What To Know Before Buying Used Cabinets For Your Kitchen

One of the trickiest parts of selecting used cabinets for your kitchen renovation is ensuring they will fit your space and your budget. According to Forbes, a successful kitchen renovation often averages between $27,000 and $60,500, and cabinets account for close to 30% of those funds! One of the best ways to save is to purchase used cabinets for your kitchen. But you want to be sure they are high quality and will fit your project's needs. For example, how do you know how much cabinetry is right for your space? And are certain materials better than others?

You'll also need to keep in mind that going the repurposed route will require a little imagination and some DIY spirit. But if you're the kind of person who prides yourself on original style, this project may be right up your alley. They say the kitchen is truly the heart of the home. Ready to pour some heart into yours? Here's how you can draw up a foolproof plan and find cabinets to create your dream kitchen without busting your budget.

Measure once, measure twice when shopping for pre-owned cabinets

One of the trickiest parts of selecting used cabinets for your kitchen renovation is ensuring that they will not only fit your budget but also your space. It might sound like a simple task. However, factoring in appliance placement, door trim, and electrical outlets can jam up your plans if you're not careful.

To avoid that scenario, create a perfect kitchen layout incorporating appliances and work centers, like your oven, refrigerator, and sink. These form what's commonly referred to as the kitchen's work triangle because the cook will need to move fluidly between them. Use your imagination and even try moving around the space to determine if there will be a good flow between these critical areas.

On the same note, look for base cabinets that allow for a satisfactory work aisle for whoever will be using the kitchen. Experts recommend from 36 inches for one cook to 48 inches if you plan to have multiple people cheffing it up at once. The idea is to balance efficient use of the space with the aesthetic.

What are you willing to put in to revamp the cabinets?

Once you have a good sense of how much cabinetry your project will require, you need to be honest with yourself about the potential work ahead. While the dream would be to find used cabinets that check all your boxes from the get-go, it's likely the ones you source will need some work. Now is the time to pause and weigh what might need to go into restoring repurposed cabinets to make them truly match your vision.

If you're ready to tackle this project with the passion and flair of Chip and Joanna Gaines, then it's time to have some DIY fun. Think of your newfound cabinets as a blank slate. Imagine what they could look like once you clean, sand, and patch them. Better yet, what could a coat of paint or stain do? This is where buying used has a big advantage because you can get as creative as you want. Just do your research on the materials that will be needed to overhaul the units. Any tools and supplies should be included in your overall budget. Otherwise, you may run out of funds to complete your project.

Know your common cabinet wood options

Kitchen cabinets can be made with various materials, ranging from plywood to solid wood. Before you begin your project, it's important to know what quality you're looking for. Cabinets made at least in part with presswood or laminate will be less expensive. But they may lack the refined looks or longevity you're going for, particularly because they've already seen a fair amount of wear and tear.

On the other hand, hardwood cabinets can still have plenty of life left in them. But there are key problems to keep an eye out for. Hardwood can warp, especially if exposed to water, which can certainly happen in a kitchen. So you'll want to be sure that hasn't occurred. Significant stains can also be challenging to remedy, so consider whether any visible eyesores can be taken care of with a little sandpaper and DIY spirit.

According to experts, some types, like oak and cherry, offer more durability, while others, like pine, are more likely to get dinged. The type of wood also plays a significant role in appearance. Some, like hickory, feature a more pronounced grain, and others, such as birch, have a finer pattern. Browsing Pinterest in advance and generating a style board for your remodel can help you hone in on which woods are the most appealing to you.

How to avoid a long-term cabinet faux pas

Buying used cabinets can definitely help you save much-needed cash during kitchen renovation, which can be one of the most costly home projects. But you don't want to make your decision based entirely on cost because it can come back to bite you later. For instance, some kitchen cabinet choices could hurt your resale value, like opting for cheap materials or compromising on a layout that won't truly work in your space.

Keep in mind that this is a long-term investment both for your own use and enjoyment, as well as for any future owners of the home. Be sure to balance your desire to save with a commitment to finding high-quality cabinets that are worth the investment. To stay on track, set out your maximum budget in advance and be prepared to go that high if that's what it takes to get the cabinets that are right for your space.

