A Simple Guide on How to Install Kitchen Cabinets

Colonial Shaker

Unless you’re experienced in D.I.Y, the prospect of installing your own kitchen cabinets is likely to fill you with fear. On the other hand, the cost of hiring a professional to do it for you is probably just as daunting. Fortunately, with a little know-how and a few basic techniques, you can learn how to install kitchen cabinets like a pro. As Home Tips notes, the key to a successful installation is to remember to keep things level and plump: the fastest route to a shoddy looking end result is slanted cabinets that look like they’ve had one too many alcoholic beverages. Because of the weight of the cabinets, you will need to engage at least one helper: they don’t necessarily need to be a professional, but they will need to be strong enough to hold up the weight of the cabinets while you get to work leveling and drilling. Once you’ve found a handy pair of second hands, grab your drill, screws, and cabinets and get to work with our simple how-to guide to installing kitchen cabinets.

Preparing for Installation

Before you even begin to think about installing the cabinets, make sure that any rough wiring and plumbing has been completed (if needed). If you’re replacing existing cabinets, remove the old cabinets carefully to prevent any damage to either the cabinets themselves or to the surrounds. If you’re refitting your entire kitchen, make sure to install the cabinets before you finish installing the flooring. Not only will this save you money by not using more flooring than is actually required, but it’ll also save you from running the risk of damage your new flooring during the installation process.

Installing Wall Cabinets

To ensure you’re not tripping over base cabinets while you’re trying to install wall cabinets, it’s always to best to install wall cabinets first. After you’ve unpacked your cabinets, check that you’re not missing any essential components. Occasionally, drawers will arrive disassembled; if they do, make sure to assemble according to the instructions prior to installing the wall cabinets. Begin by installing the upper wall cabinets. Because of the weight of the cabinets, it’s vital to choose the correct screw. Resist the temptation to use drywall screws (which are unlikely to stand up to the pressure). The screws that you use must be able to go through the strongest part of the cabinet (such as the support rail), and you should count on using at least 3 screws per cabinet.

Step 1: Measure and Mark

  • Measure from the highest point of your floor up 34.5 inches and draw a level line across the wall. This mark indicates the top of the base cabinets.
  • Measure enough 19.5 inches above the 34.5-inch line and mark another level line. This will indicate the bottom of the wall cabinets.
  • Using a stud finder, find the wall studs. Mark their locations above and 6 inches below the mark you’ve made to indicate the bottom of the wall cabinets. Mark a vertical line between the top and bottom marks to show the center of the studs.
  • Using 3 or 4 2-inch screws, attach a temporary 1 by 3 support rail to the wall, making sure that the top edge of the rail is aligned to the line for the bottom of the wall cabinets.

Step 2: Install

Now your walls are marked up, you can begin with the next steps of installation. Remove any doors, shelves or drawers to make the cabinet easier to install. Using painter’s tape, mark each door, drawer, and shelf so you know where to return them when ready. If your cabinets include a corner wall cabinet, install this first. If the cabinet has a support rail, drill pilot holes through this and into the wall studs. Using screws that are long enough to penetrate the studs by around 1.5 inches, screw the cabinet into the wall. If the cabinet doesn’t have a support rail, simply drill through the cabinet’s back. Once you’ve installed the corner cabinet, you can move on to the adjacent cabinet. Before attaching each cabinet, use a clamp to secure it to the adjacent cabinet to make sure its level. If you’re installing face frame cabinets, you may find the easiest way of screwing the cabinets together is to via the sides of the face frame. If you’re installing frameless cabinets, on the other hand, bolt the cabinets together by drilling bolt holes through shelf pegs holes, and then attaching.

Installing Base Cabinets

Once your wall cabinets are in place, you can start on the next stage of your installation: the base cabinets. If the base cabinets are in front of any drainpipe, plugs or waterlines, be sure to cut out holes large enough to allow access to the fixtures in case of any future repair needs.

Step 1: Level

Begin by leveling the corner cabinet. As Hunker notes, you may find a shim is helpful in correcting any slant. Once you’re confident it’s level from both the front to back and side to side, screw the cabinet to the wall studs.

Step 2: Install

Once the corner cabinet is installed, begin attaching the adjoining cabinets. Check that’s its level (if necessary, use shims again as per the first step) before clamping the face frames together. Fasten the frames by screwing one face frame into the other.

Step 3: Finish

Permanently fix the cabinets to the walls by screwing through the cabinet back into the wall studs. Repeat this method for the remaining cabinets, making sure that as you install, you regularly check that the lower cabinets are lined up as they should be with the upper cabinets. As Home Tips notes, once you’ve finished installing all the cabinets, the final step will be to trim any excess material from the shins (if used as part of the leveling process).


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