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How to Install Cabinets

Avoid mistakes when installing kitchen cabinets. A professional installer explains how to install upper and lower cabinets, deal with wavy walls, shim bases and more.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to install cabinets the right way

Kitchen cabinets aren't cheap, and while you shouldn't be afraid to install them, you don't want to screw them up, either. We asked Jerome Worm, an experienced installer, to show you what it takes to install basic box cabinets successfully. His tips can save you time and help you avoid costly mistakes on your next installation.

Mark up the wall first

Remove cabinet doors and drawers

Shim large bows

Start with the upper cabinets

Clamp, drill and fasten

Use a block of wood for scribing

Mark the stud locations on upper cabinets

Jerome prefers to predrill the screw holes from the inside of the cabinet so the drill bit doesn't “blow out” the wood on the inside where it can be seen. Do this by marking the stud locations on the inside of the cabinet and drilling pilot holes. Start by finding the distance from the wall or adjacent cabinet to the center of the next stud. For 1/2-in.-thick cabinet walls, subtract 7/8 in. from that measurement, and measure over that distance from the inside of the cabinet. Make a pencil mark on both the top and the bottom nailing strip. The outside of the cabinet walls are not flush with the rest of the cabinet; that 7/8 in. represents the thickness of the cabinet wall and the distance the walls are recessed.

Use good screws

Fasten the back, then shim

Use 2 x 2s to secure cabinets to the floor

Raise the cabinets for flooring

Cut oversize holes

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Clamps
    • Miter saw
    • Cordless drill
    • Stud finder
    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Belt sander
    • Level
    • Drill bit set
    • Framing square
    • Hole saw kit
    • Jigsaw
    • Pry bar

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Shims
    • 2 x 2s
    • 1 x 4 (for ledger board and to match flooring thickness)
    • Self-drilling, self-countersinking screws
    • Painter's tape

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