Periodically, we will have to remove an older set of kitchen or vanity cabinets that were fastened together and installed using nails rather than screws. If this is the case with your remodeling project, you WILL NOT be able to save the cupboards to be installed somewhere else. When you are finished taking them out, there will only be a pile of parts and pieces.
Take a flashlight and search inside your cupboards. If you do not see any screws, then this method of removing cupboards is for you.
- Small Single Handed Sledge Hammer
- Safety Goggles
- Razor Knife
- Reciprocating Saw
- Jig Saw
- Skill Saw
- Assorted Screw Drivers
Steps for Removing Old Cabinets
- Shut off the water supply to the sink faucet and the power supply to the range, dishwasher, hood vent or space-saver microwave.
- Remove the sink and all of the appliances. You may need another person to help with the sink. Most older homes have cast iron sinks and they are super heavy. I’m not joking here, DO NOT try to take a cast iron sink out alone.
- IMPORTANT: While you are trying to remove cabinets, be careful NOT to pry against the walls too hard. Most likely, they are made out of drywall or plaster board and are somewhat fragile. Try and remember to just pull things away from the walls-rather than prying against them.
- Cut all of the caulk lines everywhere that they are adjoined to the cupboards and counters against the walls, floors or ceilings.
- Put on your safety glasses and cut large sections of the Formica countertop, oversize base cabinet bottoms, face-frames and toe sections into smaller pieces. You can do the same with the upper cabinet bottoms that are large as well. Do this with whatever saw you feel the most comfortable using.
- If the backsplashes are only three quarters of an inch thick (3/4″), they are glued to the wall with liquid nail. Insert your putty knife between the wall and splash, then drive it downward using the force of your hammer. Continue to do this in several places until it comes loose from the wall.
- If the splashes are thicker than three quarters of an inch (3/4″), the chances are really good that they are attached to the countertop. There is no need to wedge the putty knife behind if they are attached to the top.
- With your gloves and safety glass on, you can begin the removal process by hammering the countertop in an upward position. Once it has begun to loosen, you can use the pry-bar to lift it higher. I can almost hear the squeaking sound of the nails already! Eventually, you should reach the point where you can grab it with both hands and pull it off of the cabinet.
- Take all of the drawers out from their respective locations.
- Using your hammer and sledge hammer, dismantle all of the cabinetry parts. Start by banging on a finished ends, then the face-frames, next pry on the bottoms and lastly the backs. The cabinets should remove rather quickly if you follow that pattern. Any time a cabinet part is difficult to remove, cut it into a smaller piece. Most of these old kitchens were manufactured using pine and plywood. They also were glued together with carpenters glue. This can make them stubborn to get apart sometimes.
You should always be on the lookout for roaches. Who knows, if your lucky, you may find an old newspaper article from the late 1950s. I retired when I discovered an old safe that had a million dollars stashed underneath the toe base of a kitchen cabinet in Hollywood. I think the home originally belonged to Jed Clampet of the Beverly Hillbillies. Having a little fun during the project is a good thing!
The trick to making all of this easier is to cut as many parts into smaller pieces before you start ripping them out. This will make it easier for the trash man or for you when carrying the parts out of the house and throwing them in your trash containers.
Anytime you remove old kitchen cupboards, be prepared to find things that need to be replaced or repaired. It’s not uncommon for there to be water damaged areas where mold has been growing. Sometimes places where leaks were years ago are found on the ceilings. Outside the cost of your new cabinets, have a little extra set aside for unexpected repairs.