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Scott McGillivray Weighs in on Kitchen Cabinets: To Demolish or Not?

Scott McGillivray Weighs in on Kitchen Cabinets: To Demolish or Not?
White and black domestic kitchen

Scott McGillivray is a real estate expert and host of HGTV Canada’s Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays.


Many of you have left comments on my social media and website asking me the same question: “Why do you demolish cabinets and throw them in the landfill, when they could be saved and donated?” I have a very simple answer: I don’t. Yes, I demolish a lot of cabinets, but never any that could be saved and donated. Read on, and I will explain.

Why Demolish Cabinets?

A lot of the cabinets that I see in older homes are beyond saving. They’re old, they’re rickety, and sometimes they’re even mouldy. While they may look okay on the outside, their structural integrity is totally compromised. This is because a lot of people install inexpensive cabinetry that just doesn’t stand the test of time. After 10 or 15 years they start to deteriorate. When I come across these kinds of cabinets, I know right away there’s no saving them. When this is the case, we have some fun knocking them down. Next, we put whatever we’re allowed to in the recycling bin, and the rest goes in the garbage. While adding to the landfill is never ideal, I’m proud to say that very little of what we destroy on a reno site actually ends up there. My team has worked hard over the years to lower our environmental impact, and the difference between when we started compared to now is significant.

Related: These Drool-Worthy Kitchens Make a Case for Colourful Cabinets.


Donating Kitchen Cabinets

Do I donate kitchen cabinets when I can? Absolutely! I’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity for years, and anytime we can salvage cabinets and donate them, we absolutely do. But remember – most donation centres can only accept cabinets that are in really good shape. And that’s perfectly understandable – they need items that other people can actually use. When I’m removing cabinets from a site, it’s often because they’re no longer useable. So when people ask me why I demolished cabinets instead of donating them, the answer is simple – no donation centre would accept them. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be right to saddle someone else with unsafe cabinetry.

Saving Kitchen Cabinets

My business is all about making money through real estate investing. Whether it’s building an income suite or flipping a home, I want to make sure everyone involved is getting the best bang for their buck. If the cabinetry is in good shape, I do all I can to keep them and update them. My favourite way to do so is with melamine paint. A lot of homes have strong cabinets but the finish is dated or tired. In this case, they can be completely transformed with a can of paint. Another option is that if the cabinet boxes are strong but the doors aren’t in great shape, you can simply paint the interior of the boxes and replace the doors. This method costs a little more, but it’s a lot cheaper than replacing all the boxes.

Related: A Kitchen Makeover So Beautiful You’d Never Believe It’s DIY.


So there you have it. If I can reuse kitchen cabinets, I will. If I can’t use them, but I can safely remove them and keep them intact, I will 100% donate them. But if they’re rickety, mouldy, and just plain unsafe, they get knocked down. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people buy cheap cabinets, and they just don’t stand the test of time. So when it’s time for them to go, I have no problem knocking them down and saying goodbye.

Images Courtesy of HGTV Canada.

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