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Kitchen reno cost - build vs. buy

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Forum topic by Monte Milanuk posted 06-28-2020 03:34 AM 671 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Monte Milanuk

53 posts in 4464 days


06-28-2020 03:34 AM

Topic tags/keywords: kitchen reno renovation remodel diy

Hello there,

Moved into a new (to us) place last spring, and one of the bigger ‘to-do’ list items the wife wants is a kitchen remodel. The existing cabinets are in fairly good condition… just very basic, and very ‘stock’ 1999 spec-built home style, if that makes any sense.

It’s not a very big kitchen – maybe 10×14, with an L-shaped cabinet/ breakfast bar on one end. We’d be looking at moving a few things around, getting rid of somethings (trash compactor), moving others (centering the sink under the window), and adding some more features to the lower cabinets to make some of the corner spaces more functional (no one likes having to get down on their knees and rummage around to find something jammed in the far back corner of a base cabinet).

We’ve done a little shopping around with one local cabinet shop, and then the two big box stores in town. The wife didn’t warm up to the person from the cabinet shop, and I’m a little off-put by the bids from the box stores at $20k+ for boxes from California, and that’s not counting install. For a variety of reasons, neither store (HD or Lowes) had any installers available.

I’ve got a moderate shop… I probably could do the whole thing, start to finish, but I’ve never even attempted something this level of complexity – mostly finish carpentry and the occasional simple standalone furniture piece are about the limit of what I’ve tried so far.

More recently I’ve seen some references to people buying pre-made cabinet boxes and drawers, and just doing the face frames, drawer faces, doors and install themselves. Others look like they farmed out the drawer fronts and doors too.

Kinda makes me curious what the rough difference in price ends up being between building the whole thing yourself, vs. having someone else make the cabinet carcasses, drawers, doors, etc., and the prices I’m getting quoted for ‘everything’ less install.

I realize that it’s going to be a pretty wide range on that kind of thing… but I’m hoping some folks here might have priced out this sort of thing in the past and are able to chime in.

Thanks!


34 replies so far

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LeeRoyMan

1181 posts in 498 days


#1 posted 06-28-2020 03:48 AM

I’ve done a couple of kitchens buying these pre-made and just installing them.
If nothing else you can go to the site and pick out the cabinets you want and see what it would cost.
The cabinets aren’t bad. Hardwood doors, drawers and quality Blum hardware. Plywood boxes.
https://www.cliqstudios.com/

https://www.cliqstudios.com/kitchen-cabinet-catalog/

There are a lot of other pre-made companies also. You probably will get some other recommendations by others.

-- I only know what I know, nothing less, nothing more -- That doesn't count what I used to know..

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Woodmaster1

1473 posts in 3358 days


#2 posted 06-28-2020 03:55 AM

I spent 200.00 on plywood another 600.00 on quartersawn red oak and 600.00 on hardware. If you want to count the special router bit set would add 230.00. Jigs for hinges, drawer pulls and door handles would add another 100.00. Stain and finish 80.00. So for less than $2000.00 you should be able to get the job done. Pictures are without the quartz counter top. Also take in consideration how much room you need for the refrigerator doors to open. That is a mistake I made and needed to remake cabinets. The refrigerator was too close to the wall.

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Monte Milanuk

53 posts in 4464 days


#3 posted 06-28-2020 04:07 AM


I spent 200.00 on plywood

How long ago was that? How many sheets?

I figured I’d probably be going with something nice, like pre-finished maple ply, just to save a bit of hassle.

I do like the door style you have there. Still haven’t really reconciled yet how to decide when to go with a slab drawer front, vs. frame-n-panel…

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Walker

385 posts in 1243 days


#4 posted 06-28-2020 04:59 AM

I’m not a cabinet maker, but my general observation is that cabinets are way overpriced for what they are, especially at the custom kitchen showroom places. If you have the skills and time, it would be much cheaper to build yourself. Stuff like counter height, cabinet depths, size of toe kicks, etc is all pretty standardized and easy to google.

