Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Installing the Kitchen Cabinets

In my last post, I talked about the kitchen remodel I was doing and the unique installation I found myself involved in.  How do you remove old cabinets and install new cabinets without disturbing the existing granite counter top?

Designing and building the Cherry cabinets was a piece of cake, but now it was time for "out with the old and in with the new"!

I started by removing the upper cabinets. After getting all the cabinets unloaded (that's right, the customer left all that for me to do).  I then removed all the doors and shelves.  I very carefully cut the caulking along the top, bottom and sides where the cabinets meet the wall.  Remember, this was brand new wall paper and they did not want to disturb it or have to redo anything that was already done.  Taking my time I slowly and very carefully removed each cabinet.  So far, so good; all the old upper cabinets are removed and not one thing disturbed on the wall.  I cheated when I built the new upper cabinets by making them 1/4" longer  and 1/8" deeper then the original ones and it worked out perfectly.
When I installed the new cabinets, they lipped the wallpaper by just a whisker and looked like it was always that way.  All the upper cabinets went in very simple and that part of the installation was pretty much the same as any other cabinet install.  I will have to admit that I am very slow when it comes to installing, but I think that just has to do with being so particular about everything being level, plumb and aligned.

Now came the fun part; how and where do I start with the base cabinets?  All the old appliances have been removed and the sink, disposal and hot water dispenser was removed.  If you were wondering, yes, I brought a plumber in to remove the dishwasher, sink, disposal and hot water dispenser.  I've done all that before, but this was on the sixth floor of a bunch of $600,000 condos and if water was going to flow, it was going to be somebody else's responsibility. 

I removed all the doors, drawers and shelves in the base cabinets.  I knew I would basically have to destroy each cabinet to be able to get it out from under the counter.  I started with the end cabinet that was next to the refrigerator opening.  I very carefully cut all the silicone I could see along the front edge and along the side that was the end of the counter.  Thank goodness for particle board sides and staples because I was able to slowly knock the side of the cabinet loose from the face fame, bottom shelf and back without disturbing the counter at all.   Once I got it loose enough, I was able to tip it to the side and remove the one side of the cabinet.  I left the back stringer of the cabinet screwed to the studs while I carefully removed the toe kick, bottom self and face frame.  Each was broken up and removed piece by piece.  I made a brace to support the front edge of the counter and since the back and back stringer was still attached to the wall the counter was supported and never moved.

Now I went to the next cabinet and carefully repeated the same procedure.  When I had the second cabinet removed, again with the back of the cabinet still in place screwed to the studs and the front supported by a temporary support, I then took one of the new base cabinets and slid it back under the counter part way.    If you've been following closely, your first question should be, if I couldn't get the old cabinet out from under the counter because the cabinets where literally sitting in a hole, then how could I get the new cabinet back in.   I originally thought of just building the 4" base for the toe kick separately; install that "in the hole" and then slide the new cabinets in between the base and the counter top.  The only problem with that scenario is, I had no idea how the floor ran in conjunction with the counter top.  How would I be able to level and keep the cabinets tight to the bottom side of the counters?  So what I did was build the cases minus the 4" base.  I used heavy duty cabinet leveling legs so I could adjust the legs up enough to slide the cabinet in under the counter and then adjust the legs to bring the cabinet up tight to the underside of the counter. 

Here's where it got tricky; I could only push the cabinet back in so far since I still had the back of the old cabinet screwed to the wall and was in the way.  I had to leave enough room between the new cabinet and the remaining parts of the old cabinet to be able to get behind and remove the back.   This meant that the back of the new cabinet was sitting in the hole and the front of the cabinet was sitting on the new floor.  I adjusted the legs so it sat flush with the bottom of the underside of the counter and gave support.   I then crawled in behind the new cabinet and carefully removed the old back and stringer, leaving the one that was on the end of the counter next to the refrigerator opening still in place for the added support I needed.  I then loosened the tension on the new cabinet just enough to slide it little by little back into the opening until all four legs were where they should be and could raise the cabinet tight to the bottom of the counter.  I did not fasten the cabinet to the wall yet.

I now took the new cabinet that was for the end next to the refrigerator opening and slide that cabinet back part way and adjusted it to the counter like I did the first one.  Carefully removed the rest of the old cabinet, put in a temporary support at the very edge of the back corner and then slide the new cabinet back into the hole so I could adjust the legs again to make it tight to the underside of the counter.   So far, no signs whats so ever that the counter has been disturbed at all. The caulking has not even cracked along the wall or between the back splash and counter.

  Would you believe that took me a full day just to get that far?  Two cabinets!   I'm exhausted, but pleased with the results, so it was time to call it a day and start the whole process over the next day.

The next day was another challenge because now I was going into a dead corner and supporting the "L" shape of the counter while removing the old and getting the new in took a long time also.  Two more cabinets and undercounter refrigerator and that was it for another day.  The great part was I had a complete run of cabinets done along one wall, around the corner up to the range opening.  The cabinets looked great and the counter top remained perfect!  But now comes the real challenge; I have the other wall to do which includes the opening for the dishwasher, the sink cabinet (with all the plumbing coming thru the wall) another cabinet and then a lazy susan base cabinet in the opposite corner.   Almost 10ft of run with the sink cut out to deal with. 

Let's deal with that on my next post!  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

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