How to Save Countertops When Base Cabinets Are Removed

How to Save Countertops When Base Cabinets Are Removed

Meet Ed

Instructor Ed Jones has over 30 years of experience in theindustry, has the title of MasterWater Restorer, is an Institute ofInspection Cleaning andRestoration Certification (IICRC)-approved instructor, and hasserved on the S500-2021consensus body committee todevelop the most recent standard.

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In today’s water damage mitigation industry, it is common to find base cabinets and vanities affected with water because they are used to hide plumbing supply and drain lines. Many times, they can be dried in-place by removing the toe kick or cutting it off with a toe kick saw and after inspecting to ensure no visible mold underneath and that the core of the cabinet has not swelled from contact with water circulate hot, dry air underneath. Remember, the ANSI/IICRC S500-2021 states in Appendix A that cabinets and vanities are “generally restorable” when affected with categories 1, 2, and 3 water, IF they are not made of MDF or particleboard. Of course, pre-cleaning of any contaminates should always occur prior to implementing air movement for drying.

If the base cabinets do need to be removed because of swelling, deterioration, or mold it is best to try to save as much of the cabinet as possible (faces, doors, hardware, etc.) by removing carefully taking it apart while bracing the countertop from underneath. See some tips below on how to remove base cabinets without disturbing the countertop and backsplash:

  1. Turn off water and electrical breaker to cabinet, sink, vanity, etc. and take photos of any pre-existing damages. *May be necessary to temporarily turn off water to the home.
  2. Unscrew all the installation screws that are securing the cabinets to the walls. If the cabinets were installed before the flooring, then you may not be able to remove them as a complete unit. Open-up or remove the toe kick, doors, and remove all drawers. *Save all screws and hardware.
  3. Cut around the plumbing- Take a saber saw or reciprocating saw and cut the back of the cabinet around the plumbing. This cut will have to be large enough for the cabinet to slide past the sink.
  4. An alternative to cutting the back of the cupboard around the plumbing area is to just knock the back off the cabinet sides and leave it on the wall until you get all the cabinets removed.
  5. It may be necessary to remove plumbing lines, garbage disposal, sinks, etc. If you do be sure to turn off the water to that area, catch any drain water, cap any supply or drain lines, and save all parts for reinstallation. *Take photos before and after demolition.
  6. As you are removing the cabinet parts from underneath the counter cut, assemble and install the 2”x 4” studs to prop the countertop in place and install a horizontal brace to stabilize the countertop. Clamp the horizontal brace to the countertop about every 2 feet. * See photo below and be sure to brace any areas where there is a seam in the countertop.
  7. Tape the edge of the countertop and carefully use a putty knife to loosen the bond of any adhesive (typically silicon) holding the countertop to the cabinet. It may be possible to use a Sawzall after loosening with your putty knife.
  8. When cabinet box is detached from the wall and other cabinets and the countertop is braced, gently slide out the base cabinet and make sure braces are securely supporting the countertop. If done properly countertop and backsplash should still be in good condition. *Take photos to show success.
  9. Keep all cabinet faces, doors, and hardware and leave a clean work site. Never throw away the cabinet box or any cabinet pieces without authorization!
  10. If you need to detach the plumbing before detaching the cabinet, see one YouTube video I found helpful. If you can become good at saving countertops and backsplashes you will be in high demand, so work on your skills and practice until you get good at it.
Be sure to have a conversation with materially interested parties (adjuster, Third Party Administrator (TPA), homeowner) BEFORE attempting removal that you can’t guarantee the countertop won’t crack or break, especially if it is a heavy granite countertop, OR recommend hiring a countertop or cabinet professional for removal. May be good to have a signed written disclaimer before attempting removal of cabinets.

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