Renovating your kitchen involves taking out the cabinets, but what if they are in good condition? Perhaps you want to mount them back and save some cash by avoiding buying new kitchen cabinets. Or maybe you could use them in your laundry room to add more storage. But can you remove kitchen cabinets without damaging them beyond repair?
You can remove kitchen cabinets to reuse without damage with the same tools you would use for complete demolition. Take the time to dismount each cabinet carefully, clean them up, and reuse them in your kitchen or other areas of your home.
Can You Move and Reuse Kitchen Cabinets?
Yes, you can move and reuse most wall-mounted and base cabinet units. Most upper cabinets are fastened with mounting screws; then, each cabinet is connected to one another with wood screws. The cabinets are connected between them to remove any gaps between one unit and the other, providing a more streamlined look.
Base units may or may not be fixed to the wall, but they are also usually connected between them with wood screws. Moreover, the countertop links all base cabinets together.
This technique allows contractors to install the cabinets, ensuring a flush fit between the units, but knowing how the cabinets were installed and what bits you have to unfasten can help you remove them without causing any damage.
Once you’ve moved the kitchen cabinets, you can use them for a variety of purposes. For instance, you can reinstall them in your kitchen. You could use them to set up an additional kitchen in a garden house, for instance, or to set up a man cave in your basement.
Both base and suspended units can also provide additional storage in your laundry room, bathroom, or mudroom.
Before You Start The Removal Process
Knowing that you can remove your kitchen cabinets without damaging them might be a relief, but there are still things you should know about before getting started.
How are kitchen cabinets attached to the wall?
Kitchen cabinets are attached to the wall with screws that fasten the cabinet to a stud within the wall. If you live in a newer home, your kitchen cabinets are most likely attached to drywall with wood studs. Metal studs are also common, whereas older homes could have plaster and lathe or masonry walls.
No matter what type of walls you have, the cabinets are installed in the same way, and you should follow the steps below to remove them.
We must mention, though, that kitchen cabinets installed decades ago may not be fastened with screws but nailed or glued to the wall. Removing these units can be a pain, and doing so without damaging them is near impossible.
- Drill driver
- Putty knives
- Scrap wood to support the upper cabinets
- Pry bar
- Utility knife
- Furniture pads
How To Remove Old Kitchen Cabinets Without Destroying Them
If your cabinets were installed less than 25 years ago, removing them without destroying them is relatively simple. Here’s how to do it.
Upper Kitchen Cabinets
Most upper units installed in the past 25 years or so are mounted with screws fastened to a stud in the wall. Cabinets installed over 25 years ago could be glued or nailed to the wall. Glued and nailed cabinets are hard to remove without damaging them, and the methods you should use in each circumstance are different.
Step 1 – Find out how the cabinets are installed
To tell whether your suspended units are fastened with screws or glued/nailed, all you have to do is open the cabinet door and look at the backboard. If you don’t see any screws, the cabinets are glued or nailed (the nails are usually visible inside the cabinet).
Step 2 – Prepare the cabinets for removal
Empty your cabinets completely and look for hidden electrical connections. These might be present if you have lights installed in or under the cabinets (for example, a strip of LED lights). If there are any electrical connections, disconnect them at this stage.
Use a drill driver to remove all doors, marking each door’s location as you’re taking it down. This practice will help you later on when you want to reuse the cabinets.
Gather all door screws and hinges in a bag, then set the doors aside. If stacking them one on top of the other, place furniture pads between one door and the next to prevent scratching.
Step 3 – Remove any decorative elements
If your cabinets finish with trim or crown molding, use a utility knife to remove the caulk finishing the design, then a drill driver or pry bar to remove the decorative elements from the top of your cabinets.
Step 4 – Support the cabinets
To remove upper kitchen units, you need a helper or a few wood boards long enough to go from the bottom unit right under the top unit you want to remove and support it.
If you have to use wood boards, cover the countertop with a blanket and place the boards under the upper cabinet.
Step 5 – Separate the cabinets from one another
Most upper units are connected between them with screws. Locate them and use your drill driver to separate the cabinets. Place the screws in a labeled bag and store them for later use.
Step 6 – Remove the cabinets from the wall
If your cabinets are fixed with screws:
- Climb on a stepladder and hold the cabinet against the wall with one hand.
- Place a bag on the bottom of your cabinet; you’ll use it to store the screws you remove.
- Start removing the screws from the bottom and work your way up. When you get to the last two screws at the top of the cabinet, move your hand under the cabinet’s top and push against the wall. Be prepared to lift the cabinet from the wall as you remove the last screw.
- Place the cabinet on a free part of the countertop or hand it to your helper, then repeat the steps for all other upper units.
If the cabinets are nailed or glued, you can’t remove them without damaging them. In this case, remove the bottom units first if you want to reuse them, then use a pry bar and hammer to remove the upper units.
Bottom Kitchen Cabinets
Bottom cabinets are easier to remove than the upper ones. Some contractors fasten them to the wall, but most are only connected between them with screws.
Step 1 – Prepare the cabinets for removal
Empty your cabinets completely and remove all drawers and doors. Mark the position of each door and drawer for easier reuse, then store all hardware in a labeled bag.
Step 2 – Remove the kitchen sink and built-in appliances
Use adjustable pliers to detach the plumbing under your kitchen sink (after you’ve shut off the water supply), then lift the kitchen sink and set it aside.
Most kitchen sinks are sealed to the surface with a caulk, and you might have to use a putty or utility knife to lift it from its place.
Remove all appliances, too, including any oven, dishwasher, stove, etc. Check out how to remove each of these appliances in their manual.
Step 3 – Remove the countertop
Most countertops are fixed to the bottom units with a thin layer of caulk. Remove the caulk with a knife, then lift the countertop and set it aside.
Step 4 – Separate the cabinets from one another
Check if the cabinets are attached to one another and if they are, remove the screws to separate them.
Step 5 – Remove the kitchen cabinets
You should now be able to lift the cabinets and move them out of the way. Repeat the same procedure for each cabinet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have questions? We have answered some of them below.
Can you uninstall built-in cabinets?
Yes, you can uninstall all kitchen cabinets following the steps above. The best way to do it is with the help of a friend who can hold and lift the units as you unfasten them.
What glue is used for kitchen cabinets?
Glued cabinets are usually installed with PVA wood glue. This glue is very strong and withstands high levels of humidity.
How much does it cost to take down cabinets?
Removing the kitchen cabinets can cost you anywhere between $150 and $840 for all units in your kitchen. Most contractors charge between $50 and $87.50 to remove a single upper unit and about $17 for the removal of a base unit.
Once you’ve removed the cabinets, inspect each of them, repair any defects, and decide if you want to paint them in another color. When you’re ready to reuse them, install each cabinet, then mount each door in its original place following the marks you applied when you took them off.