How to Remove a Shelf From a Kitchen Cabinet

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Things You'll Need

  • Hammer

  • Flat pry bar

  • Locking pliers

  • Flush cutting pliers

  • Reciprocating saw

There are several methods for shelf removal.

Shelves are handy for storage, but from time to time they may need to be removed or replaced. The method for removing a kitchen cabinet shelf depends on its installation. For adjustable shelves, the process is simply a matter of removing the shelf from its support pins. For permanent shelves, there are two basic techniques: one for shelves attached to inside runners and one for shelves nailed in place from the outside.

Removing Adjustable Shelves

Step 1

Unload the shelf you wish to remove. Remove any breakables from shelves directly above and below the shelf as a precaution.

Step 2

Lift up on the shelf, taking the weight off of its pins. Turn the shelf diagonally, lifting one side higher than the other, to make sure it clears the cabinet opening. For shelf pins that clip, depress the containment clip to release the shelf. In general, press the plastic or metal flap at the top of the pin so that it no longer protrudes over the top of the shelf.

Step 3

Pull the shelf carefully from the cabinet. Avoid bumping or dragging along the cabinet opening to prevent damage to the finish.

Removing Permanent Shelves

Step 1

Examine the shelf. Shelves are typically attached in one of two ways. Many carpenter-built shelves rest on a horizontal runner attached to the bulkhead, or side panel, of the cabinet. Others have no visible means of support and are usually glued and nailed from the outside of the cabinet bulkhead.

Step 2

Remove shelves on runners by tapping firmly with a hammer upward, near the front edge of the runner, against the bottom of the shelf. Use a flat pry bar, if needed, to pry the shelf upward away from the runner. This may require some force. It will typically be glued and nailed to the runner. Repeat the process on the remaining side and pull the shelf from the cabinet.

Step 3

Pry runners away from the cabinet sides with a flat pry bar and hammer. Place the edge of the pry bar in the seam, behind the runner, and tap it down from above to widen the seam. Pry out away from the cabinet side panel. Shift the pry bar along the runner a few inches and repeat until the runner is loose and can be removed.

Step 4

Remove shelves with no visible means of support by tapping firmly up or down with a hammer on the shelf, near the bulkhead of the cabinet. Keep tapping until the shelf moves, widening the seam between shelf and cabinet. Alternate tapping up and down until the shelf pulls away from the cabinet bulkhead.

Step 5

Pull nails through the bulkhead to the inside to remove them. Use a pair of locking jaw pliers to pull them through; or cut them flush against the bulkhead with a pair of flush cutting pliers.


Cut stubborn shelves down the middle with a reciprocating saw; then remove the two pieces.

Mark Morris

Mark Morris started writing professionally in 1995. He has published a novel and stage plays with SEEDS studio. Morris specializes in many topics and has 15 years of professional carpentry experience. He is a voice, acting and film teacher. He also teaches stage craft and lectures on playwriting for Oklahoma Christian University.