Custom Cabinet Cost Sticker-Shock

Sticker shock is very common among those confronted with the real cost of a custom cabinet project. Most folks understand that custom work won't be priced like something available from Office Depot, et al., but they fail to anticipate the large difference in the pricing.

Custom cabinet cost, surprisingly, is driven mostly by the design and interaction time required. Think about it… To make sure you get what you want, I have to invest several hours at your home up-front. Even the phone and planning time to set up that meeting can be considerable.

Then I go back to my desk, and — over the course of a week or two — spend some very focused time thinking through the possibilities, trying to come up with the very best design for your situation.

Often, even if you were able to show me a picture of the design you want, there are several specific issues that must be researched to assure the quality of the design. Then I create the model and then the drawing, making careful notes along the way.

Also, it takes time to work up the bid. I have to check for current prices and plan out each stage of the process.

Now, all of the above would also have been done by a designer for a mass-produced piece of cabinetry or furniture. The big difference is that his or her design cost is then divided by the number of units produced. This number can run into the hundreds of thousands, lowering the per-unit design cost down to nothing.

The bottom line is this: the extra cost of custom cabinet or furniture work is mainly in the design. If the project is complex and creative, you may be looking at 5-10x the total cost. If the project is something straightforward like built-in bookshelves, it may only be 1-3x the cost.

From that point, however, custom cabinet cost runs about equal to its manufactured counterpart. I have the advantage of not having to ship my goods over a long distance, and they have the advantage of using minimum wage labor, cheap materials, and efficient production lines.

But really, is there anything that compares in value to a well-designed custom cabinet? A house or workspace with integrated, original woodwork features has a certain sense of quality, culture, and permanence. If that's what you want, the custom cabinet cost is bearable.

So, how to avoid Custom Cabinet Cost Sticker-Shock?

  1. Be sure that a custom cabinet is what you want. Take time to understand the benefits and drawbacks.
  2. Be disciplined and minimize what you add to the project along the way.