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How to Install Kitchen Cabinets

Handmade cabinets add an element of style and customization to any home. Learn how to install handcrafted wooden cabinets in the kitchen.

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  • Time

    Several Weekends

  • Price Range

    $2,500 - $5,000

  • Difficulty

    Hard

Highlights:

Step 1: Measure the Space

Determine the layout of the cabinets in the kitchen. Measure the area where the cabinets will be installed (Image 1). When planning and measuring for cabinets, take into account plumbing, electrical outlets and total size of the room. Make careful measurements and allow room for the placement of the sink, appliances and outlets (Image 2).

Step 2: Attach the Upper Cabinets

Begin by attaching the upper corner cabinet with a cabinet jack (which holds the upper cabinet steady and in place as you measure and install). Attach upper cabinets first (installing lower cabinets first makes the process of installing upper cabinets cumbersome and more difficult).

cabinet jack will help steady cabinet installation

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 3: Measure for the Countertop

Once the height of the cabinet bottom is determined, measure the height of the lower cabinets and add 19 inches, to account for the countertop. This will give enough space between upper cabinets and lower cabinets as well as give proper placement for upper cabinets.

Step 4: Secure the Upper Cabinets

Measure and check for level at corner cabinet's top, then drill wood screws through cabinet back to secure (Image 1). Wood screws need to be long enough to pass through the cabinet back and into the wall. Place wood screws in the least noticeable spot. Raise each subsequent upper cabinet into position, check for level and plumb (Image 2). Attach adjoining cabinets together with screws and drill each to the wall with wood screws (Image 3). On face-frame cabinets, drill two 1/8-inch pilot holes through the sides of the face frame and use screws to join neighboring cabinets together. In frame construction, cabinets always need to be attached to the wall studs for strength.

Step 5: Install the Lower Cabinets

After placing all upper cabinets, begin installing the bottom cabinets, starting at the high spot of the floor. The high spot is usually the corner or one of the end base cabinets. Measure to make sure there is enough room between upper and lower cabinets, then drive screws through cabinet back into the wall. If lower cabinets aren't level, use shims to level them (Image 1) and raise them up to the high point. Check for level on bottom cabinets front to back and side to side. Once the cabinets are level, drive screws through the cabinet back into the wall (Image 2). As with the upper cabinets, secure adjoining cabinets together with screws (Image 3).

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