How to Install Kitchen Cabinets All By Yourself

Fitting kitchen cabinets, plinths and worktops

A carpentry & joinery apprenticeship includes lear

A carpentry & joinery apprenticeship includes learning how to install a kitchen. From fitting the base and wall units, to boxing in unsightly pipes at the end.

Fitting a kitchen can be tricky, there are lots of things to know and it’s really easy to make a mistake (that’s hard to get over).

Follow the tips on these pages for a perfect kitchen installation.

The kitchen is arguably the most important room in the house, and the most expensive! When designing a kitchen, it’s recommended that if possible a triangle shape is formed between the cooker, sink, and the fridge. Also, unless facing into the house most people prefer the sink to be facing out of the window.

There are loads of modern gadgets and gizmos available these days that can be incorporated into a new kitchen and built in appliances always enhance the appearance too.

The room the kitchen is being installed in may already determine the type of kitchen layout you can have. If there’s more space available then there are some examples of the most common types of kitchen layouts below;

Below is the most important thing when kitchen fitting. The bubble needs to be exactly in the middle of those two lines – everything must be perfectly plumb and level. If not, cabinet doors will be impossible to line up, tiles may not line up right and you’ll be in for all sorts of trouble.

Often with off the shelf kitchens the flat pack or

Often with off the shelf kitchens the flat pack or pre-built kitchen cabinets come in incremental size widths (most commonly 300, 400, 450, 500, 600 & 900mm) and these will rarely fit perfectly between the walls in a house. In these instances the leftover space depending on the size can be either blocked off with an infill or if large enough utilised into a tray space (bit dated), towel hanging or a wine rack/shelves for example.

At some point unless the client is having granite counter tops you will need to cut and fit the formica worktops as well. This is done using a router and special jig, and will include cutting out holes for the hob and sink / drainer. The kitchen counters are glued and then clamped up together from underneath using special bolts.

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4. Install base cabinets

To install kitchen base cabinets, begin in a critical location. ‘I like to start from an inside corner, or from the sink base,’ says Sean Walsh.

‘Once you’ve placed these cabinets on the level line and at their edge locations according to your layout, you can use a 2½in screw to secure them to all stud locations. It is essential to use shims behind the cabinet in between the wall and under the cabinet on the floor to make sure the cabinets are plumb and level. 

‘As you place a cabinet next to another one, you can use a hand-activated clamp with rubber pads to clamp the face frames together. Once they are perfectly aligned on the tops, bottoms, and front, you can use a ⅛in drill bit with a countersink to predrill through one face frame into another. This can be done at the bottom, top and middle if needed. Using a 2½in screw you can secure the cabinets together. This process is repeated over and over until you’re done.’ 

As with the wall cabinets, fully tighten the mounting screws only at the end of the process, then remove the clamps.

How to Install Kitchen Cabinets Step 7: Install the upper cabinets

Kitchen Floor Cabinets Photo 12: Mark the cabinet

Kitchen Floor Cabinets Photo 12: Mark the cabinet positions

Draw a level line 19-1/2 in. above the lower cabinets and mark the upper cabinet positions. Screw a 1×2 ledger to the wall even with the level line.

Kitchen Floor Cabinets Photo 13: Mark stud locatio

Kitchen Floor Cabinets Photo 13: Mark stud locations

Measure from the cabinet position lines to the stud locations. Mark the stud locations on the cabinet backs and drill 1/8-in. pilot holes through the hanging strips.

Kitchen Floor Cabinets Photo 14: Screw the cabinet

Kitchen Floor Cabinets Photo 14: Screw the cabinets to the wall

Start 2-1/2-in. screws, then rest the cabinet on the ledger. Align it with the cabinet position line and drive the screws into the wall studs.

Kitchen Floor Cabinets Photo 15: Hang additional cabinets Position the next cabinet and run the top screws partially into the studs to hold it in place. Align the frames, clamp them and screw the cabinets together. Then screw the cabinet to the wall.

The only tricky part about installing hanging upper cabinets is supporting them in exactly the right position while you screw them to the wall and one another. That’s a tough, awkward task, especially if you’re working alone. The ledger method simplifies this (Photo 12). It’s a fail-safe method, but you’ll have to accept a bit of patching and paint retouching to repair the screw holes left from the ledger.

Start by making a light pencil mark 19-1/2 in. up from the lower cabinets (it’ll be 18 in. after the countertop is installed) and then mark the stud locations using the ones below as a guide. Next, transfer the cabinet positioning lines from below (Photo 12) and screw a 1×2 ledger to the studs even with the layout lines. It’s best to prestart the cabinet screws before hoisting the cabinets up onto the ledger. Photo 13 shows an easy method to get the screws in the right place using the cabinet positioning lines and the stud locations on the wall and then transferring them to the cabinet. You’ll often find that a cabinet, especially a narrow one, will have only one stud behind it. Don’t worry; the other cabinets will help support it too.

Start any corner cabinets first. Space the first end cabinet exactly 1/4 in. away from the layout line and screw it to the wall. Be exact with the first cabinet because it will define the locations of all the rest of the cabinets on that wall.

