How do you get the best value when buying custom cabinetry?  A good analogy is buying a new car. Everyone understands that cars come from different manufacturers at different prices with different levels of quality . No one asks for a blue cross-over with AWD from a Lexus dealer and thinks it will be the same price as from a Chevy dealer. Both have a car that fits that description, but everyone knows they are not the same and adding option packages can raise the price by 50% or more. This is true of other custom products like cabinetry. You can easily spend more on a new kitchen than a new car and you will want it to last for 20 years or more. Serious investigation is in order. Cabinets have a chassis, moving parts, accessories and finish. The detail and quality of each element adds to the price and the long term value. They will either appreciate or depreciate the value of your home over time.

Below are some tips to help you with the process.

TIP 1: Understand the choices. Custom and semi-custom are more indicators of available options rather than quality. There are high quality semi-custom manufacturers and poor quality custom manufacturers.  Research who the “Lexus” dealers are and who the “Chevy” dealers are. Find out if they provide a range of products or just one level.

Tip 2: Establish a budget. Count the number of lineal feet of cabinets you are looking at. Custom prices can range from $250 to over $1000 per foot depending on the quality and level of detail. It will also vary depending on if you are buying direct or through a contractor or designer.

TIP 3: You would never spend the money for a new car without taking it for a test drive. It’s amazing how many people ask for bids on products they have never seen. Go to showrooms and open doors and drawers. Ask lots of questions.  (see our Article on Cabinets 101 for what to ask)  If the cabinetmaker doesn’t have a showroom, ask to see a jobsite.

TIP 4:  Asking for an estimate at the beginning is like asking for a car’s base sticker price. Always ask for a range of what the options might be to see if it fits in a realistic budget.

TIP 5: Custom cabinetmakers who install their product only charge use tax on the materials. If they sell it to a contractor to install, you will be charged sales tax on the entire product including the manufacturing labor. The difference can be hundreds or thousands of dollars.

TIP 6: If you are using a designer, architect or builder for your design and they don’t discuss budget along with the design options you are probably in for some surprises. There are wildly varying levels of expertise regarding cabinet design and budgets. (see our article on Value Engineering for help)

TIP 7: If you’ve done a design with a designer or builder, they will probably suggest bidding it. First, make sure their idea of a Lexus dealer is the same as yours. Second, make sure the details are very clear in the bid package as to the “accessories package” you are requesting. Otherwise, your bids may be like comparing a baseline Jeep to a fully loaded Mercedes.