For decades, cabinet hutches (or china cabinets) were the symbols of establishing a new life as a married couple in your new home. China hutches are tall pieces of furniture with a cabinet as a base and a hutch on top of it. But cabinet hutches are not as popular as they once were.
So perhaps you are in the position of dismantling a cabinet hutch, either to move or to repurpose it. The question is, how? It actually is not that hard to remove a hutch from a cabinet base, but you do need to proceed methodically. Read on to learn the four steps you need to know to remove a cabinet hutch.
Remove Items from the Hutch
At the risk of sounding obvious, if the hutch is full, remove the items. Sometimes projects seem easy when in fact they are a little more complicated and require a little more attention than you first assumed. By removing the items from the cabinet, you will be ready for action.
You should take a moment to plan out what you are going to do with the items before you remove them. Hutches can often be very heavy. You do not want to be struggling to lift one off of its base with dishes stacked precariously behind you. Also, you will need access to the cabinet portion (more on that later), so empty that as well.
If you are going to transfer the dishes or hutch items to another cabinet, have the space ready to go. However, if you are going to pack them away and put them in storage, have the following supplies ready:
- Packing tape
- Packing paper
You might also want to have a sharpie near at hand to label the boxes before you shove them off somewhere.
Remove Shelves and Doors
Hutches typically have glass doors and often have glass shelves to display the china pieces within, which is part of the appeal of the hutch. But the glass doors and shelves (even if those are wood) can be a hazard when moving the hutch. The doors could open or the shelves slide out of their places.
For this reason, it is best to remove the shelves and the doors before you remove the hutch. Here are a few things to consider.
Removing the Doors
If you remove the doors first, it will be easier to remove the shelves inside. To do so, you will need:
- A flat head or Phillips head screwdriver
- A bag to put the screws and possibly the hardware in
China hutch doors are connected to the hutch by metal hinges, usually at the top and bottom (and sometimes in the middle). You can choose to remove either the door from the hinges or the hinges from the door.
It does not really matter, except with regards to what you want to do with the hutch. If you plan on reusing it without the doors, then you may as well remove the hinges from the hutch. Just be sure that you project the glass doors with something. Layer towels over them if you stack them off to the side.
Hinges can be connected with either flat or Phillips head screws. It is best to keep both types of screwdrivers around for this project because sometimes different parts of the hutch will be put together with different types of screws (it does not make sense, but it happens).
Finally, be sure to keep a small bag of some sort handy for the screws and the hardware if you end up removing it. Even a sandwich bag works. You always say you will not lose track of the screws this time, but you always end up losing track of the screws.
Removing the Shelves
Now that the doors are off, you need to remove the shelves. Whether they are glass shelves or wood shelves, they are usually supported by plastic nubs that have been slid into the same level in a series of small circles. Generally speaking, there are four of them per shelf.
Usually shelves of a hutch stretch from one side to the other, but occasionally you will find a divider in the middle, which means double the shelves to remove. But it also means that the shelves are easy to pull out. Simply tilt them to one side and remove them.
However, if the shelves stretch from one side of the hutch to the other, you will have a little harder time with it. In this case, you will need to:
- Tilt the shelf to one side
- Get enough play so slide the shelf below one set of nubs
- Now that you have more play with the shelf, angle the back of the shelf upward and front downward
- While doing that, start pivoting one end of the shelf toward you until it passes the end of the hutch and you can pull it free
Honestly, this can sometimes be the most annoying part of the project. Sometimes shelves are put with very little wiggle room, so it takes some care and maneuvering to get them out. The good news is that usually, only one shelf is a pain. Once you get the first one out, the rest should come easily enough.
Remove the Hardware Securing the Hutch
Hutches are typically going to be secured to the base cabinet by:
- Brackets that attach to the cabinet and the hutch on the back of the unit
- Screws that are driven into the hutch walls from under the top of the cabinet
The first order of business is to move the cabinet hutch out from the wall so you can comfortably access the back of the unit (this is why you emptied the cabinet).
Then you need to do some exploring and find out which method was used to attach it. You will need to stick your head into the cabinet and probably use a flashlight to find the screws (this is also why you emptied the cabinet).
Once you have located the screws, unscrew them with whatever screwdriver fits and place the screws and brackets into your handy bag.
Remove the Hutch
At this point, most of the work is done. You simply need to remove the hutch. Do not try to remove it by yourself. Get help.
Also, keep these tips in mind:
- Lift the hutch straight up because sometimes dowels sit in both the hutch and cabinet to keep it secure
- Have a place planned out where you will put the hutch and lift with your knees
That is basically it. Now you just need to figure out what you are going to do with it.
What Can I Do With an Old Hutch?
Just because cabinet hutches are out of style at the moment, does not mean that their components are not useful. It is astonishing what you can do with a hutch if you simply put furniture legs on the bottom:
- Turn it into an entertainment center (depending on its width)
- Use it as a stand-alone display case
- Use it as a bookshelf
The possibilities are actually quite diverse. You can extend one of the shelves and use it as a standing desk, for example. You can also choose to refurnish or repaint the unit, leave the doors off, and use it as an open cabinet hutch (which can be very fetching). Whatever you decide to do, you have a lot to work with.
Taking apart a cabinet hutch is pretty straightforward. Simply prepare for the job by having the right tools and understand how the two pieces are put together.
After that, get some help for the lifting and a little patience for maneuvering the shelves and you will be fine.