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How to Install Base Cabinet Units:

Prefabricated Units Must be Level and Installed after the Wall-Mounted Cabinets

© 2009 by Kelly Smith all rights reserved

Custom kitchen cabinets and the architectural work triangle

A prior article explained wall cabinet unit installation. This article explains floor units (base cabinets).

Any kitchen or bathroom remodeling project calls for basic carpentry skills. Installing floor kitchen cabinet units is easy when precise architectural plans are established and followed. Prefabricated cabinets are the easiest to work with.

Strategy is paramount in kitchen or bath design and layout. It’s key to consider where to locate permanent appliances such as dishwashers as well as plumbing fixtures. When designing the layout of a kitchen, it’s important to use the architectural concept of the work triangle.

All electrical outlets should be conveniently located during new construction. During a remodel they may need to be relocated. Remember that the kitchen is a wet area and the building code calls for a GFCI outlet. The easiest way to design a kitchen layout is using residential architectural software such as Chief Architect, Punch Software, or Home Plan Pro.

Recommended Tool List for Cabinet Installation

After the design stage is over and the units have been delivered from the custom cabinet shop or home improvement store, organize your tools. These should include: Your tool box should include:

  • Zircon stud finder
  • Electric drill with #2 Phillips screw tip
  • 4 foot level or laser level (the laser is more accurate)
  • Chalk line (use blue carpenter’s chalk, red is permanent)
  • Tape measure
  • Shims
  • Jorgensen Pony Cabinet Claws
  • 2 1/2” cabinet mounting screws

Establishing Your Cabinet Layout

  1. First things first. Find the floor’s high spot. You can accomplish this with your 4” level or laser level. The units will need to be shimmed up to this level so they’ll line up correctly and the counter tops turn out level. Or, if the floor is nice and level except for one spot, it might be easier to simply eliminate the high spot.
  2. Next, measure up the wall the height of the base cabinets, and snap a level, horizontal control line with the chalk line. For disabled homeowners or those with special needs, check out the EasyLiving Home Texas program.
  3. Find the studs using your stud finder and make a pencil mark on the wall above the control line. This will make it simple to screw the cabinets to the wall later. Concerning kitchen and bathroom wood framing, the spacing between studs can vary because of plumbing and electrical concerns.

Begin with a Corner Base Cabinet Unit

  1. It’s best to begin with a corner cabinet unit and work outward. If it’s a Lazy Susan cabinet model, secure 1” X 4” cleats on the wall to support the countertop. You should already have the wall studs from step 3 above. Screw the cleats to it. This is a good time to point out how important it is to locate studs, not plumbing pipes or electrical conduit. A high quality stud finder has a deep scan capability that will help with this.
  2. Next set the unit in the corner. Chances are it might need some shimming in order to be level in both directions, side to side and front to back. The chalked control line established earlier will give a proper reference for side to side; you can use your level for the front to back direction.

Connect the Cabinets with Pony Cabinet Claws

  1. The cabinet sections will need to be screwed together at the face frames. The 2 1/2” cabinet mounting screws are used for this. First, align the two properly shimmed units precisely.
  2. Now clamp them together. Jorgensen Pony Cabinet Claws are the proper tools to use for this step.
  3. Now simply screw them together.
  4. Repeat these steps for the remainder of the units. Sometimes it’s required to stop and skip a space for a major appliance such as a gas or electric stove or dishwasher. Many dishwashers are 24” wide, but check to be sure. It’s essential to measure the gap very carefully.
  5. The final step is to secure the cabinets to the wall studs. Don’t overdo it. Only one screw in each stud is usually enough. Walls aren’t always straight, so take care to keep the front of the cabinet units in a straight line. This means not always running a screw in to the hilt. Shim where needed. Secured cabinets aren’t likely to go anywhere, but shifting is always possible, especially in areas that are susceptible to earthquakes. Be sure to check on this with the local building code.

If the cabinetry is installed properly, the next time a kitchen face lift is due, cabinet refinishing is all that will be needed.

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© 2009 Kelly Smith All rights reserved.