall appearance of the cabinets it’s best not to cut too many corners when choosing these. Fortunately, there is good quality hardware available that isn’t too expensive. If you’re trying to reduce costs take a look at middle-grade options that balance style with price and durability.

5. Features

A simple cabinet is going to be the most affordable. As we live in a time of convenience built-in features such as self-closing doors, soft close draws, wine racks etc. are popular. The inclusion of features will increase the cost of the cabinets. Specialty features can be useful and certainly have their place but they also add to the cost. Any specialty features you choose will not only cost more for the accessory itself but also for the installation.

6. Glazing & Finishing Options

Glazing is an additional process that helps keep the cabinets protected and gives them a shiny appearance. Putting glaze on kitchen cabinets is pricey but isn’t necessary if your cabinets have high-quality paint. A good cleaning routine is all that it takes to keep unglazed cabinets looking new. There are many finishing options available and they vary in results and price.

7. Custom Vs Pre-Made

As expected, custom made cabinets are more expensive than pre-made cabinets. The price gap between pre-made and custom cabinets is quite substantial. Custom cabinets are designed and made specifically for your kitchen. Getting cabinets custom made gives you a huge amount of choice when it comes to material, assembly and style. There’s no denying these cabinets are convenient and they look great but they are rarely budget-friendly.

Pre-made cabinets are much more affordable. You will generally be able to find pre-made cabinets that will fit in your kitchen. It is cheaper to make these cabinets as they don’t need to fit a specific kitchen. However, if you have an unusual space then you will likely need custom-made cabinets for those areas. When you’re trying to reduce costs it is a good idea to use pre-made cabinets where possible and only use custom cabinets where necessary.

How Much Do Cabinets For The Kitchen Cost?

As you can see, many contributing factors make kitchen cabinets expensive. While it is difficult to put an accurate price on them, below is a rough guide to help you calculate your renovation costs.

Cost of Custom Cabinets

Custom cabinets are a big investment but they are created exactly as you want them. You can choose the wood type, finish, features and hardware. This makes custom cabinets convenient, efficient and ideal if you have specific style requirements. The overall cost is difficult to estimate as many factors impact it including your kitchen size and the options, materials and features you choose.

As a rough guide, custom cabinets often cost 5 – 10x more than basic stock cabinets. A set of affordable custom kitchen cabinets can cost in the region of $10,000 with high-end custom cabinets costing over double this.

Cost of High-End Kitchen Cabinets

High-end kitchen cabinets are high quality, durable and include finer details that more basic pre-made cabinets often lack. A set of high end stock cabinets can cost around $6,000 while high end custom cabinets can cost around $25,000. If pre-made cabinets fit well and look good in your kitchen it is worth looking at high end stock cabinets as they can create the style you want without costing a fortune.

Cost of Used Kitchen Cabinets

Used kitchen cabinets are not something that are often available. If you shop around you may be able to find used custom cabinets at a low price. It is worth keeping a lookout just in case. However, this is not a guaranteed option so don’t pin your hopes on finding a set of used cabinets that suits your requirements.

6 Ways to Reduce the Overall Cost of Expensive Cabinets

The following tips and tricks can help you reduce how much you’re spending on kitchen cabinets:

1. Only Use Cabinets Where They Are Necessary

This is one of the easiest ways to reduce how much you are spending on cabinets. Simply reduce the number of cabinets you are buying. Not all of the kitchen needs cabinets, having shelves and open spaces is a good option too.

2. Consider Shelving

Shelves are versatile, they look good and they don’t cost much. Installing shelves is ideal for holding cookbooks and decorative elements that can enhance the overall look of the kitchen. Some shelves, if positioned carefully, can offer additional working space too. Choosing an open shelf instead of a wall cabinet can save a lot of money while benefiting the overall design and functionality of the kitchen.

3. Select Simple Designs

As you can see, custom cabinets or custom features on cabinets can cost a lot. Sliding shelves, a pullout trash can or anything similar is going to add a lot to your overall costs. By keeping the additional features and custom elements to a minimum it will bring down the amount you are paying for the cabinets. Something as simple as the door style can impact the cost more than you may realise.

Try to be minimalistic with the cabinet designs. Remember, you can always add features later on down the line if you want to. Some features can even be bought separately and fitted inside the cabinet for a fraction of the price of a built-in version. If you keep the cabinets simple yet functional your overall expenses will reduce without actually losing any cabinet space.

4. Pick the Material Carefully

As we discussed earlier, the material or wood species used for the shelves will impact the price. Choosing a more affordable wood is one of the best ways you can bring down the cost of your new cabinets. There are lots of great options and the end results don’t differ too much.

5. Have Fewer Drawers

This is a simple thing that many people don’t consider when buying their new kitchen cabinets. Drawer bases actually cost a lot and the more drawers you have the higher the cost is going to be. This is because drawers are more complicated than doors and their price reflects this. Of course, all kitchens need some drawers for utensils and smaller kitchen gadgets but choosing more doors and fewer drawers will help save you money.

6. Don’t Glaze

Glazing produces good results but it isn’t essential for painted or stained cabinets. If you skip glazing, the total cost of your kitchen cabinets will be considerably less. Take a look at the different finishing options and find the one that best matches your budget.

Building Your Own Kitchen Cabinet (Is It The Cheaper Option?)

It’s no surprise that making your own cabinets will save you a lot of money as all you will be paying for are the materials. If you have the time, skill and tools to build your own kitchen cabinets it will be the cheaper option. The savings you stand to make will be worth the extra effort. However, if you need to hire someone to help you then the price will increase and there’s a good chance this will no longer be the cheapest option.

If you decide to build your own kitchen cabinets, don’t rush. Have a plan in place and take the time to make sure your cabinets are well made and will last a long time. Price up all the materials before you start and compare this to how much a similar set of pre-made cabinets will cost to determine if this is going to be worthwhile or not.

Another potential option is buying a ready to assemble cabinet. This is essentially a flat-pack cabinet that comes in a box with everything you need. All you need to do is assemble it and install it. This takes out all of the labour costs while also removing the harder DIY parts to give you the best of both worlds.

You don’t have to handle the full renovation yourself. There are often factors that are better off handled by professionals or experienced DIYers. With that said, there are plenty of jobs even novice DIYers can complete too.

Simple Ways DIY Can Reduce Cabinet Costs:

  1. Remove the old cabinets yourself
  2. Choose unfinished cabinets and stain them yourself at home
  3. Hang the doors and install the handles

Even small DIY jobs like these will reduce the overall cost of your new cabinets.

What About Refinishing Old Cabinets?

Depending on the condition of your old cabinets, you may be able to refinish them. This will bring a whole new look to your kitchen using nothing more than a simple coat of paint or new cabinet doors. If your old cabinets aren’t suitable, you could shop around and find used cabinets to refinish for a fraction of the price of brand new cabinets. This could be a cost-effective solution and, for most people, is a more manageable DIY project.


Getting new cabinets in position always brings the kitchen together and makes the room look complete. There are many reasons kitchen cabinets are so expensive. They may look simple but a lot of work goes into making and installing them. Fortunately, there are several ways you can lower the costs of your kitchen renovation.

Whether you reduce the number of cabinets you are buying, choose a more affordable material or simplify your design, there are many ways you can save money. If you have the time and skills, DIY is a perfectly valid option too. While it feels like cabinets cost a lot, remember that they are an investment. Kitchen cabinets are built to last and are used every day. A high quality, stylish kitchen can help to increase the value of your house if you ever decide to sell it.

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