Building Kitchen Cabinets

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We are planning to redo our kitchen in a year or two. We'll be doing most of it ourselves, including building the cabinets. I have been building my skills and my tool collection and think I am just about ready for this task. We have remodeled another kitchen in the past using ready made cabinets.
I have one big question though. I'm not sure if it's cost effective to build my own cabinets or to go out and buy some decent quality ready made ones. As far as tools go I would have to buy a big router to handle panel raising and either build or buy a "real" router table (I am now using the Porter Cable entry level "table" with a PC 691). Then, there is the cost of materials. My wife wants cherry and I know it's not cheap. The cost of hardware is obscene and all the other wood for drawers, shelves and carcasses will add up to a small fortune.
I know I will really enjoy the challenge and feel a major sense of accomplishment but I'm not sure if it's worth it if I can buy ready mades for half the price. Has anyone here done a serious cost comparison?
Also, any advice about ways to save money would be appreciated. I am planning on building face frame cabinets with raised panel doors and LOTS of drawers. I can get cherry at my local lumber yard but it costs a fortune (finished on all 4 sides). I have a jointer and planer but no source for unfinished kiln dried cherry (I live in NY's Hudson Valley).
Thanks in advance, Chuck
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Chuck wrote:

I really don't think building your own would cost more than buying good quality ready-made cabinets, even if you have to purchase a few tools to do it. On the other hand, you probably won't save a tremendous amount by doing it yourself either. If I were you. I would base the decision on whether or not it was something I Really wanted to do.
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I've remodelled a couple of kitchens myself. What you get from doing the cabinets yourself are custom sizes, custom materials and you can do unusual stuff. If you contract out for custom cabinets they will be much more expensive than if you do them yourself. Comparing the cost to "off the shelf home depot cabinets" .. you probably are'nt saving much. It might even cost more for your own depnding on what sort of materials you decide to use.
Mike
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It sure can be. 5 years ago I did my kitchen in Maple, 17 doors and 13 drawers for a sense of scale.
I used plywood carcases and solid wood doors drawers and face frames
Rough costs: $800 plywood ($65/sheet) $800 solids ($3.25/bf rough cut) $600 in hardware. Oh yeah, $2500 for granite :-(.
Even if you count the $1800 cabinet saw (was going to buy it anyway) and a new planer. I'm sure that I am well ahead

What kind of table saw do you have? You *Need* a table saw for this project.

You can find reasonable cost hardware if you shop around. I was able to find knobs that I really liked for close to a buck a piece.

You are just not looking hard enough; it's out there. Search for "hardwood".
As other have said, you really have to enjoy the process to make it worthwhile. One other consideration: Do you have adequate shop space to pull it off?
-Steve
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Hmmm.....
Maybe it's just me.
I have what I call the "Significant Other" factor. The love of my life can be sweet and wonderful most of the time, but she can also be impatient, demanding, and very unpleasant when something is disturbing the karma of the castle.
If the project is outside, she can be very patient. If it is inside, we need a strong, realistic timetable that I am willing to commit to without offering any excuses.
I say screw the cost. If the queen ain't happy, the king doesn't stand a chance. Misery ensues.
Don't underestimate the size of the task. It isn't brain surgery or piano building, but it certainly can have its challenges. Even when I go to a homeowner's home and they show me homebuilt cabinets (some quite good) they don't have the finishing skills to compliment their woodworking skills, and some build great cabinets and don't know the little tricks to hang or set them properly. End result: not so good.
I would take on a smaller cabinet first, and time myself. Rip out that old vanity in the bathroom, rebuild one to your mutual liking, and keep careful costs and an honest record of your time, including rounding up all materials, waste (all those off cuts really add up for certain sizes), cost of finish materials, and the time spent finishing. And I would hate to think that you would spend a lot of time getting your cabinets just right, then go out there with a brush and swab finish on them.
And an excellent point brought up by Steve above, do you have the shop space to accomodate all the cabinets, and then all the cabinets when finishing them?
Personally speaking, even as a contractor, unless I was going to die in the house I would probably buy the cabinets. That doesn't necessarily mean going to HD or Lowe's, but maybe to a cabinet man in your town. He can supply you with samples of his work, and you can talk to his customers. I have a guy here in town that made me give up building any kind of cabinet for clients, as this is all he does all day long. He has an enormous shop, has a few old timers that have been with him for a while and he pays them by the piece. He is fast, too. Quality, excellent. (As a sidebar, he is getting old himself, and may be out of the biz soon... crap.... )
If I were to build anything, I think I would build carcasses, then buy the doors somewhere. They are all over on the net. When you buy a door online (or locally if you have a shop there) you will most likely get a quality product at a reasonable price. Carcasses are fast to build. Building your own doors means that not only do you have to have the correct machinery to build it, but you must deal with the challenges that the materials you obtain locally present.
With a shop built/purchased door, you are dealing with a product that is finish ready, sanded, without major defects, square, and hopefully built with the wood at the correct moisture level and stored accordingly. Homebulilt finished wood doors stacked in a garage can do some really squirelly things over just a month or two.
Whatever you do, good luck. There are guys here that build there own and it works for them quite well. And a quick search of this newgroup will give you the proper books to get you on your way (don't forget the ones on finishing). This topic comes up frequently, so there is an evening's reading here on this group.
Robert
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wrote:

