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Modifying existing kitchen cabinets

I just bought a new refrigerator for my parents as the existing one was too small. It is 2 inches taller than the existing space. There is a cabinet space above the refrigerator that has 2 cabinet doors with a vertical piece (the doors close onto) in between them. The cabinets themselves are veneered with oak. The doors are oak as is the vertical piece. My question is how to remove the lower horizontal part of the cabinet (top of refrigerator opening) and the center vertical piece, that are glued in, without damaging the veneer or wood so that i can move it up 2 inches? The cabinet doors i can worry about later.

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Posted 2010-12-01T20:49:19+0000  by diygal diygal

Hello diygal,

It is not going to be easy to just remove the bottom rail and the middle stile without damaging the cabinet due to as you mentioned they are all glued together. The entire face frame is assembled prior to being attached to the cabinet. I would highly recommend raising the entire cabinet to the needed height.

It should only have 2 screws on each side attaching the face frames of the cabinets together and a few screws going into the wall. In most cases the screws are hidden behind the hinges in the face frame and the other screws should be inside the cabinet at the top. I have also seen them screwed in on the top of the cabinet if it has a recessed top area. Make sure you have a helping hand when you take out the last screw going into the wall. You might get lucky and it will come down easy. :smileysurprised:

I know this is probably not what you wanted to hear but I would hate to have you try something that would mess up your cabinet. Then you would have the almost impossible task of trying to match a new cabinet with your existing ones. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Posted 2010-12-01T22:32:43+0000  by Christine_HD_OC

If your cabinets are not touching the ceiling above, I would probably move all of the cabinets in the kitchen up 2" rather than try to modify a cabinet.  that's quite a job even in a cabinet shop. It can be done, but if you have never done it before, I would find someone to help who has. The biggest problem would be the doors. If no other cabinets touch the cabinets on the wall in question, just move those cabinets up the needed amount. Probably wouldn't even be noticeable. Good luck in your endeavors.

Posted 2010-12-02T00:42:59+0000  by highinspect

Hello DIYGal,


I have moved cabinets to make space for appliances in several locations ... microwaves, refrigerators, stacked double ranges, etc. and I will join Christine and Highinspect in suggesting you move the whole cabinet, not try to disassemble your existing cabinet. You'll notice that I gave them both a "Nailed It" because both gave excellent advice.


My decision point about moving one pair of cabinets versus moving every cabinet in the room would be based upon whether the cabinets over the refrigerator are adjacent to other cabinets or are freestanding; a few feet away from the other cabinets in the room. If freestanding, go ahead and move just the pair over the refrigerator. If adjacent to other cabinets, you should review the next paragraph.


It is very common to see symmetrical patterns in cabinet placement ... i.e. the two bookend cabinets level with each other and the single cabinet in the middle higher (usually to accommodate a hood, light, appliance). You will sometimes see a cabinet at the end of a line moved higher, but more often a matching, smaller cabinet is installed there. Take a piece of paper and draw one or more configurations so you can "see" what it will look like before you begin. Also consider your parents ability to reach into the cabinets should you move them all.


Once you're confident about the placement, get help, dismount the cabinet (as Christine instructs), measure and mark the new location, confirm where the studs are behind the new location, and remount the cabinet on those studs. Expect to adjust the upper and lower trim and/or decorative rails.


This is a simple DIY repair and since you're the DIYGal we expect you'll find a great solution!

Posted 2010-12-02T14:15:23+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL

Thanks everybody 4 your suggestions but i can't use them. I guess I didn't give the full description of the refrigerator "cutout". The left side extends all the way to the floor with a return piece that is the width of the left side front of the cabinet. the right side does the same except that there is a counter cabinet and an upper cabinet adjoining it. following that is a turn to the right which includes counter, stove, counter,and upper cabinets the whole length of the wall ending with full height cabinets with built in sliding drawers, microwave above that and another set of cabinet doors above that. Did I mention that the top line of the cabinetry is all the same height topped with crown molding, which is two long contiguous pieces that join at the corner? The cabinets aren't veneered as iI thought. They are solid oak! It does not go to the ceiling as that is open sloped. 

I came up with an idea though... use a jewelers saw to cut through the front fascia (bottom shelf of cabinet) at either side where they join to the vertical front "return" pieces to that depth only (~3/4 ") and the bottom of the stile where it joins to the bottom fascia piece ((same thickness, flush to shelf & extending down 2" or so) of the cabinet opening ). Then knock  the cabinet bottom shelf out carefully. if i damage that piece a little it doesn't show. Cut the bottom of the stile 2", move the shelf up and re-mount it the same way. I have worked with oak quite a bit creating built in cabinetry and restoring (rebuilding) damaged antiques as well as matching patina'd surfaces. It's been awhile but I haven't forgotten how much work it can be.  That is the only way I see having it done by the time the refrigerator is delivered in  a little more than 2 1/2 weeks! Any other ideas appreciated. 

Posted 2010-12-03T17:36:43+0000  by diygal

Hello again diygal,

   Well with all of the other cabinets and the crown molding I also think that a slight modification is in order. Your idea sounds possible just be really careful when removing the bottom shelf due to it might be particle board and it will breakout if you hit it. It most likely will be glued and also nailed in place. If it does breakout you can just cut a new piece and use that. Myself being a woodworker I would see it as a challenge and an opportunity to do something that most would just say get the right size refrigerator. :smileyhappy:

Well good luck and post some pictures once you have completed the modifications.

Posted 2010-12-03T18:09:55+0000  by Christine_HD_OC
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