The other day at the Woman to Woman Magazine Expo, a woman asked me if countertops can be removed without damage to the surrounding tile splash or adjoining cabinetry. She had a tile backsplash, which she was happy with, set over her laminate countertops and desired to replace her tops with some other countertop material, without having to replace her tile.

The TV shows that so often show remodeling projects underway so often portray the demolition phase as a careless, low-skill phase of the project that anyone can perform to get rid of the old and make way for the new. (The individual is usually equipped with a sledge hammer in hand).

Demolition during remodeling should be performed with a mindset of surgical precision so as to not cause damage to surrounding areas not intended to be repaired or remodeled.

It requires creative and thoroughly detailed steps in order to preserve the remaining portions of the home. Even when this approach is used, unintended negative consequences may still occur.

Just imagine what happens when the demolition phase is approached without this careful approach.

With this thought process in mind, design a way to control the airborne dust that will be generated. Whether you choose to use a shop vacuum or a window fan to create a negative draft to the outside, with dust shields in the doorways, don’t skip this step first.

Once the dust control measures are in place, disconnect the plumbing fixtures from the sink faucet and remove the sink. This allows an easy point to begin cutting the old tops away.

Using a Fein tool or similar brand, you can carefully cut across the narrow portion of the top, along the front and back of the sink’s cut-out.

Cutting the old top in small sections will allow you to remove it carefully, rather than thinking you have to remove the entire countertop in one piece.

It may be necessary to cut along the old laminate top’s backsplash so that the main top can be slid out allowing for the backsplash to slide down and away from the tile.

When sliding the old laminated backsplash away from the tile, use a utility knife with a sharp razor blade to slice away any caulking that may be applied along the bottom of the tile.

Long cuts are best made with another cutting tool such as a reciprocating saw to speed up the process, utilizing the Fein tool at the ends of the long cut in order to control and finesse the process.

Many kitchens have separate sections with no sink cutout. For those pieces, use the reciprocating saw for the long cuts and any cross cuts you may need being careful not to cut through any cabinet frames or supports and finish the front edge and end cuts with the more controlled Fein tool.

Now, if she had only asked how to install the new tops without damage to the surrounding tile and cabinetry … but that’s another story.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding projects you are working on and would like addressed, email me at

JD Norris is the owner/operator of DreamMaker Bath&Kitchen and a certified S.C. Master Builder, certified “Aging in Place” Specialist and certified Green Professional.