Is It Cheaper To Buy Or Build Kitchen Cabinets

Are you planning a kitchen remodel and facing the age-old dilemma: should you buy or build your kitchen cabinets?

It’s a question that many homeowners grapple with, and the answer isn’t always straightforward. There are pros and cons to both options, and what might be right for one person may not be the best choice for another.

In this article, let’s talk about the cost considerations of buying versus building kitchen cabinets, helping you make an informed decision that’s best for your budget, skills, and needs.

Understanding Your Options

Thermofoil Cabinet

When it comes to kitchen cabinets, you essentially have three options: stock cabinets, semi-custom cabinets, and custom-built cabinets. Let’s break these down to understand what each entails.

  • Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets are pre-manufactured in standard sizes and styles. They are typically the most affordable option because they are mass-produced. You can find them at big-box home improvement stores, and they are ready to install with minimal lead time.

  • Semi-Custom Cabinets

Semi-custom cabinets offer more flexibility than stock cabinets. You can choose from a wider variety of styles, finishes, and sizes. While they are more expensive than stock cabinets, they offer a middle ground between cost and customization.

  • Custom Cabinets

Custom cabinets are built to your exact specifications. They offer the highest level of customization in terms of size, material, finish, and design. Naturally, they are the most expensive option and require the longest lead time.

Buying Kitchen Cabinets: The Costs

Cabinets To Go

When you buy kitchen cabinets, the cost can vary widely based on the type of cabinets you choose. Here’s a general breakdown:

  • Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets typically cost between $100 and $300 per linear foot. For an average kitchen, this can translate to anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the size and layout. Installation costs can add another $1,000 to $2,000 to your budget.

  • Semi-Custom Cabinets

Semi-custom cabinets cost more, ranging from $150 to $650 per linear foot. For an average kitchen, expect to pay between $3,000 and $10,000. Installation fees are similar to those for stock cabinets, adding about $1,500 to $3,000 to the total cost.

  • Custom Cabinets

Custom cabinets are the priciest option, with costs ranging from $500 to $1,200 per linear foot. For a typical kitchen, this can mean spending between $10,000 and $24,000 or more. Installation costs for custom cabinets can also be higher, adding another $2,000 to $5,000 to your budget.

Building Your Own Kitchen Cabinets: The Costs

Building your own kitchen cabinets can be a more cost-effective option if you have the skills and tools required. However, it’s essential to consider all the associated costs:

  • Materials

The cost of materials can vary based on the type of wood and hardware you choose. Plywood, for instance, is a popular choice for its affordability and durability. A 4×8 sheet of plywood costs around $50 to $100, and you’ll need several sheets for an entire kitchen.

  • Hardware

You’ll also need to budget for hardware like hinges, drawer slides, and handles. High-quality hardware can add up quickly, costing between $200 and $500 or more for an entire kitchen.

  • Tools

If you don’t already own the necessary tools, you’ll need to factor in the cost of purchasing or renting them. Essential tools include a table saw, miter saw, router, drill, clamps, and sanders.

Buying these tools can set you back several hundred to a few thousand dollars.

  • Time

Building your own cabinets is time-consuming. Depending on your skill level and the complexity of the design, it could take several weeks or even months to complete the project.

Consider the value of your time when weighing this option.

Pros And Cons Of Buying Kitchen Cabinets


Kitchen Cabinet
  • Convenience: Buying cabinets is undoubtedly more convenient. You can visit a showroom, choose your cabinets, and have them installed within a relatively short period.
  • Professional Quality: Purchased cabinets, especially custom and semi-custom ones, are built by professionals with access to high-quality materials and tools. This often results in a superior finish and durability.
  • Warranty: Most manufacturers offer warranties on their products, providing peace of mind and protection against defects.


  • Cost: Purchased cabinets, particularly custom ones, can be expensive. If you’re on a tight budget, this might not be the best option.
  • Limited Customization: With stock cabinets, your choices are limited to what’s available in the store. Even semi-custom cabinets have limitations compared to fully custom-built options.

