Recycled Kitchen Cabinets

Get information on recycled kitchen cabinets, an environmentally and budget-friendly way to redesign your kitchen.


Primitive colonial Kitchen

Photo by: Brian Brown

Brian Brown

Kitchen renovation can be costly. Appliances can be expensive to replace and cabinetry is expensive to install, regardless of the materials used. For this reason, recycled kitchen cabinets can be an attractive option.

Kitchen Cabinet Choices

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Freshen Up What You Have

If existing cabinets are of good quality, in excellent working condition and the layout functions well, the most affordable option is to simply paint or restain them. Another alternative, refacing, involves installing a new veneer on the exterior of the cabinet box and replacing the doors and drawer fronts, and should be handled by a professional. Design by Candice Olsen

Costly Doors and Drawer Fronts

If you decide to reface rather than replace your cabinets, be forewarned: Doors and drawer fronts account for the greatest expense. "Sixty to 70 percent of the cost of the cabinet is the door," says Jeff Cannata, past president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and president of Designer's Showcase Kitchens & Baths Inc. in Carol Stream, Ill. "So, if you're paying someone to put a new door on or a new drawer in ... it might be more affordable to purchase all new cabinets." And with new cabinets, there's an added bonus: the freedom to explore different kitchen layouts.

Starting Fresh With Custom Cabinets

Once the decision has been made to install new cabinets, there are other choices ahead. Are custom cabinets required or will stock cabinets fit the bill? Custom cabinets are built to exact specifications and offer endless design possibilities. This option requires the longest lead time and is the most expensive route, but it also allows you to include cool hidden conveniences like this built-in refrigerator, cleverly disguised as part of the cabinetry. Photo courtesy of GE Monogram

Best of Both Worlds: Semicustom

Semicustom cabinets are just that: partially custom. While the cabinets are made to the homeowner's size requirements, the manufacturer produces them in predetermined increments. Often a spacer may be needed to conceal unused wall space, and that sacrifices storage. The range of materials, designs, finishes and accessories available is not as broad as entirely custom cabinets, but semicustom cabinets cost less while still allowing more flexibility than stock cabinets. Design by Rebekah Zaveloff

Extraordinary Results With Stock Cabinets

Stock cabinets, which are the least expensive of new cabinet options, are premade and come in standard sizes. Though stock cabinets often get a bad rap in terms of quality of construction, there are many on the market that are made of solid wood. "Eight out of 10 kitchens could probably be done with stock cabinetry. And what I mean by that is a good designer can design with any line," Jeff says. "Anyone can say, 'Oh, I need this cabinet to be 21 1/2 inches.' But a good designer should be able to design using a 21-inch cabinet." Design by Thomas A. Conway

Opt for Durability

No matter what type of cabinet is selected, it's important to evaluate the quality of hinges, doors, drawer systems and finish. Homeowners should choose cabinets that offer at least a five-year warranty, according to Al Pattison, president of NKBA.

Select the Right Door Style

Next, consider the construction type and door style. Framed cabinets, which are popular in traditional kitchens, have a front frame around the cabinet opening. The door attaches to the frame. Frameless, or European-style cabinets, have no front frame. The door attaches directly to the side of the cabinet. Frameless cabinets, which are often used in contemporary kitchens, offer an advantage over framed cabinets. Because there is no front frame, there is open access to the cabinet interior. Photo courtesy of Erinn Valencich.

From: Erinn Valencich

Add Hidden Functionality

After giving thought to the cabinets' exterior, turn some attention to their intended use and interior features. "It used to be that we would place cabinetry in the room and make it functional," says Al. "Now every cabinet has a purpose." There are pullout drawers for pots and pans, oversize drawers for baking sheets and even high-tech under-counter cooling drawers that keep beverages and snacks within easy reach. Accessories like lazy Susans, built-in spice racks, drawer organizers and other cabinet extras make the kitchen a much more efficient and enjoyable place. Photo courtesy of GE Monogram

Complete the Look With Hardware

As a finishing touch, add pulls, knobs and handles that complement your kitchen's design style to cabinets. Hardware comes in a wide variety of styles, finishes and colors at all price points, and the right hardware contributes to a truly finished look.

Conserving materials to use as cabinets is one way to save money in a kitchen renovation project. Recycling old cabinets or using recycled materials to create new cabinets can save money and benefit the environment in the process.

Repurposed cabinets from old banks of cabinets, whether from your own home or from a retailer, are very useful in a budget-friendly kitchen redesign. They can be sanded down and re-stained if made of wood. Doors and pieces can be taken off and rebuilt in new formations to create a new look. Additionally, new hardware can be placed on existing doors for a new look on recycled kitchen cabinets.

If your current kitchen cabinets are unusable in your new kitchen design, there are retailers specifically dedicated to providing recycled cabinets and other supplies. Material exchanges allow businesses, non-profits and individuals to trade or buy a full range of building materials. Reuse stores are similar to exchanges. Some only allow low-income homeowners to shop, while others allow anyone to buy recycled materials and then donate the profits to organizations supporting low-income families. Either way, recycled kitchen cabinets can be bought at low cost with the added benefit of helping others.

Reclaimed furniture pieces found in your home or at flea markets and antique stores can be used to create a bank of kitchen cabinets as well. Chests of drawers, buffets or bookshelves can be reconstructed and painted a uniform color to provide the storage needed in the kitchen in a unique and eclectic way.

Reclaimed lumber from old barns, fences, beams and posts are also ideas for recycled kitchen cabinets. Salvaged wood has become very popular in recent years, which can provide you with a one-of-a-kind look in your kitchen design. Salvage stores are a good place to find reclaimed wood and architectural details for your recycled kitchen cabinets.

Save vs. Splurge: Kitchen Renovations

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