Custom Cabinets,Why Are They So Expensive

Custom Cabinets
Custom Cabinets

Ever Wandered Why Custom Cabinets Were So Expensive

The reason custom cabinets are so expensive is because of the equipment needed to make them and the quality of the materials used in the construction, as well as the employee labor cost for qualified and well trained artisans.

Custom cabinets
Custom cabinets

Custom Cabints or Big Box Brands

You are in the process of building your new home and the general contractor is going over the allowances with you, and you realize you can't quite afford all the upgrades you originally wanted. Your GC now tells you that you have to cut cost and gives you the option of what items that you can reduce your cost, and this is where it gets interesting.

The major allowances that drastically increase the cost of your new home are:

  • Flooring Type and Material
  • Cabinets
  • Counter Tops
  • Interior Finishes

Which of the above are the top two items most home owners choose to reduce the alowance?

  1. Cabinets
  2. Interior Finishes

The cabinets are usually the first item to be reduced, because cabinets are a major expense and the one where you can dramatically the cost by going from custom cabinets to the big box production cabinets.




The Equipment Used in a Custom Cabinet Shop

The true cost of custom cabinets is not in the lumber used but also in the purchase and maintenance of the equipment used in the production of custom cabinets. The cost associated with the training and payroll of said employees plays a major factor, but it is small when you associate the cost of the facility, equipment, insurance and Osha compliance as well as the EPA regulations we have to follow. The purpose of this Hub, is to show some of the equipment used and the actual purchase cost, and the products used in the production of custom cabinets .

Panel Saw

Panel cut Saw
Panel cut Saw

Panel Cut Saw

This is a panel cut saw, its primary use is basically to rip the plywood down into a more manageable size before it goes to a table saw or router for more finish work. The basic parts are a frame and really just a basic skill saw with rollers to make the handling of full sheets of plywood more efficient. The basic cost of this panel saw is approximately $3000.00.

Saw Stop Table saw

Saw Stop Table Saw
Saw Stop Table Saw

Saw Stop Table Saw

This is the table saw, the primary workhorse in any cabinet shop. There are all types and sizes, but this is my particular favorite for the simple fact that cabinet shops are extremely dangerous work places and this particular table saw will cut off automatically if it senses skin tissue coming into contact with the blade. The blade will shut off in 64,000's of second, therefore it will only nick the the fingers instead of cutting them off completely. This table saw run approximately $5000.00, and is well worth the cost.

You Have To See This Video Demonstration of Saw Stop Table Saw

Safety Speed 37" Wide belt Sander
Safety Speed 37" Wide belt Sander

Safety Speed 37" Wide belt sander

This is another must have for any custom cabinet shop, this is a wide belt sander. It is used for the bulk sanding jobs where we are trying to remove any blimishes or other unwanted irregularities from the wood before we move on to any type of production. This type of wide belt sander is used primarily on hardwoods once we have assembled them into panels for doors or the cut pieces used in the manufacture of the faceframe. This Safety speed 37" wide belt sander sells for approximately $13,000.00.

Blum Mini Press

Blum Mini Press
Blum Mini Press

Blum Mini Press Hinge Machine

This is a Blum Mini press machine, the only purpose of this type of machine is to bore the holes into the solid wood doors and then to press the european style hidden hinges into place. This machine runs approximately $2700.00.

Lobo Dovetail Drawer machine

Lobo Dovetail Drawer Machine
Lobo Dovetail Drawer Machine

Lobo Dovetail Drawer Machine

The name pretty much says it all, this machine basically just gives you the capability of mass producing dovetail drawers. This type of machine is not standard equipment for most custom cabinet shops as they will usually purchsae their drawers from a drawer production facility. This Lobo Dovetail Drawer machine sells for aproximately $12,000.00.

Lobo Cabinet Door macine

Lobo Cabinet Door Machine
Lobo Cabinet Door Machine

Lobo Cabinet Door Machine

This type of cabinet door machine is not typical to most custom cabinet shops, this machine will produce cabinet doors in a wide variety and styles. Most custom cabinet shops will purchase their doors from a cabinet door production facility that are set up primarily to produce nothing but doors and drawers. This Lobo Raised Panel Door machine is expensive to purchase and maintain, and it will only produce one type of door at a time. you have to replace the cutter heads every time you want to change the door style, and each set of cutter heads cost as much as $3000.00 per set. This machine sells for approximately $24,000.00 and comes with one set of cutter heads, usually the standard raised panel style.

