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Is drywall necessary when bulkheads are removed and new cabinets will cover the space made by the removal? Are there safety issues if the drywall is not replaced?

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I would fill in the drywall. This is minutes of time and maybe $20 - you don't have to mud/tape. You want all of your cabinets backing to a semi-flat surface and having the top foot or two different might present some install issues.

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Generally, you can safely fasten cabinets to studs without drywall. There may be some exceptions. For example, in the city where I live, Philadelphia, you are required to put 5/8" rated drywall on non-masonry exterior walls.

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