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cawfeegirl_gw

Local Cabinet Maker? Need help with cabinet quotes.....

cawfeegirl
14 years ago

I have read over and over again on this forum that alot of times you can get a better price on cabinets from a local cabinet maker rather than the "big box" stores.

This is going to sound stupid, but what would be considered a local cabinet maker? For instance, there is an "Old River Cabinets" showroom here. I believe they are only in the Richmond area. Would they be considered a local cabinet maker because they dont carry a brand but only make custom cabinets?

I ask this because Ive gotten a quote of $17K for Kraftmaid cabinets and $16K for Merillat cabinets and am wondering if those are considered high. What information would any of you need to tell me whether those prices are reasonable or not? The number of cabinets? The size of the kitchen?

I just feel like for that much money, I might be able to get a better cabinet. But I have no idea.

Thanks in advance!

Comments (22)

  • melinrk
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Ah...that is a loaded question. If you have a huge kitchen, 17K is not a huge price. If they are cherry with a glaze, the cost is higher. If the door style is very detailed, the cost is higher. Too many variables for absolute costs. Also, the quality of cabinets is different at different places - definately check that out.

    The kind of cabinet place you're talking about is custom. Yes, they might be less than Home Depot or Lowes. Check out any semi-custom lines that a local place might sell.
    Pick a layout (almost any layout, doesn't need to be finalized), pick a relative door style, wood and finish and price the same thing out at all the places. That is the only way to know who is giving you the best price.

    Keep in mind also that in some places EVERYTHING is extra -pull outs, lazy susan, panels, etc. In the custom cabinets and many semi-custom all those things are included.

    Plus...factor in the hassle factor of a store - At big box stores you need to know what you want because you may or may not get someone knowledgable and helpful. Meaning you need to do the work. At a custom or semi-custom place, they will usually take care of everything for you. That's worth something.

    Lastly, at a non-big box store, you may actually have some wiggle room with price.

    Basically, try to compare apples to apples as best you can.

    Good luck

  • rubyfig
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    The way we found the one we really like was a referral from the flooring guy we hired (who did a meticulous job). Since then, I have noticed specialty shops all over the place that make custom cabinets.

    I would post on this forum to see if there is anyone who has used a local cabinetmaker in your area that they liked.

    If I remember correctly, you liked the Huntington KM cabinets (if that is the case, the shaker style doors are one of the easier styles for a cabinetmaker to make).

    My kitchen is the same style, and I can show you the differences of what the cabinetmaker did (and why I like that quality so much better) compared to the quality of the Kraftmaid line.

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  • lowspark
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    What information would any of you need to tell me whether those prices are reasonable or not?

    There's only one way you can be sure to know what the "right" price for your cabinets is, and that is to shop around.

    As melinrk said, "Pick a layout (almost any layout, doesn't need to be finalized), pick a relative door style, wood and finish and price the same thing out at all the places. That is the only way to know who is giving you the best price."

    That's exactly what I did. I shopped one layout to a bunch of places. Big box stores, local kitchen "shoppes", local cabinet makers, etc. Be sure to include all bells & whistles such as full extension drawers, lazy susans, etc. for each estimate.

    Shopping around accomplishes two things. It gives you a feel for pricing, and it also gives you an opportunity to meet and work with (although on a very short term) lots of different KDs and cabinet builders. I found that you can really get a feel for how someone works even in a very short meeting to discuss your layout and their cabinets.

    Since you're not asking for any design work to be done by the KD at this time, they should be (they were in my experience) happy to sit with you for 20-30 minutes for this initial meeting, and to give you a free estimate.

    Your question regarding what constitutes a local cabinet maker isn't stupid. To me, a local cabinet maker is an individual or company that makes custom cabinets for customers in their limited area.

    When I shopped around, I got prices all over the place, both from the stores and custom guys. Some of the custom guys were sky high, some were rock bottom, and the rest were somewhere in between. Same with the stores. I ended up choosing a cabinet line which offered me exactly what I was looking for in cabinets and accessories, a KD whom I felt comfortable working with due to her personality and experience, and a price (which was somewhere in the middle) that I felt was very fair, based on all the quotes I'd gotten.

