How to Remove and Renovate Old Kitchen Cabinets

You can remove and renovate old kitchen cabinets to reuse in the kitchen using these helpful tips, including problems with built-in cabinets and the type and thickness of cabinet wood.

| November/December 2003

  • Learn how to remove and renovate old kitchen cabinets.
    Learn how to remove and renovate old kitchen cabinets.
    Photo By Fotolia/Iriana Shiyan

  • Learn how to remove and renovate old kitchen cabinets.

Learn how to remove and renovate old kitchen cabinets safely to be used again in the kitchen.

How to Remove and Renovate Old Kitchen Cabinets

Q: I’m planning to renovate my kitchen, and I asked three potential contractors about saving the cabinets for donation or sale to a person or organization who might need them for a basement or garage workshop. Two acted as if that would be feasible; the third said they’d be impossible to remove in reusable condition. Exactly how hard is it to remove cabinets?
—Ann Carper, Washington D.C.

A: Kitchen cabinet removal is not difficult at all, although there can be some complications if the kitchen cabinets are built into the wall as opposed to premanufactured boxes. You can easily distinguish between the two by opening the doors and looking inside. If the back of the kitchen cabinet is the same material as the rest of the cabinet, you’re most likely looking at a premanufactured kitchen cabinet box that’s held to the wall by a half-dozen or fewer screws in the wall studs. If the back of the kitchen cabinet is the same material as your wall covering (usually sheetrock in newer homes and plaster in older homes), the kitchen cabinets have been built into the space and won’t be as easily removed.

Generally, when judging kitchen cabinets as reuse candidates, we look at several things: ease of removal, quality of construction, and type of material used. Built-in kitchen cabinets are more difficult because they incorporate the wall as part of the cabinet. However, the kitchen cabinet faces (doors) may be worth saving if they’re solid wood or glass. They could be fitted onto other kitchen cabinet boxes or used in the manufacture of new furniture pieces. Craftsman-style bungalows often have built-in kitchen cabinets made of solid wood and glass and are often worth the extra effort to dismantle.

Many kitchen cabinet boxes have solid wood faces, but the boxes are thin pieces of particleboard with plastic corner braces that fall apart easily. Older kitchen cabinet boxes constructed of thicker plywood and steel or wood corner braces are much more durable. The adage “they don’t build things like they used to” often comes to mind when dismantling buildings.

Kurt Buss is program manager for ReSource, a building material reuse and deconstruction program of the Center for ReSource Conservation in Boulder, Colorado. He also serves as co-chair of the Board of Directors for the Used Building Material Association.

Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds