Removing your kitchen cabinets can either be the first step in a whole kitchen renovation or simply a way to give your kitchen a new look. It gives you a chance to restyle your kitchen or even dabble with modern open shelving.
Whichever direction you go in, this step-by-step guide will show you how to remove your kitchen cabinets, both with and without damaging them.
What to Know About Your Kitchen Cabinets Before Removal
If you want to remove your kitchen cabinets, you need to figure out what type of cabinets you have, especially if you are planning to reuse them for any purpose.
|Type of Cabinet||Description||How are they attached?||Good to reuse?|
|Unitized||Unitized cabinets are built in place using the wall as the back, a style commonly found in homes more than 25 years old.||Either nails or glue.||Not usually.|
|Newer cabinets complete with their own back. Usually, individual units are screwed together to create a whole cabinet set, but can be separated and used individually.||Usually screwed into the wall via screws through the back of the unit or around the edges.||Yes.|
To identify which type of cabinets you have, open your cabinet and look at the back. If it is the same type of material as the sides of the cabinets, you have prefabricated cabinets that you should be able to reuse if you remove carefully. If the back of the cabinet is your wall, they are not ideal for repurposing.
Once you know what type of cabinets you have, follow these steps for removal.
How to Remove Upper Kitchen Cabinets
Step 1: Gather Supplies
The tools and materials you’ll need to safely remove your upper kitchen cabinets include:
- Pry bar or crowbar
- Two putty knives
- Utility knife
- Blankets or furniture pads
- Scrap wood to support cabinets (if you don’t have someone helping you)
Also, if you’re disposing of your cabinets or planning a larger kitchen renovation, you should consider renting a 10 yard dumpster to get rid of your debris without having to wait for your city’s bulk waste collection day.
Step 2: Prep Your Kitchen
Before you begin removing cabinets, follow these steps to prepare your kitchen:
- Shut off the electricity in the kitchen at the breaker box.
- After ensuring the power is off, remove the range hood and any inset lighting in your cabinetry.
- Cover your countertops and lower cabinets with furniture pads or blankets to prevent scratches and other damage.
If you plan to remove all kitchen cabinets and countertops as well, you will need to take additional steps to prep your kitchen, such as taking out your appliances. However, you can use these steps below to start removing your upper kitchen cabinets.
Step 3: Prepare Your Kitchen Cabinets for Removal
Before you remove your kitchen cabinets:
- Empty your cabinets completely.
- Check your cabinets for any hidden electrical connections and make sure they are disconnected.
- Remove cabinet doors, using the drill to unscrew the hinges from the cabinet so the hinge remains with the door. If you aren’t trying to reuse or donate your old cabinets, you can speed up the process by using a crowbar to remove the doors, but you’ll want to wear gloves and goggles.
- Remove shelves if possible.
If you are removing your kitchen cabinets to reuse, take these additional steps:
- Gather loose screws or hinges from each cabinet in a plastic bag or container. Once you’ve removed the cabinets from the walls, attach the container to the cupboard to keep materials together.
- If you plan to reinstall them in the same space, take the time to label the location or number the cabinets with tape before removing them. This will help you keep them in order and avoid confusion later.
Once your cabinets are emptied and prepped you are ready for removal.
Step 4: Remove Exterior Elements
Exterior elements include:
- Caulk – Use a utility knife to cut away any caulk connecting the cabinets to the wall or exterior elements like trim. This will help you reduce damage when dismantling. You should also do this if you have any old paint connecting the cabinet and wall.
- Molding/Trim – If you aren’t trying to save the molding, you can use a hammer to wedge a pry bar beneath the trim and then pull it away from the cabinetry.
If you’re trying to remove the cabinets without damage and want to save the molding as well, use at least one putty knife along with the pry bar. Find a nail and slide a putty knife between the trim and cabinet close to the nail and then pull out slightly, then insert the pry bar on top of the putty knife and continue to pull the trim.
If it seems like the trim is about to crack, insert a second putty knife between the pry bar and the trim. Move to the next nail and repeat. Continue until it is loose enough to remove in one piece.
Step 5: Separate Cabinets From Each Other
If you have older cabinets that were built as one unit, you can skip this step.
If removing prefabricated cabinets, they are probably connected to each other through screws in the sides. Using a drill, remove all the screws to disconnect the group of cabinets from each other. This should loosen them, but they will still be attached to the wall and will not need to be supported.
Step 6: Remove Cabinets From Wall
To Remove Kitchen Cabinets That Are Attached With Screws:
- Make sure the cabinets are supported by having someone assist you or by placing pieces of wood beneath the cabinet to support the weight as you remove the screws. This is important if you want to remove the cabinets without damaging them.
- Start by removing the screws closest to the bottom, and then work your way up, removing all screws. Be prepared to lift the cabinet away from the wall as you remove the final screws at the top.
- Repeat until all units are removed.
If your cabinets are unitized or were installed with nails and glue instead of screws, you’ll need to use the hammer and pry bar to separate the cabinets from the wall.
To Remove Glued Kitchen Cabinets:
- Put on gloves and goggles to protect yourself.
- Make sure the cabinet is supported by a helper or support system, otherwise it will drop onto the counter below as you remove it.
- Start on the sides of the cabinet, using the hammer to wedge the pry bar or crowbar between cabinet and wall. Pry directly over a stud where possible to limit the damage to the drywall. You can also use a wooden block between the lever of the crowbar and the wall to prevent damage.
- Next, move to the top, bottom, then back through the front of the cabinet if still attached and continue to pry cabinet from wall until the entire unit is loose enough to be removed.
Step 7: Congratulate Yourself!
Now that you have removed your kitchen cabinets, you can move on to the rest of your project whether that’s painting your old cabinets or installing new ones.
Completing a whole kitchen renovation? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Remodeling a Kitchen on a Budget or share your experience with us in the comments.