Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited


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.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3



Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

Aligning Doors

Moving the Door Left and Right
Tightening or loosening the screw, as shown in Image 1, will move the door to the right or left.

Moving the Door Up and Down
Loosen the screws in the hinge plate, as shown in Image 2, and reposition the door before tightening them again.

Moving the Door In and Out
To position the door farther away from the carcass, loosen the central screw in the hinge plate and adjust the door accordingly (Image 3). Retighten the screw to secure the door.

Step 7

Attaching a Handle

Clamp a scrap of wood firmly against the front face of the door at the position where the drill bit will emerge. Using a drill bit slightly larger in diameter than the threaded screw of the knob or handle, drill through the door until you penetrate the block (Image 1). This should prevent the front surface from splitting.

Remove the block. You should have a perfect pilot hole, with no splintering or other damage around its edge. Insert a screw (Image 2).

Because a handle is being installed here, a second hole is required. Position the handle against the door and secure the screw in place (Image 3).

Step 8



Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Installing a Toekick

Position the toekick, pushing the clips in place onto the legs of the cabinets. Continue to add further sections of toekick until you have covered all areas. A toekick is easy to remove, allowing new floor coverings to lap under cabinets. Toekick height may then be trimmed to accommodate any floor-level change.

Step 9

Putting on Drawer Fronts

First attach the handles to the drawer using the same method for attaching door handles. Hold the front against the drawer (Image 1).

Insert screws through the front of the drawer from the inside, so that they are driven into the drawer fronts, and tighten them securely (Image 2).

Step 10

Installing a Scribe Molding

Cut the molding to the lengths needed. Cut mitered joints with a miter saw. Screw in place the piece of molding that fits against the wall (Image 1).

Apply some wood glue to the mitered end to add extra strength (Image 2).

Butt the next piece of molding against the first and press the mitered joints together firmly (Image 3).

Secure this length of scribe molding using wood screws (Image 4).

Step 11

Types of Cabinets

Kitchen cabinet options may seem endless. While you know that the material, finish, and design style of your kitchen cabinets will determine the overall look of your kitchen, it is also important to keep in mind that how your cabinets are made will determine the timeline of your kitchen remodeling project. There are three main types of cabinets available: stock, semicustom, and custom. The cabinets that you might choose to browse in order to gather design inspiration at a local home improvement center or cabinet discounter are either stock or semicustom kitchen cabinets. If the price tag for new cabinets is more than you expect or if you just want to update the look of your cabinets with new cabinet fronts, kitchen cabinet refacing may be the best option for you.

Stock Cabinets
Stock cabinets are preassembled or ready-to-assemble cabinets that are available at most home centers and cabinet discount stores. Manufacturers and dealers keep a selection of stock cabinets in inventory, so they are ready for delivery on ordering. If the cabinets you choose require delivery from the manufacturer or warehouse, it may take a few weeks to receive your order. Typically constructed of engineered wood and steel-sided drawers in standard sizes, the options are limited. While stock cabinets can be finished, cabinet boxes are usually made of less expensive material than the fronts of the cabinets. Some manufacturers offer a higher-end version of stock that includes standard options of rollout trays and dovetail joints. Stock cabinets are the least expensive option.

Semicustom Cabinets
Available at most home centers, cabinet retailers, and design centers, just as the name implies, semicustom cabinets are standard premade cabinet components that allow you to mix and match the pieces to your specification. Oak, maple, and cherry are popular materials, and special finishes are available. They can be framed or European style. Most design centers have assemdled kitchen cabinets, so you can have a look at the possibilities that each offers. Options can include plate racks, sliding shelves, wine racks, and glass doors. Designers employed by the suppliers can help you decide what package might suit your needs the best. While there is a display of the various configurations of cabinet options, you will have to order your particular cabinet design and wait about six weeks for delivery.

Custom Cabinets
Custom cabinets are the best choice if you are not on a tight budget and if you do not have a fast-approaching time deadline. Unlike stock and semicustom cabinets, custom cabinets are not constructed until you place your order. Material possibilities may seem endless, because you can also choose exotic woods and reclaimed wood. Cabinetmakers can paint or stain to your choice of material, to your specifications. Door profiles and design and storage options are also only limited by your budget and the cabinetmaker you choose. Some cabinetmakers can complete a modest cabinet order in as little as a few months, but be aware that it could take much longer.