Use cheaper materials for the parts that are unseen. If you plan on complicated doors, but don’t have a shaper or raised panel bits, there are several websites that you can buy just the doors from. For really great prices on hardware look at woodworkerexpress.com or cabinetparts.com.

I recently reno’d my kitchen but mostly just moved around existing cabinets. A few mistakes I made stemmed from the fact that I was only going to do a few small things, then one thing after another it snowballed into demoing the entire kitchen down to the studs, including floor and ceiling. If I had planned on doing all that in the first place, I could have made better strategies and choices. For example will flooring and ceiling materials go under the cabinets or place cabinets first and install flooring up to them? Will you need to do any electrical or plumbing while you have the walls open? My house is pretty old and words like level, square, flat, and plumb are most often preceded by “not”. How much of that will need correcting? What kind of trim will you use and will it cover some inaccuracies?

When I look at commercial products I either see very low quality that seem not worth paying anything for and I think “I could build something better then that” and end up spending more. Or I see high quality stuff that seems way overpriced and I think “I could build something close to that”. My end results when I build myself are usually mediocre in regards to both quality and cost.

-- ~Walker

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jmartel

8918 posts in 2921 days


#5 posted 06-28-2020 06:01 AM

I built my cabinets last year (mostly). Still have to finish up a few things. I’d say a budget of $3500-4000 is more realistic. I think I’ve spent around $3000-3500. Shop grade prefinished plywood for the cabinets, maple for the frames, doors, drawer fronts. Painted finish, rather than bright wood, and clearcoated walnut knobs. Full blum soft close hardware. Pocket holes for the cabinets and attaching frames, because it’s a perfectly application for them and goes very quickly. I believe my kitchen is somewhere around 11×12’

I’m not done, but here’s a somewhat recent photo. Having a 1 year old really cuts down on my ability to work on things. Also had to wait for better weather for more painting to be done. Still need pantry doors, toe kick covers painted, some drawer fronts, and some doors to be painted.

Ikea you can get a set of cabinets for about $4k-5k if you want to go cheaper. And their stuff is actually pretty decent.

Biggest issue is storage space. You gotta find somewhere to keep a full kitchen’s worth of cabinets while you build it. If you have the room, you can get some pretty good cabinets for not a lot of money.

My advice is to build the cabinets separate from the toe kick. Make a single ladder frame to level out, then you just have to toss the cabinet boxes on top of that rather than leveling every single cabinet. Also one thing that I haven’t seen that often, is putting drawers on a 45 deg angle in the corner cabinet (you can see mine without drawer fronts here). Makes the corner cabinet more useful than a lazy susan. And way more cost effective than those specialty hardware systems to take advantage of the space.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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Monte Milanuk

53 posts in 4464 days


#6 posted 06-28-2020 06:08 AM



A few mistakes I made stemmed from the fact that I was only going to do a few small things, then one thing after another it snowballed into demoing the entire kitchen down to the studs, including floor and ceiling.

I feel your pain. After doing new floors in the last house… which snowballed into new baseboard trim… which cascaded into repainting each room, and new outlet covers… and in a few instances, fixing some old wiring snafus (not mine)... all while trying to keep as much of the house livable as possible… I told the wife that now I knew why all those DIY/home-reno shows have them gutting everthing down to the studs and starting fresh. Pretty sure it would have been faster.

For example will flooring and ceiling materials go under the cabinets or place cabinets first and install flooring up to them? Will you need to do any electrical or plumbing while you have the walls open? My house is pretty old and words like level, square, flat, and plumb are most often preceded by “not”. How much of that will need correcting? What kind of trim will you use and will it cover some inaccuracies?

