How to remove countertops without breaking them

When it comes to making your kitchen look stunning, countertops are among the most important features you can have. Because the countertops are so crucial for an aesthetically pleasing kitchen, you probably want to upgrade your kitchen’s countertops from time to time. Still, you do not necessarily want to break and destroy the previous countertops. So, the question is, can you remove countertops without breaking them? If so, how can you go about doing it?

You can remove your countertops without damaging them one bit. If you are very careful about removing the adhesive that keeps the countertop glued to all the adjacent components, loosen it, and remove the screws carefully, you should be able to remove the countertop without damaging it.

Removing countertops from cabinets can be a tedious process. There are many different types of countertops, and each one may have a tiny different process. But, for the most part, removing countertops without damaging them has the same recipe. Let us have a detailed look at how to remove your countertops below.

How to remove countertops without breaking them

When it comes to removing countertops without breaking them, you will take a different approach based on the type of countertop you are dealing with. For the sake of brevity, we will look at two of the main types of countertops available: laminate and granite countertops.

Laminate Countertops

Laminate countertops are quite simple to remove. Laminate countertops are fixed to the cabinets using a combination of screws and adhesives.

Most laminate countertops have two parts that constitute the entire package, namely the counter and the backsplash. A backsplash is simply a decorative cover feature that you install on your wall to complement your countertops. The backsplash is almost always attached to the wall as well as your countertop.

Step 1: If you want to remove the laminate countertop without damaging it, you will have to remove the backsplash first. To remove the backsplash carefully, you will have to use a razor knife and cut through the strip of silicone adhesive that keeps the backsplash fixed to the wall.

This razor knife can be any sharp object, but it is recommended that you use a box cutter due to its comfort of usage. It goes without saying that you must be very careful when using a box cutter, seeing as these objects are lethal if you cut yourself.

Use your razor knife, and run it down between the parts where the backslash meets the wall, and run it along the entire edge of the backsplash. Now your backsplash should be loose on its edges where it meets the wall. There should, however, still be some silicon adhesive that keeps the backsplash fixed to the wall.

Step 2: To remove the remaining silicon adhesive, take a thin object that can fit at the back of the backsplash and gently hammer it till it loosens all the silicon adhesive behind the backsplash. This object can be a scraper or any other thin object that is sharp enough to chip away at the silicon behind your backsplash while it is still fixed to the wall.

Hammer your sharp object behind the backsplash along the edge of the backsplash till you can see that the backsplash is coming loose from the wall. You should not hammer the scrapper down the entire height of the backsplash, but just enough to penetrate a couple of inches behind the backsplash. If you hammer too deep down before the entire length of the backsplash is loose, you might damage your backsplash.

Step 3: If you want to gain more leverage to pry the backsplash that is a bit stubborn and does not want to come loose from the wall, you will want to push against the structural stud. Before you can just push against the stud, you will have to find the stud first.

Use a tool called a stud finder to help you find the stud located on your wall. The stud finder will help you find the structural stud by using magnetic technology to find the screw in your wall, which will pinpoint to you where the structural stud is located. As a rule of thumb, there is a stud located in your wall every 16”.

Now, when you have found the structural stud with your stud finder, you will want to keep the stud finder in place to indicate to you where the structural stud is. Use a pry bar and place it between the wall and the backsplash where the structural stud is.

This just means that your stud locator finder will be placed on the wall somewhere, and you will have your pry bar directly beneath it where the backsplash and the wall meet.

Use a hammer and gently hammer down on your pry bar to remove the backsplash from the wall directly beneath your stud finder. Repeat this process along the entire length of the backsplash, and you should have your backsplash removed in no time.

Now that the backsplash has been addressed, we can move on to the removal of the countertops.

Step 4: Start by removing all things contained inside the cabinets. You will want to remove as many drawers as you can, including all the appliances and utensils in them. Once you’ve made your cabinets as empty as possible, you can start moving on to the countertops.

Step 5: Look inside the cabinets; at the ceiling of the cabinets, you should see the screws that hold the countertops in place. Remove these screws in whichever way you wish; you can remove them manually with a screwdriver or an electric screwdriver.

Step 6: Like the adhesive used to hold your backsplash firmly against the walls and countertops, there might also be a layer of silicon adhesive that keeps the countertops fixed to the cabinets as well as the wall.

Smaller pieces of countertops may sometimes not be fixed with adhesive, and screws will suffice to keep it in place. Larger countertops almost always have additional adhesive applied to help the screws keep the countertop in place.

When it comes to larger countertops, you will probably have to go through a little more trouble to get rid of the adhesive. To get rid of the adhesive bond and loosen the countertop from the cabinets, you can use a sharp object and place it between the cabinets and the countertop. Apply gentle taps to the sharp object a couple of times to force it between the countertop and the cabinet.

For this, you can use a paint scraper, for example, as the sharp object and a hammer which you use to hammer the scrapper with. Do this gently until you break the adhesive bond along the entire length of the countertop and the cabinets.

Do not force the entire paint scraper between the countertop and the cabinets – you should only have to push it in by an inch, approximately, to break the adhesive bond between the countertop and the cabinets.

Step 7: If you have broken the adhesive bond between the countertop and the cabinets along the entire length of the countertop, you can use a pry bar to remove the countertop from the cabinet.

Take your pry bar and place it where you put your paint scraper between the countertop and the cabinets, and make sure to apply a slight pressure upwards. This will then slowly and slightly move the countertop upwards and break it away from the cabinets. Do this along the entire length of the countertop as well, till the whole countertop is loose from the cabinets.

