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Used Kitchen Cabinet Buying Checklist

This is a kitchen with white kitchen cabinets lining the walls to make the staonless steel appliances stand out.

It’s common for homeowners — especially new homeowners who are purchasing a fixer-upper — to want to remodel certain areas of their homes. One of the most common remodels is a kitchen remodel. Unfortunately, the cost of renovating a kitchen can be pretty astronomical, depending on how ‘high-end’ or modern you want your kitchen to look.

Not only do you have flooring, counters, lighting, and appliances to worry about, but you also have kitchen cabinets that can cost an arm and a leg on their own; that is if you choose to buy them new.

Thankfully, you can get previously owned kitchen cabinets for a much cheaper price and simply restore them to match your new kitchen. Not only can this help you save money on the cabinets themselves, but it should decrease your overall remodel budget; allowing you to spend those savings elsewhere in your home (like your bathroom or living room!).

When it comes to used cabinets, there are multiple ways you can acquire them. Some homeowners may choose to barter for them (which is essentially trading one, or a series of items for another). Others may opt to search physical and online stores, or look to purchase them directly from the owner.

No matter how you get your used cabinets, here’s everything you should know before purchasing them.

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What Types of Previously Owned Cabinets Can You Buy?

There are two types of previously own kitchen cabinets: used working cabinets and display cabinets. Used working cabinets are exactly what they sound like, cabinets that are still in working conditions that have been used in a home kitchen.

People typically get rid of their used working cabinets when they are planning to remodel their kitchens and upgrade their cabinets among other things.

Compared to brand new or custom made cabinets, used working kitchen cabinets are much more budget-friendly if you are in need of cabinets but don’t have a lot of money to spend on cabinets.

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You can often buy them for extremely cheap, or even find them for free. However, because they are used, they tend to be dirty, dingy, beat up, and perhaps, at times, not even in proper working condition. It is possible to spruce up these old cabinets by sanding them down, adding some new paint or stain, and updating the hardware.

Display cabinets are ones that you would see in home improvement stores or kitchen showrooms for home remodels. These cabinets are designed to show you exactly how the cabinets will look displayed in a real kitchen.

When home improvement stores or kitchen showrooms are going out of business or having mass clearance sales, that is the opportunity to try and snag these used cabinets for your own home improvement project.

Like used working cabinets, these used display cabinets are not nearly as expensive as brand new cabinets, but they also won’t be in as bad of a condition as cabinets that have actually been in a kitchen that is constantly being used.

Just like the used working cabinets, though, giving these old display cabinets a quiet makeover can make them look brand new.

Pros of Used Cabinets

This is a close look at the white shaker cabinets of the kitchen with steel handles to match the oven.

When a homeowner is looking to invest in a new set of cabinets, they are almost always looking for a complete set of cabinets that can accommodate an entire kitchen; not just two or three cabinets.

If you go to a kitchen showroom for home remodels, you will be much more likely to find full sets of cabinets for the entire kitchen. There are times when you can even snag the other kitchen components, such as the sink, faucet, and even lighting.

While you can also find complete sets of used working cabinets homeowners are getting rid of, the chances of you being able to also find those additional kitchen components significantly decreases.

At times, they may be willing to throw in the old countertop with the cabinets if they have no further use for it. You may not be able to find quality brand names, such as Kraftmaid and Wellborn, among others if you are looking to buy used working cabinets from someone. You’ll have a greater chance of finding those brand names at stores going out of business.

One of the most common styles of used cabinets you will find is the farmhouse style with white glaze. If you can find this at a home improvement store or showroom, you can potentially also get the pantry, fixtures, glass panels for the door inserts, and cutting board was thrown into the deal as well.

The other most common style to find is the simple, yet classic maple cabinet. If you’re lucky, you can find them with the farmhouse sink, copper kitchen hardware features, kitchen lighting, and even quartz or marble countertops. When these home improvement stores or showrooms are going out of business, you can at times find these whole sets for up to as much as 50% off from the original price.

If you really want to be able to find the extra kitchen accessories, such as sinks and faucets and countertops and spice racks, then your best bet is to look for stores that sell these items that are going out of business or having huge clearance sales. Because they are display models and designed as a whole unit, manufacturers and retailers are more willing to part with these units as a whole.

