How To Remove Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets

HK Sloan
by HK Sloan

There are many reasons why you may want to remove your granite countertops. Perhaps you’re just ready for a change! You may be craving a change for aesthetic reasons. After all, there are so many choices. You can choose from marble, concrete, quartz, even tile for your new countertops.

Or perhaps you want to take your granite countertops with you when you move. You may plan to keep your granite countertops but need to remove the countertops temporarily to replace water-damaged cabinets.

Kitchens are often the center of a home, and as such, countertops, cabinets, and appliances will inevitably suffer a little more wear and tear. After all, the kitchen is where the family comes together! If you have invested in quality countertops or cabinets in your kitchen, you’ll want to protect that investment when the time comes to replace one or the other.

In this case, remember that granite is expensive, heavy, and hard. You’ll want to take extra precautions to remove your granite countertops without damaging the cabinets (or the granite!)

To remove your granite countertops without damaging the cabinets, first, find a corner. Using your hammer, gently tap your prybar into the area where your countertop and cabinet meet. You’ll want to wiggly your prybar to create the leverage needed to loosen the adhesive. Once you have created some space between your granite countertop and the cabinet, use a putty knife to cut the caulk line filling the seams between the two.

With your hammer, tap wooden shims into the caulk line. Keep prying and shimming until the front of your countertop has been lifted from the cabinet. Continue this process from inside your cabinet, working your way to the back.

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Removing Granite Countertop without Damaging Cabinets

While contractors may seemingly always choose demolition— in this case, breaking the granite countertop into smaller pieces for removal— it is possible to remove your granite countertop without damaging your cabinets.

Understanding How Granite Countertop is Installed

The process of removing a granite countertop can be intimidating if you’re not sure what you’re working with. Since we want to separate the granite countertops from the existing cabinets, it helps to understand how they are being held together.

Typically, the only thing between your granite countertop and your cabinets is a piece of plywood. The plywood should be ¾” thick and cut to fit the cabinets, with no plywood extending beyond the cabinet. So what’s holding your granite countertop in place? A thin line of silicone secures the granite countertop to the plywood, while a line of caulk closes any seams and cracks.

Tools Needed

  • Prybar
  • Wooden shims
  • Putty knife, boxcutter, or thin blade
  • Hammer
  • A helping hand!

How to Safely Remove Granite Countertop

Step One: Find a Corner

To remove your granite countertop without causing any damage to your cabinets, first, you’ll need to start at a corner. Find where the top of the cabinet meets the bottom of the countertop and locate the joint. It may be easier to locate the joint from the inside of the cabinet.

Step Two: Grab Your Prybar

Position the end of the prybar at the joint and tap it gently with your hammer. Once you have a secure hold, move your prybar up and down to create leverage and loosen the adhesive.

Step Three: Cut Caulk Line

After you’ve created some space between the countertop and the cabinet with your pry bar, use a putty knife to cut through the caulk line. The gaps between the countertop and cabinet were all filled with caulk upon installation. Slice horizontally along the caulk line, positioning the blade away from you.

Step Four: Insert Shims

Insert a wooden shim near the corner joint. Since a shim is a wedge with one thin end that tapers into a thicker end, it’s ideal for prying two materials apart. With the thin end positioned at the broken caulk line, lightly tap with your hammer. Continue to tap your wooden shim into the open joint, wedging the shim between the countertop and cabinet. The shim should securely hold up the granite countertop.

Step Five: Keep Prying

Once you have your first shim in place, you can use your prybar to create more space between the countertop and the cabinets. Since the goal is to separate the countertop from the cabinets, keep prying until the whole front edge is lifted.

Step Six: Insert More Shims

Insert more shims as needed, tapping them into the space between the countertop and the cabinet. Granite is very brittle and easy to break, so make sure to go slowly and don’t force anything.

Step Seven: Get Inside Your Cabinet

Now that the front ledge of the countertop has been elevated, position yourself to face the front of the cabinets. Essentially, you want to be looking out from your cabinet. Starting at the front of your cabinet where the countertop is lifted, leverage your pry bar to sever your granite countertop from the top of the cabinet supports.

