Kitchen cabinets can be one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen remodel. The cost of new cabinets can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. One way to save money on your kitchen remodel is to purchase used kitchen cabinets. Buying used cabinets allows you to get quality cabinets at a fraction of the cost of new. Here is an in-depth guide on how to buy used kitchen cabinets and save money.

Assess Your Needs

The first step is to assess your needs and determine the scope of your kitchen cabinet project. Consider the following:

  • What is the size of your kitchen and layout? Measure your existing kitchen space carefully to determine how many cabinets and what sizes you will need.
  • What is your style? Do you prefer modern, traditional, cottage, etc.? The style will impact the door styles and finishes you choose.
  • What is your budget? Set a budget and stick to it. Buying used cabinets allows savings but you still need a budget.
  • What is the condition of your existing cabinets? Do they need to be replaced completely or can some stay?

Taking the time to assess your needs upfront will help you shop for used cabinets more strategically.

Calculate How Many Cabinets You Need

Once you know the size of your space, you can calculate how many wall and base cabinets you will need. Common kitchen cabinet sizes include:

  • Wall cabinets – 30-36 inches wide, 12-16 inches deep, 30-36 inches high
  • Base cabinets – 24-36 inches wide, 24 inches deep, 34.5 inches high

Measure your existing kitchen layout and space to determine what size cabinets will fit best. Allow for filler panels as needed to account for uneven walls. Having an accurate cabinet count will allow you to shop for used cabinets more effectively.

Where to Find Used Kitchen Cabinets

There are several places to find quality used kitchen cabinets for sale:

Cabinet Dealers

Many cabinet dealers carry some inventory of quality used cabinets. These are often full kitchen sets that were ordered but never installed. Dealers want to sell these surplus cabinets at a discount rather than having them take up warehouse space.

Habitat for Humanity ReStores

Habitat ReStores often have a selection of gently used cabinets donated from home remodeling projects or surplus from contractors. Visit frequently as inventory changes rapidly.

Classified Listings

Check classified ads online and in local newspapers. Homeowners who remodeled may be selling leftover cabinets.


Look for auction listings for estate sales, restaurant closings, or home remodeling projects. These can yield cabinets at a great bargain.

Remodeling Companies

Kitchen remodeling companies are a terrific resource for quality used cabinets. Many will remove and replace existing cabinets during remodels. Ask if they have old cabinets for sale at a discount.

Checking all these sources regularly will help you find the used cabinets you need at the best price.

What to Look For When Buying Used Cabinets

When evaluating used cabinets, be sure to thoroughly examine them for the following:

  • Condition – Look for cabinets free of rot, mold, or insect damage. Scratches and worn finishes can be repaired more easily.
  • Construction – High quality cabinets have solid wood frames, doors, and drawers. Particleboard won’t hold up over time.
  • Doors/Drawers – Test doors and drawers to ensure they open/close smoothly and fit tightly.
  • Hardware – Make sure all hinges and drawer glides are sturdy and function properly. Replace if needed.
  • Sizes – Confirm sizing matches the measurements of your space. Incorrect sizes create problems.
  • Modifications – Determine if cabinets can be altered to fit your space before purchasing.

Carefully inspecting used cabinets will help avoid getting stuck with pieces that are damaged or won’t work in your kitchen layout.

Match Cabinets to Create a Cohesive Look

When purchasing used cabinets, try to find sets that match or complement each other. Mixing and matching unfinished projects from various sources makes having a cohesive look more challenging. Here are some tips:

  • Buy cabinet sets from one remodel if possible.
  • Choose cabinets in the same style, even if you buy from separate sources.
  • Stick to one type of cabinet door style, such as Shaker, flat panel, etc.
  • Look for cabinets in the same finish or color to tie the look together.

Taking the time to match cabinets will give your kitchen a custom look on a used cabinet budget.

