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How to Replace Kitchen Cabinets

Replacing old cabinets is an expensive undertaking but is much more affordable if you do the installation yourself. Learn how to replace old kitchen cabinets with these easy step-by-step directions.

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Step 1: Attach the Upper Cabinets to the Wall

The kitchen installers begin by using a level to mark the locations of the wall and base cabinets (Image 1). They also remove the cabinet doors to make the individual cabinet units easier to work with and install. The doors will be replaced once the cabinets are mounted in place. Additionally, the installers use a spade bit to drill a hole in the back of the upper corner cabinet to accommodate the electrical wiring for the under-cabinet lights that will be installed later.

The upper corner cabinet is installed first. It is lifted into place, and the preinstalled electrical wire is fed through the hole at the back of the cabinet. Next, the cabinet is attached to the wall (Image 2) using wood screws.

With the second cabinet lifted and held in place, the installers clamp it to the first cabinet using quick-release bar clamps (Image 3). This will hold it stable while it is being fastened to the wall and corner cabinet.

Step 2: Attach the Remaining Cabinets to One Another

After making certain that the edges of the two cabinets line up perfectly, the installers drill a pilot hole through the framework, then secure the two cabinets together (Image 1) with stainless steel wood screws.

Once the second cabinet is adjusted so that it is perfectly level, the installers attach it to the wall (Image 2) using specialized 2-1/2" wood screws.

These steps are repeated for all of the cabinet units: placing the cabinet, leveling, pre-drilling and then securing to the adjoining cabinet with wood screws.

Step 3: Install the Last Cabinet

Before installing the last upper cabinet, the installers measure and cut filler strip for the gap between the side of the cabinet and the wall. The filler strip is glued to the cabinet using wood glue. A pilot hole is then drilled so that the filler strip can be further secured to the cabinet using wood screws (Image 1).

The installers hold the open-shelf unit against the corner cabinet (Image 2) and attach it using a nail gun.

They then re-hang two of the cabinet doors and make a few minor adjustments on the hinges to ensure that the doors hang and open properly.

Step 4: Attach the Upper Molding

For attaching crown molding at the top of the cabinets, measurements are taken and a width is decided on for the molding's overhang at the top of the cabinets. Strips of molding are cut precisely to length for each section of cabinet using a power miter saw. Installing the molding is a time-consuming process since each section must be carefully fitted and clamped before it is attached using both wood glue and nails.

Once the molding is done, a bead of light-colored caulk is applied in the groove between the upper cabinet and molding to conceal the seam (Image 1).

The same style of beveled molding is also installed along the bottom of the upper cabinets (Image 2) to conceal the under-cabinet lights that will be installed later. The process is the same as for the crown molding: Measure carefully, cut segments to length, then glue and nail the sections of molding in place.

Step 5: Attach the Lower Cabinets to One Another

The installers begin by turning each of the cabinets on its side and attaching a pine 1x4 board to the bottom of the framework (Image 1).

Note: A 1x4 board is actually 3/4" thick, so it will match the 3/4" thickness of the hardwood flooring to be installed later.

The first two cabinets are placed in position (Image 2) and clamped together using quick-release bar clamps (Image 3).

As with the upper cabinets, the cabinets are secured together using stainless steel screws. The installers first pre-drill pilot holes, then install the screws.

With the first two cabinets attached together, the installers secure them to the wall with screws (Image 4).

Step 6: Measure and Cut the Lower Cabinets

After measuring and leaving space for the stove, the carpenters install a narrow base cabinet. They attach it to the wall between the spaces for the stove and the refrigerator.

With the sink base cabinet turned upside down and resting on the floor, the installers attach risers to the cabinet's base. They take care when installing the strips to leave room for the pipes that will extend up through the floor and into the bottom of this section of cabinet.

After a series of careful measurements, the carpenters drill holes in the floor of the sink base cabinet and cut out the larger openings using a saber saw.

install narrow base cabinet

Step 7: Attach the Sink Base Cabinet

With the holes cut, the sink base cabinet is carefully lowered into position so that the pipes extend up through the holes (Image 1).

Since the sink base will butt up against a blind corner at right angles, a 3" filler strip is installed on the sink base cabinet (Image 2) to ensure that the door will open properly. As with the other filler strips, the carpenters attach the strip with wood glue and screws.

The blind-corner base is moved into position, followed by the final base unit (Image 3). Measurements are taken and a space is left between those two sections for the dishwasher. The crew nails extra blocking to the floor to hold the final base cabinet in place. The unit is carefully lowered over the blocking and secured with nails using an air-powered nail gun.

Step 8: Attach the Last Cabinets

Wood strips are nailed to the back of the last two sections of base cabinet (Image 1) to provide stability for the wainscoting that will be installed there.

In the vacant space reserved for the dishwasher, a support brace is attached between the two sections of cabinet (Image 2). The support brace will stabilize the wainscoting as well as the countertop.

Since the wainscoting is only 1/4" thick, a sheet of plywood is first nailed to the back of the cabinets for reinforcement.

With the plywood reinforcement attached, the carpenters can attach the prefinished wainscoting (Image 3). Enough wainscoting was ordered to cover the back and the end of the kitchen peninsula.

Learn how updating your kitchen cabinets can increase your home's value at HGTV's FrontDoor.com.

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