Step Eight: Wiggle, Wiggle!

Work along the length of the cabinet, slowly moving your way towards the back. Wiggle your prybar generously– really get in there! Add shims as you gradually work towards the wall. Continue until you have successfully lifted your granite countertop from your cabinets.

Step Nine: Grab a Friend

Not only is granite fragile, but it’s also extremely heavy. One slab of granite countertop can weigh hundreds of pounds. That’s why even if you have professionals remove your granite countertop, you’ll have to sign a liability waiver so that they’re not held responsible for any unfortunate accidents.

Granite is a very hard stone, so be careful when carrying it out of your kitchen. A granite slab can easily damage refrigerators, cabinets, drywall, and doorframes during transport.

We recommend having one person per 2-3 feet of counter space to carry the granite countertops out of the kitchen safely. Have a space prepared for you to set the granite countertops facedown on. Always abide by safety guidelines when lifting heavy objects.

Alternative Solutions

Cabinet Refacing

If you’re needing a cabinet upgrade but don’t want to say goodbye to your granite countertops just yet, consider a cabinet refacing job. Cabinet refacing, sometimes called cabinet resurfacing, reinforces your existing cabinet frames and covers them with a veneer of your choice. You can choose new hinges, handles, even molding! Or you can remove kitchen cabinets and keep your countertops.

Hire a Professional

Hire a granite company or fabricator to remove your granite countertops. Professionals are knowledgeable about breaking the seams in your granite countertops without breaking the granite. If you plan to keep your existing cabinets, you’ll want to ensure that they aren’t damaged in the removal process.

Additional Tips

Bring the Heat

For especially stubborn countertops, try using caulk softener or applying heat to separate your granite countertops from your cabinets. Using a hairdryer or burner can help to weaken the adhesive holding the countertop to the cabinet.

Use Painter’s Tape

To avoid damaging your cabinets, line the top edge of your cabinets with Painter’s Tape. Position the tape at the edge of the top of the countertop, close to the caulk line but not covering it. Now, when you slice lengthwise with the putty knife, your cabinet is protected from any scratches. As you situate the prybar from the cabinet’s inside, the cabinet’s top may splinter, but you can sand it down afterward.

If you realize your cabinets have more wear than anticipated, you can always extend your new countertop to cover any obvious flaws up at the top.

Related Questions

Can stains on granite countertops be removed?

If you have an ugly stain on your granite countertop, you don’t have to throw the whole thing out! Since natural stones are porous surfaces, they can absorb liquids that result in an unsightly stain. If the stain hasn’t been absorbed too deeply, you can still remove the stain before it sets. For oil stains, treat with a mixture of acetone and baking soda. When the mixture has the consistency of pancake batter, apply it to the stain and leave for a day. Wash off and allow to dry. For food residue, mold, mildew, or other sanitary concerns, spray with a light bleach solution before resealing your granite countertop.

What can I do with my old granite countertops?

After you have removed your granite countertops, you may be thinking, “Now what?” Granite is not only pricey, but it’s heavy and hard to transport. If you’re trying to stretch your dollar, you can repurpose your old granite countertops into something new, like a kitchen island counter or a cutting board. If you’re just trying to get the countertops out of your house, you can donate them to a fabrication company or nonprofit like Habitat for Humanity or the Fuller Center for Housing.

Do You Need Stone and Granite Countertop Repair?

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Wrapping It Up

It’s not impossible to remove your granite countertop without damaging your cabinets, but it will take some patience. It would be easier to pry up your countertop with a crowbar, but that would leave some marks. To safely separate a granite counter from a cabinet, you will need to slowly pry and shim your way along the length of the countertop. Moving slowly will ensure that no big breaks happen to the cabinets or granite counter.

HK Sloan
HK Sloan

HK Sloan is a freelance writer currently covering DIY Home Improvement, Health, and Lifestyle. Sloan is passionate about improving situations for less, whether it be working on mind, body, or home.

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