GARAGE LIVING BLOG

Cheap Garage Cabinets: Why You Want to Avoid These 5 Types

Using cabinets in the garage is a great way to get more storage usage out of the space.

Not everything stored in a garage can be hung on your walls or stowed away in an overhead rack, however.

Garage storage cabinets can enhance your storage flexibility, giving you more options for where to keep things.

They also allow you to keep your stored items hidden (which makes your garage look tidier), valuables and hazardous materials locked up, and your stored items more protected from the dust and grime found in garages.

When you’re looking at your cabinet options, using cheap garage cabinets might be something you’re considering. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.

Cheap garage cabinets have a lot of drawbacks

There are several types of low-cost storage cabinets out there you can buy, but let’s face it – that low price they sell for tends to be their most appealing selling feature.

And when it comes to cheap garage cabinets, you can’t get much cheaper than “free”, like using some cabinets leftover from a kitchen remodel.

But these low-cost (or no-cost) storage products have a number of limitations that are worth knowing about if you’re currently looking to add some garage cabinetry.

Let’s look at five types of inexpensive cabinets and why taking a thrifty approach to the addition of cabinets in your garage is a mistake.

1. Repurposed kitchen cabinets

Plenty of DIY blogs will suggest reusing your old wooden kitchen cabinets in the garage for extra storage.

Repurposing your old kitchen cabinets in the garage might seem like a practical idea. There’s no cost to you, other than your time to install the cabinets and maybe refinish them. It also keeps the cabinets out of a landfill.

Here’s the very simple problem with this idea – wooden kitchen cabinets just aren’t designed to be installed in a garage environment.

Most garages aren’t climate-controlled, which means the spaces will have fluctuating temperatures (sometimes to an extreme degree). They’re also prone to humidity and moisture.

Unless they’re specially engineered (like melamine cabinets) to withstand the harsher conditions in garages, most wood cabinets won’t flourish in the space. They’ll be more susceptible to structural degradation from excess moisture, dry rot, and potentially pest damage.

Many wooden kitchen cabinets also aren’t optimal for storing the heavier things garages need stored. Some older kitchen cabinets also have set shelving heights that can’t be adjusted.

And then there’s the all-important consideration of aesthetics. Kitchen cabinets have a very specific natural, rustic look. Even if you repaint or restain them, they may lack the contemporary look you’d prefer for your garage’s interior.

messy garage with cheap garage cabinets

A cluttered garage with mismatched wood kitchen cabinets.

2. Cheap metal garage cabinets

Okay, so if using wood cabinets in the garage isn’t such a great idea, surely metal cabinets are the way to go, right?

Yes, but only when you use the right type of metal storage cabinets.

Your options for metal cabinetry will consist of cabinets made with aluminum or steel. Look online or in big box stores and you’ll find plenty of metal cabinet systems that look impressive and sturdy.

But dig into the product specs to make sure you’re buying a quality product. If the price of the metal cabinets you’re looking at is surprisingly cheap, there’s probably a good reason for it.

Always choose steel over aluminum when it comes to garage cabinets. Steel is stronger than aluminum, which clearly matters when long-term durability and the storage of heavy things is involved.

Pay particular attention to the steel gauge the cabinets use. Steel gauge is a thickness measurement that is also used in other products made with steel, like stainless steel sinks, furniture, and metal roofing.

Steel gauge uses a retrogressive scale, which means the lower the gauge number, the thicker (and stronger) the steel will be. Cheap garage cabinets found in a lot of retailers often use steel gauges in the 20-24 range. Something in the 20 and lower range is more ideal.

Also try to get a cabinet system that’s made from steel produced in the U.S. or Canada, as all of Garage Living’s high quality garage cabinet systems proudly are.

Even if their listed steel gauge number sounds good, a lot of low-cost cabinets are made with raw materials that are heavily recycled. That compromises the durability of the product and these cheaper cabinets usually rust faster.

Also note that many steels produced overseas don’t adhere to the same eco-friendly manufacturing standards as North American-made steel does.

3. Plastic garage cabinets

Next to those free repurposed kitchen cabinets, assemble-it-yourself plastic garage cabinets will be your most affordable cabinet option.

Plastic cabinets, however, really aren’t a very viable long-term storage solution for your garage.