The more you loosen the countertops from the cabinets with your pry bar, the easier it will become to remove the rest of the countertop from the cabinets as you progress.

When using your pry bar to loosen the countertop from the cabinets, it can be a little bit easier if you have assistance. It will help a bit if you have someone lift the countertop slightly as you try and gently wedge your pry bar between the countertop and the cabinets.

Step 8: Once you have loosened the entire countertop from the cabinets with your pry bar, you can remove it from the cabinets. Pick up the countertop and remove it from the cabinets.

Once you have removed the countertop, you will probably see a piece of plywood left behind. That is because large pieces of countertops usually rest of pieces of plywood to not lay directly on the cabinets. It is recommended that you leave the plywood there for when you wish to install your next set of countertops.

Congratulations, you have just removed your laminate countertops from your cabinets without breaking them!

Granite Countertops

Granite countertops are a bit different from laminate countertops. They are not fixed to the cabinets with screws and adhesives but use some construction adhesive or epoxy. These countertops are not easy to remove, and you will, most likely, have to damage the countertops to remove them.

However, if done carefully, there is still a way in which you can remove the granite countertops from your cabinets in a manner that allows you to use them afterward. So, if you do not want to remove your granite countertops with a hammer, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Before you start removing the granite countertops, make sure that the cabinets are empty. This means removing all utensils and drawers until there is nothing left in the cupboards. Once there are no items in the cabinets, you can start removing the countertops.

Step 2: The first thing you are going to want to do is use a sharp instrument (as recommended above, you can use a box cutter) to remove the adhesive between the wall and your backsplash. Take your box cutter and cut the line where the wall meets the backsplash at the top of the backsplash. You might have to run your box cutter a couple of times down the edge of the backsplash to get this right.

Step 3: Now, take a sharp, strong, and flat instrument that you can wedge behind your backsplash. Again, you can use a paint scraper for this, as long as it is strong and will not bend. Tap the backside of your sharp flat instrument and try and wedge it behind your backsplash. You might end up damaging your drywall, but we do not mind if there is a little damage to the drywall.

You will have to wedge your paint scraper in a couple of areas behind your backsplash, and the more areas you wedge your paint scraper in, the looser you are making your backsplash from the wall. If you have removed your backsplash from the wall in enough places (this can vary depending on the length of your backsplash), the granite will come loose from the wall.

Once the granite backsplash has come loose, you will be able to see the construction adhesive on the backside of the backsplash slabs of granite. If a part of your wall has torn off along with the backsplash, that is not a problem – you can always cover up holes in your try wall.

Step 4: Now comes the more difficult part. Normally when you have granite countertops (or any countertop for that matter), there is a sub-top beneath it. This sub-top is the plywood on which the countertop rests not to damage the cabinets.

This sub-top is screwed down to the cabinets. On top of this sheet of plywood, you have blobs of glue onto which the granite top is placed to keep the granite top fixed to the plywood sub-top. It is very difficult to remove the granite top from the sub-top, and, thus, you will have to remove the sub-top from the cabinets while trying not to damage the cabinets.

Accordingly, our main task now is to try and locate the screws that are used to keep the plywood sub-top fixed to the cabinets and remove them in a manner that does not damage the cabinets or the granite countertop.

You will need a device that allows you to use magnetic technology to help you locate where the screws are. You can try and use a stud finder, or you can resort to any other approved device that gives an indication when it detects metal.

You will use this device and move it along the top part of the front face of your cabinets where the countertop meets the cabinets. You will use this device to tell you exactly where the screws have been screwed into the cabinet.

Step 5: Once you have found the screw’s location, you can use a multi-tool and place it at the site of the screw where the cabinet and the plywood meet and plunge cut the screw. Do this till the screw breaks and no longer holds the cabinet and sub-top together.

If you do not want to run the risk of leaving a mark on your cabinets, you can use your cutting blade from the inside of the cabinets to cut the screws.

Some people recommend using a carbide blade, but as long as the blade can cut through steel, you can use it. If you are going to use a metal blade, it might wear out a little faster, but you can still use it if you do not mind the wearing and tearing.

If you do not want to use a magnetic device to help you locate where the screws are in your sub-top and cabinets, you can use a flat instrument and wedge it between the top of your counters and the sub-top and slide it along the line where the two meet. Once you impact something, it will most likely be a screw, and you can mark the area where the screw is and proceed to use your multi-tool to plunge cut the screw.

A handy tip is first to use the magnetic device to locate all the screws on a corner section and use the carbide blade to cut the screws in that corner section. You can then use a wedge and place it between the sub-top and cabinet top to lift the countertop slightly. Once this countertop is lifted, you can have a little more wiggle room to slide your paint scraper between the sub-top and cabinets to try and locate any more screws.

Step 6: If you have used the magnetic device or the paint scraper to locate all the screws that keep your sub-top fixed to your cabinets, and you have used your multi-tool to cut all of these screws, you can remove the granite top from the cabinets.

You can remove the granite top now because it may still be glued to the plywood sub-top, but the sub-top is no longer fixed to the cabinets.

It is recommended that you have a person help you carry the granite top for every three to four feet of countertop. This is because granite tops weigh several hundred pounds and are probably too heavy for just one person to carry.

Congratulations, you have just removed your granite countertop without using a hammer or damaging it!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, you can definitely remove countertops without first consulting your sledgehammer. It may be a tedious process, but you can use the countertops for other projects if done correctly. You can either sell it, use it for the Wendy-house you plan on building in your backyard one day, or various other things.

As long as you have the right tools, an extra hand or two, and a little bit of patience, you should have no problem removing your countertops without a single scratch.

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