I am remodeling our kitchen. We have a narrow base cabinet that I would like to replace with a wider one. The only way to make room for a wider cabinet is to make our pantry's walls smaller(narrower) I want to give up the least amount of inches that I have to. It is 28 inches deep. The outside width of the pantry is 40 1/2 inches. The inside width is 31 1/2 inches which means that each side wall is aprox. 4 1/2 inches wide. (2x4's and drywall) My question is this, " can I tear down the side walls and rebuild the pantry by turning the 2x4s sideways and then drywall them again?" This would make each side wall 2 inches smaller giving me 4 extra inches to add to my cabinet. I know that I can make the pantry smaller by just moving the walls in. But first I would rather see if making the walls narrower is possible. Would there be any structural or other problems doing it this way?
First you need to establish that this wall is bearing or non-bearing. If you can't be 100% sure, don't start cutting.
If it is bearing, you really can't get away with anything less than what you have, and you can't turn the studs on edge.
If it isn't bearing, you probably have a couple options. You need to understand that you're going to lose some of the wall's stiffness if you cut the wall's depth in half. That will reduce the wall's ability to support shelves on the pantry side. With the base cabinet on the kitchen side, I don't think it will be much of an issue.
You might really consider using 2x6's on edge instead of 2x4's, and perhaps space them fairly close together to increase the wall's stiffness. Be sure you use very dry lumber so it stays dimensionally stable. I would definately not use 2x2's.
Another option would be light gauge steel studs. They're very stiff once sheetrocked. You can get some pretty narrow steel studs, and they're inexpensive. You won't find them at home centers, but commercial construction building suppliers should have a few options.