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How to Install Cabinets

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

Cabinet installation is a job often left to the professionals. However, with the right tools, a helping hand and good instructions, enterprising do-it-yourself homeowners can install their own kitchen cabinets.

Guidelines for installing new cabinets

As with any home improvement or remodeling project, proper measurements are absolutely essential. If you already have cabinets installed and are looking to simply replace them with new cabinets in the same spot, your measuring is likely to be easy. However, installing kitchen cabinets in an entirely new space means serious double-and-triple checking of your numbers.

An uneven spot in the floor can throw off all your measurements. Find the highest point on the floor and measure from there. The basic rule of thumb calls for the top of a 30-inch wall cabinet to be 83 7/8 inches from the floor. A 39-inch cabinet should have the top placed 92 5/8 inches from the floor. The suspension rail to anchor the cabinets will be 2 1/2 inches lower than the top measurement.

However, keep in mind that the manufacturer's instructions for your particular cabinets might call for different numbers. Always err on the side of the instructions that came with your new cabinets.

Locate and mark all wall studs. Anchor the suspension rail firmly to the wall, making use of the wall studs. Shim the rail to ensure it lies straight against the wall. Using a few helping hands, carefully attach the cabinets to the wall. When all the cabinets are hung, make adjustments to ensure they are straight. When the cabinets are straight and level, tighten all mounting hardware.

Installing base cabinets can be a much easier job. From the highest point on the floor, base cabinets are typically measured twice: first, with a height of 4 5/16 inches from the floor, then an additional 34 1/2 inches above that. Use wall strips attached to wall studs to help anchor the cabinets. Start cabinet installation with the piece in the corner first, then work your way out. Level each cabinet as you go, then check all of your work before tightening the hardware.

Finishing your cabinet installation

Finish installation of your kitchen cabinets by sealing them to the wall with filler pieces and caulking. Then move on to additions: shelving, doors and drawers. Add the hardware, taking care to use a template to ensure a uniform look. Install toe kicks, countertops, sinks and other items that are necessary for your new kitchen remodel. Finally, clean all cabinets thoroughly, inside and out, before using them to hold dishes or food.

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