There is a wide variance in the types of skills needed for cabinet making, and cabinet repair, tasks. Cabinet making can involve highly specialised and exquisitely detailed craftsmanship. It can also involve much more workaday involving simple drilling and joining. Whether or not you’ll need a cabinet maker will depend on the type of job that needs doing, as well as your expectations for the finished product. If you need something that looks like it’s been done by a professional, it might be best to hire one.
What does a cabinet maker do?
Cabinet makers typically make and install wooden furniture - often cabinets. This can involve shaping, cutting and designing the wood for the furniture. Or it can involve assembling parts that have been pre-cut elsewhere. Even if a cabinet maker is working with pre-cut parts, however, they are still likely to have to customise those parts for installation in specific sites. Cabinet makers are often called upon during the design, creation and installation of household and business kitchens.
Although cabinet makers work largely with wood, they are also often adept at using other materials as well - such as glass, stone, vinyl or metal.
Cabinet makers can also be highly specialised. For instance, cabinet makers can be specialised antique furniture reproducers or restorers, or specialised chair and couch makers.
How is a cabinet maker different to a carpenter?
Both trades deal with wood. Both require the cutting, shaping, preparation and finishing of building materials. But cabinet makers tend to have a different emphasis than carpenters, as well as different training. Cabinet making work tends to be situated inside, and centres on internal fittings in buildings - such as cabinets, tables, kitchen cupboards and desks. Carpenters, on the other hand, often work outside, erecting larger structures for dwellings. For cabinet makers, attention to detail is crucial. Skilled cabinet makers can spend almost as much time honing and refining the intricate wooden finishes on a chair as a carpenter can spend erecting a wooden veranda. Of course many carpenters are also skilled cabinet makers, and vice versa. But the difference between the two trades is one of training and emphasis.
Common cabinet making and repair tasks
Although the list of jobs a cabinet maker might be asked to perform is infinite, some tasks arise more often than others. Some of the common tasks performed by cabinet makers include:
Preparing and installing prefabricated furniture or fittings, such as flat pack kitchens
Designing kitchens, shelving, and other home fittings
Building pieces of furniture to order
Designing and building individualised furniture
Repairing wooden, antique or valued furniture
Repairing locks, hinges and doors inside homes
Lacquering, staining or laminating furniture or fittings
Making cost estimates for clients
Translating a site layout into a manufactured furniture design, for example for a kitchen installation
Choosing and fitting hardware additions to furniture, such as handles or hinges.
Qualifications held by cabinet makers
The formal qualification held by most cabinet makers in Australia is an AQF Certificate III. Getting this certificate requires at least two years on the job training. Some experienced and well-regarded cabinet makers might not have the certificate, but may still be qualified on the basis of their length of time in the trade.
Questions to ask your cabinet maker
There are a range of questions you might want to consider asking your cabinet maker or repairer, before or after you hire them.
Some ideas for questions are:
Can they show you examples of their previous work?
Do they have any specialisations?
How are they proposing to charge you? If the work should turn out to be more complicated than first thought, who will bear the cost of this?
What are the materials they most like to work with? What materials do they propose to work with on your task?
Will they be working with others’ on the job?
How long do they expect the task to take?
Will they provide you with their design drawings? (You might want to get a second opinion on them).
Is the cost of installation included in their quote?
If the cabinets or other furnishings are made elsewhere, where are they made, and who is the supplier?
Some average cabinet making and repair prices
The price you’ll have to pay for cabinet making services can range from as low as $50 for a simple repair job, to many thousands for customised furniture and design. To help you get a handle on what’s what, some of the average prices charged for tasks are listed below:
How to estimate the cost of cabinet making and repair
The best way to estimate the costs involved in cabinet making and repair is to get a range of quotes for the specific task that you need doing.
Having said that, it is possible to make a very rough guess of the cost of new cabinet installation based on industry standards. For kitchen cabinets, small cabinets typically cost around $150-$200, plus the cost of installation. Tall kitchen cabinets can cost around $800 each.
Repair tasks are typically estimated on a time-based method. You should factor in at least $50-$100 per hour for cabinet repair tasks, and potentially more for valued or valuable furniture.
What is the process for having new cabinets made?
The process for getting new cabinets made begins with you. You’ll do research into what kind of cabinets you are after, check out cabinet style and design inspiration online and elsewhere and collect photos and images to show to the cabinet maker later. Review the quotes you get on Air Tasker and select a few tradespeople to have initial consultations with.
Depending on the complexity of your task, the process may require a cabinet maker (or yourself) to develop designs and sketch drawings of the items you are seeking. They or you may also need to take measurements of the location in which the items will be installed. The cabinet maker might also prepare both two-dimensional and three-dimensional drawings or representations of what is proposed. At some stage, the cabinet maker might also need to make you a formal proposal of what they would make for you. This proposal might cover factors such as finishes, accessories and hardware, colour matching to your existing decor, and what would be involved in cabinet creation and installation.
Example cabinet making or repair listings from Airtasker task listing
Need some guidance on how to write your listing for seeking a cabinet maker? Here’s how some other people have advertised on Airtasker for cabinet makers: