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Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets

 
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Old 09-30-2015, 11:42 AM   #1
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Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Hi all,

I will be doing a kitchen reno soon. The kitchen is actually in great shape and relatively new, but we are changing the layout, new cabinets, appliances, etc... a total re-do.

On the cabinets right now is a substantial amount of granite countertops. The owners wish to sell the old cabinets as there is quite a market for that around here (big university town, everyone puts suites in their basements to rent etc).

I've seen a lot of granite go in. I know it's generally just siliconed in place and the weight of it does the rest. I've never seen it removed before. From initial research, it's just a matter of breaking the seal of the silicone with a putty knife and thin pry bar, prying the pieces off, and somehow getting the chunks out of the house.

Are there any tips people could recommend if you've tried this before? I don't want to take a sledge to it if I don't have to (worried about damaging the cabinets). How do you deal with seams in long runs? Are they not epoxied together somehow?

Thanks!
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Old 09-30-2015, 11:48 AM   #2
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Backsplash will be silicone. Countertops will have nothing. Trick is to pry off the backsplashes (separately) without cracking them. You'll probably have to remove the sink, as well, so you can slide off the tops and tip them out.

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Old 09-30-2015, 11:49 AM   #3
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Heat will soften the epoxy at the seams. I use a propane torch. Be careful!!

Drywall knives and razor blades along with wooden wedges. Try to impose no twisting load, especially at cutouts (sink,stove)

Do not try and lift tops flat, must be on edge.

DO NOT guarantee to the HO that you can get anything out without damage. In fact, specifically put in writing that damage is likely.

This includes cabinetry.

What you are doing is called DEMO for a reason, even if performed carefully.

MOST IMPORTANT:

Charge for the extra time that you spend to try and save the old stuff, and make it clear that you will get paid for your time whether there is success in saving everything or not!!!
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Old 09-30-2015, 11:54 AM   #4
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Yup. Demo is bad enough. This is a worse project. Lot's of risk for what? Be careful. Also, don't even think about leaving the sink attached and trying to lift them. That's a great way to herniate a disc and worse. Absolutely don't do that.
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Old 09-30-2015, 11:54 AM   #5
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Thanks for the tip on the heat and wooden wedges!

Yes, it is demo, and the demo is not quoted but hourly as I know this kitchen will be a bitch to remove for a few reasons, countertops being one of them.
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Old 09-30-2015, 11:57 AM   #6
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


We just had our granite sub detach and re set some tops to replace a few cabinets that were water damaged. They heated the seams with a heat gun and drove wood shims under the front edges of the tops until they popped loose. They made it look pretty easy, but in the future, we'll still sub it out.
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Old 09-30-2015, 11:58 AM   #7
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


I'm not sure why anyone would leave the sink attached to the countertop first . I've made a lot of mistakes over the years... that's never been one of them!

The risk is for the potential for them to sell their cabinets for a few grand. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But it would be worth it to make a well organized, well educated try before saying 'no'. I've done a lot of remodels where we have successfully salvaged cabinets... just never with granite countertops.
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Old 09-30-2015, 12:00 PM   #8
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


I know your not re using the tops, so I'd go for it in that situation. I just wouldn't do it ourselves if we were re installing them. Good luck!
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Old 09-30-2015, 12:01 PM   #9
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


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Originally Posted by VanIsle View Post
I'm not sure why anyone would leave the sink attached to the countertop first . I've made a lot of mistakes over the years... that's never been one of them!

The risk is for the potential for them to sell their cabinets for a few grand. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But it would be worth it to make a well organized, well educated try before saying 'no'. I've done a lot of remodels where we have successfully salvaged cabinets... just never with granite countertops.
Human nature when you think you're saving something. Removing sinks can be a pita so some would try to leave it to save time and money. If they've done it with formica tops (common), of course folks might try it with stone.
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Old 09-30-2015, 12:02 PM   #10
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


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Backsplash will be silicone. Countertops will have nothing.
It's probably different everywhere, but in our area, I have always seen the tops siliconed down to the cabinet sides, as well as the front overhang taped off in a thin line where it meets the cabinets and siliconed there too.

I never thought that was really necessary, but that's what they do.
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Old 09-30-2015, 12:04 PM   #11
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


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Originally Posted by VanIsle View Post
I'm not sure why anyone would leave the sink attached to the countertop first . I've made a lot of mistakes over the years... that's never been one of them!

The risk is for the potential for them to sell their cabinets for a few grand. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But it would be worth it to make a well organized, well educated try before saying 'no'. I've done a lot of remodels where we have successfully salvaged cabinets... just never with granite countertops.

Our guys left it in. Just 2 of them and it was about a 7 ft long slab. We gave them a hand with it. But it definitely would've been easier without it, especially being an angled sink base with 2 windows above it. The sills made it difficult to get the top up on its edge.
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Old 09-30-2015, 01:34 PM   #12
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


That is bizarre.

Every install I've seen has had the countertops siliconed to the cabinets, usually a blob in each corner type thing. I'm on the west coast, maybe it's so the granite doesn't fly off the cabinets when we get "the big one" ;-).