Planning on doing the flooring at the same time – actually probably going to start the flooring in another room first, work my way around the house, and finish up in the kitchen area. Originally I had planned to pull the old cabinets out, take up the old floor (ceramic tile) and put down new (vinyl plank or laminate), but after looking into it a bit further, apparently its no bueno to run that sort of ‘floating’ flooring under the cabinets – you’re supposed to run it right up to the base, and trim it like you would the wall. Glad I looked into that first!

When I look at commercial products I either see very low quality that seem not worth paying anything for and I think “I could build something better then that” and end up spending more. Or I see high quality stuff that seems way overpriced and I think “I could build something close to that”. My end results when I build myself are usually mediocre in regards to both quality and cost.

Same here… I may not be the world’s best craftsman, but I’ve seen some ‘professional’ jobs that made me scratch my head and think “well, heck, I could have screwed it up and fixed it for way less money”. Certainly not doing justice to the true high-end professionals out there, but I think they’re generally way out of my price range to begin with.

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CaptainKlutz

3167 posts in 2265 days


#7 posted 06-28-2020 11:17 AM

IMHO – The question you should ask is not cost but can I afford the time?

My cost summary is simple: It is never cheaper to DIY a kitchen the first time.
But for the same money, you will build better cabinets/faces; than buying boxes and self install. You will also end up with tools (router bits, hinge templates, shelf templates, skills, etc; that make the next cabinet project cheaper.

Part of the reason it is not cheaper is the strong desire to upgrade, add more features; which increases the cost as project progresses. If you go back and re-quote what these upgrade/changes would cost, only then can you say you saved money. But you will also be spending more than original DIY budget!

IME – The volume mfg can knock out boxes cheaper and faster than you can blink. They pay less for materials. They waste less material with CNC tools and automation, and defined mfg processes. So the cheapest route is usually buying high end hardwood cabinets at wholesale for entire job in one truck shipment, and then self installing to remove the local middle man that adds 20-25% installation cost to turnkey price.

In order to understand why I think TIME is important:
Ask yourself, How long will it take you make one box?

Now multiple that by 20-30 for average kitchen, and ask spouse if you can ignore your family responsibilities for the duration?

Don’t overlook the hidden time for installation. Even a simple installation takes 2 amateurs about a week. A skilled professional team can install a kitchen in 1-2 days. Trying to move/hang 40-50lb cabinets alone is dangerous, and will get you hurt. Be sure in add in time for countertop measure and install. Custom man made stone, or granite requires very solid cabinet install with perfectly level base cabinets; not to mention a delay in 1-2 weeks for custom template cutting and final installation. All of these things add time to project, that are way more than just making a couple boxes. This is a big reason, I have bought boxes on several of my remodel homes; didn’t have enough spare time to do EVERYTHING.

+1 Storage space can be huge challenge.
If garage is full of wood working tools, where will you store all the boxes? I ended up renting a POD storage unit in driveway when I built my kitchen cabinets, so I had a place to store the input pile of lumber, and then finished boxes before installation.

Like everything else you read: YMMV

Certainly not an expert, just sharing my opinion based on past dozen or so houses:
Have been through the build .vs. buy/install .vs. turnkey kitchen cabinet analysis many times on house remodels over 4 decades. Have fully built my own kitchen and bath cabinets once, done the buy boxes/install method several times, and turnkey install the rest. Have also built numerous expansion cabinets, and slapped together at least half dozen sets of plywood/MDF garage cabinets. Honestly, the decision to turnkey a kitchen was usually made by spouse answer; NO I can not ignore real life while build cabinets.

PS – If you have never built cabinet boxes for kitchen/bath/garage before: highly suggest you build at least 1 base cabinet and 1 upper cabinet for somewhere in your house first. Pick something easy and keep it simple the first time. Only after you get them installed will you know how much time it takes, if you enjoy cabinetry work, or if you have skills to achieve the quality you desire.

Best Luck on decision.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

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JackDuren

1214 posts in 1730 days


#8 posted 06-28-2020 12:02 PM

Nobody can figure your cost without doing a layout.