    By the way, my cabinets are Brookhaven, purchased through a small kitchen shop. They priced in at about 10% higher than Kraftmaid from Home Depot. In terms of quality and accessories, I feel that they are much more than 10% better than what I would have gotten from Kraftmaid. Shopping around really helped me figure this out.

    Good luck!

  • nkkp
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I have a different opinion of custom work. I like using box stores becuase I can see EXACTLY what the finish and style will look like. At first, we hired a custom guy and showed him a diplay to copy. We checked his work and although he typically worked in oak or maple, his cabinets looked great. The display we showed was a dark cherry, full overlay rasied panel. I was very, very clear about what I wanted. I kept repeating, dark, even cherry, full-overlay, small light rail, etc. It was even written on the paperwork. When he completed the bath, it was a standard overlay, rustic cherry. Even though he said he always did full-overlay doors, he didn't even realize the difference in full-overlay and standard overlay. I was NOT happy. I work with people who have had similar problems with different custom cabinet makers. Be sure you have seen a sample of the makers work in your wood and your style.

  • cawfeegirl
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Thanks, melinrk! My kitchen is not huge....its 13X15. Its U-shaped with the 3rd wall being a peninsula (about 100 inches long) so there are no wall cabinets on that 3rd wall. The fourth wall has a refrigerator and a pantry area. Im also having a small island--about 36X42.

    The cabinet is a simple shaker with a Toffee stain--no glazes, etc.

    The quote for 17K is for KraftMaid from a local kitchen company, not HD or Lowes. That's why I thought it was a little high. But I could be totally wrong! The 16K is for Merillat (which I realize is made by Masco, the same co. that makes Kraftmaid) but Im skeptical on the Merillat because I cannot find any info on them whatsoever!! I think they are mostly used by builders rather than people renovating.

    Rubyfig: Yes! Show me! Show me! Im so clueless! :)

    lowspark: Thanks for your input. Yes, I am going to take my plan and shop around. I have to stop feeling like I have to make a decision now and just shop around until Im comfortable with my decision.

  • cawfeegirl
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    nkkp: Funny that you mentioned that because yesterday I went to a local cabinet maker. The girl showed me the sample doors--they were all standard overlay so I said "You can do these in full overlay, though, right?" and she kind of looked at me like she didnt know what I meant. It scared me!
    I will definitely ask for references so I can see completed work!

  • rjr220
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Cawfee girl;

    Rubyfig already said what I was going to suggest: ask others on the forum who are around you who their cabinet maker was: go look at them! That's how I find the man we are going to use -- from Holligator!

    My kitchen is about the same size as yours, sounds rather simular in set up: I think I got an estimate a few thousand less for Kraftmaid from Bradco supply: their price was less tha the same from HD or Lowes. I've attached their website for you -- you may have a local store.

    Also, the cab maker Holligator used includes installation and hardware -- so you may actally get a better deal in that way as well.

    Good luck!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Bradco supply for KM cab:

  • Fori
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    My custom cabinet maker isn't cheaper than a big box store. But they ARE custom. That makes a big difference when you have a small room and want every inch to count. No filler. Crazy sizes. Non standard depths. Funky angles. And instant feedback on "can you do THIS?".

  • southernstitcher
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    We decided on a local cabinet maker that we were comfortable with for several reasons:
    1. He has a great website, which was important to me. I can see all the pictures of his work. (Some have great photo albums they can show you, and of course get references.)
    2. He uses a custom woodworks program that will show me exactly what I'm getting.
    3. He appears to be energetic and makes good suggestions, not pushy and explains everything well.
    4. He is willing to work with my contractor on the scheduling.
    5. Made several good suggestions without being pushy, and willing to listen to exactly what we wanted.
    6. Does his own finishing - very important to us. We didn't want bare cabinets in and then have to wait for someone to come in and finish them, spraying in our kitchen!
    A custom maker can give you wood samples and you or he can make samples of the different stains/glazes on the actual wood he'll be using. And, a local guy will usually either deliver immediately, or may be willing to hold them for a few days if there is a delay.

