Weighing Your Kitchen Cabinet Options: DIY vs Using a Pro

written by Guest Blogger
last updated: May 13, 2024

Remodeling your kitchen? Explore the pros, cons, and smart alternatives for your cabinet decisions-DIY vs hiring a professional.

Choosing Between DIY Cabinets and Using a Pro

A new home or a fresh kitchen remodel is an exciting adventure! While the kitchen is often called the heart of the home, the heart of the kitchen is its cabinetry. The lure of DIY savings is tempting, but before diving in, it's wise to weigh your options. Let's explore why a professional's expertise often delivers the greatest long-term value and satisfaction.

The Potential Pitfalls of DIY Cabinets

Hidden Costs

While upfront expenses might seem lower with DIY, the price tag can quickly rise. Tools you need to buy, materials for fixing mistakes, and the cost of damaged parts can easily negate anticipated savings. If you are confident in your skills or already have tools, those costs can be minimized. If you lack experience in remodeling a kitchen, however, mismeasuring spaces or accidentally damaging walls or plumbing fixtures can lead to costly repairs.

Time Investment and Skill Level

Installing cabinets is deceptively challenging. The process requires precise measurements as well as leveling and complex joinery. If you have these skills, you’ll likely be fine. Most homeowners, however, quickly realize they’ve taken on more than they can manage. It is almost always less expensive to hire a professional up front than it is to bring one in after mistakes have been made. An honest self-assessment of your skills is essential, as is evaluating how you value your time. Some people enjoy spending their time completing home projects. If you aren’t among them, you’ll quickly wish you’d have hired a professional.

Limited Design Flexibility

Choosing from stock or RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinets restricts your options. Your kitchen layout, storage needs, and desired style may be tough to achieve. When placing an order for these types of cabinets, it is imperative that your measurements are 100% accurate as most companies that sell cabinets directly to the consumer do not offer a refund. Those that do offer a refund typically only do so if the company is at fault, not if the consumer measured incorrectly. 

If you don’t need a lot of customization in your kitchen and your needs are minimal, RTA cabinets can help save money in the short term. If you choose this route, make sure you diligently read the care instructions because the cabinets aren’t likely to come with any sort of warranty.

Resale Value

A perfect kitchen boosts your home's value, and you can’t have a perfect kitchen without beautiful, functional cabinetry. If a potential buyer thinks the cabinets are low quality or were installed poorly, it’s likely they will take that into consideration when making their offer. Simply put, professional work and quality products add to your home's appeal for future buyers.

The Case for a Cabinet Professional

Design Expertise

The professional experience starts long before cabinets are installed in your home. Most cabinetry dealers pair their customers with design professionals who will help the customer visualize their needs. A kitchen designer can help guide you through the questions you need to ask yourself to make sure you get the most from your kitchen. As professionals who have seen and designed hundreds of kitchens, a kitchen designer is the best person to help make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment.

Quality and Workmanship

Cabinet professionals have experience the average homeowner does not. It’s perfectly common for a cabinet installer to be able to do higher quality work in less time than it would take a homeowner to install their own cabinets. Cabinet professionals also typically have partnerships with cabinet manufacturers or their dealers, giving them access to cabinetry made from superior materials. This means your cabinets will function beautifully and last longer

Installation Peace of Mind

From precise leveling to handling tricky plumbing or electrical considerations – a pro ensures an installation that's both beautiful and safe. In the event an issue does arise, the professionals know how to manage it. If part of the home is damaged during the installation at the fault of the cabinet installer, licensed contractors are required to carry liability insurance. There is peace of mind knowing that someone is managing the process even in the worst-case scenario. This allows you to relax and watch the process unfold without the DIY stress!

The Value of Warranties

Many professionals offer warranties for their installation work if you tackle things yourself, you bear the risk alone. Cabinet manufacturers typically offer a warranty on the cabinetry that may not be available when going the DIY route.

Options Between Pure DIY and Full-Custom Cabinets

Semi-Custom Cabinets

If your budget is a concern, semi-custom cabinets offer a vast range of price points and product offerings. You get professional design and installation along with quality construction as well as some cost savings due to more standardized sizes and offerings. Semi-custom cabinet manufacturers, like Wellborn Cabinet, typically offer significantly more color and material options than RTA or stock cabinet manufacturers. This allows the heart of your home to be a true expression of yourself.

When Going the Pro Route Makes Sense

Significant layout changes

Significant changes require significant expertise. If you're moving walls, reconfiguring the space, or shifting appliances, you need a professional to map out a cohesive and safe plan. Oftentimes, a professional can advise the most budget-friendly way to move things around.

Complex Installations

Islands, intricate moldings, and other distinctive features aren’t always the easiest to install and can sometimes require special tools. If the look and vibe of your kitchen is important to you, a professional is the best way to help bring your vision to life.

Desire for Premium, Custom Features

If you dream of unique storage solutions, dovetail joints, or specific colors or themes, a cabinet professional turns those visions into reality. Working with a professional gives you the opportunity to vent about everything you’d change if you could, and the professional will do their best to make it happen. Often, they’re aware of options to add that little extra wow factor that you hadn’t considered before.

When Taking the DIY Route Makes Sense

Rental Properties

Not every kitchen is being remodeled by the person that’s going to be using it. If you’re a rental property owner and are just looking to update an existing kitchen with a fresh coat of paint or replace the cabinet doors with something more modern but leave the existing cabinet boxes, DIY makes sense. This is especially true if you do that type of work often for your property.

Low-Budget Fix and Flip

Another area where DIY can be the right route is in the low-budget fix and flip housing market. While the definition of “low budget” varies depending on which part of the country you are in; purchasers typically don’t expect premium cabinet features when they are purchasing a cost-friendly home. Usually, these home buyers are satisfied if what’s in place is functional and won’t require immediate replacement.

DIY vs Cabinet Pro Wrap Up

There's a place for both DIY and professional cabinet installations. The right choice depends on your budget, your skillset, your motivation for remodeling, and the complexity of your project. If you’re investing in a new kitchen for you and your family to enjoy, enlist the help of a professional so you can enjoy your cabinets for their entire lifespan. If you’re remodeling for other reasons, and you have the appropriate skillset, DIY can certainly work for you.

Get Expert Advice?

Ready to make the best decision for your kitchen cabinets? Whether you’re leaning toward DIY or considering the expertise of a professional, our Find a Contractor Locator can help you find the perfect fit for your project.

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