Where are you located?

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Madmark2

1362 posts in 1359 days


#9 posted 06-28-2020 12:26 PM

Build one lower first. Put it on wheels and put a cutting board on top. See if you can build it right and make sure you have all the tools. Building this prototype will show any holes in your tool and skill set. If the significant other approves, then you’re good to go. If no, then you have a stand for a tool and minimal $$$ invested.

Don’t tear out everything until you have replacements ready. Tearing out the kitchen with nothing to stand in until completion will make your (and more importantly your significant other’s) life miserable.

Build all your lowers and order your tops and change out the sink area all at once. Trust me on this, a fast change out will make your significant other happy and thus your life happy.

Since you are building the cabs yourself, do a high end job. Using better materials only fractionally impacts the cost when all your labor is factored in. Plan on:

  • under lighting with hands free switches
  • automatic interior lighting on uppers and lowers
  • drawer dividers for silverware & spices
  • magnetic knife racks
  • sequenced grain on drawers
  • corner lazy susans
  • soft self closing hinges
  • high end sink and faucet,
  • glass uppers and shelves
  • etc., etc., etc.

These are how you “pay” you significant other for putting up with a long (no matter how fast, remodeling is always “too long”) disruption of your lives.

Get your significant other’s sign off on EVERYTHING – you’ld be a fool not to.


Cabs done the way the significant other wanted.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

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Monte Milanuk

53 posts in 4464 days


#10 posted 06-28-2020 02:34 PM

One route I’ve been considering… and after this, may push forward with as a trial run… is that the cabinets in the garage and shop are pretty fugly. I’ve been wanting to replace them since I moved in – I hate pretty much everything about them; it’s like nails-on-chalkboard kind of irritation almost every time I have to open a door or drawer.

Not sure if they were a previous owner’s attempt at seeing if they could hack it at cabinet making or not – but I’d give them a solid F-

Biggest hold up has been trying to figure out what I want for a floor plan / layout – the kitchen space is almost easier because of the ‘requirements’ vs. the limited space. Might be time to figure out what I want to go with out there, and start building ;)

As for the time/space concern… space shouldn’t be a problem between the extra bay in the garage, car port, and the detached shop. It’s just me and the wife now – as long as I’m doing something related to the house, and not one of my other hobbies (which, to be honest, I’m ready for a long break from) she’s happy. I work a rotating shift schedule, so if I time it right, a week or two for install isn’t an issue. Plus, we do have a nice RV parked next to the house with partial hookups – so the kitchen being out of commission for a little while is less likely to be a big pain point. If she ends up cooking out of it for a month straight I might be in trouble though…

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BurlyBob

7594 posts in 3036 days


#11 posted 06-28-2020 04:12 PM

Like many here I built my cabinets after getting the process figured out on shop cabinets. I’ve got a friend with a cabinet shop who mentored me thru the process. Honestly don’t over think this. Remember a cabinet is just a box, boxes are a pretty common build. By the time I was done building them, my garage was stuffed full with very little room to walk around it. My friend told me it would cost between 5K-10K. I’m pretty sure I’m into it for less than 5k, but I bought a Jessem router table package to build the doors. I also bought a Earlex spray rig. Both were very wise purchases. Another thing, furniture dollies, you can’t believe how helpful they were moving the different cabinets around in my garage to make space as I kept building components. I use soft close drawer slides and soft close cabinet hinges. The wife totally loves them and the special cookie sheet rack thingy that is also soft close. She want one other thing I thought was crazy. Doors on the back side of the peninsula where the lazy Susan is located. Turns out that was a great idea. I had LED under cabinet strip lighting added. The most expensive purchase was the Quartz countertop. It was all well worth it, but it took me far longer than I had expected. My friend could have done it in 3-4 weeks or less.

You can totally do it. Just like any other project, plan it out with attention to detail and build it the same way.

