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Thread: Cost of Making vs. Buying Cabinets

  1. #1
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    Cost of Making vs. Buying Cabinets

    I've recently been discussing this topic with our of our Family members off the board, and the conversation was so interesting I wanted to bring it up here. I imagine this has been discussed before, but I'd like to hear the opinions of some of our woodworkers.

    We need cabinets. Lots of cabinets in several rooms. I think it's cheaper to make them. Everyone else I talk to seems to think it's not cheaper or barely cheaper. Here's my thinking:

    I looked around and the cheapest cabinets I could find, ready made and off the shelf, at a big box store, for a 24" wide, 30" tall, 24" deep cabinet with a door, with hinges and handle hardware would be about $150, and that's pressed board.

    So I looked at what the materials would cost for me to make it with 3/4 ply + wood + hardware + glue/misc = and I come up with $50. And for the sake of discussion, even if I'm wrong (as my husband says) and I've underestimated by 50%, then that's still $75 or half of the cheapest stuff I could find off the shelf, which really isn't even comparable to what I'm talking about making. For this discussion, I'm considering maple wood and maple plywood. I'm not including costs of my time or the cost of machinery, and I'm not talking about drawers either, which I know cost more. I'm talking just plywood, wood, screws, glue, finish, and hardware.

    I contacted a business in a nearby city that makes cabinet doors. For maple they gave me a ballpark figure of $50/sq.ft. So for a door to fit this size cabinet, that's $250 just for the door. Now to make upper, less deep cabinets, let's say $50 for 24" wide, 30" high. So for one linear foot of uppers and lowers, that's half of $75 + half of $50 = $62.50/linear foot of homemade upper and lowers. When I look in magazines or online, I find a rule of thumb that cabinets cost anywhere from $300 to $1000 and up per linear foot.

    So am I the only person on the planet who believes firmly that cabinets are cheaper to make? By the way, I don't suggest for a second that it's an easy job--I know it would be an enormous amount of work to make a room full of cabinets. But I do think it's cheaper. A lot cheaper.
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  2. #2
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    maple plywood costs more than 50 bucks a sheet, Im sure of that.
    6 sq feet of maple for stile/rail paneled door, figure youll need closer to 9 or 10 sq feet when all is said and done.(add more if you are making face frame.
    If maple is 3.50 a bf near you, that's another 35.00 in maple.
    Good set of hinges, youd need 4, 20.00 minimum, and a handle another 5.00 if you aren't going for a 25 dollar handle.
    If you want shelves, you should have enough from sheet of plywood.(and if you want 1/4 inch plywood for back another 10 bucks for a quarter sheet. don't forget glue stain/ and or finishing products)

    For one cabinet, I believe if its basically just a storage cabinet, not part of an entire run of cabinets, Id purchase it somewhere.

    the savings start once you start doing a run of cabinets, then you can count up how much youre saving.
    Human Test Dummy

  3. #3
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    Allen, I just called a local place, and they have maple plywood on sale right now for $49.99. 3/4". I would probably buy prefinished birch 3/4 for 49.99 for the interior of the cabinet. I definitely didn't count that much for the wood. 10 sq feet for one door?
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  4. #4
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    If I were you I would make the boxes and buy the doors. I know several cabinet makers locally and most will buy the doors. The smaller shops can't compete with the big outfits, the cost of specialized machinery etc. I make my own doors but I'm not trying to make a living at building cabinets. Unless you want something way out there get a quote on having them made. Try this outfit, http://www.eroko.com/ . Set up an account and fill out the form to get a quote, then see if you feel if it's worth trying them yourself.

  5. #5
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    you mentioned 2 feetwide , and 30 inches tall, so figure 2x3 foot. Doors to cover that are approx. 6 sq feet, a little less, but figure if youre making hardwood doors, you will always need extra lumber. so 8 sq feet? 7 sq feet? 50 bucks for a sheet, add on cost for small sheet of 1/4 for back, hardware and finish. I don't know what kind of hardware you are going to purchase. but total cost for you Im betting is over a 100.00

    that's a wide door for a cabinet.(personally Id make it 2 doors)

    if the maple is two sided plywood, why use birch for the interior?

    ofcourse, it all boils down to do you want to look at the cabinet all the time and say to yourself, yep, I made that......its a good feeling.

