Installing Kitchen Cabinets The Family Handyman

Installing Kitchen Cabinets The Family Handyman

With these basic techniques, you can install your cabinets straight, solid and true

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Step 1: Order the cabinets and assemble key tools and materials

Special combination drill bit

Installing new kitchen cabinets may seem intimidating, but the techniques are really quite simple. Think of it as screwing a series of boxes to the wall and to one another in the proper sequence. If your cabinet plan is correct, your main job is to find the best starting point and keep everything level. In this story well show you how to master these key steps. Well tell you how to lay out the cabinet positions ahead of time to avoid missteps. Then well show you how to install the base cabinets so theyre perfectly aligned and ready to be measured for the new countertop. Last, well show you a simple method for installing the upper wall cabinets. The entire project typically takes less than a day. And depending on how large and elaborate your kitchen is, youll save at least $500 (and probably much more) in installation charges.

You only need a few basic tools to do a first-class job. Youll need an accurate 4-ft. level, a screw gun powerful enough to drive 2-1/2-in. screws and a couple of good screw clamps that open to at least 8 in. Buy a 1/8-in. combination drill/countersink bit for predrilling the screw holes. Youll also need a block plane or belt sander for fine tuning the cuts to fit. A 1-lb. box of 2-1/2-in. screws and three bundles of shims will be enough for nearly any kitchen full of cabinets.

Make sure you have the right cabinets

The cabinets shown are called face frame cabinets, meaning they have a 3/4-in.- thick frame surrounding the front of the cabinet box. European style (also called frameless) cabinets are simple boxes without the face frame, and they require a few special installation steps that we wont cover in this article.

We wont cover planning and ordering your cabinets here either. Just about any home center or lumberyard that sells factory- built cabinets will help you custom-design your kitchen cabinet layout. All the staff needs is a drawing of your existing kitchen floor plan complete with exact appliance locations and room dimensions. But before you finalize the order, closely examine the computer screen and/or printout to make sure doors swing the right direction, end cabinets have finished panels on the ends, and toe-kick boards (1/4-in.-thick strips of finished wood for trimming cabinet bases) and filler strips are included. We highly recommend that you order at least two extra filler strips for backups in case of miscuts. Keep a copy of the printout; youll need it to guide your installation.

When your cabinets arrive, open up the boxes immediately and confirm that each cabinet matches the one on the plan, all the parts are included and theres no damage. A single mistake can delay the entire project. In our order, one cabinet was 6 in. undersized, the toe-kick trim boards were missing and two of the cabinets were seriously damaged. Believe me, it happens!

Step 2: Base cabinets: Set the cabinet height and cabinet order

Photo 1: Mark the cabinet height

Draw a level line on the wall 34-1/2 in. above the highest spot on the floor. Draw vertical lines to mark each cabinet location, label each cabinets position on the wall and find and mark the studs. » class=»step2enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH05OCT_KITCAB_02.JPG»> Photo 1: Mark the cabinet height

Find the highest spot on the floor

Most kitchen floors are very flat, especially in homes less than 40 years old. But its always best to confirm that by looking for the highest spot on the floor anywhere a cabinet will sit. Youll measure up from that spot and draw a level line to define the top of all of the base cabinets (Photo 1).

Find that spot with a straight 8-ft.- long 2×4 (or shorter to fit between the end walls if needed) and a 4-ft. level. Rest the 2×4 with the level on top about 1 ft. away and parallel to the wall and shim the 2×4 until its level. Then mark the highest spot on the floor and repeat near any other walls thatll have cabinets. Continue until you find the highest spot. If you have two high spots, rest the board on both and find the highest one. Measure up the wall behind that spot exactly 34-1/2 in. (standard cabinet height) and mark the wall at that point. Using that mark as a starting point, draw a level line along the walls wherever base cabinets are planned (Photo 1).

Test-fit the base cabinets

In most cases, the corner cabinets determine where the rest of the cabinets go. Thats especially true with lazy Susan corner cabinets, which have face frames facing two directions and have to meet adjoining cabinets perfectly. Our kitchens blind-corner cabinets (Photo 2) are a bit more forgiving. Check your cabinet layout by dry-fitting all the base cabinets, starting with the corner ones, and setting all the cabinets in place as tightly together as possible. If the layout calls for filler strips, make sure to leave spaces for those, too. With the cabinets in place, check to make sure drawers and doors clear one another, appliance openings are the proper widths and sink bases center under windows above. Unless your cabinet plan is flawed, any adjustments youll need to make are just a matter of ripping filler strips narrower or using wider ones. Next, remove the shelves, drawers and doors and mark them and their matching cabinets with numbered masking tape to save time and confusion later. Then move the cabinets out of the room.

Starting with the corner cabinets, carefully measure, draw and label each base cabinet and appliance location on the wall. Use a 4-ft. level and a pencil (Photo 1). The marks should reflect the width of the face frame, not the cabinet back. (The cabinet back is actually 1/2 in. narrower than the front, 1/4 in. on each side.) Use a stud finder or probe with nails to find and mark the stud locations just above the horizontal leveling line.

Step 3: Base cabinets: Level and set the boxes

Photo 2: Position the first cabinet

Set the first cabinet 1/4 in. from the positioning line and shim the base until the top is even with the horizontal line and level from front to back. Drive 2-1/2-in. screws through the back into the wall studs to anchor it. » class=»step3enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH05OCT_KITCAB_04.JPG»> Photo 2: Position the first cabinet

Photo 2: Position the first cabinet

Set the first cabinet 1/4 in. from the positioning line and shim the base until the top is even with the horizontal line and level from front to back. Drive 2-1/2-in. screws through the back into the wall studs to anchor it.

Photo 3: Screw face frames together

With these basic techniques, you can install your cabinets straight, solid and true

Don’t have an account yet?

