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How to Install Wall Cabinet Units:

Built-In or Prefabricated Kitchen Cabinet Installation Requires Basic Carpentry Skills

© 2009 by all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

Kitchen wall cabinets and exhaust fan installed over electric range

Kitchen wall cabinets and exhaust fan installed over electric range

This article was updated on 07/26/20.

What should you consider with kitchen design and layout? Location of major kitchen appliances, location of plumbing fixtures, where to install electrical outlets, just to name a few.

The design step is most easily done using home architectural software applications like Architect Home Design 5, Home Designer Suite, Sweet Home 3D, or Home Designer Architectural.

This article details installing wall cabinets. Another article explains floor cabinet unit installation. Floor units (base) are best installed after the wall units. If you do it the other way around, you’ll have to be leaning over the floor cabinets and perhaps dropping tools on them. Just a small detail... unless you have lower back issues.

Vintage kitchen cabinets have special considerations.

Cabinet Installation Tool List

Once your architectural design is complete and the cabinets have arrived, be sure all the necessary tools are handy. Your tool box should include:

  • Zircon stud finder
  • 4-foot level or Zircon laser level, the laser is best
  • Electric drill or screw gun with a #2 Phillips screw tip
  • Chalk line (use blue carpenter's chalk, red is permanent; anything it falls on is doomed.
  • Tape measure

Establish the Cabinet Layout

If you have already installed floor units, you've already done this step. If not, your first task is to find any high spots on the floor. You can do this with 4 foot or laser level. Either eliminate your highest spot or use it as your primary reference. Measure up the wall, the height of the floor cabinets, and establish a level control line. Use the chalk line to mark it.

For the next step, measure up on the wall at both ends of the reference and strike another control line where you want the bottom of the wall cabinet units to be.

The exact distance is either specified by your local building code or personal preference (short people/tall people). A generally accepted number is 19 1/2" inches. Disabled homeowners, (check out the building guidelines for handicapped people.

In other words, allow sufficient room for food preparation, the height of your coffee maker, microwave ovens, crock pots, under-counter mounted appliances, etc.

Use a Stud Finder to Find Your Wall Studs

Your cabinet modules will be secured to the wall studs with screws (not nails), so it’s critical to locate them accurately. Concerning kitchen and bathroom wood framing, the spacing between studs can vary because of plumbing and electrical concerns. Start with a corner module if applicable.

Use your electronic or magnetic stud finder; the tired, old method of tapping on the wall isn’t accurate. Make a mark on the top interior of the cabinet body (just as close to the middle of the unit as you can) where a screw will hit a stud’s center.

Have a helper hold the cabinet up so you can screw through the top back of the cabinet, through the drywall, and into the stud closest to the center point of the unit.

Align your unit’s bottom with the established horizontal chalk control line and insert another screw close to the bottom of the unit on the center of the same stud. The screws need to penetrate the studs by 1 1/2 inches.

The unit will now be hanging secure. Add a minimum of two screws per stud at this point.

Install Additional Cabinet Modules

It’s finally time to install the rest of the wall cabinet units. Just follow the same method of finding the studs and hanging the units. It’s a good idea to screw the subsequent cabinet units horizontally to the previous ones. Just be sure to pre-drill and not to screw into the shelf peg holes.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. Smith and Frankie, Southern Black Mouth CurKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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