    With a manufacturer such as Kraftmaid, there is a good warranty. You know that if they say 5 weeks, it will be 5 weeks. With a custom cabinetmaker, you are taking more risk. What if he gets sick, and the job gets delayed by several weeks? There are so many pros and cons to each, but we went custom.

    I hope we are happy with the outcome.

  • rubyfig
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I promise I will get you some photos (and a list of what I found were pros and cons for each) by the morning (my "old" counters are out and the new ones are going in today...yipee!).

    Just a note that Mohawk makes the stains for Kraftmaid (I think it ran something like $40-50 a quart for mine (Muslin, a 3 part process) through HD. Different colors have different pricing and it is either a single color or a multi-part process) so getting the color exactly as you like it should not be an issue (Obviously it is less expensive if a local painter/cabinetmaker can match it or use a standard color, but if they cannot and you are set on the exact color, you can buy the mix through KM).

  • plllog
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Now I'm confused. When I think local cabinet maker, I think about a craftsman who has his own shop where he (and his staff) makes all the cabinetry, or a carpenter who builds at the house. The big box stores have some options that are less expensive than a local cabinet maker can provide, but like to like (same materials and finishes), the local guy is more often a lot less than a big cabinet company. Often half the price of the big time designers for the same or greater quality.

  • growlery
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Defining terms is important.

    And, as we have all noticed, getting an apples to apples comparison is virtually impossible, but being able to line the apples and the peaches and the pineapples up against each other at least keeps things nice and organized ... while you're lying under the kitchen table sucking your thumb thinking about how much it's going to cost.

    Let me say first there's no right or proper or best definition, and I may be leaving some out. It's just a heads up that you should be clear about which one you're getting, and what you're paying for, so you can add and subtract and figure out what's a good deal or not.

    Local just means it's near you. It can be a local showroom of a national corporation "your local Big Box) or a guy with one tree and a saw.

    "Custom" can have a few meanings. For a brand like Woodmode, it means you can order boxes of certain sizes, I believe it's to the inch?, and they will come with pieces attached that the installer will cut down to fit exactly into the spaces in your house. As opposed to other lines, where the increments may be 3 inches.
    If you go this route, you will usually pay for installation separately, through your contractor.

    You can also find a cabinet maker. This is a more varied area, as it depends on how the person or company chooses to work. So I think, yes, everyone is talking about different things, but they're not mutually exclusive. I think they all qualify. Some are small regional companies, others are solo operators. Some make their own boxes, others buy premade boxes and just make the doors.

    They can make things from scratch, to the fraction of an inch. Or a good one can anyway. If that corner is funky, and the wall isn't straight, they can make you a cabinet that's not straight, making use of every possible inch. They can do every creative thing you can imagine -- sketch it or describe it and it's yours.

    The small workshop I bought mine from included installation in the price. And it was a very complicated installation. So that made it a good deal for me.

    So think about it, look at all the costs. Don't pay for things you don't need or value, or get shamed into things. Speak up, ask questions. Now's the time.

  • melinrk
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Lowspark - mine are Brookhaven too. Have a sample sitting in my "old" kitchen...waiting to get started. Yea!

  • lowspark
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    melinrk,
    I love my brookhaven cabinets. They are now 4.5+ yrs old but still like new. You'll be very happy I'm sure!

  • plllog
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Growlery, thanks for the definitions.

  • rubyfig
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Ok, this is a long post with lots of pictures. I am going to try to give you as much background (and details of what I went for) as I can to help you compare KM with a cabinetmaker.

    I have an older house (1932) and not a single wall is plumb nor is a single floor or ceiling level. My ceilings are less than standard (most of the kitchen is about 92", the slanted roof section that caused the most headache is less).

    There are 2 kinds of custom cabinets (both shaker style inset) that were in the house when we moved in. We hired a cabinetmaker on the recommendation of our flooring guy who made some built-in bookcases and a tall bathroom cabinet. This same cabinetmaker made cabinets to match the KM cabinets in my kitchen (and I absolutely wish I had hired him to do the whole kitchen, but I found out about him much too late).

    The instructions I gave the KD was that I did not want anything fancy--no moldings at the top, and no scribe (which I really dislike) because I wanted to keep a clean look.

