Second hand kitchens: How to buy good quality, cheap kitchen units and worktops

Second hand kitchens: How to buy good quality, cheap kitchen units and worktops

Buying a kitchen is never a cheap project, but by shopping for second-hand cabinets and worktops it can be considerably cheaper than you’d think. In some cases buying a second hand kitchen can offer savings of up to 70 per cent off RRP, and we’re talking big branded kitchens too.

Homeowners are often happy to buy second hand furniture, but perhaps not so sold on buying a used kitchen? The main concern, and one which we hope to overcome is the misconception that a second hand kitchen means it’s past its best. Companies such as The Used Kitchen Company and the Used Kitchen Exchange find new homes for used kitchens, from both individual homes and ex-display kitchens from showrooms.

 Take a look at all our latest kitchen ideas to help inspire your choice

It’s easy to be lured in by the promise of shiny new cabinets and clever storage solutions when updating your kitchen. But the latest in mod cons and high designer specs comes at a premium price. A second hand kitchen offers buyers the quality, craftsmanship and ‘look’ way beyond their budget. Allowing homeowners to have the dream kitchen they never thought they couldn’t afford.

Image credit: The Used Kitchen Company, Ex-display designer Italian kitchen with island and worktops

Second hand kitchen can not only offer wow-factor style but they can also offer high-end appliances from brands including Gaggenau, Siemens and Miele. These are almost ‘drop-in’ kitchens, ‘ready to go’ from the moment they are purchased.

How to buy a second hand kitchen – an expert guide

The main cause for concern for most is determining if a second hand kitchen will fit. Measuring for a pre-loved kitchen is relatively simple, and if you are keeping the current layout then it’s even easier. You will need to understand the space you are working with – identifying where the doors, windows and utilities are is a great starting point. The height of your ceilings also a vital consideration, to determine the layout. Once you’ve ticked these boxes it’s a matter of matching the units available against the layout you want.

The sound advice from the experts is to manage expectations. When buying a pre-installed or pre-owned kitchen you will expect to see signs of use. Therefore a professional clean post installation is highly advisable – this is normal and definitely worth the effort when you consider the overall savings.

If re-configuring the layout, consider you are changing the layout end panels, kick boards and decorative trims – so they may need replacing if they have screw holes or cut outs.

Decide on the design: Kitchen trends 2021 – the latest kitchen design trends and ideas for the year ahead

Top tips for measuring second hand kitchens


Image credit: Polly Eltes

Experts from the Used Kitchen Exchange offer these helpful tips: ‘In the case of a pre-owned kitchen, buying one a little bigger than you need gives you far more flexibility with reconfiguration.’

‘Using graph paper and post-it notes is a great hack. Mark out your kitchen to scale on a piece of graph paper, get yourself a scale ruler and cut out post it notes to the sizes of your cabinets. Write on them what type of cabinet it is and then you can play around with the layout as much as you like – sticking and re-sticking them in place until you have the right layout for you.’

How to ensure the quality and condition of pre-used cabinets and worktops


There are some simple steps to help ensure that the kitchen you want to buy is in good condition. It’s an expensive investment, therefore it’s only natural to feel nervous about getting the best quality for your money.
Ask to view the kitchen prior to purchase, in order to check the condition. If you’re buying online, therefore can’t view in real life, make sure there are plenty of photos.

You’re looking at the quality and condition of cabinets, doors and countertops. Double check that you have the correct measurements of each unit. Look inside the cupboards, assessing the potential everyday wear and tear. Whilst cupboards can be replaced, they cannot be repaired, so there may be a cost consideration here.

Check for water damage – especially around the sink area, again this can’t be repaired. With MDF doors you’re looking for any signs of swelling or bubbling. This is normally caused by unrepairable water ingress. Another common problem, especially with Vinyl doors, is heat damage. this results in the vinyl peeling away, so be sure to check the doors next to any sources of heat i.e. cookers, dishwashers and kettles.

If the kitchen you are looking at has laminate worktops, don’t expect to reuse these. Because the material is near on impossible to reinstall.

What material is best: wood or gloss cabinets?


