We had a leaky water pipe under our kitchen sink, which soaked through the cabinets to the wall sheetrock and flooring. Do I have to remove the base cabinets to repair everything or can I just dry it out with a heater and a fan?
Jackson ~ Houston, TX
Hi Jackson. I know it probably sounds like a lot of trouble for what might have been a very small leak, but you really should ensure that everything in the wall behind your base cabinets is dry -- this is even more important with the humidity that's often present during a Houston summer. I don't think that just a heater and fan will dry up any moisture that may still linger underneath your cabinet, below the kitchen flooring, or in the wall.
Depending on the size of the leak, the bottom of your base cabinet may already be damaged beyond repair. If that's the case, it can be cut out to access the kitchen flooring underneath the cabinet that may still be wet. In many cases there isn't flooring under the kitchen cabinets and I know that many homes in Texas are built on slabs, so you may just be dealing with some wet concrete. Cabinet companies sell panels that can be used to construct new bottoms for base cabinets so that might allow you to access the water damage on your kitchen flooring without having to remove the cabinet.
The easiest method for accessing the water damage in the wall might be from the other side where the cabinets aren't in the way. If that isn't possible, the rear panel of the cabinet can be removed to get to the wall. It may be very awkward working in there, but you should be able to cut the sheetrock away to do a thorough drying job. The rear panel can be replaced just as you did with the floor of the cabinet or just left as patched sheetrock.
If the leak was large and extended behind and under several cabinets, you may have to bite the bullet and remove your countertop and the affected cabinets to dry the area adequately. I know it's probably tempting to hope it dries on its own, but the last thing you want is for mold to start growing under and behind your kitchen base cabinets.
It wouldn't hurt to have a plumbing contractor check those leaky pipes so you don't have to go through this experience again. If you suspect that there was a lot of water that made its way into the wall and under the cabinets, it might also be a good idea to get a mold inspection so there's an official inspection report when the time comes to sell your home.