29 March 2012

Installing kitchen cabinets

The kitchen cabinets were ordered and have arrived. After some long months you’ve finally got your shaker style kitchen cabinets staring at you in their plastic wrap in your garage. Now it's time to install them and in most cases some advanced planning is required. This especially holds true if the installation is for a remodeling project. We'll assume that the cabinets that were ordered are the correct ones so the first thing that I do is some checking.

Is the floor level?
The way I do this is by setting up a laser transit in the room.

Once this is set up it will spin and create a perfect laser level line on the wall. I then take a chalk line and snap a line that matches that one. I now have a level line to reference and by measuring from that line to the floor at various points I am able to determine if the floor is level. If the floor isn't level then I can make marks down from my reference line to create a level line with another chalk line. Now I know where shimming or trimming will be required.

Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

Are the corners square?
This is easily accomplished with a standard framing square and allows me to see if I will need to make adjustments. I also need to check the corners to see if they are plumb as many are not.

Studs and blocking?
As there is nothing on the walls yet I need places that I can secure the cabinets to. Putting a couple of screws into a Sheetrock wall won't cut it. If this is a new kitchen then critical blocking should have already been added. However in remodeling projects you'll need to locate and mark the studs so that you have a strong place to attach your cabinets.

Starting the installation.
I do my installations a bit different than many.  Many will add a ledger board at the desired height and install the upper cabinets first while they can get right up against the wall. I start with the base cabinets as this is the system that works for me.

The first cabinet is critical. It has to be installed perfectly in regards to plumb, level and square or every one after it will be off by an increasing amount. At this junction its check, check and re-check until you have fully attached the cabinet to the blocking or studs. Once that is done you can attach, shim, plumb and level the next one. As you move along you will also need to attach the face frames together. Here I clamp the two units together and drill and screw them securely to each other with a finish head trim screw.

Installing the upper cabinets.
The next step for me is to apply the chosen counter top material, which I'm going to gloss over for now.

When that is done I am now ready to use the same techniques as for the base units but with a couple of great jacks.

I have already marked the wall with a level line to show where the base of the unit will be. Now with two of the above jacks in position, I put the cabinet on top of them and with the squeeze handles I can micro adjust it to be exactly where I want it with no real effort. Once it is set in place you just apply the screws and move to the next unit.

The finished project!
Planning and installing kitchen cabinetry takes time but the finished product is well worth it.


  1. I found this to be very interesting, Todd. What laser level would you recommend?

  2. Joe,I use that same one in the photo and its by Berger. It's not super expensive and it's easy to set up for many uses. I also use it for site work and is great for installing drop ceilings too.

  3. Just a general comment here--enjoying your interesting blog with such a varied and interesting range of posts. Was searching for images of a 1940s kitchen, which landed me here. Thanks!


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