Upcycling Old Cabinets: Giving Your Kitchen a Green Makeover

Upcycling Old Cabinets: Giving Your Kitchen a Green Makeover

4 minutes to read

Painting kitchen

There’s reuse, reduce, and recycle; but now there’s upcycle. Upcycling means giving your things a second chance in life (and in style!). Rather than simply throwing things away, upcycling gives a new look and a renewed reason for existing, one DIY project at a time. Beyond this, you get to save more money and contribute to an environmentally friendly world! Who wouldn’t want to say no to that?

Let’s start with a place that we usually renovate — imagine transforming your kitchen cabinets from drab to fab (and you don’t need RuPaul to explain that). 

Why Upcycle and Repurpose Old Cabinets? 

Environmental impact of traditional disposal methods for old kitchen cabinets

You might be thinking — why bother when I can buy new cabinets and throw my old ones? When bidding farewell to old cabinets, the traditional disposal methods can leave quite a carbon footprint. 

Think about it: landfills bulging at the seams, resources wasted, and the environment sighing in dismay. There are many ways to put together a greener home, one is by upcycling your cabinet and reducing waste to preserve precious resources like wood and metals. 

Old kitchen furniture and fixtures

Economic benefits of upcycling compared to purchasing new cabinets

Let's talk about money, honey. Upcycling old cabinets isn't just about saving the planet; it's a savvy financial move too. Buying brand-spanking-new cabinets can put a serious dent in your wallet (not to mention having it reinstalled and everything too). 

But with a bit of DIY magic and some elbow grease, you can breathe new life into those old cupboards for a fraction of the cost. It's like scoring an interior designer look on a thrift store budget.

Creative opportunities for personalizing your kitchen space

Who says kitchens have to be boring? Upcycling your cabinets opens up a world of creative possibilities. From funky paint jobs to quirky hardware choices, there's no limit to how you can personalize your space. 

You won’t be limited to what’s in IKEA either. You can find many kitchen cabinets (that’s not just IKEA) online that you can use in your upcycling or use for inspiration, with rustic charm to sleek modern vibes. Upcycling lets you put your stamp on a repurposed kitchen and turn it into a space that's uniquely yours. 

Steps to Upcycling Your Kitchen Cabinets

  1. Assess Existing Cabinets: Evaluate the condition of your kitchen cabinets and determine if they are suitable for renovation or upcycling.

  2. Clean and Prep Surfaces: Thoroughly clean cabinet surfaces to remove dirt, grease, and residue. Sand down any rough areas and apply a primer for better adhesion.

  3. Choose Upcycling Method: There are many ways to upcycle cabinetry. Decide on your method, such as painting, staining, or adding new hardware, based on your desired aesthetic and budget.
Painting wood furniture
  1. Apply Paint or Stain: You can paint your new kitchen, doors and units, and even your hinges. Whatever it is, use high-quality eco-friendly colored paint or stain to transform the cabinets applying multiple coats for even coverage and durability.

  2. Apply other upcycling techniques: Besides painting, you can apply different cabinet ideas to your used kitchen cabinets. Stain your custom cabinets, enrich the wood grain and create depth to the colours. Give your cabinet door a visual makeover by adding decorative trim, molding, a second coat, or insets along the cabinet edges and doors. Instead of using solid kitchen cabinets with traditional doors, replace them with glass inserts or decorative panels, so that you can display your nice dishes or appliances.

  3. Repurposing by installing organizational systems: Installing additional systems which can rung the range from built-in drawers to dividers or racks for more storage. This makes it more convenient when organizing your kitchen.

  4. Add repurposed hardware or features: Upgrade cabinet hardware with stylish knobs, handles, or pulls to enhance the overall look. You can transform kitchen cabinets with features like pull-out shelves or Lazy Susans. Downdraft sliding doors or cupboard spinners make access and convenience to stuff; getting the things placed in the cabinet's back at ease.

  5. Seal and Protect: Apply a clear sealant or topcoat to protect the cabinets from wear and tear, ensuring longevity.

  6. Reinstall Cabinets: Once dry, reinstall the cabinets in your kitchen and admire your budget-friendly upcycled transformation. You can salvage any unused items for future furniture repurposing ideas.
Kitchen before and after

Tips for Successful Upcycling

  • Before diving into your upcycling adventure, ensure your cabinets are prepped and squeaky clean. Remove any dirt, grease, or old finishes to provide a smooth canvas for your creative endeavours.

  • Select materials and finishes that are not only visually appealing but also durable and suitable for kitchen use. Consider factors like moisture resistance and ease of maintenance to ensure your upcycled cabinets stand the test of time. You can begin expanding your green kitchen by looking for eco-friendly kitchen tools as well!
  • Measure twice, cut once! Take accurate measurements and plan out your installation process in advance to avoid costly mistakes and ensure a seamless fit.

  • Equip yourself with the necessary protective gear and follow proper safety protocols when handling tools and materials. Remember, DIY is fun, but it's even better when it's done safely.
Man adjusting cabinets in kitchen

Safety precautions and best practices for repurposing cabinets 

Speaking of safety, this is important when doing a kitchen renovation or creating repurposed cabinets. Wear protective gear when you work with sand, paint or power tools, such as goggles, gloves, and a mask. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines for handling and disposing of the chemicals, especially hazardous chemicals like painting strippers or solvents 


For every scrap of old cabinets upcycled, we can save both the environment and our wallets. It lowers waste and cuts costs without skimping on individuality and character. There are many steps you can take to begin upcycling your own Pinterest kitchen beginning with cabinets.  You can explore sanding, painting, installing organization systems, and more.

Our kitchens become more gorgeous, practical, and durable, and at the same time, we contribute to a better world by adding old cabinets to their new life. What more can you ask for? Go for 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), and add upcycling into your mix.

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