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Woodmaster1

1473 posts in 3358 days


#12 posted 06-28-2020 04:46 PM

I spent 200.00 on plywood

How long ago was that? How many sheets?

I figured I d probably be goinsomething nice, like pre-finished maple ply, just to save a bit of hassle.

I do like the door style you have there. Still haven t really reconciled yet how to decide when to go with a slab drawer front, vs. frame-n-panel…

- Monte Milanuk


I purchased 5 sheets of 3/4 oak plywood for the bottoms at $35.00 and 7 pieces of 1/2” oak plywood 15×65 for $3.00 a piece also got 10 pcs. the 1/2” free because I helped unload the 200 sheets given to woodworking club by a cabinet company that was done with the order. The first set of cabinets I made 25 years ago I done for less than $800.00. Time spent 3 1/2 years procrastination and 4 weeks build time. I cut and routed all 17 doors in one day. Once setup it goes fast.

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Monte Milanuk

53 posts in 4464 days


#13 posted 06-29-2020 01:51 AM

So… one of the things that I’ll admit to a bit of trepidation over is the whole ‘making everything in advance’ aspect.

On the one hand, I ‘get’ that the boxes are going to be fairly standard, for the most part, and the trim and face frame are going to be the pieces that are scribed and cut to fit, etc. On the other… I’ve had terrible luck (at the last house) with building things to fit – it ended up being a lot less frustrating (and fewer trips back and forth) when I’d measure directly and cut to fit, rather than try to make the numbers work – and I’m generally not bad with math, but that house was that out of square/plumb.

I guess the other part of that which makes me scratch my head a bit is that I’ve seen a number of recommendations to ‘build the face frames first’, and then build the cabinets to match. But usually that comes literally right after they go through building the cabinets first.

If anyone has some wisdom to share along those lines, I’d greatly appreciate it.

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Madmark2

1362 posts in 1359 days


#14 posted 06-29-2020 02:24 AM

If you make the face frame first you can span several cabs. Otherwise you need to mill a decorative cover strip to go over the seams between each cabinet.

You can do it either way and most folx will never notice one way or the other.


Can you see the trim between the uppers?

You dont have to build the entire kitchen first. Just do one wall or section at a time. The section with the sink is what needs to be done at once. You must minimize sink downtime.

Good kitchen design minimizes the work triangle between the sink, stove, and fridge. Islands look nice but often get in the way or increase plumbing costs.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

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Jeff

90 posts in 156 days


#15 posted 06-29-2020 05:13 AM

Read CaptainKlutz post#7 several times.

As earlier comments mentioned, big factors being your time, spare space equal to the kitchen wall space for storing during the build process, and abilities. Do you have the tools needed for the project? You indeed can do a kitchen design, and from that you can estimate the parts, and then the material costs. Certainly the material costs will be less than a contractors estimate, but what is your time worth. If building the kitchen is something that will give you pleasure, then the time expense is not too much, but if it becomes more work than pleasure it costs more.

This spring I finished a complete kitchen remodel, and it gave me pleasure, a long process, a lot of time. See projects https://www.lumberjocks.com/projects/415248

The kitchen had 26 feet of wall space for upper, and lower cabinets. Eighteen boxes, 26 doors, and 19 drawers.
The material list-
5/8” Melamine for boxes
½” Baltic birch plywood for drawers
White oak doors (fastcabinetdoors.com)
4/4 White oak for face frames
¼” white oak skins for cabinet ends
Leg levelers (woodworkersexpress.com)
Blum drawer glides “
Blum hinges “
Wilsonart laminate for countertop
Glue, screws, nails
Stain, Water based Poly
Cost for all materials $5240.

Local contractors estimates started at 31 big ones.
Note: this does not include the pricing of appliances.
My process for the build was in the following order-
Boxes, drawers, face frames, counter top, back splash.
Talk it over with your better half, Good Luck with your adventure.

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