    We decided to go with KM cabinets because it seemed most were pleased with the product, and the style seemed like it would work with our home. In my case, the two different KDs I went to would not release the kitchen plans until I had signed a contract, so I did not have a list of cabinets nor did I have any idea of what each individual cabinet cost--I only had a total cost for all the cabinets.

    The quality of the KM cabinets I would describe as OK (at best). Cabinets are about paying attention to the details and so many custom cabinetmakers meticulous. To me, a lot of the details of the KM cabinets seemed like they had shoddy workmanship (I will give you some examples below). With KM cabinets, anything that was not a basic cabinet (like an end piece that needed a filler, or a side that needed to be finished) was an extra and the costs added up like crazy if the standard cabinet design was altered in any way. Another disadvantage for KM (and any cabinet "line" versus an individual cabinetmaker) is that if and when something goes wrong, it takes roughly 4-6 weeks to have a cabinet replaced. With a local cabinetmaker, it is pretty much instant.

    The only disadvantage to a local cabinetmaker that I can point to, is that the finishing of the cabinets is one more process. You most likely will not find the baked on finish (and I admit, that is a nice feature IMO).

    Here are some examples to the points above:

    KM Huntington doors and drawers are made with solid stock frames, but the inset is "skin" (which is thin and not a solid piece of wood). This is what the KM doors look like (the interior):

    {{gwi:1925552}}

    And this is what the skin looks like on it's own:

    {{gwi:1925553}}


    {{gwi:1925554}}

    This is the same door style that my cabinetmaker made with a flat back (inside) with a more substantial panel:
    {{gwi:1925555}}

    This one little detail may not look like a big deal on it's own, but that little lip on the inside of the KM doors (especially on the trash drawer) catches more dirt than I would like and it is just one more thing to clean. DH doesn't like the fact that the cabinets clatter whenever you shut them, again this is because of the fact that the center panel is so thin compared to the rest of the door. We don't have that problem with the custom set.

    The KM drawer fronts are simply screwed to the drawer. The inside lip tends to catch a lot of gunk (what you see here is wood dust from the install):

    {{gwi:1925556}}

    KM talks about the dovetail joins in the drawers. These are meant to add strength to the drawers and they are a mark of fine cabinetry. I was appalled when I saw the joins on the drawers in my KM order. My kitchen only has 5 drawers and two are ok, but here is what 3 of the 5 look like:

    {{gwi:1925557}}


    {{gwi:1925558}}


    {{gwi:1925559}}


    {{gwi:1925560}}

    The non-KM drawers in my house were of a lesser quality (they are not dovetailed, and they are plywood, not solid wood) so they are not a direct comparison, but they have held together quite well for over 10 years without anything pulled apart. I do not have the same confidence with the KM drawers.

    The KM full-overlay will drop to the frame if you have any fillers (I know there is something they can put on an overlay, buy that is an additional cost).

    Two standard upper cabinets placed side by side look like this:
    {{gwi:1925561}}
    Lower cabinets with top drawers look like this:
    {{gwi:1925562}}


    {{gwi:1925563}}

    And those fillers (extended styles I think they might be called...I will have to look it up) look like this when placed between cabinets:
    {{gwi:1925564}}


    {{gwi:1925565}}

    When you get to the end of a wall, your choices are: extended style (end) scribed to the wall, a gap, or a moulding. Here is what each looks like:

    {{gwi:1925566}}

    {{gwi:1925567}}


    {{gwi:1925568}}

    I think the scribe looks the best. For the KM option, you need the extended ends which is an added cost.

    I asked the cabinetmaker to match the rest of my kitchen (and I didn't want it to stand out with all the funky odd overlays that ended up in the rest of the kitchen), so this is how the cabinets line up in the alcove (the stain is not on yet):
    {{gwi:1925569}}

    To give you an idea of the difference in quality, this is one of the tall cabinets the same cabinetmaker did for my bathroom (the panels I asked to keep open because I plan to insert fabric, and it is painted instead of stained). The floor, wall and ceiling in this room is uneven (but you would not know it from the cabinet):

    {{gwi:1925570}}


    {{gwi:1925571}}


    {{gwi:1925572}}

    For me, I could do a direct cost comparison in the alcove (because this wall had to be re-built same for one upper cabinet). The cost for the KM pieces (end panels, doors, one cabinet and filler pieces) for the alcove was about $1600. labor to install was $1000 (total roughly $2600). The same alcove using a single cabinet from KM (about $300-350) was $800 for the cabinetmaker (materials and install), $160 for a specialty pocket door hinge, and the staining (estimates were about $250-300): total on the high end--about $1610.