Consider Alterations and Repairs

Quality used cabinets often need some TLC to give them a fresh look. Depending on their condition, you may need to make alterations or repairs such as:

  • Sanding and refinishing worn or damaged cabinet boxes, doors, and drawers
  • Filling holes from old hardware and refinishing
  • Replacing old hinges and drawer glides with new hardware
  • Adding glass to existing cabinet doors for an updated look
  • Trim cabinets down to proper sizes if too large for your space
  • Add molding, trim, or panels to coordinate styles

Make sure to budget both time and money for any repairs or alterations your used cabinets may need. The savings over new cabinets makes it well worth the investment.

Arrange Affordable Delivery

One additional cost when purchasing used cabinets is delivery. New cabinets often come with free shipping. For used cabinets, you will need to arrange and pay for delivery. Here are some tips for affordable cabinet delivery:

  • Ask sellers if they offer delivery or assistance loading. Many will help for a small fee.
  • Rent a truck or trailer yourself if picking up cabinets. Measure to ensure your load will fit.
  • For large orders, hire a local delivery service. Compare rates to get the best deal.
  • Recruit family or friends with large vehicles to help you transport cabinets.
  • Make multiple trips as needed if transporting cabinets yourself.

Factor the delivery costs into your total budget when deciding if buying used makes sense for your project.

Carefully Remove Existing Cabinets

If replacing existing cabinets, take time to remove them with care before installing new ones. Here are some tips:

  • Empty all cabinets and drawers completely first.
  • Protect floors, countertops, and appliances from damage.
  • Remove any molding, trim, or panels covering cabinet edges.
  • Detach cabinets from each other and from walls. Removing screws may leave holes to patch.
  • Take doors and drawers off to lighten cabinets for removal.
  • Use pry bars to remove stubborn nails or screws. Fill holes once cabinets are out.
  • Take cabinets apart completely if transporting to remove easily.

Carefully removing existing cabinets prevents unnecessary damage and extra repair work in your kitchen.

Ensure Proper Installation

Improperly installed used cabinets can cause problems like sagging doors or misalignment issues. Take steps to ensure quality installation:

  • Review manufacturer instructions for guidance on proper installation.
  • Watch relevant online tutorial videos if DIYing your installation.
  • Ensure cabinets are securely fastened to each other and leveled properly.
  • Account for uneven walls and floors to prevent large gaps.
  • Hire an experienced contractor if you lack the DIY skills.

A meticulous installation is crucial to having your used cabinets function and look their best.

Refinish or Repaint for a Fresh Look

Refinishing or repainting used cabinets is one of the best ways to give them an updated, custom look. Here are smart tips for refinishing cabinets:

  • Remove cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware before refinishing.
  • Fill any holes, gouges, or cracks with wood filler and sand smooth.
  • Use a quality wood stripper to remove existing stains or paints.
  • Sand thoroughly with progressively finer grit sandpaper up to 220-grit.
  • Vacuum well and wipe with a tack cloth before applying new stain or paint.
  • Apply new finishes in a well-ventilated area according to manufacturer directions.
  • Replace hardware and doors once fully cured for a cohesive custom look.

Follow these steps closely for best results in refinishing used cabinets.

Add New Hardware for an Updated Look

One simple upgrade that makes a big visual impact is replacing tired hardware on used cabinets with new pulls, knobs, and hinges.

When selecting hardware, hold pieces against cabinet samples to confirm they coordinate well together. Black, nickel, bronze, and copper finishes are popular choices that look sharp against stained or painted cabinets.

Ensure you purchase sufficient quantities of any hardware pieces before starting installation. Remove old hardware, fill holes with wood filler, sand smooth, and carefully install the new hardware according to manufacturer’s directions. Fresh hardware gives used cabinets a stylish, contemporary look.

