Kitchen and Bathroom Design | Hillside Kitchens
How to Install Kitchen Cabinets?
Reyyan Jazzar
Interior Home & Kitchen Designer
16 January 2022

New Cabinetry

When it’s time to update the look of your home, breathe life into your kitchen, garage, laundry room, or closets with new cabinets. Installing kitchen cabinets may seem like a daunting project, but our three-part installation series shows you how to confidently prep, measure, and install kitchen cabinets and transform your space.

Measure the Space

Measure the Space

Before installing kitchen cabinets and to help create a plan for your new cabinetry, you need to measure the space. Measure the walls, doors, and windows to the outside of the moulding. Other window measurements you need to take include floor to windows, bottom to the top of windows, and top of windows to the ceiling. Note any plumbing, gas, and electric lines on your drawing as you go.

If you want to have professional help for measuring one of our team members will arrive at your location and take measurements for no fees at all. All you need to do is schedule a free measurement appointment or call us to learn about our whole kitchen remodel process.

Remove Existing Cabinetry

If there are existing cabinets, you’ll need to remove them. Turn off the electricity, gas, and plumbing/water supply lines to the kitchen. Remove the doors and drawers from your cabinets and then disconnect and remove your appliances. Remove the sink, countertop, moulding, and toe kicks on the existing cabinetry. Finally, back out the screws in the face frames of the cabinetry, and unscrew the backs from the wall to pull everything out.

Prepare for New Cabinetry

Prepare for New Cabinetry

After your old cabinets are removed, prepare the area for your new cabinets. Repair the walls by patching and smoothing any holes. Next, apply a couple of coats of paint to the area.

Good to Know:

If your flooring is damaged, make any necessary repairs.

If you’re installing new floors in the area where you’re adding cabinets, this is the time to do it. Adding flooring at this stage will allow it to extend underneath the new cabinetry. The exception is if you’re installing a floating floor. In that case, you’ll want to install the cabinets first and run the flooring to the cabinet fronts.

Instructions

Step 1: Mark the Depth and Height

Mark the depth of the cabinet bases on the floor. For height, use a level to find the highest spot on the floor, and mark the cabinet height at this spot. Extend the line along the work area.

Step 2: Measure for a Floating Floor

If you’re installing a floating floor that goes in after the cabinets, raise them above the flooring so your appliances will fit under the countertops. For easy measuring, use a piece of flooring and underlayment as a guide to mark the height by setting them on the high spot.

Step 3: Mark the Studs

For upper cabinets, mark all the studs inside the lines. You can get a more accurate visual representation if you mark the layout of your cabinets and appliances on the walls.

Installing the Upper Cabinets

Installing the Upper Cabinets

With your room prepped and guidelines marked, it's time to hang the kitchen wall cabinets. It’s best to install upper cabinets before the base cabinets go in. Follow the steps below to ensure an efficient and accurate wall cabinet installation.

  • Attach the ledger.

Start by attaching a straight 1-inch-by-4-inch ledger to the wall at the 54-inch line. A ledger is a board that helps support the cabinetry as you work. Use a level to ensure your cabinets are installed accurately.

Tip

If your cabinets are already assembled, remove the doors for easier handling.

  • Measure the cabinets.

Begin with a corner hanging cabinet or the one on the far left if you don’t have a corner unit. Use the guidelines you created on the wall and your tape measure to mark the distance from the cabinet edge to the stud and transfer this to the cabinet. Remember to account for the cabinet's face frame.

  • Drill the Cabinets.

Drill holes through the cabinet backs at the top, middle and bottom rails. Your top and bottom holes should be about 3/4 inches from the cabinet’s edge. Do this step for each unit.

  • Mount the First Hanging Cabinet.

Set the cabinet in place and drive the mounting screws into the wall. Don’t overtighten the screws. Tighten them just enough to hold the cabinet in place.

Make sure that the cabinet is level and plumb. Shim behind the cabinet if needed.

  • Mount the Second Cabinet.

Set the second cabinet into position, and line up the faces so that they’re even at the bottom and across the front. Use clamps to hold the cabinets together and then drive screws into the back. Make sure these are also just tight enough to hold the cabinets in place for now. Use shims in the back to make it plumb if necessary.

  • Drill and Connect the Upper Cabinets.

Keep the faces even and use a drill with a countersink/taper twist drill bit to drill through the face frames and connect with the cabinet screws.

Continue the process until you reach the end of the row, continually checking that the faces and edges are even and level.

Tip

If your wall is bowed, it helps to glue shims over the stud lines where you’ll secure the mounting screws. This will prevent the cabinet backs from bowing when you drive in the screws.

  • Fill the Gaps.

When you get to the end of the row, you may have a space between the hanging cabinet and the wall. Use cabinet fill strips to fill the gap. Measure the gap at the top and the bottom and cut your filler strip to fit.