Make cabinet storage space a priority

While you're searching for cabinets to complete the look of your new dream kitchen, beware of compromising style for storage. In the past, trends like open shelving have swept the kitchen reno scene, only to leave homeowners feeling lackluster about their new space months later. As much as we all dream of a house with no junk drawers, there are benefits to being able to store things behind closed doors. And while it's fun to imagine the fruits of your DIY labor, with your ultimate kitchen perfectly clean and styled, it's also essential to envision how you will experience the space during everyday use.

You can begin by taking stock of how much organizational capacity you have now. What works? What could be improved? Maybe even create a checklist of your storage must-haves and nice-to-haves so you can compare used cabinet options to your list of needs. Do you need lots of vertical storage for your collection of cutting boards and baking sheets? Maybe you would like pull out sliders to add trash cans. Look for cabinets with these special features or ones that have enough space to install them later.

Narrow down your kitchen cabinet style

There are lots of unique possibilities when you're choosing the right kitchen cabinets for your space. Cabinet doors in particular play a significant role in defining the room. If you're looking for more spaciousness, you might consider glass or perhaps beadboard for that cottage or farmhouse feel. Or you could try something outside-the-box, like HGTV star Nate Berkus' unique kitchen cabinet choice with wire-mesh styling. 

Remember that because you're planning to buy used, it's good to remain flexible and keep your options open. If you go into your search with an idea that's too specific, you may find yourself disappointed that the used market isn't turning up just the right cabinetry. By focusing on a theme, like country chic, you can likely find several potential styles that will do the trick. And don't forget, your DIY ingenuity can also help with the final transformation.

Where to find used cabinets

The next question is: Where can you find used cabinets for your project? Fortunately, there are various places to explore. First, check out what's local to you. Some communities have a "scratch-and-dent" facility where renovators can find building elements with blemishes ranging from major to minor. Or, try checking out area showrooms for used display cabinets they may be ready to part with for a lower cost. Time to roll up your sleeves and go treasure hunting!

A Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a similar resource. These stores accept donated, used items to resell, and the proceeds go toward helping families build or restore affordable homes. So in addition to great budget finds, the ReStore also offers a nice way to give back. Other possibilities include browsing online marketplaces, like Craigslist or Facebook. Someone else's renovation might free up just the cabinets you're looking for. 

Inspect and check for defects

When you're shopping for used cabinets, take your time and look everything over carefully before making any purchasing decisions. A scratch or ding here and there might be easily remedied, but there are some issues that can make a cabinet much harder to repurpose during your kitchen renovation. If you pay close attention to the condition of your used cabinets before buying, it can save you serious headaches later.

Think of it like shopping for a used car. You want to open and close the doors, inspect all the handles and latches, and take a critical look at the inside. Falling for a set of mid-century modern cabinets could become a nightmare if you get them home only to find out one of the cabinets is crooked or doesn't open and close properly. It may be valuable to bring a handy friend, family member, or even your contractor with you to have a second set of eyes.

Color is an important consideration

Color is a critical element. If you're going to install used cabinets as-is, make sure the wood color and type will match other parts of the kitchen. The grain of the wood can also have an impact on color updates. For instance, "open-grain" wood, or wood with large pores, are difficult to paint, and you'll likely end up with a poor finished product. If you plan to restain cabinets, be aware of the process that's needed to revamp certain colors and finishes. Transforming a dark-stained, high-gloss set of cabinets into an airy, matte look will take a lot of elbow grease.

If you're envisioning a coastal kitchen with white cabinetry, think twice about cabinets that are already painted a dark color, like black. It will make the cover-up much more difficult. If you find cabinets are decked out in an intense color, you'll need to weigh whether or not you're willing to invest your time and money into transforming them into a whole new hue. 

Hardware can make a big difference

Next comes the hardware. If you're having trouble picturing a set of used cabinets in your space, it may be because of the current hardware. You'd be surprised by the significant impact the style has on appearance, as well as functionality. From classic, compact knobs to edgy, modern pulls, exploring options for top cabinet hardware can feel overwhelming. 

One thing you need to keep in mind while shopping for used cabinets is the existing hardware layout. If you find a great set of cabinets with handles, they're likely to have two holes for each end of the handle. This could be a potential issue if you have your heart set on knobs, which require just one. Extra holes can be filled with putty and sanded smooth, but the area will require a skillful paint or stain job to disguise the blemish. Keep in mind that the distance between these holes varies. So, make sure any used cabinets have handle holes that are a standard distance apart. This will make it much easier to find options to replace the old ones.