Image credit: David Woolley

‘Painted or wooden kitchens offer a little more flexibility when buying second hand. Painting is always an option; this will then make it possible to change door knobs etc or add additional cabinetry if the kitchen isn’t quite big enough’ is he advice from Used Kitchen Exchange. As we see from our impressive kitchen makeovers wooden or laminate kitchens can be transformed with paint or vinyl wrapped, to offer a completely new look.

‘Modern lacquered kitchens don’t have this level of flexibility so your choice may be limited to the size and style that is exactly right for you.’ That is unless your chosen kitchen is current stock at the retailer, then it can be added to.

Is it worth buying a second hand kitchen?

The short answer is yes. Former Changing Rooms presenter Linda Barker certainly thinks so. Linda is an advocate of buying second hand kitchens. On twitter, she urges her followers to forgo something shiny and new, and consider a second-hand kitchen instead. Writing, ‘The most important tip I can give you on where to go for your new kitchen is to think about whether you actually need a brand new one at all. Just spend a cup of tea’s worth of browsing time @UsedKitchenEx & then decide how best to spend your money.’

The interior designer previously know for her collaborations with Wren Kitchens, has found a new passion championing the Used Kitchen Exchange (UKE) as the brand’s ambassador. The start-up brand allows you to buy pre-loved and ex-display kitchens for less than half of what it would cost you to buy one new.

The interior designer voiced her concerns about the waste of simply throwing old kitchens in the skip when we’re done with them.  An added plus from the Used Kitchen Exchange is that rather than sending your old kitchen to a landfill you can sell it through them. By simply filling out a form online you can have the team organise for professionals to photograph and dismantle your kitchen.

You don’t need to pay anything for their services until your Kitchen has been sold. Not only will you end up reducing your overall costs even further, but also you can sleep easy knowing there will be one less kitchen clogging up a landfill.

Professional dismantle is vital

Kitchen extension with glass sliding doors

Image credit: Colin Poole

Removing a pre-installed kitchen is a technical job, requiring experience and knowledge. Many fitters have installed a kitchen, yet few have removed one. ‘Any shortcuts here may have dire consequences and ultimately damage to your kitchen’ say Used Kitchen Exchange. Removing stone worktops takes a lot of knowhow and specialist tools. and did you know stone worktops cannot be transported flat or they will break, they must remain vertical when being moved.

Consider collection and delivery

When buying a new kitchen the normal process of delivery is all taken care of. You can expect the kitchen to arrive in stages; first cabinets, then appliances, then worktops. But the same rules don’t apply to second hand kitchens. You’ll need to source a reliable courier for everything at once. A local ‘Man with a van’ is highly unlikely to have the skill or insurances to collect and deliver a kitchen safely. ‘Kitchens are very heavy and moving a whole kitchen in one go takes skill, knowledge, experience and the correct insurances. Seek professional help/advice for this to avoid any damage to your kitchen, or worse still to yourself.’

While you can install the kitchen yourself, if you feel you’re up to the job, it’s always advisable to have it fitted by a qualified installer. You can find a qualified professional through the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installers (BiKBBi).

Using reclaimed wood for cabinets and worktops: What are the benefits?

Second hand kitchen 2

Image credit: David Giles

Using reclaimed wood is the fastest way to create a fashion-forward kitchen that’s loaded with laid-back, rustic charm. Reclaimed timber is low maintenance and ages beautifully. Ideal for kitchen surfaces, as any damage can be sanded away and re-oiled, or left intact for a little more history.

The grain is much denser, and thus tougher, than modern fast-grown timbers, too. It comes in various forms, such as old flooring planks, scaffolding boards and railway sleepers, so the scope for creating an individual
and unique kitchen is endless.

Is reclaimed wood expensive?

Kitchen shelving ideas

Image credit: Lizzie Orme

It depends on the type of timber. Old scaffolding planks and sleepers are generally cheaper than solid oak beams, for example. Timber that cost less to begin with, such as pine or upcycled pallets, will usually be more affordable, too, whereas trendy salvage like vintage.


Inspired to buy a second hand kitchen?

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