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Remove Old Cabinets That Were Built In Place Using Nails
Periodically, we will need to remove an older set of kitchen cabinets or cupboards that were bolted 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 cabinets to install elsewhere. When you’re done taking them out, there will just be a pile of bits and pieces.
Take a flashlight and search inside your closets. If you don’t see any screws, then this cabinet removal method is for you.
- Small one-handed sledge hammer
- Safety glasses
- Razor knife
- Reciprocating saw
- Jig Saw
- Skill Saw
- Various screwdrivers
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-saving microwave.
- Remove the sink and all fixtures. You may need another person to help with the sink. Most older homes have cast iron sinks and they are very heavy. I’m not kidding here, DO NOT try to remove a cast iron sink alone.
- IMPORTANT: As you are trying to remove the cabinets, be careful NOT to pull too hard on the walls. Most likely, they are made of drywall or plasterboard and are somewhat fragile. Try and remember to just move things away from the walls – rather than facing them.
- Trim all trim lines wherever they adjoin cabinets and counters against walls, floors, or ceilings.
- Put on your safety glasses and cut large Formica counter tops, base cabinet bottoms, face frames, and toe pieces into smaller pieces. You can do the same with upper cabinet skirtings that are also large. Do this with whatever device you feel most comfortable using.
- If the backsplashes are only three-quarters of an inch (3/4″) thick, they are attached to the wall with liquid nails. Insert the putty knife between the wall and the spray, then drive it down using the force of your hammer. Continue to do this in several places until it comes off the wall.
- If the spatters are thicker than three-quarters of an inch (3/4″), chances are really good that they will stick to the counter. There’s no need to put the putty knife back if they stick to the top.
- With the gloves and safety glass, you can start the removal process by hammering the ceiling in an up position. Once it starts to loosen, you can use the bar to lift it higher. I can almost hear the crunching sound of nails already! Eventually, you should get to the point where you can grab it with both hands and pull it out of the cabinet.
- Remove all the drawers from their respective places.
- Using the hammer and sledge hammer, disassemble all the parts of the cabinet. Start by punching the finished edges, then the face frames, then punch the bottom and bottom back. The cabinets should be removed fairly quickly if you follow that pattern. Whenever a part of the cabinet is difficult to remove, cut it into a smaller piece. Most of these old kitchens were manufactured using pine and plywood. They were also glued together with carpenter’s glue. This can make them stubborn to separate sometimes.
You should always be on the lookout for cockroaches. Who knows, if you’re lucky, you might find an old newspaper article from the late 1950s. I was retired when I discovered an old safe that had a million dollars hidden under the fingerboard of a kitchen cabinet in Hollywood. I think the house originally belonged to Jed Clampet from the Beverly Hillbillies. Having some fun during the project is a good thing!
The trick to making this all easier is to cut as many pieces as possible into smaller pieces before you start tearing them apart. This will make it easier for the garbage man or you when you take the parts out of the house and put them in your garbage containers.
Whenever you remove old kitchen cabinets, be prepared to find things that need to be replaced or repaired. It is not unusual to have areas of water damage where mold has grown. Sometimes places where there were leaks years ago are found in ceilings. Outside of the cost of your new cabinets, set aside a little more for unexpected repairs.
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