How to Remove Old Kitchen Cabinets Not Screwed to the Walls

Published: 03rd November 2010
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If you want to know how to remove cabinets that are screwed to the wall, this is the wrong article for you. These tips are for taking out older cupboards that are nailed to the walls.

I've taken out plenty of kitchen cabinetry sets throughout my many years of remodeling. The tips I am going to share with you will help you remove them safely and efficiently. When taking on a project like this it is best to have the help of a friend, relative or co-worker. Cabinets and countertops are heavy and rather clumsy to handle alone.

Tools Needed:

  1. Hammer

  2. Saber Saw

  3. Reciprocating Saw (Salzsaw)

  4. Pry-Bar

  5. Electric Drill

  6. Number 2 Phillips Bit

  7. Number 2 Square Drive Bit

  8. Razor Knife

  9. Putty Knife

  10. Two Wheel Hand Cart

  11. Channel Locks

  12. Ladder

You should make some prop-sticks that are adjustable to set in place underneath the upper cabinets when you are ready to unscrew them from the wall. Take two three foot (3') long pieces of wood, three quarters of an inch (3/4") thick and two and a half inches (2-1/2") wide and screw them together. You will need two of these adjustable props.

Start by removing the sink, range, hood, dishwasher or space-saver microwave.

  • IMPORTANT: Be sure to check the water faucet's hot and cold handles after you have shut off the valves underneath the cupboard to ensure that they in-fact are off. DO NOT forget to kill the power going to the appliances prior to removing them. Cap all bare ended electrical wires with wire-nuts, even if you plan on leaving the breakers off.

Cut all of the caulk lines with a razor knife where the countertop and cabinets meet the walls, ceilings and floors.

Tear off all of the decorative molding pieces if you have any.

Take all of the drawers out and unscrew the screws that are holding the countertops in place. If you have solid surface counters, such as Corian or granite, there may not be any screws to remove. If that is the case, there's probably a bead of caulking holding the tops to the cabinets. Use your putty knife and hammer to break the bead. If you have a large Formica top you will not be salvaging, you can cut it into smaller pieces using the saber saw. Large granite counters will need to be removed using several pry-bars and several people. Tile counters are not salvageable and should be destroyed.

Take your reciprocating saw and cut a square in the cabinet back around the plumbing pipes coming out of the wall. This should be a very shallow cut. Do your best to only cut the cabinet back and make darn sure you DO NOT cut through the dry wall. There may be electrical wires inside the wall. So, be careful!

Remove all of the screws from the backs, sides and bottoms of the base cabinets that are securing them in place. Remove the cupboards gently if you are planning on keeping the existing floor.

Adjust the prop sticks to fit snug underneath the wall cabinet that you are going to remove. With the help of a second person, begin to take the screws out of the back, ceiling area and side of the wall cupboard. Set your drill to the side. Once you have a good handle on the upper cabinet, pull it off of the wall.

  • Important: Prior to starting this project, make sure that there are no pictures or mirrors hanging in outer rooms that share the kitchen walls. You will be doing a lot of banging and rattling of the walls. This could save you a lot of money by preventing a three hundred dollar ($300) mirror from falling down while you are removing the cupboards.

Even if you plan on destroying your cupboards, you should still heed this expert advice for safety reasons. Slinging around a ten pound sledge hammer is not the correct way to demo a set of kitchen or bathroom cabinets. If you try to remove them in this manner, you may just "literally" create a headache for yourself. The method I have described is the safest and the best way that I know how to remove kitchen, or bathroom vanity cabinets.

To see a video demonstration, follow this link to learn How to Remove Cabinets.

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