Pros And Cons Of Building Your Own Kitchen Cabinets


  • Cost Savings: If you’re skilled and have the necessary tools, building your own cabinets can save you a significant amount of money. You can choose materials that fit your budget and avoid labor costs.
  • Customization: When you build your own cabinets, you have complete control over the design, size, and finish. This allows you to create a truly personalized kitchen that meets your exact needs and preferences.
  • Sense of Accomplishment: There’s a unique satisfaction that comes from completing a DIY project. Building your own cabinets can be a rewarding experience.


  • Time-Consuming: Building cabinets from scratch is a labor-intensive process. It requires a significant time investment, which might not be feasible for everyone.
  • Skill Required: Cabinet-making is a complex skill that takes time to master. If you’re not experienced, you might struggle to achieve a professional finish.
  • Tool Costs: If you don’t already own the necessary tools, purchasing them can be costly. This can offset some of the savings from building your own cabinets.

Factors To Consider When Making Your Decision

  • Skill Level

Your skill level is one of the most important factors to consider. If you’re a seasoned DIYer with woodworking experience, building your own cabinets might be a feasible and rewarding option.

However, if you’re a novice, the learning curve might be too steep, and you could end up with subpar results.

  • Budget

Your budget will also play a crucial role in your decision. If you have a limited budget, building your own cabinets can be a cost-effective solution. However, it’s essential to consider the potential hidden costs, such as tools and hardware, which can add up quickly.

  • Time

Time is another critical factor. If you’re on a tight schedule, buying cabinets is likely the better option. Building your own cabinets is a time-consuming process that requires careful planning and execution.

  • Customization Needs

Consider how important customization is to you. If you have a specific vision for your kitchen that requires unique sizes or designs, building your own cabinets might be the only way to achieve it. On the other hand, if standard sizes and styles meet your needs, buying cabinets can save you time and effort.

  • Long-Term Goals

Think about your long-term goals for your kitchen. Are you planning to stay in your home for many years, or are you renovating to sell?

If you’re staying long-term, investing in custom or semi-custom cabinets might be worthwhile. If you’re planning to sell, stock cabinets could provide the necessary upgrade without a hefty price tag.

Tips For Successfully Building Your Own Cabinets

KraftMaid Cabinet

If you decide that building your own cabinets is the right choice for you, here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Plan Thoroughly

Take the time to plan your project in detail.

Create accurate measurements and detailed drawings before you start cutting any wood.

A well-thought-out plan will save you time and frustration in the long run.

  • Invest in Quality Materials

Don’t skimp on materials. Investing in high-quality wood and hardware will ensure that your cabinets are durable and long-lasting. Remember, you’re saving money on labor, so it’s worth spending a bit more on materials.

  • Take Your Time

Don’t rush the process. Building cabinets is a meticulous task that requires patience and attention to detail. Take your time to ensure that each step is done correctly.

  • Seek Help When Needed

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s consulting a professional for advice or enlisting a friend for an extra set of hands, having support can make the process smoother and more enjoyable.

Conclusion: Weighing Your Options

So, is it cheaper to buy or build kitchen cabinets?

The answer depends on various factors, including your skill level, budget, and customization needs. Buying cabinets offers convenience and professional quality but comes at a higher cost. Building your own cabinets can save money and provide a sense of accomplishment, but it requires significant time, effort, and skill.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to what works best for you. If you have the skills and time, building your own cabinets can be a rewarding and cost-effective option. If convenience and professional quality are more important to you, buying cabinets is likely the better choice.

By carefully considering your options and weighing the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision that suits your needs and budget.

Happy remodeling!

Ralph Wade

Hey...Ralph is here! So, did you find this article useful? If so, please leave a comment and let me know. If not, please tell me how I can improve this article. Your feedback is always appreciated. Take love :)

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