Sign up today for FREE and become part of The Family Handyman community of DIYers.

User Comments

Step 1: Order the cabinets and assemble key tools and materials

Special combination drill bit

Installing new kitchen cabinets may seem intimidating, but the techniques are really quite simple. Think of it as screwing a series of boxes to the wall and to one another in the proper sequence. If your cabinet plan is correct, your main job is to find the best starting point and keep everything level. In this story well show you how to master these key steps. Well tell you how to lay out the cabinet positions ahead of time to avoid missteps. Then well show you how to install the base cabinets so theyre perfectly aligned and ready to be measured for the new countertop. Last, well show you a simple method for installing the upper wall cabinets. The entire project typically takes less than a day. And depending on how large and elaborate your kitchen is, youll save at least $500 (and probably much more) in installation charges.

You only need a few basic tools to do a first-class job. Youll need an accurate 4-ft. level, a screw gun powerful enough to drive 2-1/2-in. screws and a couple of good screw clamps that open to at least 8 in. Buy a 1/8-in. combination drill/countersink bit for predrilling the screw holes. Youll also need a block plane or belt sander for fine tuning the cuts to fit. A 1-lb. box of 2-1/2-in. screws and three bundles of shims will be enough for nearly any kitchen full of cabinets.

Make sure you have the right cabinets

Installing Kitchen Cabinets The Family Handyman

The cabinets shown are called face frame cabinets, meaning they have a 3/4-in.- thick frame surrounding the front of the cabinet box. European style (also called frameless) cabinets are simple boxes without the face frame, and they require a few special installation steps that we wont cover in this article.

We wont cover planning and ordering your cabinets here either. Just about any home center or lumberyard that sells factory- built cabinets will help you custom-design your kitchen cabinet layout. All the staff needs is a drawing of your existing kitchen floor plan complete with exact appliance locations and room dimensions. But before you finalize the order, closely examine the computer screen and/or printout to make sure doors swing the right direction, end cabinets have finished panels on the ends, and toe-kick boards (1/4-in.-thick strips of finished wood for trimming cabinet bases) and filler strips are included. We highly recommend that you order at least two extra filler strips for backups in case of miscuts. Keep a copy of the printout; youll need it to guide your installation.

When your cabinets arrive, open up the boxes immediately and confirm that each cabinet matches the one on the plan, all the parts are included and theres no damage. A single mistake can delay the entire project. In our order, one cabinet was 6 in. undersized, the toe-kick trim boards were missing and two of the cabinets were seriously damaged. Believe me, it happens!

Step 2: Base cabinets: Set the cabinet height and cabinet order

Photo 1: Mark the cabinet height

Draw a level line on the wall 34-1/2 in. above the highest spot on the floor. Draw vertical lines to mark each cabinet location, label each cabinets position on the wall and find and mark the studs. » class=»step2enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH05OCT_KITCAB_02.JPG»> Photo 1: Mark the cabinet height

Find the highest spot on the floor

Most kitchen floors are very flat, especially in homes less than 40 years old. But its always best to confirm that by looking for the highest spot on the floor anywhere a cabinet will sit. Youll measure up from that spot and draw a level line to define the top of all of the base cabinets (Photo 1).

Find that spot with a straight 8-ft.- long 2×4 (or shorter to fit between the end walls if needed) and a 4-ft. level. Rest the 2×4 with the level on top about 1 ft. away and parallel to the wall and shim the 2×4 until its level. Then mark the highest spot on the floor and repeat near any other walls thatll have cabinets. Continue until you find the highest spot. If you have two high spots, rest the board on both and find the highest one. Measure up the wall behind that spot exactly 34-1/2 in. (standard cabinet height) and mark the wall at that point. Using that mark as a starting point, draw a level line along the walls wherever base cabinets are planned (Photo 1).

Test-fit the base cabinets

In most cases, the corner cabinets determine where the rest of the cabinets go. Thats especially true with lazy Susan corner cabinets, which have face frames facing two directions and have to meet adjoining cabinets perfectly. Our kitchens blind-corner cabinets (Photo 2) are a bit more forgiving. Check your cabinet layout by dry-fitting all the base cabinets, starting with the corner ones, and setting all the cabinets in place as tightly together as possible. If the layout calls for filler strips, make sure to leave spaces for those, too. With the cabinets in place, check to make sure drawers and doors clear one another, appliance openings are the proper widths and sink bases center under windows above. Unless your cabinet plan is flawed, any adjustments youll need to make are just a matter of ripping filler strips narrower or using wider ones. Next, remove the shelves, drawers and doors and mark them and their matching cabinets with numbered masking tape to save time and confusion later. Then move the cabinets out of the room.

Starting with the corner cabinets, carefully measure, draw and label each base cabinet and appliance location on the wall. Use a 4-ft. level and a pencil (Photo 1). The marks should reflect the width of the face frame, not the cabinet back. (The cabinet back is actually 1/2 in. narrower than the front, 1/4 in. on each side.) Use a stud finder or probe with nails to find and mark the stud locations just above the horizontal leveling line.

Step 3: Base cabinets: Level and set the boxes

Photo 2: Position the first cabinet

Set the first cabinet 1/4 in. from the positioning line and shim the base until the top is even with the horizontal line and level from front to back. Drive 2-1/2-in. screws through the back into the wall studs to anchor it. » class=»step3enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH05OCT_KITCAB_04.JPG»> Photo 2: Position the first cabinet

Photo 2: Position the first cabinet

Set the first cabinet 1/4 in. from the positioning line and shim the base until the top is even with the horizontal line and level from front to back. Drive 2-1/2-in. screws through the back into the wall studs to anchor it.

Photo 3: Screw face frames together


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