For uneven walls, clamp the filler strip to the outside of the cabinet face. Use a compass to draw a line that follows the contours of the wall. Cut the piece along the line at a 7- to 10-degree bevel to help fit it against the wall.

  • Finish Mounting the Wall Cabinet.

Once all the cabinets are connected, drive in the rear screws and remove the clamps. Remove the ledger board and touch up any wall damage.

  • Install the Crown Moulding.

If you’re installing crown moulding, attach it with finish nails. Hang the doors and make hinge adjustments for keeping the door.

Istalling the Base Cabinets

Installing the Base Cabinets

With the upper cabinets installed, you can now install the base cabinets. Be sure to double-check your measurements for accuracy.

Instructions

Step 1: Place the Corner Cabinet

Starting with a corner, use the guides you marked on the walls to transfer the stud locations to the cabinets, taking care to account for the face frame. Drill the holes and set the corner cabinet in place. The horizontal line on the wall is your main guide. The line on the floor is your secondary guide. Line up the top and shim underneath the base, front and back to get it level and plumb.

When everything aligns, drive the screws at the back just tight enough to hold the cabinet in place.

Good to Know: If the wall is extremely bowed, shims can keep the cabinet square and fill the space between the base and the wall.

Step 2: Drill, Position, and Shim the Second Cabinet

For the second cabinet, drill pilot holes through the back and position the cabinet next to the first. Even the faces, shimming where necessary as shown, clamp the cabinet faces together. Drive screws into the back, just tight enough to hold it in place.

Step 3: Drill Additional Pilot Holes

Drill pilot holes with a countersink/taper bit through the face frames and connect the cabinets with #8 screws.

Good to Know: If your wall is bowed, glue shims over the stud lines where you’ll secure the mounting screws. This will prevent the cabinet backs from bowing when you drive in the screws.

Good to Know: To even the cabinet tops against the back wall, shim under the cabinet base against the wall.

Step 4: Cut Holes for Plumbing

Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you reach the sink base.

When you get to the sink base, cut the holes for plumbing in the back and install the cabinet like the rest.

Good to Know: As you progress, keep the screws loose so you can realign as you go. You’ll go back and retighten later. Keep the faces and tops lined up with your reference line.

Step 5: Shim Under the Base

If you didn't raise your cabinets for floating floors, you’ll likely need to shim under the base near the wall. Use the shim of the adjacent cabinet as a guide. When you cut that shim, cut another and leave it in place.

Step 6: Put the Last Cabinet in Place

When you reach the end of the row, don’t be alarmed if you have a space at the end. Set the last cabinet in place without connecting it, and measure the gap at the top and bottom. Mark and cut the filler strip.

Step 7: Attach the Filler Strip

For uneven walls, clamp the filler strip to the frame. Use a compass to scribe a line following the contours of the wall and cut at a 7- to 10-degree bevel. Check the width of the piece, mark and cut the cabinet side if you need to, or use a plane for minor adjustments. Clamp the filler piece flush to the cabinet, drill holes through the frame and attach the piece with screws.

Step 8: Tighten the Cabinet Screws

Once all the cabinets are connected, tighten the rear screws and remove the clamps.

Step 9: Attach the 1-by-2s

If you have spaces without a frame to support the countertop, such as end walls and corner cabinets, attach 1-by-2s to the wall with screws.

Step 10: Attach the Toe Kicks

Cut and attach the toe kicks with finished nails. If you’re installing a floating floor, complete your flooring installation before this step.

Caution: Don’t add the drawers and doors just yet. You still need to attach the countertop.

Adjust Cabinet Hinges

Adjust Cabinet Hinges

Over time, you may notice that your cabinet doors don’t align properly or they’re out of balance. Adjusting cabinet hinges is an easy fix that only requires a Phillips screwdriver. There are various types of cabinet hinges available, and they typically work the same. Many cabinets have a three-way hinge adjustment, with each screw for a specific area of adjustment. One screw adjusts the depth, another screw adjusts the side-to-side adjustment, and the third screw adjusts the height of the door.

Tip

Before you begin, make sure your mounting screws — the hardware that’s directly attached to the cabinet — are tight so that the cabinet door is secure.

Instructions

Step 1: Adjust the Cabinet Hinge Vertical

If cabinet doors aren’t aligned along the bottom, loosen the vertical adjustment screw. Move the door up or down as needed and then retighten the screws.

Caution: Never use a drill to adjust the hinges. Doing so could result in overtightening and/or stripping the screws.

Step 2: Adjust the Cabinet Hinge Depth

The screw furthest from the cabinet door, the in-out screw, adjusts the depth of the cabinet door, or the distance between the door and the face frame.

Step 3: Adjust the Cabinet Hinge Spacing

When there’s too much spacing between two cabinet doors, correct this by adjusting the side-to-side screws, turning clockwise or counterclockwise as needed to close the gap.

Reyyan Jazzar
Reyyan Jazzar
Interior Home & Kitchen Designer
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