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How to Install New Kitchen Cabinets (page 1 of 2)

Learn everything you need to know to install new cabinets, including how to measure correctly, basic prep and finishing touches.
Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

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Step-by-Step Instructions:

Before you start to install your kitchen cabinets, you should have removed the old kitchen, rerouted any utilities, and have the option to replace or finish the floor, if that is your plan. Always check that the entire cabinet order has arrived and is undamaged. Make sure that every item, right down to the screws, is checked off, because waiting for a second delivery can hold up the entire installation process. Installing a kitchen is a job for at least two people, especially when it comes to hanging large wall cabinets.

Planning and Preparation

Take time to prepare the wall surfaces and assemble the kitchen cabinets before installing them. Drawing the first guide line for positioning cabinets is essential to the success of the whole project. Cabinets and countertops are heavy items, and you will need someone to help you lift them into position.

Laying Out Cabinets

  • The starting point for installing any kitchen is a level guide line for the top of the base cabinets. A height of about 34-1/2" above the floor is standard. The countertop is added later.

  • Start in one corner, using a level to guide you. Older floors can be uneven, so check the line’s height at intervals to make sure base cabinets and appliances will fit beneath it comfortably along the entire length.

  • Mark a second line to show the thickness of the countertop. Generally, wall cabinets are installed so that they are 19-1/2" from the top of the countertop, but adjust this height according to the manufacturer’s specifications for positioning cabinets around the stove.

  • If you are attaching wall cabinets to a stud wall, you will need to use a stud finder so you attach cabinets to studs, or provide additional support with extra blocking to ensure that fasteners are solid.

Preparing the Cabinets

  • Once you have marked up the wall surfaces, you should assemble the cabinets. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for each type of cabinet.

  • Wall cabinets sometimes have installation rails across their backs that you cannot see once the cabinet is held up to the wall. Note their size and position so you can drill pilot holes directly through the inside of the cabinet once you have positioned it.

Installing the Cabinets

  • Provided you have measured and marked accurately, installing the kitchen itself should be relatively straightforward. Follow your layout marks and attach cabinets to studs with screws. Predrill pilot holes and countersink screws beneath the surface. It may be easier to install upper cabinets first.

  • If you have a block wall, you can screw the cabinets directly to the wall with brackets. Drill and plug pilot holes in a masonry wall. It may be necessary to cut holes or notch cabinets to accommodate utilities. Wall cabinets will need to be positioned carefully, again, ensuring that they are securely screwed to the wall surface.

Lay Out

Use a tape measure to mark a point 34-1/2" above the floor level, for the top of the base cabinets (Image 1).

Use this mark to draw a horizontal guide line across the wall to indicate the top level of the base cabinets (Image 2).

Mark a point 19-1/2" plus countertop height above this line, and draw a line to mark the bottom of the wall cabinets (Image 3).

Measure the width of each of your cabinets and mark their positions across the horizontal guide lines. Mark the location of each stud.

Drilling Pilot Holes

For all cabinets that have attachment rails, drill a pilot hole through the rail into the cabinet. When you are ready to install the cabinet, you will have the necessary screw holes visible inside the cabinet. Pilot holes also help prevent the wood from splitting.

Courtesy of DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Finishing Kitchen Cabinets

Once cabinets have been screwed in place, they are given their decorative finish. You will need to install doors, any trims such as decorative moldings, and hardware. The final look of the kitchen depends on these finishing touches, so it is important that the correct procedures and techniques are followed, and time and care is taken.

Installing Cabinet Doors

Replacing doors, drawers and handles can be a great way of updating a kitchen if changing the layout is unnecessary. If you are on a tight budget, you will be amazed how much the look of your kitchen can change with some paint and new hardware. You can paint almost any finish of kitchen cabinet, as well as tiles, but make sure you use the right paint and other materials — special primers will often be necessary. If you decide to change doors or drawers, make sure that the new ones are compatible with your existing cabinets.

Screw the hinge plate into its predrilled holes in the carcass (Image 1). Hinge plates often come with the screws already inserted.

Insert the hinge into the precut recesses on the doors, and screw it in place (Image 2). Be sure to use the correct short wood screws.

Position the door, with the hinges aligning with hinge plates, and use the screw already positioned in the hinge to join them (Image 3).

Tighten the central screw in the hinge plate to secure the door (Image 4). Follow the instructions below to align the doors perfectly.

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Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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