Renovation Diaries: Top 5 Reasons a Recycled Kitchen is Better Than New

by Tina Fallon

One thing I’ve learned from 17 years as a real estate agent and 22 years as a serial renovator: newer is not necessarily better. Just as pre-war apartments have a particular cachet, using recycled materials in your renovation can imbue your home with style and quality – and save you time and money. 

At Realty Collective, most of our seller clients need a little help to get their homes into shape before listing. Sometimes we just need to reorganize, declutter, add art or plants. But if a home needs more of an overhaul, we often turn to our favorite resources for pre-loved materials, fixtures and furnishings. Sometimes that means renovating a kitchen in just a few weeks. Sounds impossible, right? Here’s how – and why – we do it.

Reasons we recycle:

#1: In stock

When time is an issue, in stock kitchens can’t be beat. Even before the pandemic threw supply chains into disarray, recycling a kitchen was our favorite method for getting the job done quickly. Of course, you need to find a kitchen that suits your space, but because you can reconfigure most cabinet units, there’s usually something on hand at one of our favorite providers that can do the trick.

#2: Better for the planet

Okay, this should be tied for #1. Many of the best recyclers are non-profits that focus on keeping these perfectly usable materials in circulation. (Build It Green NYC estimates that it has kept a million pounds of material out of landfills. Renovation Angel’s estimate is 52 million!) 

#3: Affordable

A new kitchen is a major investment – which is true for a recycled kitchen as well. (You’re still going to spend a lot on pricey labor, for example.) But a reused kitchen will run you 75% less than new, and a showroom model can be had for deep discounts as well. When the kitchen arrives fully constructed and ready to load in, you don’t have to pay a contractor to, say, construct your Ikea cabinets. (Don’t get me wrong, we also love Ikea kitchens. But they don’t help with #2.)

#4: Higher Quality

Many recycled kitchens come out of luxury homes that have just changed hands, with the new owners opting for a completely different design. But those cabinets (and often, the accompanying appliances) were built to last. Details like solid plywood boxes, dovetailed drawers, European soft-close hinges, customized pull-outs, etc. are hard to find on a budget. Recyclers are discerning; most used kitchens will feature these higher-end details.

#5: Customizable

It can be challenging to map a recycled kitchen onto your existing floor plan. In the interest of time and money, we never want to move plumbing, gas, or electrical outlets unless we have to. If you’re just replacing what’s already there, in most cases you don’t need a building permit (though ask your architect and contractor, obviously.) The biggest hurdle is usually the countertop, as there’s rarely a perfect match between kitchens. The good news is most countertops can be re-cut. If you’re in a rush and don’t like the countertop that comes with the kitchen, or if you just can’t make it work, you can opt for (environmentally friendly) in-stock butcher block and cut it to size.

Some of our favorite places to shop:

Buy nothing groups! Your neighborhood has one. They’re often on facebook but ask around.

Renovation Angel – our ace in the hole for kitchens, bath fixtures and appliances

AptDeco – our go-to for recycled furnishings

Facebook marketplace – especially for recycled/scratch & dent appliances

Build it Green NYC – kitchen recyclers and so much more. Great for doors, too.

Westport Auction – furniture, lighting, art

Live Auctioneers – antiques, lighting fixtures, art

Remix Market – furnishings and fun items


Some of the kitchens we’ve helped remodel using recycled materials:


If you’re interested in learning more about the selling process, download our free Seller’s Guide. We share a ton of valuable resources to demystify the selling process and help you along this emotional journey. 

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