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Sometimes it comes time to tear down the old and build up the new -- especially in kitchens! People seem to be especially enamored of redoing kitchens to follow design trends, family resizing, or simple updating to keep the house current, livable, and sellable. One way to achieve a different look in the kitchen is by changing the countertop.

Removing a countertop, while not as difficult as installing one, does require some care. You must be careful not to harm the cabinets below or the walls behind the counter. Also, any fixtures such as sinks or cooktops must be carefully removed if they are to be reused.

Another concern is safety. Many construction related injuries occur during the demolition process. Broken tiles, Formica and rusty nails can be very sharp. So, pay special attention to safety procedures.



Skill Level & Time to Complete

  • Beginner - 4 hours 
  • Intermediate - 3-1/2 hours
  • Advanced - 3 hours
  - Check for wires or water pipe that may be routed just under the countertop. In older homes water and electric lines were often routed through cabinets during a remodel.
  - Be sure to wear work gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself from sharp edges and debris.
  - Put an old blanket or a piece of plywood over the floor where you are working. It is very easy to damage a linoleum or wood floor with debris from demolition.
  - Remove the drawers from your counter as well as anything stored in them or in the base cabinets before you begin. Once the countertop is gone there will be nothing to keep debris from falling into your cabinets.


Materials List
   Extra reciprocating saw blades
   Plastic sheeting (for dust control)
Tools List
   Reciprocating saw
   Circular saw with masonry blade (for tile counters)
   Pry bar
   Masonry chisel (for tile counters)
   Tongue and groove pliers
   Adjustable wrench
   Putty knife
   Utility knife
   Wire cutters (for tile counters)
   Work Gloves
   Safety Glasses


1. Shut off water lines to the sink and/or the gas line to the cooktop by first turning the shutoff valves to the "off" position. Then, use an adjustable wrench to disconnect the supply lines from the valves.
2. To disconnect the drain lines, loosen the nuts on the p-trap with 2 pairs of tongue & groove pliers and slip it off the tailpiece. The rest of the drainpipes as well as the faucet can be removed when the sink is out.
3. Remove the cooktop or sink from the counter by loosening any mounting screws underneath and (if necessary) gently prying up on the fixture.
4. For sinks that are tiled into the countertop, first remove the 1/4 round tiles around the sinks and any mortar under the tiles. Without the tiles and mortar in place the sink should just lift out. If it doesn’t lift out easily, it is most likely secured underneath with adhesive, see the next step.
5. If your sink is set on top of the tiles without any underside mounting screws (a rim mount sink) then you will need to cut the adhesive bead under the perimeter of the sink in order to remove it. A thin, flexible putty knife works best for this. Just work the putty knife in under the rim of the sink and around the perimeter. When the bead is broken the sink will lift out.


6. Countertops are frequently held in place with screws that go through corner blocks in the base cabinets. Inspect the underside of your countertop from inside the base cabinets to locate any screws. Remove all screws. In some cases, the countertop can be lifted off after these screws are removed. If not, continue on.
7. If your countertop is a laminate or other wood backed material, begin prying up the surface. It is usually best to start at a corner and force the pry bar between the base cabinet and the countertop and slowly lift up until it becomes loose. At some point it may become practical to cut the countertop into pieces with the reciprocating saw so that sections of it may be removed more easily. Also, if it is difficult to pry up some sections, use the reciprocating saw (with a metal cutting blade) to cut horizontally between the countertop and the cabinet severing any nails or screws that might be holding the countertop down.
8. If your countertop is tiled, first remove any tiles that are on the wall adjacent to the counter. To do this, force the pry bar between the plaster on the wall and the mortar behind the tiles and gently pry off the tiles. When the tiles are off the wall, remove the edge tiles along the front of the counter and repeat the procedure on the countertop, prying between the wood underlayment and the bottom of the mortar. Use the circular saw with a masonry blade or wire cutters to cut away sections of the tile as you work.
9. After the tiles and mortar are removed, remove the wood underlayment that the tiles were sitting on as you would a Formica countertop as in step 6.

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