I called around and was quoted $85/hr per person from a few install companies. (Most journeymen of various trades go for $50-80/hr around here). More expensive then my guys would be, but, they have all the tools and tricks, the proper countertop dolly, and would probably be way faster and in and out in an hour or so, so I'll probably just go that route if their schedule works with our project.
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Old 09-30-2015, 02:50 PM   #13
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Fact: when doing demolition on items that require you to salvage them undamaged, they will shatter in a million trillion pieces, when doing demolition on stuff bound for the dumpster they come out in one piece like a brand new product rolling out the factory. Reverse psychology that top with the biggest hammer you got!
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Old 09-30-2015, 02:54 PM   #14
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


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Originally Posted by VanIsle View Post
That is bizarre.

Every install I've seen has had the countertops siliconed to the cabinets, usually a blob in each corner type thing.
Not seen too many then? or been in different places

Seen silicone, epoxy, liquid nails, glue blocks, hot melt glue, hell even bondo. The range and assortment is rather broad.
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Old 09-30-2015, 04:00 PM   #15
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


A big key to removing silicone adhered items intact is often to go slow. Give it some moments to slowly stretch, stress, and fail. A lot like mirror removal.

Use a shim, then some thicker scrap behind putty knife & pry bar on the splashes. Minimizes scarring, and minimizes drywall blowouts from concentrating the force at unsupported locations. Significant advantages can be gained from the fulcrum variations too.

Maybe rough sharpen one end of a piece of 16 ga. flatstock with a belt sander to shove it under as a long cutter/scraper.

Definitely have some signed paperwork regarding unknown (or improbable) chances of success. And that there are time and cost increases associated with any attempt at salvage.

Is the estimate of recoup $ from the used cabinets realistic? Or is it 3/4 the price of new home depot cabs? You mentioned few thousand. In my book, they'd have to be some very damned nice used cabs, and a bunch of them. And the layout has to work in someone else's space. Owners might be dreaming.

Probably know pretty quick if the will come out intact without huge efforts needed. Pursue it if it allows, shift gears if it doesn't. Prep the owner for this approach.

For the love of god, if you do any kind of heat method, absolutely have a fire extinguisher right there within a few feet. And be sure you are sticking around for a while after any heating.- Don't head right home or off to lunch.

Hope they pop right out for ya.
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Old 09-30-2015, 05:51 PM   #16
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


I've been operating in one general area for a decade. So, seen quite a few, but yes, all from the same 160km radius or so.

Epoxy? Liquid nails? Who on earth would use those products to fasten countertops to wood? What on earth is the point of that? Sometimes "Hey, this'll never move from this location again in 1000 years" isn't a good thing!
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Old 09-30-2015, 06:06 PM   #17
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Thanks for the tips. I've decided to give it to the company that will be installing the new countertops after the new cabinets go in. It's a bit more expensive, but, this isn't the type of project to be learning a new skill on, especially one that has the potential for damage like this one. If it was one piece like an island I would probably go for it, but, there is quite a bit of it, several seams, and it just seems like a better idea to shop this one out. Plus, I'd rather save my back .

You would be amazed at what used cabinets go for here. At my last kitchen the owners sold the cabinets and an island with a 10 year old old fridge and range for $6000. When you think about the money it would cost to haul away all this stuff, and you're getting $6000 to have someone else show up and haul it away for you, that's worth it in my mind.

The owners have made private arrangements to sell the kitchen already to someone who will be putting it in their summer cabin. I have made them well aware of the potential for damage and scratches. The clients are both well connected lawyers in town, there is no messing around with them and everything I am doing or promising them is fully above board and transparent!
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Old 09-30-2015, 06:13 PM   #18
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


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Originally Posted by VanIsle View Post
I've been operating in one general area for a decade. So, seen quite a few, but yes, all from the same 160km radius or so.

Epoxy? Liquid nails? Who on earth would use those products to fasten countertops to wood? What on earth is the point of that? Sometimes "Hey, this'll never move from this location again in 1000 years" isn't a good thing!
Don't know who, typically I don't get to meet them a decade or better later and discuss fastening methods.
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Old 09-30-2015, 06:14 PM   #19
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Yeah, but liquid nail & epoxy does happen. I've seen it. Luckily not often since usually only pros work with slab granite. Not homeowners. With tiles on the counters -look out. It goes from let the grout will hold it together approach, to a dinosaur could walk on this and it will still be fine.

.....In all fairness, the won't move for 1000's of years approach was kinda the scheme of things when the granite itself was actually being "made" eh?
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Old 09-30-2015, 06:27 PM   #20
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Re: Removing Granite Countertops Without Damaging Cabinets


Quote:
Originally Posted by VanIsle View Post
I've been operating in one general area for a decade. So, seen quite a few, but yes, all from the same 160km radius or so.

Epoxy? Liquid nails? Who on earth would use those products to fasten countertops to wood? What on earth is the point of that? Sometimes "Hey, this'll never move from this location again in 1000 years" isn't a good thing!
Expoy and LN could discolor the stone, so I can't see it ever being used by a professional, and I am not sure what home owner could install their own tops. So I would doubt there are that many out there. I've rarely seen silicone.

Since nothing is needed to fasten granite, I am always surprised to see silicone. It's not like the tops are going to move without it.

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