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How to Install Kitchen Cabinets

How to Install Kitchen Cabinets

Written by Lee Wallender

Image by  PixelsEffect / Getty Images


Cabinets define the look of the kitchen. Whether you choose Shaker-style, contemporary, rustic, or any other kitchen cabinet style, those cabinets become kitchens. Therefore, it is important that you install your favorite cabinet and at a price that suits your budget.

Installing your kitchen cabinets is one way to save money on your kitchen refresh. With a helper and a little planning, you will be able to place your own cabinets in ten-ten kitchens in a day or two.

Kitchen Base vs. Wall Cabinets

Most kitchen cabinet installations use both base and wall cabinets.

The base cabinets rest on the floor and hold the countertop, sink, and any cooktop. They are typically 34 1/2 inches high (rising to 35 or 36 inches with additional countertops).

Wall cabinets are attached to the wall and can either meet the ceiling or there may be a gap between the cabinet and the ceiling depending on the homeowner's need. In any case, the distance from the top of the base cabinet to the bottom of the wall cabinet is usually 18 to 20 inches.

Planning Kitchen Cabinet Layout

Before operating the first screw or nail, lay the cabinets properly. The layout does not refer to the general arrangement of the cabinet. You may have already made those plans for purchasing cabinets. Instead, it is a finetuning process that ties your vertical and horizontal planes together so that the cabinets hang square, plumb, and level.

Using a laser level, tape measure, straight edge, and pencil, you will mark the dots that emerge on the walls, floor, and ceiling.

It is important to note that any spread point defines the base level of any cabinet you are installing. For example, if one part of the wall extends 1/8 inch from the rest of the wall, it is the spreading point and is now the base behind all the cabinets.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cordless drill
  • Cordless finish nailer
  • Tape measure
  • Laser level
  • Bubble level
  • Chalk snap line
  • Utility knife
  • Straight 8-foot board or straightedge
  • Manual miter saw
  • Stud finder


  • Kitchen cabinets, upper and base
  • Screws, 3-inch
  • Shims


  1. 1. Mark Floor and Shoot Level Line

    With painter's tape, mark the general footprint of the base cabinets on the floor. Shoot a laser level line on the back wall approximately 30 inches high as a reference point. The exact height does not matter, other than that it should be at a convenient height.

  2. 2. Find and Mark Floor High Points

    Place tape measure or upright with 0 measurement end on the floor. The laser level line will intersect with the numbers on the measuring device. Move the measuring device to several locations within the tape-off footprint to find the highest point on the floor. The smallest measurement represents the highest point on the floor. Mark this place.

  3. 3. Find and Mark Wall Bows and Bumps

    Hold the bubble level vertically (plumb) on the wall behind the cabinet location at various points. Determine any area where the ball collides or bends. Mark the area with a pencil.

  4. 4. Identify Horizontal Bows or Bumps

    Hold a long, straight board horizontally against the wall, about 34 1/2 inches high and working downwards. Measure the wall for the bow and big bumps. Mark anyone with a pencil.

  5. 5. Identify and Mark Ceiling Protrusion

    Using the same laser line as in the previous steps, measure up to the ceiling to identify the bulge in the roof. Mark the most obvious protrusion.

  6. 6. Mark Wall: Wall Cabinets

    Finally, the previous steps end with two horizontal lines identifying where the two rows of cabinets (wall and base) will actually be installed. Start with the wall cabinets. Measure the height of the cabinets. Shoot a laser line at the ceiling protrusion mark beforehand. Mark along with the pencil and line along the straight edge.

  7. 7. Mark Wall: Base Cabinets

    Measure the height of the cabinets. Using the cabinet height measurement, measure from the highest floor protrusion. Mark the occasion. Run a laser line and then mark a pencil along the laser line.

  8. 8. Install Ledgerboard

    Add a temporary laser board at the bottom of the upper line one by two to completely straighten the board. Screw it into place in the stud.

  9. 9. Install Wall Corner Cabinet

    Rest the wall corner cabinet on the leaderboard. Driving through the cabinet frame, screw it into place in the stud.

  10. 10. Complete Wall Cabinets

    Continue the rest of the cabinets to the wall on both sides of the corner cabinet, screwing through the cabinet frame and into the wall studs. Add shims to the lower locations to avoid distorting the cabinet or hanging out of the level. Remove the bookkeeping board.

  11. 11. Install Base Cabinets

    The highest floor protrusion will be the lower reference point for all base cabinets. Install cabinets along this line, putting shims under cabinets in low places. As with wall cabinets, screw through solid framing in cabinets and in wall studs.

  12. 12. Cut Shims

    With hand mater saws, cut off the excess from the shim.

Tips For Installing Kitchen Cabinets

  • Mark walls independently with a pencil when laying cabinets. The markings will either be hidden behind cabinets or painted on them.
  • Work with an assistant. Cabinets are heavy and require two or more people to handle them.
  • Typically, you will want to install the cabinet before the floor.
  • If your kitchen has a window, place the sink base cabinet under the window in the center.



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