8 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Kitchen Cabinets

kitchen cabinetry

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

When you're remodeling your kitchen, one purchase that you'll need to contend with well in advance is your kitchen cabinets.

Some purchases are minor enough that they can be left until later. Kitchen cabinets represent such a huge part of your remodel budget that they either make or break the entire project. Once you understand how much they can cost, you may want to explore options for bringing that cost down.

How Much Are Kitchen Cabinets?

The national average to remodel a 10-foot by 10-foot kitchen is between $13,500 and $38,000, and that range averages out to around $26,000.

Since the national average to replace or install cabinets is around $5,000 to $6,000, that means that cabinets are a serious part of the kitchen remodel cost: anywhere from around 14- to 41-percent, usually more on the upper end.

RTA Cabinets

RTA, meaning ready to assemble, is an online cabinet industry that sends you flat-packed kitchen cabinets at generally reasonable prices. 

Assembly is your job, so this keeps costs down because factory labor is not required to assemble the cabinets. If you'd like, many RTA companies provide assembly as an option, for a fee. When the cabinets are flat-packed, though, shipping costs are reduced due to the smaller boxes.

With a cam-lock system and pre-drilled holes, cabinet assembly is easier than many homeowners expect. Typically, shipping costs are waived when your order price exceeds a certain amount.

Going by the old adage that "time is money," RTA cabinets may not prove more affordable because of the time it takes to assemble them, if you do opt to do it yourself. There's also the possibility of potentially damaging them during assembly.

Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

Painting wood cabinets is no different than painting any other wood surface. But it gets more complicated when dealing with melamine or laminate kitchen cabinets.

Melamine is a thin plastic material usually applied to particleboard that does a great job of resisting dirt and easing wipe-downs.

As long as the melamine does not delaminate from its base material, you can leave the cabinets as they are. But if you want to paint your laminate or melamine, you need to prepare these non-porous surfaces so that paint will stick to it better.

Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations

On the face of it, Cabinet Transformations appears to really be no different than painting the cabinets by yourself. But Cabinet Transformations does take painting to the next level and it saves you the effort of assembling paint materials.

Cabinet Transformations works on wood, melamine, and laminate. It includes deglosser, bonding coat, decorative glaze, and bonding topcoat, as well as various stirring sticks, roller pads, and other implements.

Professional Cabinet Refacing

Cabinet refacing falls between a total replacement of cabinets and a high-end paint job. Cabinet refacing is usually done by professionals and involves replacing old cabinet doors and drawer fronts and veneering the cabinet box fronts and sides.

The insides of the boxes are usually not refaced. Expect refacing to cut your cabinet replacement costs by about 50-percent.

Cabinet refacing isn't usually a do-it-yourself project, as veneering the cabinets can be a tricky process.

IKEA

It's known for its low prices and high style. And the home store in the big blue box–IKEA–does offer authentically low prices on kitchen cabinets. Not only that, IKEA kitchen cabinets are stylish, sleek, and contemporary.

Like their RTA counterparts, IKEA cabinets require assembly. You do need to pick up and deliver the flat boxes of cabinets by yourself. The cabinet boxes are largely made with particleboard.

For an additional fee, you can have outside contractors deliver and assemble the cabinets.

Costco

For Costco members, the discount giant is another avenue for low-priced kitchen cabinets.

Costco cabinets differ from IKEA's in two important ways. First, many of Costco's cabinets are made of natural wood. In fact, that is the name of one long-standing company that contracts out to Costco: All Wood Cabinetry.

Costco kitchen cabinet styles tend to be more diverse than IKEA's, including traditional and Euro-modern or contemporary looks.

Used Cabinets

Homeowners frequently dispose of cabinets simply because they have better cabinets coming in. If the homeowner is concerned about landfilling cabinets, they will not want to toss them in the trash. Not only that but disposing of cabinets costs money. 

By giving the cabinets away, these homeowners save on hauling or roll-off costs. Search Craigslist for cabinets to buy at low cost or to haul away for free from a private party. Facebook Marketplace is another prime place to look for free or very cheap kitchen cabinets.

Architectural Salvage Yards

Architectural salvage yards, located in large metro areas with older housing stocks, often have prosaic items like sinks, toilets, flooring, and yes, cabinets. Look for your local Habitat For Humanity Re-Store, as well.

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