Cons of Used Cabinets

A close look at a pile of broken cabinet doors.

There are certainly drawbacks and limitations to buying used working or display cabinets. Used working cabinets have the most to overcome in terms of their wear and tear from daily use in someone’s kitchen for years on end.

Not only do they show damage from constantly being opened and closed or bumped into, but they also have to contend with years of stains from food and grease and other types of daily use.

The parts of the cabinets that tend to have the most damage are the doors, fronts, and sides if they are open to the elements. Damage can range from chips in paint or laminate, discoloration, grease or food stains, or hardware malfunctions. When the cabinets are being removed from the kitchen for remodeling, they may also receive additional damage.

Used display cabinets still go through some wear and tear, but don’t experience nearly the same amount of daily abuse as cabinets that are in someone’s house they live in.

They tend to see damage more from being handled, as opposed to anything relating to food or drink. The doors may not stay shut all the way from people slamming them to hard, or allowing their children to use the cabinets as a toy while they are talking with a sales associate.

One reason a showroom or home improvement store is getting rid of display cabinets is that the style is dated. If this is the case, there are still ways you can spruce up these old, dated cabinets to make them look fresh and contemporary.

There are times that showrooms may store heavy objects in cabinets to have additional sample options available for potential customers to look at. Usually, though, they want to keep these displays looking as new and in as good condition as possible.

Other Factors You Should Consider

Prep Properly

Before you go ahead and purchase cabinets, new or used or old displays, the first step is to know the measurements you need for your kitchen.

Remember, if you are buying used or display cabinets, there is no return option after you’ve spent the money. Always go by the old adage; cut once, measure twice. You don’t want to be stuck with cabinets that don’t fit the space you have in your kitchen.

Don’t Be Quick to Reject Used Cabinets

As you can imagine, buying used or old display cabinets are not even remotely the same as buying brand new or custom-made cabinets. If you are extremely lucky, you will be able to find the exact cabinets you want the first time around.

However, if we’re being realistic, it will probably take you a little bit of time to find cabinets that fit your specific requirements. One thing to keep in mind though is flexibility will get you a long with when looking for used cabinets. Since most used cabinets will be in need of some repairs anyway, you can take this time to customize the cabinets exactly as you would want in terms of color and hardware and really make them the cabinets of your dreams. All it takes is a little elbow grease and creativity.

Where Can You Buy Used Cabinets?

A set of matte black cabinets with glass panels and vintage handles.

Ready to invest in used cabinets for your kitchen? It’s time to start your search. Here are a few places that sell used cabinets for affordable prices:

1. Craigslist

It sounds crazy, but you can find almost anything on Craigslist. There are always people selling their old home appliances and kitchen cabinets on the website. Not only can you usually find people selling their old cabinets, but you can often find old display models listed for sale on the website as well.

One thing you will want to keep in mind before falling in love with a set of cabinets is where the person selling the cabinets is located. Most people on Craigslist are not willing to ship items, and you do not want to have to commit to a long road trip in order to obtain your new cabinets. Listings are constantly coming and going on the site, so make sure to check in often.

2. Furniture Showrooms

Showrooms are your best bet if you have your eye on a set of cabinets that looks almost new and is from a well-known brand. Oftentimes, showrooms have quick turnovers in display models to keep up with current trends and styles.

Because of this, you can usually get a great deal on the set of display cabinets the store no longer needs. Before heading out to your local furniture showrooms or home improvement stores, make a few phone calls ahead of time to see if they are currently offering anything like that. Making those inquiries ahead of time can save you the trouble of driving all the way there only to find out they don’t have what you need.

3. eBay

eBay is very similar to what it offers in terms of benefits as Craigslist. One thing eBay tends to offer that Craigslist doesn’t, however, is provide shipping from the seller. Make sure to check that the shipping option is available before purchase if necessary. There are also options to “buy it now” and not have to go through the bidding process.

4. Architectural Salvage

If you live in a large city or near a large metropolitan area, a great first place to look for used cabinets is an architectural salvage.

While there are no guarantees they will currently have what you’re looking for, these salvages typically have well plenty of options and varieties of used cabinets that are not only budget-friendly but also usually in decent working condition still.

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