Power Matic Vertical Boring Machine

Power Matic Vertical Boring Machine
Power Matic Vertical Boring Machine

Power Matic Vertical Boring Machine

The Powermatic horizontal mortiser is actually a machine we use when manufacturing what we call mortise and tenon construction.The other cabinet shops either custom or production hardly ever mention this type of cabinet construction, the reason being it is ysually cost prohibitive. They will all name faceless, faceframe,rta, and production type cabinets. they will even go so far as tell you about the different types of materials such as plywood versus particle board.This type of custom cabinet construction is the highest priced and construction wise the highest quality you can buy.

This machine is used for the sole purpose of mortise and tenon construction and sells for appproximately $2200.00.

Horizontal Line Boring Machine

Horizontal Line Boring Machine
Horizontal Line Boring Machine

Horizontal Line Boring Machine

The horizontal line boring machine is used in the cabinet manufacturing process for drilling the holes for cabinet shelve spacing. These holes are drilled into your side panels to give you an exact dimensional spacing to keep your shelves level. This machine runs approximately $2200.00.

Castle Pocket Screw Machine

Castle Pocket Screw Machine
Castle Pocket Screw Machine

Castle Pocket Screw Machine

The Castle pocket screw machine is used mainly in custom cabinet shops and used to assemble faceframe and plywood components together. This machine drills holes on an angle through you desired material and using special you attach the two pieces together and from the exterior of your cabinets you will not see any means of mechanical attachment, unlike some cabinet shops where you can see the nail heads through the finish. This give s you a far more superior looking product.The Castle pocket screw machine will sell for approximately $3000.00.

Paint Spray Booth

Paint Spray Booth
Paint Spray Booth

A Typical Paint Spray Booth

The spray paint booth is where we apply your desired finish to your cabinets. The pictured paint spray booth is an open front, which I do not recommend, we used an enclosed paint spray booth to reduce the chance of having airborne dust from affecting the finish. The paint spray booths are expensive to purcahse and maintain, you have to have a strong suction fan to pull the over spray out and vented to the outside of the building.The filtration has to be changed out frequently to maintain the quality of your discharge as well as to maintain the proper draft for removing the over spray. The paint spray booth has to conform and be approved by your local fire department before installation and be inspected annually. A typical paint spray booth will run at least $10,000.00 for the iniitial purchase.

Band Saw

Band Saw
Band Saw

Band Saw

A band saw is a versatile tool used in a variety of ways, the most common use we had was in cutting out and making arch tops for decorative details. The cost of the band saw was approximately $1200.00.I would highly recommend the Jet 14" Deluxe Band Saw.

Dust Collection Equipment

 Dust Collection Equipment
Dust Collection Equipment

Dust Collection Equipment

Dust collection and removal is a critical aspect of any custom cabinet shop, not only for the health and welfare of the employee's but also to reduce the risk of fire. The dust collector you see pictured is typical for most custom cabinet shops, these are stand alone pieces that usually are connected to each individual piece of wood working equipment that would produe sawdust. The dust collectors will come in many sizes and is determined by the amount of airflow required to withdraw the sawdust from said equipment. As you would imagine there is a lot of sanding being done in a cabinet shop and a lot by palm sanders, there is another type of dust collector called sanding tables, these are required to have a much higher filtration requirement using HEPA type filters. The fine sawdust particles produced by palm sanders is much more flammable and produces the potential for an explosion. The dust collection systems can vary in price from $750.00-$3000.00, this does not take into any consideration for tower dust collectors, as the expense and approval from the EPA is usually cost prohibitive for the small custom cabinets shops.

The True Cost of Custom Cabinets

The above equipment does not even beging to show all the equipment that is used in true custom cabinet shop, I just really wanted to show some of the major equipment cost.I can't possibly list every piece of equipment used , but you can add speciality trim guns, palm sanders,routers, shapers,joiners,hand held belt sanders,fire extingushers, and special explosion proof lighting. These types of equipment are required even by the small custom cabinet shops and they play a major contributing factor in the cost of you cabinetry.

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Comments 2 comments

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States

Dave, this has a lot of interesting information. I did not realize how many different pieces of equipment went into making custom cabinets. I do know from other experiences that American laws for safety make lots of things here more expensive.


Sophie Mortimer profile image

Sophie Mortimer 4 years ago

Dave, you sound just like my dad! He was a carpenter for most of my life, and he used to love sharing with us the details of the business when we helped him in his workshop. He loved custom cabinetry, but it's a pretty competitive field. He definitely needed to get into a niche market. Still, he sometimes makes stuff for family, and we love it. http://californiacabinetry.com

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