You are a very wise man. I am in the process of trying to negotiate a deal where she gets to buy the dining room set and I (hopefully) get to build the toddler's bedroom set.
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My sentiments exactly. I've ordered MDF doors and drawer boxes and fronts from these people:
http://www.lakesidemoulding.com /
When you buy a

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An opportunity presents itself?
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My 2 cents!!!!! If your just removing and replacing with the same sizes, styles and shapes, buy them. However, you now have the opportunity to create spaces for uncommon sized items. For instance, I built a cabinet for a card table a 4 chairs that is in the kitchen It's skinny and the side of it is also the back of a desk. If I where to fill that area with store bought cabinets, I would only have a desk. On the side of one cabinet I had 3" to play with, so I built a door with shelve that now hold all the spices. I can't tell you how much space that saves. If you build, don't be common. Lou
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Unless you have a "secret" cache of free wood and hardware, it would be impossible to duplicate a plant build cabinet and come close to their cost.
The finishing is the real killer in my opinion.
I think most of the average woodworkers can build a nice wall cabinet with basic tools.
The doors present another problem.
A nice raised panel door while not difficult to build requires some very accurate machined materials. These materials are not easy to come by and not easy to produce in large numbers.
My kitchen is a fairly modest affair and it contains 53 raised panel doors of various sizes. I could not imagine building 53 doors in a reasonable amount of time or where I would put them when I was finished. Most pro's farm that step out completely.
That brings up another point, where do you put an entire seperate kitchen in your shop ?
This has been beat to death on this list many times, but at the end of the day it comes down to "I want to do this" compared to "this makes no sense at all".
I have all the tools and a 1500 sqft shop.
I will be buying premium cabinets and doing the install myself.
Chuck wrote:

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"Pat Barber" wrote: <snip>
I'm assuming you didn't get my e-mail that you requested? Let me know.
BTW, it's pretty easy to figure out my addy from the below if you still want to ask that question. :)
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Chuck wrote:

Another thing to consider is what a wide range of prices ready-made cabinets come in. About a year and a half ago, when we remodeled thanks to Hurricane Katrina, we went with fairly high-end Kemper cabinets (plywood sides, dovetailed drawers)in maple. A kitchen and den setup that consists of 33 raised panel doors and 17 drawer fronts, ran well over $20K just for cabinets (no countertops or installation). A set that would be perfectly acceptable to most people could probably be had for 1/2 that, if you don't mind skimping on some of the details. So it really depends on what you want to end up with.
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It depends how you value your time. If you put any kind of realistic price on an hour of your labor it's exceedingly unlikely that you can save any money compared to simply buying some good quality cabinets.
Although cabinets are a major item, that only one of many items to be addressed when completely remodeling a kitchen. Personally, I would take the view that my time and skills would be better invested in other aspects of the overall project. Items that you can't buy ready-made, off-the-shelf.
And even in the case of the cabinets, you might consider buying some more basic cabinets and enhancing them. For example, my own home came with some very solid cabinets with really crappy interiors. I've recently had some fun lining them with laminate to provide easy-to-clean inside surfaces.
Of course, if you REALLY want to make the things, go ahead and do it. But also consider what you might be able to accomplish with all that time to create an even nicer kitchen. Trust me, if you're going the gut the existing kitchen there will be plenty of scope to deploy your energy and craftsmanship even if you buy ready made cabinets ;-)
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"Chuck" wrote

I built our cabinets and saved quite bit, even after the purchase of some tools (mostly bits and blades). Since I didn't have a lot of work room, I did the upper cabinets first and installed them, then the base cabinets. The finish I used (and continue to use on most projects) is: a coat of Watco Danish oil, two coats of poly (I prefer satin finish) That finish is easy to maintain and repair (IMO) It's also easy to apply. There were several reasons for my decision to do my own. 1. I don't like the finish on ready mades (too thin, and usually lacquer) 2. Most aren't sturdy enough for me. (material too thin, drawers slides not strong enough, etc) 3. Save money (on the quality I wanted) 4. I enjoy wood working
Go for it and good luck.
Max
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Chuck, I have done this on several occasions and helped to build original kitchens.
YOU CAN SAVE A TON OF MONEY.
I estimate you can take your cost in materials and multiply that by "at least" 5 and be on the cheap end of having the cabinets prebuilt and installed.
I did my first kitchen about 19 years ago and to save on space and where to store cabinets I built a section at a time and when that section was finished I removed the old cabinets for that section and installed the new ones. The kitchen was never unusable until I did the section with the sink, which I was down for a day.

