Why Are Kitchen Cabinets So Expensive? (12 Factors You Can Tweak)

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 07/07/24 •  11 min read

If it’s time for your old kitchen cabinets to go, you’re probably excited and eager to upgrade your kitchen new ones. That is until you see how much it will cost to get your desired look and design.

Most people are shocked at how expensive kitchen cabinets are. You see, a lot of work goes into creating new kitchen cabinets. Not to mention, you have to consider things like the materials used, customization, and installation cost, among other things.

If you’re thinking of updating your kitchen cabinets, it helps to know what to expect in terms of the overall pricing of the cabinets and possible unforeseen costs. Let’s find out why kitchen cabinets are so expensive and how you can lower your costs.

12 Factors That Determine the Cost of Kitchen Cabinets

If you’ve never updated your kitchen cabinets, you’d be forgiven for thinking it won’t be an expensive venture. After all, they’re just taking out old wood and replacing with something more modern, right? Wrong. Contrary to popular belief, updating kitchen cabinets takes a lot of work.

It’s not just a matter of taking apart the old shelves and installing new ones. There are other steps like designing and customizing that also come to play when considering the overall cost of the project. Below are some of the factors that you can play with to increase, or decrease the cost of your kitchen cabinets.

1. The Backing Materials

The largest part of your expenditure will boil down to the type of materials you choose for your cabinets. I’ll talk about cabnet door finishes next, but first, consider the materials you use on the parts of your cabinets you won’t see.

To me, only the rich and famous need to consider full wood cabinets; I advise going for cheaper materials like plywood for the back and sides of the cabinets, which you barely see.

This material is cheaper and won’t wear out as fast as other types of wood. Also, going for cheaper materials doesn’t mean you’re compromising on quality. It just means choosing a different, more affordable style.

2. The Materials Used in Cabinet Doors and Drawers

The type of wood you choose for your cabinet doors and drawers will also determine whether or not you’ll need to break the bank to afford your new cabinets.

Wood is of course the most desired. The cheapest wood option will of course be plywood, which can still be made to look super snazzy, here’s an example:

Plywood kitchen cabinets

Oak is the most popular, and can be an affordable option for most people. Oak it looks incredible and is generally considered timeless. 

If you have a few more bucks to spare, hickory may be a better option. However, avoid species like maple because they can take the price up nearly $1,000. Before you make up your mind, find out the different types of wood and their respective prices and which one will help you achieve your desired look at an affordable price.

If you’re looking to save money you can opt for a MDF cabinet door design. MDF can be painted, wrapped in thermofoil, or laminated to create every design and color imaginable. These materials are way cheaper and give your cabinets a unique finish. 

However, if you decide to go this route, you should know that these materials are not as durable as wood. Furthermore, MDF is susceptible to moisture, which may be a deal-breaker for some people. 

3. The Removal of Existing Cabinets

If you’re planning to remove your current kitchen cabinets entirely, you should also factor in these costs. Many try to cut costs by removing the cabinets themselves. However, this isn’t a great idea if you don’t know how to go about it. You have to really know yourself and your DIY capabilities for this one.

If you have no experience, you risk damaging the walls, which would only add more costs to your overall expenditure. However, if you’re just planning to reface or refinish your current cabinets, this isn’t among the costs you should be worried about.

4. Design Costs

When it comes to kitchen cabinets, design costs can sneak up on you. Sure, it’s tempting to go for that sleek, custom look, but remember, every little tweak adds up. Hiring a designer? That’s a chunk of change right there. They bring expertise and a keen eye for detail, but their fees can make a noticeable dent in your budget.

Think about it – every hour spent planning, every revision, every consultation, it all costs. And if you’re not careful, you could end up spending a pretty penny before even a single cabinet is installed.

So, what’s the game plan? First, be clear about what you need. A simple, functional layout? Or are you after a kitchen that could grace the cover of a magazine? Your choice will steer the cost. Also, consider rolling up your sleeves and doing some of the planning yourself. There’s a wealth of resources out there to help you sketch out a basic layout.

But hey, if you decide to bring in a pro, just be upfront about your budget. A good designer can work wonders, even with limited funds. They might even save you money in the long run by avoiding costly mistakes. Just remember, balance is key – don’t skimp on design, but don’t let it blow your budget either.

5. Installation Costs

The price of kitchen cabinets is also exorbitant due to the installation cost. Since this isn’t something you can purchase and set up in your house by yourself that easily, you need a professional to ensure everything is set up correctly. That said, if you take the time to learn how to install kitchen cabinets and are confident you can do it, you can save a bundle.

The cost of installation varies from one professional to another. However, in most cases, it costs 40% to 50% of the overall cost of your kitchen cabinets. However, in most cases, the company combines removal and installation costs.

