A while back we wrote an article about removing bulkheads in the kitchen, entitled Remove Bulkheads for More Cupboard Space.
That article continues to be amongst the most popular of the articles we have published. It refers to removing the bulkheads which exist in some late model kitchen for no purposes other then decorative design as shown in the ‘before’ picture below from the kitchen in our house prior to any renovation. Notice the wall paper on the bulkhead above the cabinets:
Notice the difference with the cabinets going to up to the ceiling in the ‘after’ picture now that the bulkheads have been removed:
Then, a short while ago we received the following email from a visitor to our site (we like getting these emails….it shows that someone is actually reading our articles ):
Hope you can help me! How do you tear down cupboard bulkheads without doing any damage to the ceiling? Where should you start to tear them down? What should you use to tear them down?
Now, I didn’t personally tear down the bulkheads. Bruce, our primary contractor did that. However, I was around enough during the tear-down and rebuild that I have some thoughts. I sent here the following reply which you might also find useful if you are ever facing the same need.
“I would think you first need to know ‘what is behind those bulkheads anyway?’. For us it was easy because the house is a bungalow, meaning we were able to get into the attic and see that there was nothing but empty space in those bulkheads (we had bulkheads in 3 different areas of the kitchen). If there are wires or duct work, you need to be more careful in removing the bulkheads. And, you need to plan on having to do some rewiring and re-ducting (if that is a word).
Next, I think one has to expect at least a little damage to the ceiling (but, that is was drywall ‘mud’ is for). However, the following sequence would typically do I think the least damage.
Cut the vertical drywall of the bulkhead at the ceiling. What I mean by that is to use a sharp utility knife slowly or a fillet knife (patience is a virtue) along the join of the horizontal ceiling and the vertical bulkhead surface. Keep replacing the blade several times. A dull utility knife will be more likely to create tears in the ceiling drywall board’s fabric. Eventually, one will create total separation between the ceiling and bulkhead drywall, allowing one to remove the drywall around the bulkhead.
Then comes the removal of the bulkhead frame. Ours was actually a separate frame which was attached to the corner of the wall and ceiling so its removal was pretty easy. I would think most bulkheads are also simply wood frames attached to the wood framing of the wall and ceiling.
Actually I think the hardest part is installing the replacement drywall for the ceiling area that is now bulkhead free. Why? well you want to ensure that the replacement drywall boards are perfectly aligned with the existing ceiling so you don’t see a bend in the ceiling surface once finished. One of our articles on drywall vs drop ceiling has pictures our basement electrical panel room of what you don’t want to end up having where is shows a definite bend in the ceiling drywall. Notice not one but two bends in the drywalled ceiling in the picture below.
Once the replacement drywall is affixed to the ceiling and wall frames, expect to go through several thin coasts of ‘mud’ & sanding to achieve that consist ant surface so one can’t tell that there was ever a bulkhead there in the first place. And, repaint the entire ceiling at least once, preferably twice once all is said and done.
As well, for us we first removed all of the kitchen cabinetry, so there was no cupboards immediately beneath the bulkheads either. If you are retaining the cabinets immediately beneath the bulkhead, this will complicate matters a little, including needing to protect the cupboard doors so they are not damaged during the bulkhead removal.
Lastly, I suggest since this can be tricky you might want to consider getting a professional to do the removal and the subsequent installation & finishing of the replacement drywall boards on the ceiling and walls. Better a pound wise than penny foolish for something like this. We used lots of contractors, including one to do this for us. I know my limitations and I would not have the patience or knack for this.
I hope this helped you. The best of luck in your renovation project.”
The next day we received the following follow-up email from Theresa:
“Thank-you so much for the information. You were a big help!!”
To continue with our 12 part series of our kitchen remodeling experinces, simply select Part 11.
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