    I often question things I make versus the cost for a decent product available commercially, but self made products are the reason I enjoy woodworking.

    draw it all out, write down the costs, it will be easier with everything in front of you to figure out if you want to go ahead with the difference in costs, home made or store bought.
    Last edited by allen levine; 11-29-2014 at 09:03 PM.
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  6. #6
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    A 24" base cabinet, with one flat panel door, and one drawer with a slab front I would be charging about $380. That's 3/4" white two face birch for the box sides and deck, with a 1/4" Baltic Birch back. Dado'd together with a 2-1/4" stretcher on the front and back below the drawer, and a 3-1/4" nailer across the back. Drawers are solid birch for the box, and a 1/4" Baltic Birch bottom, dovetailed with Blum 563H soft close slides. The door gets Blum soft close, 120 degree hinges as well. Not including overhead, just the cost of material and hardware, (also excluding finishing), that accounts for about 40% of the cost of my cabinets.


    Is it cheaper to make yourself? Sure. Have you got the toys and time to do it well is another question.

    Not that long ago I was buying the birch plywood I use for boxes for $52 a sheet when I bought a unit. It's up to $75 a sheet now.

    Not including hinges, when I make doors for other shops, I charge $45 a piece regardless of size. That's for a flat panel door. It comes out in the wash, some are big, some are small. Expensive or difficult to work species get a percentage tacked on above and beyond that.
    When I do drawers for other shops, I have a base charge for the drawer box, then a modifier for the volume of it.


    $50 a square foot for a cabinet door is pretty outrageous. say the average door is 15x30, that's 3.125 sq/ft, or a $156 door. That's stupid expensive, and I need to raise prices if that's the case.
    "Do, or do not. There is no try."
    -Yoda



  7. #7
    No it's not always cheaper to build your own cabinets if there is a ready made version of exactly what you want commercially available.

    The cost savings come into play when you want something specific that's not available any where. The last time I bought a ready made cabinet was when we first moved to Texas back in '98 before I had a shop and reacquired all the tools I had sold off because of the move. Since then I have built the bedroom set for my daughter, custom built in cabinets in the tv room, our master bath cabinets, our entertainment center that has since been re purposed, our kitchen cabinets and our bed room set. All of these items could not be found commercially available with the features we wanted to fit the specific space.

  8. #8
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    For your 30" high, 24" wide cabinet, You'll get two cabinets (sides and bottom decks) out of each sheet of plywood - with extremely careful cutting! ($25.00 per cab)

    Add a sheet of ¼" ply for the back (four 24" backs and four drawer bottoms per sheet (again, with careful cutting) (About $12.00 per cab)

    Solid stock for the door(s) and drawer fronts - assuming frame and panel doors, two doors per cabinet - about 6 ft², allowing for a bit of waste, another foot² for the drawer front.

    Solid stock for the face frame 11 lineal feet, about 3" wide or about 4 ft²

    Drawer sides and back - about six feet of ½" Baltic Birch. It comes in 5 ft square sheets, so you'll nee about 20% of a sheet per drawer - about $8.00 per drawer.

    Knobs and drawer pulls - maybe $15.00 per cabinet.

    Hinges - two per drawer - so about $15.00 per cabinet.

    Finish? Probably somewhere around $30.00 per quart. A quart will likely do four cabinets, so $7.50 per cab.

    Glue, screws, nails, etc. - about $5.00 per cab

    That's somewhere over a hundred bucks per cabinet for materials.

    Even gang cutting, dadoing, and rabbeting will be time consuming, and then there's assembly and finishing.

    So, how much is your time really worth?
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  9. #9
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    I'm with Brian here. Make the boxes. Good tracksaw, good set-up, no-math techniques and you are golden. Buy the fronts and doors. Lots of suppliers out there. That is my plan with the house - should I ever get permission to build it!

    I think it is the best strategy for least cost, timely completion, and total customization.

    There is another issue when it comes to cabinet construction and that is the amount of space it takes while under construction! When I did my Mom's kitchen, the garage was fun, the patio was fun, and the kitchen was a mess for the duration.

    When my brother had to do his house, he assembled a box and hung it. All prefinished materials. Once they were all hung, careful measurements were taken (openings marked!) and an order went in to the door and drawer front company. At the same time, an order went in for prefinished dovetailed drawer boxes. Another for drawer slides, hinges and handles. It went together very well and he is happy. Should also point out my brother Ron is so tight with a nickel that I know what a screaming buffalo sounds like.

    In retrospect for my house, I will mill hinge holes and install drawer slides before the boxes are assembled.

    FWIW.
    Last edited by Carol Reed; 11-29-2014 at 09:52 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Cynthia, I only added a few extra board feet because when I use a common wood species, something I know I will use up the road, I tend to purchase 10-15% more than I know I need, because if I make an error, or have a disagreement with any machine as in chew something, off cut, I would 100 % rather have the extra wood on hand, ready to re-mill and continue the project than have to shut down, make a trip to the lumber yard, spending another 20 dollars on tolls and gasoline, not to mention time.
    If Im using something that costs me 10 dollars a sq foot, then Im cutting the purchase a lot closer, and hope I don't have to make that trip again.
    Human Test Dummy

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