It seems like no matter how hard you look, kitchen cabinets are over-the-top expensive. One reason for this is that for so long the process of buying and installing cabinets has been controlled by manufacturers, retailers, and installers. The presumption has been that homeowners will want the full service kitchen cabinet installation, which of course does a "full service" job on your bank account, too.
But if you can get out of that controlled process, doing some of the steps yourself, and being a little creative, you can save quite a bit of money.
MDF or Wood Cabinets?First, you need to make a big decision about materials for your kitchen cabinets. While everyone would prefer having 100% wood cabinets, real wood will always mean higher costs. At the other end of the scale is MDF (medium density fiberboard), which is a type of particleboard that you so often see in cheaply built furniture. In fact, even the highly praised IKEA furniture, which looks stylish and high-quality, is also made of MDF or even the lesser quality low-density fiberboard.
Although MDF is about as cheap as you can get, so you need to make a decision about whether you want any, some, or no MDF in your kitchen cabinetry. One important thing to note about MDF is that eventually it is going to fail on you. No matter what level of care you take with your kitchen cabinets, no matter how much you try to avoid direct water contact, moisture, humidity, and the like, MDF cabinets will eventually warp and sag.
How Important are Name Brand Cabinets?Why buy the name brand kitchen cabinets like Kraftmaid and Merrliat? Kitchen cabinet manufacturing has become somewhat of a cottage industry because it is essentially nothing more than putting together a box made of wood and hardware. True, it is a highly exacting type of construction, certainly not one that you would want to do in your home workshop, but still it is not one that requires special materials or tools. Consequently, there are plenty of cabinet makers out there—not just the handful of five or six that the kitchen designers tend to palm off on you.
Extras Drive Up the PriceAnother way that kitchen cabinet manufacturers really pry open your wallet is by adding extras that cost more than their true worth. This is, of course, the same thing that auto manufacturers and retailers do, adding “options” and extras like undercoating. Not all of these extras are bad. You just need to think twice about these extras before ordering them up.
- Turntables built-in to your cabinet will cost more than if you purchase a simple $10 turntable by yourself.
- Fancy glass doors will cost more than solid doors.
- Any kind of hardware (hardware being defined as cabinet pulls, changes, knobs, etc.) purchased through the cabinet manufacturer will always be extremely expensive. Purchase your own hardware, install it yourself, and save a lot of money.
Are Used Kitchen Cabinets WorthwhileHave you ever heard that old saying, "One man's ceiling is another man's floor." The same thing applies to kitchen cabinets. Kitchen cabinet installation also means the “de-installation” of the current cabinets. If the homeowner is doing the job by himself, then he will have to pay a hauler, rent a rolloff dumpster, or make a costly trip to the landfill to get rid of the old kitchen cabinets. It can be quite expensive to get rid of old kitchen cabinets, and that is why you will see plenty of homeowners advertising their old kitchen cabinets on places like Craigslist, FreeCycle, and other free online classified outlets. Unless the kitchen cabinets are of extremely high quality, it is unlikely that you will have to pay anything for these old cabinets. After all, you're saving them money.
The caveat: if you agree to take a set of cabinets that are currently secured in a kitchen, and then later find out that they have been trashed during removal, are you still committed to taking the cabinets away? That is something between you and the owner, but there is a very good chance that removal of the cabinets will not go very smoothly, and you may end up with just a pile of broken boards. This especially is true if you are dealing with MDF cabinetry. It is my personal opinion that it is impossible to remove MDF cabinetry without breaking it.