    Important to note that the cabinetmakers price includes install. Also note that if you are going with a granite top that is 2cm with KM cabinets, it will need a plywood under layer (that was an extra $300 that no one mentioned in any estimate but came in as an "extra"). Again, it would have been part of the package with the cabinetmaker.

    I know that every case is different and a lot depends on the individual cabinetmaker as well as the particulars of your space and preferences, but if you can get drawings to an individual, take a look at their work and talk to a few clients, I highly recommend it.

    Oh, one more thing. When you asked about the "full overlay" cabinet at the shop you mentioned and got a blank stare, I bet you if I said that to the one we hired it would have met with a similar look. To him, it was either inset or overlay (and if it was overlay, it was just a matter of how much...and in the KM cabinets vary from cabinet to cabinet (as you can see from the photos) even though it is all still called "full overlay").

  • cawfeegirl
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Wow! Rubyfig, THANKS SO MUCH!!
    I can't believe that skin from KM! Its like tissue paper. And it is amazing the difference between the KM cabinets full overlay and the cabinetmakers.

    What point are you at in your renovation? I'd love to see the pics!

    I went to a local cabinet maker today and showed him my drawings. He's going to get back to me beginning of next week. The following is standard for him:

    -No upcharge on any door style.
    -12" or 15" deep upper cabs--no difference in price.
    -interiors finished to match the exteriors-no upcharge.
    -Doors and drawers have soft-close feature-no upcharge
    -full extension drawers-no upcharge.
    -exposed ends are solid wood
    -solid wood shelves
    -end panels are integrated.

    Now I guess he could say he doesnt upcharge for all of this and it will still be worked into his final price. I will find out when I get his quote next week. But I am VERY impressed with the workmanship of the cabinets.

  • rubyfig
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    You are most welcome (happy to pass on any information I can to help with your decision--I know it is a huge purchase).

    The cabinet maker sounds like a good one (keeping fingers crossed for you on the 1st quote, but know if you like his work you can always go back and say, "well, I have this much in the budget, how can we get to this number?" and see what solution he comes up with).

    In terms of where we are in the process, hopefully towards the end of the "hard" stuff. We changed the floorplan in our place to make the limited square footage work better (I'm on a hillside, so there is no chance of expanding the main structure), and that meant tackling a bath, laundry, office, and bedroom all in one shot. I will see if I can post an album so you can take a peek (give me a few days).

  • antiquesilver
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Cawfeegirl, I'll be interested to hearing the quote & who's giving it. I'm in Richmond (Church Hill) & 6 years ago I had mine completely custom built & installed by a man who rarely advertises & does mostly commercial work (he'd done all types of carpentry for me for 15 years before so references were not a problem.) If you're in an older home, I've always heard that installation is the tricky part so if the cabs are custom built to the space, my advice would be to have the cabinetmaker do the install, too.

  • rubyfig
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    So how is it going?

    quick link to our album and where we are in the process below if you are interested.

    Here is a link that might be useful: rubyfig's remodel adventure

  • cawfeegirl
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Wow, its coming along nicely, huh? I love the floor color, what is it?

    Well, we just got the first quote from the custom cabinet guy and he's pretty much the same as the KraftMaid people!! So, of course, I'd rather have custom then Kraftmaid.....but Im still going to shop around a bit.

    Will keep you posted!!

  • rubyfig
    14 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I am so happy for you! Please keep us posted :).

    We are slowly getting there (massive painting push this weekend, but that is all down to me and a brush. LOL).

    The floors are red oak. I think the stain was a minwax honey something or other (it has to be re-done though, because the GC put a few gashes in it moving the fridge back in place. I'll check on the stain color for you when the floor guy comes back).