4-Steps to Installing Salvaged Kitchen Cabinets


4- Steps to Installing Salvaged Kitchen Cabinets 


Kitchens are the most renovated room in the house. Countertops and cabinets turn over more often any other household fixtures. This ends up sending a lot of good material to the landfill or to the salvage store. At Seattle’s premier salvage store, Earthwise Salvage, they receive new sets of kitchen cabinets on a weekly basis.

For our office build out we knew we wanted to build a faux kitchen, to add to the “homey” feeling of our office. We called around and priced new cabinets out, but not only were we looking at a 3 month wait; we were looking at a very high cost of $7000-$8000 installed. That’s when we decided that salvage was the better option.38608453722_9bdf40c668_k

Reusing and recycling materials is one of the main ways you can go green on any project. Salvaging second-use products is fun and can be very artistic often evoking an element of nostalgia, which could not be purchased with a new product.

At Earthwise we found several kitchen sets that could have worked. Ultimately we chose a light maple with a more modern finish. We paid $700 and received a complete 13 piece set 10% of the cost of new cabinets. The bonus being we only really needed 8 pieces. This left a few pieces to choose from for use in the old Laundry room at home.

Although the cost was very affordable, as with any salvage job, there’s always a little extra work involved(Ask us about the salvaged window story).


STEP 1: CLEAN-UP:38640812031_080c4c8ab1_k

Demo crews are a rough and tumble bunch and often not terribly delicate or precise, even the elevated title of salvager is not much better. There’s going to be some cracked fascia and some broken hinges. You’ll find (or your flesh will) a few nails and screws sticking out that need to be surgically removed without damaging finished faces. Also some previous owners shoddy repair work, gobs of wood glue, duct tape, maybe some cheerios or grains of rice need to be cleaned out of the back of the drawers.



38608434686_e6ec36baf0_kOnce they were all cleaned up, we mocked them up in place, and measured out our spacing for the refrigerator. We got plumb and level, found the studs and attached some level framing to the wall. Then we cut out all of the holes to reach the existing outlets.

I used my whole collection of C clamps to clamp the cabinet boxes together, once the whole lower unit was attached together we shimmied and shuffled the whole unit until it was level and plumb; Then fastened the boxes to the framing.26888263499_82767d1842_k

The upper units just required finding a few studs (through lathe and plaster walls which isn’t terribly easy). Then a bit of leveling and some extra hands to hold them up while they were fastened into place.




24792254618_536c12eca7_kSTEP 3: MATCH-UP:

Now we knew we were going to have to find some light maple veneer to cover (the particle board on) the outside units but we ran into another typical issue with salvaging; and that’s matching finishes.

I located an old sticker on the cabinets that indicated the original cabinet makers name and contact and attempted to get a matching piece of light maple veneer to finish the project up.

The deafening silence on the phone when I was quoted the price for a 4 x 8 sheet caused the savvy and apologetic salesman to ask after a pause “Have you scraped your jaw up off of the floor yet?”   The one sheet was more than we paid for the 13 piece set of cabinets.

I spent a half a day scooting around town in the electric car looking to try to match the light maple veneer. Turns out the finish on the cabinets had faded to an orangey hue that brand new maple just does not have.

Matching the VeneerA trip to Daly’s helped me select oil that got me pretty close to the faded orangey color of the Maple cabinets. It was close enough. And as usual on projects like these, the only one that ever notices these tiny imperfections is me.

It’s been reinforced by every carpenter I’ve ever worked with, that a good carpenter is just good at hiding, avoiding and correcting mistakes.



Eva was fixed on Paper stone countertops, really a no brainer with our friends over at GreenHomeSolution. This was something I could have ordered and installed myself, but their installer is so good and his results so clean and seamless, that we had them do it. He came out measured for then returned and installed it. No regrets, it looks great. The cutoff became a short backsplash.

I oiled up some solid maple pieces to trim around the fridge and picked up some primed baseboard material to paint to match the rest of the room. I pre-painted it the ripped it to fit as toe kick below the cabinets, doing my best to scribe and accommodate a wavy concrete floor.

For our purposes recycling these kitchen cabinets worked great and they look fabulous (like new!). We even used the left over cabinets in the laundry room and the rest to create a workshop in our garage – score!09