Install New Countertops to Complete the Look

To complete your thrifty kitchen makeover, consider pairing your used cabinets with brand new countertops. Adding new countertops allows you to update the look without breaking the bank. Here are great options that won’t bust your budget:

  • Laminate countertops offer the widest range of colors and patterns at the lowest cost. Highly durable and affordable option.
  • Butcher block countertops bring warmth and classic style. Requires regular sealing to prevent stains and damage.
  • Tile countertops are very budget-friendly when using low-cost tile. Best for casual, cottage looks versus sleek modern.
  • Engineered stone countertops cost more but mimic high-end quartz at a fraction of the price. More durable than laminate.

Compare countertop prices online to stay within your budget. Fresh countertops paired with used cabinets create a custom look for less.

Incorporate Used Cabinets into Cabinet Upgrades

If your existing cabinets are in good structural condition, you can give them a fresh look with simple upgrades by incorporating a few used cabinets. Try these clever ideas:

  • Replace existing upper cabinets with used glass-front cabinets to open up the space.
  • Add a used cabinet with built-in wine rack to upgrade kitchen storage.
  • Install a used cabinet flanking the range to gain storage and showcase pretty dishware.
  • Replace a single existing base cabinet with a used one that has pull-out shelves for improved access.

Even using one or two used cabinets strategically can save money and change the look.

Know When to Hire a Contractor

While repurposing quality used cabinets definitely saves money on materials, you need the DIY skills to handle the scope of the project. Consider hiring a professional if:

  • You need to make structural changes to the existing kitchen space to accommodate cabinets.
  • Electrical or plumbing systems need to be altered or relocated to fit your layout.
  • New wall cabinets must be securely attached to wall studs and properly mounted.
  • You don’t have the skills, tools, time or helpers to install cabinets properly.

Don’t take on more than you can handle. Contractors have expertise well worth the expense for bigger projects.

Budget for Incidentals

When calculating your total budget, be sure to include incidental items that may be needed in addition to the used cabinets:

  • Filler panels to cover gaps between cabinet ends and walls.
  • New trim molding to match cabinets if old trim is damaged during removal.
  • Additional lumber for building custom cabinet configurations.
  • Specialty tools for installation that you may not own.
  • Miscellaneous supplies like fasteners, adhesive, fillers, etc.

Pad your budget with a little extra cushion to allow for these incidental expenses that can pop up in any cabinet project.

How to Find the Right Used Cabinets

Finding the perfect used cabinets for your kitchen takes some persistence and patience. Follow these tips to locate cabinets that meet your needs:

  • Check listings frequently as used cabinet inventory changes rapidly.
  • Measure your space carefully so you purchase cabinets that fit properly.
  • Inspect cabinets thoroughly in person before purchasing to verify quality.
  • Set up email alerts for online listings to be notified quickly of new arrivals.
  • Let friends in the home building trades know what you are looking for.
  • Be open to a range of styles, brands, and finishes to increase options.
  • Move quickly on quality cabinets when you find them to avoid losing out.

With some dedication, finding stylish used cabinets that fit your kitchen and style is very achievable.

Questions to Ask Used Cabinet Sellers

Asking the right questions when purchasing used cabinets helps avoid disappointments or surprises later on. Always ask sellers the following:

  • Why are you selling the cabinets? Understanding the reason for selling provides useful insight.
  • How old are the cabinets? Look for cabinets less than 10 years old for best quality.
  • Were they professionally installed originally? Pro installs typically mean higher cabinet quality.
  • How were they removed? Cabinets pried aggressively may have hidden damage.
  • Are all parts and hardware included? Confirm all cabinet components are present.
  • Can I take doors and drawers off to inspect cabinet interiors? Inspect insides closely for damage or wear.
  • Do you offer delivery services? Inquire about help with transport if needed.

Getting clear answers to these key questions gives you the details needed to make informed buying decisions.

Common Places to Find Used Cabinets

If you know where to look, quality used kitchen cabinets can be found. Here are the most common sources:

  • Habitat for Humanity ReStores – Benefit from cabinets donated during home remodels. Visit often for best selection.
  • Classified Listings – Search Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, etc. for local deals.
  • Kitchen Remodelers – Many remove old cabinets and sell at reasonable prices.
  • Fixtures Living Showrooms – Display models are sold at discount when new lines released.
  • Auctions – Look for estate and restaurant auctions. Inspect thoroughly first.
  • Kitchen Cabinet Dealers – Call to ask if they stock any quality pre-owned pieces.

