How to Install and Level Cabinet Doors
After you've installed your cabinets, follow these steps to attach the cabinet doors and level them for a finished, professional look.
Measure the height of the base cabinets. Most standard cabinets are 34-1/2” high. Add 1-1/2” for a standard countertop and 18 inches for a standard backsplash, (though some designers now want a 20-inch backsplash to make room for small appliances). With an 18-inch backsplash, the total measurement should be 54 inches from the floor to the bottom of the upper cabinets. If your floor is not level, be sure to measure from the highest point along the wall.
Draw a horizontal line across the wall at this 54-inch point which will serve as a guide for hanging the cabinets. Be sure to use a level to assure this line is true horizontal.
Use a stud finder to locate the wall studs. The wall studs are crucial to properly support the weight of the cabinets. Note: Pay careful attention to the position of all electrical wiring and plumbing.
Secure a ledger (support) board to the wall, screwing it into the marked studs to temporarily support the weight of the cabinets during the installation. Be sure the doors and hardware are removed from the cabinets to make them lighter and easier to install.
Attach as many cabinets together as you can safely lift and install on the ledger board -- usually two. Use clamps to fix the stiles (the vertical pieces on the face of the cabinet frames) of the cabinets together and check for plumb, making sure the fronts of the cabinets are flush.
Next, predrill and secure the two cabinets together at the stile with the screws (Image 1). Affix one screw on the top and bottom in the front and back where the two cabinets meet.
Lift the cabinets onto the ledger board and check for plumb and level. Shim the cabinets if necessary.
Once you have shimmed for plumb and level, secure the cabinets into the wall at the studs. Be sure to predrill and affix the screws through the thicker framing piece along the top of the cabinets.
Check for plumb and level while you’re securing the cabinets. Repeat this process for all of the wall cabinets. If a gap exists between wall and the last cabinet, use a filler bar (supplied by the manufacturer) to enclose the gap. Before securing the last cabinet, measure, mark, cut and secure this piece to the side of the last cabinet.
After all the cabinets are in place, attach the doors and hardware. Remove the ledger board when you are finished installing the wall cabinets.
If the floor isn't level, find the highest point in the floor along the wall where the cabinets will be installed. It’s best to try to start the base cabinet installation as close to this high point as possible -- it's easier to shim under the cabinets on the lower spots to make them level with this first one, rather than starting on a low point and having to trim the bottoms of the cabinets while working "uphill".
Measure base cabinets and use the pencil and level to mark a level line on the wall from the high point in the floor to the cabinet height. Be sure to use a level to assure this line will be true horizontal. This is the guide to be followed for installation.
Use the stud finder to locate and mark the studs along this line around the room.
Dry fit your first cabinet into place and check for level across the top. If needed, shim until level.
Now, predrill through the top framing piece into the wall studs (as shown) and secure the cabinet into place with screws. Re-check level after securing the cabinet.
Repeat this process until all of the base cabinets are installed. Attach the doors and hardware after all of your cabinets are in place.