Start the screws and hoist the next cabinet into place, snugging its frame against the neighboring one, and screw it to the wall. Next, align the frames and clamp them together as you did with the base cabinets (Photo 15). You’ll probably have to back out the stud screws slightly in one or both cabinets to get the frames to line up perfectly. That’s fine—leave the screws backed out while you clamp, drill and screw the frames together.

1. Prepare for kitchen cabinet installation

Before you begin turn off gas, electrical and plumbing lines to the kitchen. 

Next, it’s essential to find the highest point on the floor. ‘Kitchen floors, especially those in older homes, are often not perfectly level and flat,’ says Tanya Smith-Shiflett, founder of Unique Kitchens & Baths (opens in new tab)

Use a carpenter’s level to find the highest point of the floor on which the cabinets will be positioned. 

STEP 8: Replace cabinet doors and drawers, making adjustments as needed

At this point, you should have fully installed upper and base cabinets that are level, even, and not showing any gaps. This includes gaps between the cabinets, gaps between the cabinets and floor, as well as any gaps between the cabinets and the wall.

Reattach the cabinet doors and test them to ensure that they open and close properly without overlapping or having too much distance between the doors when they are closed. Use the level to verify that the cabinet doors are even. If the cabinets are not level, remove and adjust the hinges to straighten out the doors. Finally, set the drawers in the designated tracks and push them into place.

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RELATED: 7 Things to Know When Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Hang the Upper Cabinets

  1. With the help of another person or a cabinet jack, lift the upper cabinet assembly into the corner and rest it on the cleat.
  2. Check the cabinet face with a level to make sure it’s plumb. If it is, drive four 2½-inch deck screws (with washers) through the back of the cabinet, top and bottom, and into the studs. If it’s not plumb, slip shims between the cabinet back and the wall at the stud locations. (To shim out the bottom, remove the cleat.)
  3. When the cabinet is plumb, screw it through the shims to the studs.
  4. Lift the remaining cabinets onto the cleat, align their faces flush with those already installed, and clamp and screw the edges together.
  5. Shim cabinets as necessary, then fasten them to the studs through the shims with the 2½-inch deck screws and washers.
  6. Close any gap between the wall and the end cabinet by scribing its stile or back edge, or by covering the gap with trim.

Install the Remaining Base Cabinets

  1. Working out from the installed corner cabinet, shim the adjacent cabinets out from the wall at the stud locations and up from the floor so that the face frames are plumb, and the tops are level and even with the layout line.
  2. Align each cabinet so its face is flush with its already-installed neighbor. Clamp them together, counterbore through the edge of the face frames, and fasten them together with 2-inch screws.
  3. At the shims, drive the deck screws (with washers) through the cabinet back and into the studs.
  4. Close any gap between the wall and the end cabinet by scribing its stile or the back edge of its side panel, or cover the gap with trim.
  5. Using a utility knife, score and snap off any shims that protrude beyond the edges of the cabinets.
  6. Remove all the upper-cabinet support cleats and fill the screw holes with spackle.
  7. Replace the drawers and shelves in their original cabinets.

STEP 5: Install an end base cabinet first

Photo: istockphoto.com

The base cabinets are less difficult to install than the upper cabinets because there is less risk of personal injury, but you still need to verify that the cabinets are level and aligned properly for the best results. Choose an end base cabinet to start the installation. Position this cabinet according to your planned layout, then use the level to determine if it sits evenly or if you will need to use one or more shims to level out the cabinet.

Push the cabinet flush against the wall and lay the level on top of it. If the cabinet is out of level, use wooden shims under the cabinet or in the space between the wall and cabinet to ensure the first cabinet is perfectly level. Drill screws through the back of the cabinet and into the wall studs, securing the cabinet at the top and bottom to prevent shifting or sliding.

Starting Tips for Installing Kitchen Cabinets

Before breaking out the tape measure, make a plan to tackle the project. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Block off at least a whole day. DIY kitchen cabinet installation isn’t a quick job, especially if you want to do it right.

[Replacing old cabinets? Here’s how to upcycle the old ones.]

  • Get a friend or two to help. There are some key steps where having a pair of helping hands is a must.

  • Check and double-check your measurements at every step. It might not be visible to the naked eye, but most floors and walls are uneven, so you can’t extrapolate or assume your measurements. Even if it’s just a little off, you’ll notice when the project is done.

Got everything ready? Let’s get to the step-by-step guide!

Warnings

  • Avoid trying to lift the upper cabinets yourself. You could injure yourself and potentially damage the cabinets if you drop them.

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  • If you have gas or electric lines that need to be run through your cabinets, contact a professional such as a licensed contractor or electrician so you can make sure the job is done safely and up to code.

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Required Tools for this How to Install Kitchen Cabinets Project

Have the necessary tools for this how to install kitchen cabinets DIY project and other kitchen cabinet projects lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4 ft. level
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Belt sander
  • Block plane
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Countersink drill bit
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver – cordless
  • Jigsaw
  • Stud finder
  • Tape measure

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