Check these resources frequently to find the used cabinets you need. With some persistence, you can find amazing deals.

Signs Good Quality Used Cabinets

It can be difficult for an amateur to assess if used cabinets are good quality. Look for these signs to determine if cabinets are worth purchasing:

  • Drawers and doors open/close smoothly.
  • Solid wood cabinet box construction, not particleboard.
  • Tight cabinet joints without gaps or sagging.
  • Sturdy, securely attached hardware.
  • Minimal surface scratches that can be refinished.
  • Clean cabinet interiors free of dirt or damage.
  • Square, even corners and edges.
  • Known cabinet brand indicates production quality.

Carefully inspecting for these indicators will help identify quality used cabinets that are worth the investment.

How to Clean Used Cabinets Before Installing

Thoroughly cleaning used kitchen cabinets before installing them helps remove dirt, grease, and debris accumulated over years of use. Here is an effective cleaning process:

  • Remove all doors, drawers, shelves, and hardware before cleaning cabinets.
  • Wipe down exterior cabinet surfaces with a mild detergent or all-purpose cleaner and warm water.
  • Use degreaser to remove stubborn grease or dirt buildup on exterior and interior surfaces.
  • Remove any debris, nails, staples, or other items from interiors.
  • Clean out drawers thoroughly removing any drawer liners, debris, dust, or dirt.
  • Use a disinfectant cleaner on all interior surfaces for sanitization.
  • Wipe thoroughly with clean cloths and let air dry fully before reassembling.

Take time to clean used cabinets properly to start your installation with a clean slate.

Tips for Using Different Cabinet Styles

One key advantage of used cabinets is they allow you to select different cabinet door styles to create unique looks. Here are smart tips for combining cabinet styles:

  • Choose one consistent cabinet finish across all units to unify the look like stain, paint, or natural wood.
  • Limit combinations to no more than 2-3 varying door styles for cohesion.
  • Use different door styles on upper versus base cabinets to provide defined separation.
  • Select one predominant door style and use a second style sparingly for accents.
  • Place cabinets with ornate door details only on focal points like an island or pantry.

With a thoughtful plan, blending different cabinet door styles can add charming character.

Save on Installation Labor Costs

Purchasing quality used cabinets reduces material costs significantly. You can also save on labor costs through strategic DIY installation. Focus DIY efforts on tasks like:

  • Removing old cabinets without damaging kitchen.
  • Building basic cabinet frames if needed for custom configurations.
  • Installing filler panels between cabinet ends and walls.
  • Applying finishing trim pieces to match cabinets.

Then hire a carpenter at an hourly rate for specialized work like:

  • Ensuring cabinets are securely leveled and anchored properly.
  • Installing new wall cabinets and meticulously aligning.
  • Modifying existing cabinet dimensions as needed.

This DIY and carpenter combo approach provides professional results and optimizes your labor budget.

Ideas for Repurposing Flawed Cabinets

Quality imperfections that don’t affect structure may make some used cabinets unfit for the kitchen. Here are ideas for repurposing flawed cabinets:

  • Use in a laundry room, workshop, garage, or basement instead.
  • Shorten cabinet height to work as bathroom vanities.
  • Remove doors and insert open shelves for a cottage look.
  • Convert to a kitchen island or cart.
  • Use cabinet boxes for concealed closed storage anywhere in home.

With a little creativity, imperfect used cabinets gain a second life beyond the kitchen.

Have Realistic Expectations

Used kitchen cabinets provide wonderful savings, but they do come with compromises. Have realistic expectations about:

  • Needing some repairs and refinishing to customize the look you want.
  • Potential limitations in sizes and configurations.