Secrets to Finding Cheap Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets
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Kitchen cabinets are over-the-top expensive. As long as you want full-service kitchen cabinets--from cabinet design to shipping to installation--cabinets will always do a "full service" job on your bank account, too.

But there are ways around this.  Finding the right supplier, choosing economy materials, and doing some work yourself can seriously slash your kitchen cabinet bill.  Here are ideas that other people have used:

Cabinets That Cost Between Free and Stone-Cold Cheap

  • Why You'll Want It: By playing the Craigslist game, you can score drastically cheap (or free) cabinets.
  • But Watch Out: You will probably have to remove the cabinets from the other person's kitchen.

Owners of new kitchen cabinets are always desperate to get rid of the old cabinets.  Due to this desperation, you can score an entire kitchen for next to nothing.  But only if you play the game right.

Craigslist freebie posters reward the person who satisfies their needs first.  Criteria include: responding lighting-quick; promising to come soon; loading and hauling by yourself; and going easy on the sob stories.

Add one more thing: you might be removing the cabinets from the house by yourself.  So clarify this with the poster first.

RTA Cabinets:  How Your Ability To Pick Up a Screwdriver Can Save You Money

  • Why You'll Want It: You do not mind assembling flat-packed cabinets.
  • But Watch Out: Shipping costs.

RTA stands for "ready to assemble", a type of cabinet available mainly through internet retailers.

Once you place the order online, cabinets are shipped to you flat-packed.  Assembly is super-simple with the cam lock and bracket system that most makers integrate.  If you hate the idea of self-assembly, most companies sell pre-assembled cabinets, too.


RTA Tips:

  1. RTA will kill you on shipping costs. "Free Shipping" offers only apply to large orders, often $5,000 or more.
  2. Extras often cost more than their true worth.  Turntables built-in to your cabinet will cost more than if you purchase a simple $20 turntable at Home Depot yourself.
  • Hardware purchased through the cabinet manufacturer will always be expensive. Purchase your own hardware, install it yourself, and save a lot of money.

IKEA:  The Perfect Storm of Cheap Kitchen Cabinets

  • Why You'll Want It: For contemporary-style kitchen cabinets, IKEA is still the cheapest place to go.
  • But Watch Out: You must like contemporary style and you must be able to take delivery in person.

IKEA cabinets fall into the ready-to-assemble (RTA) category, but they deserve their own spotlight because of the unusually high level of design sophistication.  IKEA cabinets, once you get them assembled, look fantastic.

IKEA cabinets represent the perfect alignment of factors that make inexpensive cabinets: self-assembly required; MDF (particle board construction); and, most importantly, you can pick them up yourself.

Tip:  Does MDF Matter?

Everyone would prefer 100% wood cabinets.  Fine woodworkers may offer this, but not mass-market cabinet makers.


IKEA's stock in trade is medium density fiberboard (MDF).  Because of MDF, you are able to buy an entire set of kitchen cabinets for under $8,000.  If you can accept MDF, this will take you a long way toward cheap cabinets--from IKEA or any other supplier.

Re/Store and Architectural Salvage

  • Why You'll Want It: Like Craigslist, but less hassle.
  • But Watch Out: Pricing is uneven--sometimes to your benefit, sometimes not.

Architectural salvage yards, a category that Habitat For Humanity's Re/Stores fall into, are a wonderful secret found in most U.S. metro areas.

Tip:  Re/Store's Pricing Policies

As a person who regularly donates items to Re/Store, I know for a fact that prices are often jaw-droppingly cheap.  I donate new tools--boxes never even opened--and for some reason, Re/Store sells them for $5.

 Will clueless pricing work in your favor with kitchen cabinets?  The only way to know is to visit on a regular basis.

For-profit architectural salvage yards are more savvy about pricing.  Prices will always be less than that of new cabinets.  But you will never find criminally cheap cabinets here.  

Costco: New Cabinets At Lower Prices

  • Why You'll Want It: Good quality kitchen cabinets, no MDF. 
  • But Watch Out: Compare against other retailers.  Being from Costco does not automatically mean cheap.

Wholesale warehouse giant Costco is famous for stunningly low prices on many products. But not all. While you might expect to get a bargain on toilet paper or even something as big as a TV, reviews are less favorable as to Costco's savings on the really big items like automobiles, vacations, and kitchen cabinets.

The best way to characterize it: you cannot expect deep price cuts, but you will enjoy some savings.  Most importantly, Costco's quality will be high. Costco's supplier, Florida-based All Wood Cabinetry, makes an honest product that does live up to the "all wood" name. Cabinet cores are made of furniture-grade plywood.

Display Kitchen Cabinets:  Being a Squeaky Wheel Pays Off

  • Why You'll Want It: Stylish, high-quality, lightly used cabinets for cheap.
  • But Watch Out: Persistence is needed.

When cabinet-shopping, you pass by these things a million times and perhaps never consider that they may be just what you need. They are kitchen cabinet displays, the type you see set up in home improvement stores, and more notably, local independent kitchen and bath design retail showrooms.

These fictional tableaux are meant to provide a sense of what it would be like to walk through and use cabinets from major names like Kraftmaid, Merillat, Canyon Creek.  They often come loaded with all kinds of bonuses: bread-boxes, pull-outs, sliding spice racks, and more.

Finding display kitchen cabinets for sale takes persistence, leg-work, and adept social skills.  But you will be rewarded for your efforts by big savings.