Everything you Need to Know about Getting Used Kitchen Cabinets for your Renovation

A nice L shaped kitchen

One of the consistently highest costs for a kitchen renovation is the price of the cabinetry, even lower end cabinets can cost thousands in a larger kitchen area, and for high-end custom cabinets the cost can be astronomical. There are alternatives for getting that high-end look without the cost however; many more people are starting to recycle used kitchen cabinets then in the past simply to keep on budget.

Getting good quality used cabinets can not only save your budget, but it has also become a lot easier to get these items since many people these days are doing “green” renovations. These are renovations where they waste as little of the old material as possible, and they may even go as far as to use nothing but used items in the renovation itself. This is great for the environment, as it keeps a lot of the waste associated with renovating a home out of the landfills, but there is a lot more work involved in the demolition process to keep everything intact.

Where to Find Used Kitchen Cabinets




It might surprise some people just how many places that there are for acquiring used kitchen cabinets. When I went to redo my kitchen a few years back, I searched high and low on the internet, talked to many contractors, and asked many of my more frugal acquaintances about where the best place to find kitchen cabinets for sale for the best possible price was. All of these conversations lead me to compile a list of anywhere that I could save myself the most money on my renovation, which I will now share with you.

eBay – Not the first place most people go to find items for their home improvement jobs that doesn’t pertain to getting used tools for the project itself, eBay can actually be a pretty good place to find a great deal on some cabinets if you’re a bit lucky.

The problem with eBay, or with any place you purchase cabinets online is that you don’t get to check them out personally to make the proper measurements, or to check if the cabinets themselves are square. This is more of an issue with used cabinets than it is for new ones purchased from the same sites, as most new ones (at least that I have found) will come unassembled for ease of shipping.

reStores – These are the Habitat for Humanity stores in the United States and Canada. They offer good, used items that have been donated to them from people doing renovations and all of the money they make selling them goes into building houses for the less fortunate. You can find great deals here, and you will be supporting a great cause, it’s a win/win situation.

High End Condominium Developers – High end condominium developers tend to do seasonal renovations, some areas have restrictions on remodels. For example, some warm climate areas, such as Florida, have many places where the residents only live there for the winter, as they travel to a milder climate, or closer to family for the hot summer months. In places like this, renovations are done in the summertime, for cooler climates it may well be the exact opposite happening; so make sure that you find out before planning your remodel.

You will need to call the developer and get on a list early, as many people get higher end used kitchen cabinets this way in areas of the country where seasonal living is a way of life. Though it is not just limited to those areas, you can get on a list anywhere there are condominiums, you just might have to wait a bit longer in these areas for the renovations to happen.

Remodeling Contractors – Though most of these guys (and gals) won’t have any cabinets on hand, many also have a list of people that they keep for when they do have the items they want. This can mean waiting for a while before you can start your renovation, but the savings can be huge, as many of the contractors see this as a bonus on top of a job they’re already getting paid for.

A contractor friend of mine uses the money he makes from things like this to feed his crew pizza and beer about once a month at a local pub to keep everyone happy. To him this means he doesn’t charge much for it at all, and he says it makes his crew extra careful when pulling out the items to be sold. It makes me wonder if that’s actually true or not, but either way, it’s a nice thought.

Craigslist and sites like it – Just as with eBay, you can get great deals on Craigslist for used cabinets, unlike eBay, you can oftentimes set up a time to go look a the items, take your own measurements, and check them for square. Generally you will have to provide your own transportation of the items, but if you get a good enough deal, you can always rent a truck if needed to haul them back to your house and still be well within your budget.

Cabinet Shops – A lot of cabinet shops will come to the customers homes and install their cabinets directly for them. This means that they have ready access to a lot of good, used cabinets that they aren’t looking to profit off of in a big way. In much the same way as the contractors, you can call them up and get placed on a list for the next time they go out, and you can sometimes even get the cabinets for free if you’re can pick them up while they are being removed.

Friends, Family, or Coworkers – The people that you’re closest with every day are a good place to check for great deals on cabinets. Chances are that with all of your friends, family, and coworkers, at least one will know someone who is doing a kitchen remodel, and can put you in touch with that person. If you offer to help remove the old cabinets, which will save them time and money paying a contractor and his crew, you can oftentimes get cabinets from these fellow renovators for very cheap, or free.

How to Spot Quality

Some people go into places to buy used items and give whatever it is that they’re buying a quick look over, and hand the seller their hard earned cash so they can start loading, and get home and get to work. This is fine in some cases, especially if you’re buy new items that are quality controlled, but for anything used, you can be making a huge mistake that you won’t find out until it’s too late.

Imagine now that you’ve gone out and purchased some used cabinets from one of the places that I’ve listed in the last section, you went in, they looked good, so you bought them. Your wall cabinets go up fine, but when you get to your kitchen base cabinets, they aren’t square, and won’t fit flush, now you have to do a bunch of extra work to get them to fit. This all could have been avoided if you follow the tips below.

  • Look closely at the pieces – this means all of the parts, inside and out. Check for anything glaring that will be hard to fill, like deep gouges, or parts that need to be repaired or replaced. A few knicks and scratches are to be expected on a used piece, and certain things can be replaced, or repaired quite easily. I will talk about these things later though, just make sure that you check each piece over with a careful eye and you’ll be fine.
  • Take your measurements – you don’t need the exact same size of cabinets as your old ones, but you will need cabinets that will fit into the space you have available. To make sure this is the case, take measurements from your house, and write them down on a piece of paper, or text them to yourself on your phone to take with you to the place where you are getting your cabinets (keep them handy for internet shopping too) to make sure that they will fit when you get them home.
  • Make sure everything is square – get yourself a “speed” square to take with you when you go to check out your cabinets. You will want to check for square on the inside between the top and sides, top and back, top and front, and on the inside bottom against the same sides. If the cabinets are square, your speed square will be flush against both surfaces it touches.You might want to take a light with you to check if they are, just illuminate the area where the square is from the side and if a bunch of light shines through along the edges, it won’t be square. It should be noted that a small amount of light may shine through even if it is in square, this can be a lot of things from a gouge in the cabinet, or square, or perhaps just a slight warp in the wood. The light will also help you to see any gaps or things to repair on the inside of an unlit cupboard.

This is a good place to stop for now, with these tips, you should easily be able to find yourself a good set of used kitchen cabinets that will not only make your kitchen renovation budget stretch quite a distance, but will last for years to come. The next post will teach you how to remove your old cabinets so that someone else can use them in their own renovation.

Top Image by: Rfanelli






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