Custom Cabinet Cost & Estimate Guide

How Much do New Cabinets Cost?

All cabinet pricing based on the amount of area to be covered and the quality of the actual construction.  Sounds reasonable, right?  But here’s what no salesman will tell you.  Quotes for lesser quality cabinetry may be nearly as high as those for fully custom projects.  Ouch.  How can this be so?  One reason is that a truly custom cabinet company pays about one dollar for every 25 cents the stock and semi-custom companies pay for in materials used to create your cabinets.  So, the margins for profit are much greater for the prefab products.  

Here’s a general rule-of-thumb for what to expect from your estimates:

  • Stock Cabinets: $60-$200 per linear foot
  • Semi-Custom Cabinets: $100-$650 per linear foot
  • Custom Cabinets: $500-$1,200 per linear foot

Custom cabinets can easily be a better deal because, not only do they produce a superior product, they can’t price themselves out of the market by charging outrageous prices. Their expenses for set-up and materials are higher, but profits are lower. Meanwhile, there are plenty of cheaper cabinet companies that make a killing on their sales simply by implying that they are custom. Essentially, they are lesser quality with higher markup.

So how can you tell if your estimate is fair?  First, you need to understand exactly what each of the bidding companies is actually building. Read on to explore the differences and how to get an estimate from local companies.

Cabinet Construction Options

Reading and comparing estimates with clarity requires, at least, a little education.  And since this is an investment in your home, your choice should reflect, not only the value it adds to your home, but also your tastes and your lifestyle. Here is a breakdown of what the market has to offer the consumer.

Types of Cabinetry

There are (3) main types of cabinetry: Stock, Semi-Custom, and Custom.  The analogy would be Good, Better, and Best as far as quality and design options. Let’s look at the differences.

Stock & Semi-Custom

When choosing from Stock or Semi-Custom, you are limited to prefabricated cabinet box sizes.  That is the width, depth, and heights that they offer. Since these companies are importing pre-made boxes, at some point your space will likely be shy of a perfect fit.  That’s where *fillers* are used to mask the differences between your wall dimensions and the actual box sizes.

The doors and drawers will completely cover the pre-fab box and this is called ‘Full Overlay’. The edges of the boxes are covered up with a strip of wood or plastic to match your finish. That way, when you open the door you won’t see the exposed edge of the particle or fiberboard. This construction is referred to as ‘Frameless’.

custom cabinet cost & estimate guide

Semi-Custom will have a better selection of door/drawer front styles from which to order, whereas Stock will only be able to offer what currently carry in stock. In both cases, hinges and glides are attached to the inside of the box itself.  The disadvantage is that, after time, hardware screws can work themselves loose from melamine interiors. In addition, doors can sag or appear uneven at the top line.


Custom cabinet makers build the boxes to the fit the area exactly. Hence, there will be no need for fillers.  Furthermore, custom cabinets boxes are made with plywood interiors, not inexpensive fiberboard (MDF) or particle board covered with melamine.

Each custom cabinet should have a solid wood frame that goes around the actual box opening, just like a picture frame.  This type of construction is called “Face Frame”.  The frame adds rigidity to the entire assembly and allows you choose how you want your door and drawer faces to be mounted.  Unlike Stock and Semi-Custom, the door fronts don’t have to be attached in Full Overlay fashion.  You could choose Partial Overlay or Inset, each of which will allow you to enjoy the beauty of the solid wood frame.

Lastly, hinges and glides are attached directly to the frame, and that means no loose screws or uneven hanging doors.  Custom cabinets are simply built better and made to last decades.

A quality custom cabinet maker will also be able to provide an unlimited number of finishes or color matches. This is especially relevant if you have existing nearby cabinetry that you would like to match.  Basically, all offerings vary from company to company, but any reputable Custom maker will never be limited by preset sizes, styles, or finishes.

custom cabinet cost & estimate guideYou can read more about this topic from Home Advisor by clicking this LINK.

Now that you know the basics, you can begin your journey by obtaining ballpark estimates for your cabinetry.  This will enable you to find out if new cabinetry is really in your budget.

Requesting Custom Cabinet Cost & Estimates

custom cabinet cost & estimate guide

Utilize Technology

For decades, the cabinet buying process began with an in-home appointment. In more recent years, consumers have been allowed to work with a designer at some of the big-box store locations, like Home Depot.  Regardless, all are sales driven platforms.

In today’s world, with so much information at our fingertips, we can actually control the sales driven meeting by taking the salesman out of the loop. Gone are the days of needing to have a salesman in your home, showing you catalogs, and trying to get you to sign on the dotted line.  Afterall, you just want to find out if new cabinets are in your future, right?  

Armed with the internet, you can search out companies in your area and contact them directly for an email address.

Information You Can Provide


You will want to describe the area in width (left to right) and height (floor to ceiling). If the wall has an alcove or niche, measure that depth as well. You don’t need to be exact, just to the nearest inch is fine.

Locate any windows or doors that encroach into the space.  You can simply describe them by height and width and distance to the nearest wall.  For windows, you will want to include the height from the floor to the bottom sill, since you may want a window bench seat, and that can serve as extra storage as well.

Type of Finish

If you know the finish you want, share that too. Some companies charge more for cabinets that will be stained than those that will be painted. One reason is that most lumber will be priced based on whether it is ‘paint grade’ or ‘stain grade’. More importantly, stained wood will show off the grain of the wood such that all wood will be suitable for paint, but not all will be suitable for stain.  A quality custom cabinet maker will hand select the wood for staining, especially the pieces that will be the most visible, and will choose good grain matches so that the finish will look consistent throughout.

Information You Should Ask

When requesting estimates, be sure to ask them what types of cabinetry they offer.  Specifically, you want to know if they build Frameless or Face Frame cabinets.  Next, ask if they offer Stock, Semi-Custom, or fully Custom. Remember, no Stock or Semi-Custom company will be able to offer Face Frame construction.  If you want to show off your knowledge, you can ask if they use fiber or particle board anywhere in the project.  That should tell you whether or not they are truly Custom!

Lastly, it is important to ask about Delivery and Installation and whether or not it is included in the estimate.  Most Custom builders will do their own installs and include that in the price.  On the other hand, Stock or Semi-Custom may simply quote for the actual cabinets, but not the installation.

custom cabinet cost & estimate guide

Sharing Your Information

To make things easy, take a photo of your area and add the measurements right to the print out. Then scan it back into your computer. Now you can email to the various companies on your list.  Include a general sketch of what you envision for the area.  If you find a sample of what you like on a website, save the photo and send it along, too.  This should be more than enough information for ballpark quotes.

A couple of quick notes:  

  • If they insist on sending a salesman to your home, encourage them to email back a range of cost anyway.  Remind them that you are just getting started and are not ready to buy yet.
  • If you are not getting a response from a company, move on to the next.  Lack of communication on their part should be a warning flag.  It’s 2018 and all the more reason they should be able to email and correspond in a timely fashion.  
  • If you don’t want phone calls, be sure to delete that part from your email signature.  Remember, it’s your house and your money, and you should be given the opportunity to do your homework without sales pressure.

Lastly, when composing your email, make it very clear that you are just looking for what type of cabinetry their company offers and a price range. Let them know that you understand this is not a quote for actual work, rather a jumping off point so that you can determine if new cabinets are in your future. If the company emails back with a list that looks like an order form, filled with acronyms, and hard to understand, then they are definitely on the low end of quality.

Additional Millwork & Extra Costs

Remember that an estimate at this point is only a general quote and can change once you start refining your design.  For instance, cabinetry with lots of detail will be more expensive than a minimalistic approach. Door faces with a Raised Panel and Arch at the top of each will be more expensive than opting for a Shaker style door. Fluting, specialty moldings, corbels, and arches will also add to the cost of the project. If the company offers lighting packages, you can expect to pay extra for that, as well.

The biggest price ranges in estimates should be coming from the Custom cabinet makers.  This is common sense because they have more to offer in terms of options. One example is Inset door mounting. This will be pricier than full or partial overlay, since there is no room for error in this millwork construction.

Certainly, everyone would choose custom if price was not a concern, but that’s not realistic. Just be sure that when you are comparing quotes that you know exactly what the company is building for you.  

At C&L Design Specialists, we use a car buying analogy to describe the difference between Custom cabinets and all the rest.  Would you rather pay a high price for a Toyota, or a fair price for a BMW?  For more information about cabinet construction, visit our news section HERE.