Replacing Cabinets Without Removing the Countertop

A woodworker describes how he replaces base cabinets while leaving the top in place. June 16, 2010

Where I lived there were many home shows pushing new granite top specials. Many people bought a new granite top only to later realize just how ugly the old cabinets now looked. These people were now scared of disturbing and cracking their nice top if they bought new cabinets. This is where my trick comes in. I have done many successful kitchens this way. By the way I work with quality stock brand cabinets, no custom made.

Without ever disturbing the countertop, I break out the old base cabinet two at a time but always leaving support for the top. Since the top overhangs the top rail of the face frame, I cut a 1" cut from the bottom perimeter of the new base cabinet. Now it slides right under the countertop overhang. Then I prop it up with blocks and shims, screw it to the wall and add some liquid nails to where it touches under the CT. Once all the bases are installed I simply skin the exposed ends and the toe skin covers the toe kick face. Of course just R&R the uppers are put in the standard way. It is a lot of extra work on your knees but it pays the bills and no one else is doing it.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor M:
Iíve never done a whole kitchen but I have replaced cabinets that way. Just be very careful. One crack can cost you a lot of money!

From contributor J:
Interesting idea. You've got good insurance I hope!

From the original questioner:
I never cracked any granite or SS or SSV. I have cracked some tile grout on a 4X4 ceramic CT but that was so easily fixable. If done right while always supporting it then it really is simple. I suppose I have done 15 of them without a problem.

From contributor O:
Great find of a surprising niche in the market. I can't help wonder why not just reface and skip all the risk?

From contributor H:
We have refinished whole kitchens without touching the counter top. Itís fast and easy, but different from what youíre doing. This fits the low budget makeover.