Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

3 ways to customize unfinished kitchen cabinets

by Shannon Lee
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

The budget is often a top consideration when choosing new kitchen cabinets. Prices for ready-made, semi-custom, or custom kitchen cabinets are often a large chunk of the bottom line for your kitchen remodel, so it pays to explore all the options and choose wisely.

When purchasing ready-made cabinets, expect to pay between $4,000 and $5,000 for base and top cabinets in a 10-by-12 kitchen. Semi-custom cabinets allow you to choose from a limited number of options, and cost about twice that of stock cabinets at $8,000 to $10,000 for a typical kitchen. These prices do not include installation.

Having custom cabinets built for your home allows you to choose everything about them--woods and other materials, finishes, sizes and more--but you pay a premium price for the luxury. Expect custom cabinets to cost between $16,000 to $20,000 and up. If you choose to have the cabinets built on-site, there could be an additional cost for labor.

Unfinished kitchen cabinets offer possibilities

For those homeowners who want a custom job but prefer to pay less than the going rate, there are a few options that offer a nice compromise. When you choose a custom job but ask for unfinished cabinets, you might be able to get them for a cheaper price. You can also take the opportunity to truly customize your unfinished cabinets with a look that is entirely yours.

  1. Paint your kitchen cabinets. Painting your cabinets is the old standby for those who are on very limited budgets, but also works great for those who simply want to add their own touch. Unfinished cabinets are a blank canvas ready for everything from metallic modern paints to distressed colors and techniques that make your cabinets look as though they have been in place for years.
  2. Use a natural stain. If the beauty of the unfinished wood appeals to you, keep it as pristine as possible by applying a natural stain. A good stain will bring out the beauty in the wood and give your kitchen a classy, traditional look.
  3. Go with the unusual. Now is the time to indulge in those crazy ideas that can make your kitchen unique. Consider using chalkboard paint to turn your cabinet fronts into writing space for grocery lists and other notes to the family, or customize your own etched glass cabinet doors. If you are really adventurous, choose custom cabinets without doors at all and showcase your dishes against a pretty painted backdrop.


Choosing unfinished cabinets can save money while giving you a license to be creative. With custom jobs, the possibilities are endless.


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