Manufacturers may throw a bunch of impressive-sounding words at you in a plastic cabinet’s product description, such as “high quality plastic polypropylene resin”, “molded plastic design”, and “high-grade double wall resin construction”.

Don’t be swayed. Out of all the types of cheap garage cabinets listed here, plastic cabinets are undoubtedly the flimsiest, least durable option.

Sure, they may not rust or rot, but they have far lower load capacities than metal or wood cabinets. Forget about using plastic cabinets for bulkier heavy-duty equipment like a compressor or generator.

And it goes without saying that the low-end look of plastic garage cabinets leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a matter of “when” and not “if” that they’ll eventually start showing that drab, discolored look that plastic products get.

open cheap garage cabinets repurposed from kitchen

Kitchen cabinetry being used to store common garage items.

4. DIY garage cabinets

Lots of people enjoy woodworking as a hobby, so DIYing their garage cabinets may be as much for someone about the fulfillment of creating something from scratch as it is about saving a few bucks.

Novice builders will likely find building their own garage cabinets a significant time investment. They’ll need the right tools for the job and may find the process to be overly frustrating. After all, instructional YouTube videos can only get you so far.

Unless you’re a highly skilled craftsperson, the finished cabinet system just may not seamlessly fit together, causing things to look a little “off”.

More often than not, DIY garage cabinets and shelving end up having a rather slapdash, patchwork look, leaving your garage’s storage systems with an unappealing and inconsistent aesthetic.

And in addition to the aforementioned shortcomings of wood cabinets, something else to think about is that they’re more of a fire hazard than metal cabinets. That’s worth considering if you’re storing a a lot of items that are flammable or plan to use a garage workshop for any welding.

5. Prefab cabinets

While not technically garage cabinetry, prefabricated build-it-yourself cabinetry is often used for storing things in a garage.

Whether they’re from a big box store or repurposed after being replaced with another storage product elsewhere in your home, prefab cabinets also make a poor storage choice for the garage.

Just as a harsher garage environment is rough on recycled wood kitchen cabinets, it’s even less hospitable to cabinets constructed with a quality of wood that’s likely inferior to what your kitchen cabinets are built with.

The lousy reputation of most pressed fiberboard (MDF) and particleboard furniture, in terms of their durability, is well-established.

These products commonly split and chip easily and their cheap, stuck-on veneer finish commonly doesn’t stay stuck.

Cabinets made from these materials also tend to lean, buckle, and warp over time, especially when they have to handle storing heavier items.

Also rethink using a piece of furniture like an old wardrobe in the garage, even if it’s made with a high quality wood. It will only look out of place.

prefab cheap garage cabinets

BEFORE: Inexpensive prefab cabinets that were being used in a garage.

cheap garage cabinets, clean garage with silver cabinets

AFTER: The addition of high quality cabinets, slatwall, and a floor coating transform the garage into a clean, modern-looking space.

Cheap garage cabinets = cheap garage look

The bottom line is that using cheap garage cabinets will project a low-grade aesthetic that detracts from the room’s appearance.

For a space that’s used as much as the garage, don’t underestimate the importance of that.

You’re also much more likely to encounter issues with long-term reliability and performance with cheap garage cabinets.

And the likelihood is that once problems arise, the short warranty cheaper cabinets come with will have long since expired.

Invest in high quality garage cabinets

Another major drawback of cheap garage cabinets is that they offer little to no ability to customize.

Avoid the aggravations and lack of satisfaction that comes with adding cheap cabinets to a garage space.

Garage Living has five lines of modular and custom-fit garage storage cabinets made with superior construction materials to ensure a long life. Fulfill all of your functionality and design requirements with a storage system that’s tailored specifically for your garage.

Features include:

  • resilient powder coated finishes in a wide variety of colors
  • durable double wall doors and cabinet shells
  • sturdy ball bearing drawer sliders
  • stainless steel, galvanized steel, or maple butcher block countertops
  • additional custom options let you add a sink, TV enclosure, locks, and more

Create your dream garage cabinet system

Garage Living specializes in making our clients’ garages a visually appealing, highly efficient extension of their living space.

We can help you achieve this goal with the addition of upgrades like high quality garage cabinetry, a new floor coating, and other smart storage solutions.

Schedule a free in-home design consultation with us to begin planning out the garage cabinet system of your dreams.

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