6. Customizations Needed

If you’d like to add personal touches to your kitchen cabinets, you’ll have to break the bank a bit more to afford it. Since custom-made designs vary from one customer to another, the cabinet company doesn’t have the luxury of producing them in bulk.

They only make such cabinets on order, and the difficulty of making such designs leads to a higher price tag. Therefore, factor this in when you’re budgeting for your new cabinets if you’re going the custom route.

7. Full Cabinetry Vs. Open Shelving

If your entire kitchen is covered wall-to-wall with closed cabinetry, the cost will be higher than if you vary things a bit with some shelving or bare wall with artwork.

Open shelving is a great way to save while still allowing for items to be stored. While you’ll be sacrificing space and taking up more regular cleaning maintenance, the price difference between open shelves and wall cabinets is huge.

8. Added Pullout Shelves

Pullout shelves also add a significant amount to your overall expenditure. They require more detail and – depending on how many you need – more materials and usually more customization. If you’re considering pullouts for trash bins and other items, consider other possible spaces you can store them or be willing to pay a bit more.

For instance, you could pass on the trash bin pull out shelf and opt to have the bin in a hidden corner or at the end of your island. As long as you keep it neat and out of the way, you shouldn’t need a pullout shelf for it.

9. Glazing

There’s no doubt that glazing instantly elevates the aesthetics of your kitchen cabinets. However, it’s one of the biggest budget busters. If you’re on a tight budget, this may be something to take off the table. Be honest, it’s an addition you can do without.

10. Customizations

Customization is a surefire way to go over budget. While it doesn’t hurt to choose a few decorative pieces to make your cabinets unique, or to do something fancy to fit that awkward space, you should go easy on how many custom details you choose.

The more details you want, the higher the price will be. 

11. Hardware

Let’s talk about the unsung heroes of kitchen cabinets – the hardware. Knobs, pulls, handles… they might seem like small details, but boy, do they pack a punch in both style and cost. It’s like picking jewelry for your kitchen; the right pieces can make everything look put together.

But here’s the thing – those little pieces of metal can quickly add up. Go for fancy, designer hardware, and you might find yourself spending more than you bargained for. It’s easy to fall in love with high-end finishes or custom designs, but remember, every handle and knob is an added expense.

So, what’s the smart move? Shop around. There are plenty of stylish, yet affordable options out there. You don’t have to break the bank to get that chic look. And think about the number of cabinets and drawers you have – that’s a lot of hardware. Opting for something simpler or more cost-effective can save you a bundle.

Also, don’t forget about functionality. Those sleek, minimalist knobs might look great, but if they’re a pain to use, you’ll regret it every time you reach for a spoon. Find that sweet spot between form and function, and you’ll be golden.

In short, when it comes to hardware, keep your eyes on both style and the price tag. A little savvy shopping can go a long way in keeping your kitchen stylish and your wallet happy.

12. Size of Your Kitchen

Now, let’s talk size – the size of your kitchen, that is. It’s a big deal when it comes to cabinets. Bigger kitchen, more cabinets, more money – it’s as simple as that. But it’s not just about the number of cabinets; it’s also about how the size of your space shapes your choices.

Got a spacious kitchen? Lucky you! But remember, more space means more potential for spending. More cabinets, more countertops, more of everything. It’s like having a bigger canvas to paint on – great, but it requires more paint.

On the flip side, a smaller kitchen doesn’t automatically mean cheaper. Why? Because making the most of a limited space often calls for smarter, sometimes pricier solutions. Think custom cabinets that fit into quirky corners or extra features to maximize storage.

Here’s a tip: regardless of your kitchen’s size, planning is key. For a larger kitchen, be strategic about how you fill the space. Do you really need cabinets on every wall? Maybe open shelving or a freestanding piece could break things up and save some cash.

In a smaller kitchen, it’s all about efficiency. Every inch counts, so consider options like slimline cabinets or innovative storage solutions. And remember, in a compact space, less can be more. Choose quality over quantity.

Bottom line – whether you’re working with a kitchen that’s cozy or colossal, the size will significantly impact your cabinet costs. Plan smart, think creatively, and you’ll make the most of whatever space you have.

How to Cut Costs on Kitchen Cabinets

Updating kitchen cabinets can be quite expensive. However, if you know what to prioritize and what to leave out, you can do it with a smaller budget than you realize. Remember to choose affordable materials, reduce customization details, do away with the glaze, and compromise on some design elements.

It also helps to shop around and compare cabinet companies. Compare their products, prices, and overall customer satisfaction. This way, you’re guaranteed that you’ll be happy with the result.


At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.