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I'd buy them at HD or something and install them... Unless you want something really different or special, you can't make them for what you can buy them for..
Instant gratification isn't something a wood working person wants, but in this case, I'd go for just that..
I don't know what your lady is like but if mine didn't have a functional kitchen for a while, I damn sure wouldn't what that to be MY fault... YMWV
Like the song says, "If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy"

mac
Please remove splinters before emailing
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"Chuck" wrote in message

As you can see by the responses ... it depends.
What it boils down to is expertise, equipment, time, and fortitude.
That said, if you've ever done it once, you can categorically say that you can indeed on sucessive ocassions; if you've not done it before, it's a gamble ... particularly throwing in the "fortitude" factor. :)
Use the following 'real life example' drawings (each drawing is one leg of an "L" shaped kitchen area) as a rough 'go by' for material cost (updated today) for a "custom" build, in new construction, in this neck of the woods (Houston, TX):
http://www.e-woodshop.net/images/3811%20KitchenElevWest.JPG
http://www.e-woodshop.net/images/3811%20DeskMaster.JPG
You're looking at approximately 32' of upper and lower kitchen cabinets, and a 3.5' x 7' island not shown.
Face frame cabinets - red oak cabinet grade plywood carcase, with red oak rails and stiles; drawer/door fronts - raised panel solid red oak; drawers - 5/8" hard maple sides, 1/4" maple ply bottoms.
Material cost for boxes (16) and drawers (22): $2276.00 Door/drawer fronts w/slides & hinges: $2550.51
Factoring in the island as a 10' entity, that is roughly $115/LF for uppers and lowers _BEFORE_ installation, finish, countertops, backsplash.
A trim carpenter "labor only" bid to fill the same space with 'site built' cabinets, but a MUCH inferior product - $3700 +/-.
If you have the tools, expertise, time, and MOST importantly _FORTITUDE_, it is not only doable, but can indeed save money.
If you're lacking any one of these, you will most likely come out ahead by farming out all, or part, of the job.
And indeed, you may want to pick your poison, do those things you feel comfortable doing, and outsource the remainder ... particularly the doors and drawer fronts which will get you into all kinds of issues if they are not done "straight, square and true". I've done it all, but I now outsource the latter as a matter of "equipment" and "time" in the above equation.
... and, as far as the space issue, you can rent a high and dry, unconditioned storage space in most areas of the country for way less than $100/month ... and BTW, that's where the above cabinets, drawers, doors and drawer fronts are residing, real time, at the moment ... as my shop is only 18' x 18'. :)
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Wow, lots of input but I can't resist.
1. Build the boxes, buy the doors and drawer fronts and have the doors pre-drilled for cup hinges.
2. Find a hardwood supplier that is selling to the cabinet industry to get quality ply and and S21E hardwood stock for the face frames and any other hardwood components. They will usually sell to the public via will call if you check around. Make molding from this also or buy it premade.
3. If going with Cherry get the doors and drawer fronts unstained but prefinished. After they arrive, practice finishing metods and materials until you can match the finish for the boxes. Some door companies will sell you matching finish materials.
4. Build and store all the cabinet boxes (face frames applied) and drawer boxes built and installed before starting any demolition work in the kitchen or ordering. Use a 32mm system for the shelf pins, properly aligned so the door hinges can use the shelf pin holes. You can get data from the door company about placement requirements.
5. Either build the drawer boxes from Baltic Birch (low cost) or Maple. This can be a lot of fun, get a dovetail jig and do it up nice. I'd suggest NOT doevtailing into the drawer front but rather apply them to a 4 sided box, but if you are adventerous enough go ahead with a real high-end drawer box setup.

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Has anyone here done a serious cost comparison?
Fifteen years ago I built my own cabinets, solid oak faces and plywood everywhere else. Wood and hardware run about $1600, and I bought about six thousand dollars worth of tools, saw, shaper, jointer, etc. My estimates for what my wife wanted ran from $11,000 to $$18,000. By building ourselves we got exactly what we wanted, and way cheaper. Of course we had our kitchen tore apart for almost seven months as I had to do the work on weekends and at night. That's a big minus!
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Potentially a big problem! With three kids, SWMBO gave me two weeks to complete a (partial) kitchen remodel. I made it but it was two weeks of hell :-(
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