Kitchen remodel – How to install cabinets
Cabinet installations should be straight, square and strong. However, setting cabinets in a kitchen remodel – where floors are more likely to be uneven, and walls, floors and corners don’t meet at 90-degree angles – can present some challenges. Here are a few tips on how to install cabinets in a kitchen remodel that should help you overcome most of them.
After the old cabinets are out
After the old cabinets are out, create a layout for the new cabinets. First, mark lines on the floor 22 inches from the walls where the toe kicks of the base cabinets will align. Within that area, use a straightedge or 2×4 and a level to find the highest spot on the floor. Mark the wall at the point where it meets the wall.
Measure 34½ inches up from that mark and use a level and straightedge to draw a straight, level line around the walls at that height. This is where the top edge of the cabinets will align.
When countertops are installed – adding another 1½ inches, the surface will be at the standard 36 inches. (Tip: Mark another level line 19½ inches above the first one, and you’ll have a reference line for the upper cabinets.)
With a 2×4 and level, check for any raised areas or depressions along the wall and mark them. Depressions may require shims behind the cabinet. If a raised area is sufficient to push the cabinets over the toe kick baseline and you can’t remove it, mark the line on the floor farther from the wall.
If the installation involves corners, use a framing square to see if the corner is out-of-square. If it is, adjust the cabinet layout to compensate or cabinet faces won’t install in a straight line.
Finalize the layout by locating wall studs with a stud finder and marking their positions on the walls. Each base cabinet should be anchored to a stud. Even though they are supported by the floor, fastening base cabinets to the wall helps keep them level and steady.
To be sure pipes and electrical conduit aren’t creating a false reading on the stud finder, drive a 6d nail to locate the edges of each stud and mark the center. Don’t assume spacing is 16 inches on-center. Window and door openings, plumbing vent stacks or poor carpentry could mean studs are irregularly placed.
If there is a corner in the project, start there. (If there isn’t a corner, start with an end unit.) Leave a space between the cabinet and wall as recommended by the cabinet manufacturer. Shim beneath the cabinet to align it with the line you drew on the wall. Check for level and plumb, and add shims as necessary.
Drill and countersink pilot holes in the back of the corner cabinet. Drill one hole at each stud, through shims, and drive 3-inch screws part way into the wall. Check for level, shim if necessary to bring it to level and tighten the screws.
If the cabinets have doors or drawers installed, remove them. Align and fasten the rest of the base cabinets together before screwing them to the corner cabinet and wall.
Be sure they align precisely with the line on the wall, and are vertical from top to bottom and level across the top. Using two levels will make it easier. Shim cabinets off the floor or away from the wall to bring them to level. If you use a shim, place it over the stud, drill a pilot hole and screw through the shim.
How to install cabinets wall to wall
If the cabinets end against a wall, you may need a filler strip. To install a filler strip, leave the last cabinet detached from the others. Clamp a straightedge to the face of the nearest installed unit, extending to the end wall and mark it. Allow a ¾-inch offset behind those marks (for the thickness of the filler piece) and fasten a cleat to the wall. Then install and fasten the last cabinet and measure the gap between face frame and wall.
If the wall is flat, rip-cut the filler board to the required width and fasten it in place. If the wall is irregular, set a marking compass to the width of the gap, lay a strip of 1-inch-wide masking tape along the filler board where it needs to be trimmed. Clamp the board to the end cabinet’s face frame and trace the wall contour with the compass. Remove the board and cut along the scribe line with a jigsaw, then reinstall it to check the fit.
When all cabinets are in place, drill and countersink pilot holes. Attach the cabinets to the studs with at least two screws and trim exposed shims with a utility knife.
Install the toe-kick by nailing a plain ¾-inch filler strip in place; then attach a thinner piece that is finished to match the cabinet. Drill pilot holes and drive 4d finishing nails through the toe-kick into the cabinets. Install doors, drawers, appliances and countertops.