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How to Remove Kitchen Cabinets: A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to kitchen renovations, removing your cabinets on your own might seem like a daunting task. However, it can be a relatively easy process, provided you've got the right tools, a practical approach, and a dash of patience. Let's dive into how you can take down your kitchen cabinets safely and efficiently.

How Hard Is It to Remove Kitchen Cabinets?

Removing kitchen cabinets is a project that doesn't require much construction know-how. If you have a basic tool kit and some help with the heavy lifting, this project can be simple and straightforward. 

The Right Tools for the Job

First and foremost, you'll need the right tools for the task. Just ask any of our expert crafters and manufacturing specialists - the right tools make all the difference. Here's a quick list to get you started:

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Power drill
  • Bucket
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Pry bar
  • End nipper pliers
  • Utility knife or putty knife

Remember, when it comes to tackling a project like this, it's vital to be safe, so don't skimp on the safety goggles and gloves. You're going to be dealing with screws, heavy cabinet pieces, and possibly nails, so protect your hands and eyes.

Preparations Before Dismantling

Before you start unscrewing and dismantling, there are a few steps to take:

  1. Get a project buddy: If you have trouble lifting 20-30 pounds, you might find removing kitchen cabinets by yourself a bit hard. Have someone a friend or a family member hold the cabinet in place while you remove the screws, so the cabinet doesn't fall while you're taking the screws out. Plus, having a project buddy will make the entire process even faster. 

  2. Protect the surface: Apply protection on the floor and countertop surfaces to prevent any scratches or damage. Consider floor protection boards to keep your flooring and counters safe during the dismantling process. 
  3. Clear out the cabinets: Empty all your cabinets of their contents, including dishes, utensils, and food. Avoid these common mistakes when clearing out your kitchen cabinets.
  4. Turn off utilities: If needed, turn off utilities attached to the cabinet, such as the water supply and electrical, and gas appliances.

  5. Remove under-cabinet lighting: If the cabinets have under-cabinet lighting, it needs to be turned off and removed. Turn off your electricity by the circuit breaker box if necessary. 
  6. Take measurements and photos: Before removing the cabinets, take photos of the arrangement and measure all the cabinets to ensure they fit correctly. This will be a lifesaver if you're planning to reinstall or sell the cabinets.

Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty - actually removing the cabinets.

Removal Process

Removing Wall Cabinets with Screws:

  1. Remove the cabinet doors: Start by removing the cabinet doors. For Fabuwood cabinets with Q12 certification, the doors come with clip-on/off hinges for easy removal. Simply press the release clip on the hinge to detach the doors. If you have standard cabinets, use a Phillips head screwdriver. This will give you easier access to the inside of the cabinet and make the unit lighter for when you're ready to remove it from the wall.
  2. Unscrew the cabinets: Open the cabinets to locate how they are fastened to the ceiling and wall. You can find the fastenings both on the top and bottom of the cabinet. If there are screws, unscrew them one by one. To keep track of small screws, keep the screws from each cabinet in a small bag as you unscrew each cabinet.
  3. Pry down nailed cabinets: For older cabinets mounted with nails, use a pry bar and a block to gently get underneath the cabinet and prevent any damage to the ceiling or drywall. Pry it down, then use a larger pry bar to pull it down.
  4. Remove the screws: Carefully remove the screws that hold the cabinet to the wall, making sure not to damage any trim around the cabinet.
  5. Remove the decorative trim: Take off the trim on the back of the cabinet using a pry bar or end nipper pliers.
  6. Lift carefully: When removing cabinets that are heavy or high up, don't be afraid to ask for help. The last thing you want is to hurt yourself or damage your kitchen.

Removing Base Cabinets with Screws:

  1. Removing the countertops- Before removing the base cabinets, you need to take off the countertops first. To do this, remove screws from all four corners of the cabinets under the countertop. 
  2. The kitchen sink- you don't have to remove the kitchen sink, but you do need to partially remove the plumbing under the sink. There is a hot water, cold water, and drain line. Remove the collar and disconnect the line going from the valve to the faucet.
  3. Cut the caulk- You may need to cut the caulking around the edges of the walls and backsplash to further loosen the cabinets. To cut away the caulking, use a utility knife or putty knife which will easily help you remove the caulking. 
  4. Is there a toe kick? Remove the toe kick panel if there is one. This can be done simply using a pry bar. 
  5. Take off cabinet doors- Remove the cabinet doors before removing the cabinet box. This will make removing the cabinet box much simpler. If your cabinets are Q12 certified, you can release the doors with one click.
  6. Remove the screws- Remove the screws from the cabinets at the stud. Once this is done, you will be able to remove the cabinets. 

Finishing Touches

  1. Patch up: After removing the cabinet, prime and patch any holes in the wall or ceiling. To learn how to patch any type of hole in drywall, watch this video
  2. Label the cabinets: If you're planning on reusing or selling the cabinets, label them and keep loose screws and small parts in labeled bags. This will save you a headache later.
  3. Finish the drywall and close up any holes: There can sometimes be unfinished drywall behind a cabinet. This only happens if whoever installed the cabinets originally didn't do their job properly! It's important to fix the drywall so issues don't crop up later on. If there are any holes in the walls from a gas line or pipe, and you no longer need those utilities in that specific area, remove those pipes and close up any holes. 

Closing Thoughts

Removing kitchen cabinets, whether they are wall cabinets or base cabinets, isn't a small job. With the right preparation and approach, it's entirely doable. Remember to work carefully and patiently. Don't rush the process to avoid any unnecessary damage or injury. If you are building your dream kitchen and intend to install new cabinetry, consider donating your old ones if they are in good condition. 

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