Things You'll Need
Hardboard or plywood can be installed on the back of the cabinets to make them usable as freestanding storage units. This is necessary to stabilize and strengthen the cabinets as well as keep items from falling out the back.
Do not do this job alone. At least two people are required to safely remove upper cabinets. Modern, mass-productions cabinets contain mostly medium-density fiberboard, MDF, components. This material is extremely heavy.
Remodeling a kitchen can be an opportunity to upgrade a shop or storage area with minimal expense. Don't rip down the existing cabinets and throw them away. Take the extra time to dismount them from the wall, clean them up and move them where they can provide extra storage. The tools necessary for this job are the same ones needed for careless demolition. The process will take longer but free extra storage space is worth the time.
Remove all drawers and empty the cabinets.
Remove the countertop mounting screws. In most installations, these are located in the front and rear corners on the underside of the counter.
Use a utility knife to slice the length of the caulking between the counter's backsplash and the wall. Failing to do this before removing the counter may damage the wall.
Lift the countertop and remove it from the cabinet.
Unscrew the mounting points where the cabinet is secured to the wall. The cabinets should be secured to the wall through the back brace every 16 inches with screws. Some builders will use nails to attach lower cabinets. In this case, use a pry bar to slowly work down the length of the cabinet to free it from the wall. Move the lower cabinet out of the work area before starting on the upper cabinets.
Empty the cabinets. Remove any exterior fixtures, paper towel holders, spice racks or under-cabinet lights.
Remove the cabinet doors. This reduces the danger of smashed fingers and resultant damage to the cabinet when it is dropped. Use a screwdriver to remove the mounting hinges from the cabinet. Leave the hinges attached to the doors and save the screws in a coffee can or similar container.
Inspect the sides and bottom of the cabinet where they meet the wall. Use a utility knife to slice through any caulking.
Remove the screws holding the cabinet to the wall. This is a two-person job. The stronger person should be selected to hold the cabinet in place during screw removal.
Move the cabinets to their new location. Clean and refinish as desired.
Finn McCuhil is a freelance writer based in Northern Michigan. He worked as a reporter and columnist in South Florida before becoming fascinated with computers. After studying programming at University of South Florida, he spent more than 20 years heading up IT departments at three tier-one automotive suppliers. He now builds wooden boats in the north woods.