A Guide To Purchasing Used Kitchen Cabinets

It might not be entirely true to say a kitchen lives or dies by its cabinetry, but it wouldn’t be too far off either. As Lowes notes, choose the right cabinets and you’ll find the rest of the kitchen quickly falls into place around them. Available in a range of options, styles, and colors, you should be able to find exactly the right kind of cabinet you’re looking for without too much of a hassle- if you have the money. Let’s face it, kitchen cabinets aren’t cheap. With even stock cabinets costing an arm and a leg for the privilege of ownership (to say nothing of the cost of their custom-made equivalents), you might need to get some serious savings behind you before placing your order. On the other hand, you could just plump for used cabinets instead. These days, there are so many different options when it comes to second-hand cabinets that you’re just as likely to find what you’re looking for in the used category as you are in the brand new one, and often for half the price. Beyond the cost savings, you’ll also be able to claim some serious eco-friendly bragging rights by opting for second hand (after all, what’s better for the environment than giving a welcome home to something otherwise destined for a landfill?)

Types of Used Kitchen Cabinets

As The Spruce notes, previously owned kitchen cabinets usually come in one of two forms: used working cabinets or display cabinets. Used working cabinets are those that have been removed from a home by the owner or contractor, after already haven enjoyed at least some degree of service. Sometimes, you can luck out and find a barely used set, but depending on just how much (and for just how long) they’ve been used, you may find that some cabinets in this category are in a pretty beaten up condition. On the plus side, this usually makes them incredibly cheap: if you’re willing to do some extensive DIY to get them up to scratch (or are just happy to get something for (almost) nothing), they’re still worth considering.

If you’re looking for something slightly more upscale, you may prefer the second type. Display cabinets are the kind that have been used to create a mock-up of a kitchen in a home improvement store or kitchen/bath remodeling showroom. Whenever the store wants to get rid of a discounted line or simply free up some space for a new range, it will sell the display models at a greatly reduced price. Unlike used working cabinets, these kinds will not have been used for a functional purpose, so they will be free of the usual grease and grime you’d expect to find on used cabinets. Depending on how long they’ve been on display, you may find they have a few dents, scratches or dusty parts, but usually these tend to be superficial blemishes that are easy enough to remove.

Where to Find Used Kitchen Cabinets

So, you’ve decided to bite the bullet and invest in some previously used kitchen cabinets. But where exactly do you start? Fortunately, there are several places to grab yourself a bargain:

  • Architectural Salvage: if you live in or near a large metro, your first port of call should be an architectural salvage. Although it’s not always guaranteed, these large “junkyards” are usually well stocked with plenty of used options that are both cheap and in a decent condition.
  • Craigslist: one-stop shop’s like Craigslist offers pretty much every item under the sun, including plenty of used kitchen cabinets. You should be able to find both used working cabinets and ex-display models but remember to look at the distance before committing: most sellers aren’t prepared to ship, so you’ll need to be within close enough range of them to pick up your order yourself. Bear in mind items tend to go quickly on Craigslist, so be sure to check listings regularly.
  • eBay: like Craigslist, eBay is a great source for both used working units and display items. Again, keep any eye on your distance from the seller, and if shipping is available, make sure to check rates before clicking that buy it now button.
  • Showrooms: if you’ve got your heart set on a “nearly-new” set of kitchen units from a brand like Kraftmaid, Merillat, Wellborn, Quality, or StyleCraft, showrooms are going to be your best option. Most stores have a fairly frequent turnaround of display models and are usually amenable to offering a significant discount to anyone willing to take their older displays off their hands. Call in on an outlet in person or give them a call beforehand to make some inquiries: even if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for at that precise time, they should be able to give you some indication of when more models are likely to become available.

Additional Things to Consider

Do Your Prep: Before snapping up the first lot of cabinets you take a fancy to, there’s a few things to consider (and do). First off all, you’ll need to do the same prep as you would when buying new units, starting by measuring the space you’ll be filling with the cabinets (after all, regardless of how cheap you get the cabinets, it’ll still be money down the drain if they don’t fit into your kitchen).

Think Before Rejecting: Ultimately, buying used cabinets isn’t the same as buying a set of custom-made cabinets. While you might get lucky and find exactly what you’re looking for the first time around, more often or not, the cabinets will be just a shade or two away from your dream set. If they are, don’t discount it off hand. Depending on their type, most kitchen cabinets can be customized, simply, easily, and for very little money. Whether it’s replacing the handles, refreshing the units with a lick of paint, or giving the wooden countertops a fresh waxing, a few tweaks here and then can work wonders.


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