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How to Install Kitchen Cabinets Guide

So this is the kitchen where we’re about to make cabinet magic happen here. And since we were here from the beginning when the walls were down.

So we know exactly where everything is here, and you probably can’t see but we’ve also marked on these blocks when we put them up, what their height was and everything. So we pretty much know where it is and one thing to remember too when you’re looking at the walls here, see you got an outlet here, there’s an outlet here, there’s an outlet here, we don’t really care where the studs are on ours because we put all the cabinet blocking up. Wherever we put a screw, we’re gonna hit a stud, or a block. But you’ll know there’s always gonna be a stud here, right? And same thing when you’re doing a wall here.

We know that there’s a stud on this side. So wherever there’s an outlet box, you know there’s gonna be a stud close by, so that’ll help you if you ever need to find them. And let me just show you this here. This is our little stud finder tool that we use, and this will help us remember where our blocks are anyway, so here you can see. I did a cabinet block right there, so we’ll know exactly where these are. But we left enough margin so that our cabinet is going to end up right in the middle of this, here, and so on the back of the cabinet, wherever we wanna screw, we’re guaranteed to hit a wood block.

Now looking back up on the wall here, you can see we’ve already marked where we’re gonna put our ledger board here. So we’re gonna mount, if you look right here, there’s our drawing of what it’s going to look like, we’re gonna mount these three cabinets together on the floor, upside-down so that these will all be level right here. And then we’re gonna set them on top of our ledger board here, on the wall here. Now, the tile guys that did this tile in here did such a perfect job, it’s absolutely perfectly level, across with a six foot level. These were old school guys that did a great job with the mortar and mud underneath, and did it like they would do the marble, so it’s nice and perfectly level.

So we know with confidence we can put our cabinets together on a perfectly level floor, and they’ll be nice and perfect as we tie them together. Okay, so before we install the cabinets, I wanted to just sit here and have a little backyard chat with you for a minute, and talk about some of the fasteners that are available to use when you’re installing cabinets, and we’re going to go over which ones here are appropriate and which ones are not. So I wanna start off with these here, so you can I might use these a lot for putting together wood studs and stuff, but even though these are a great screw and even though they’re exterior and pretty tough and everything, these are not appropriate in my opinion for doing cabinets. You maybe could get away with using them in the back of the cabinet to screw them to the wall. The reason why is look at the thread, see this is a very coarse-thread screw here.

So you don’t wanna use a screw like this when you’re trying to put two cabinets side by side together. The idea is you have kind of coarse grain, and then you have fine grain screws. And whenever you’re hooking two cabinets together like this, side by side, you want to use the fine grain screw. And that’s where something like this one comes in to. This one I like.

Even though this is meant here for doing, for going into a metal type stud, see this has a fine grain as well as a self-drill point at the end of it. So let me show you what this looks like. These are small and short and everything, so these really don’t have much use, it’s the bigger one that I use here, and I even like the bigger one, and I’ll show you why, because see, it has the square drive and the fine thread. So with a square drive head on it, and you see how small and low profile that head is, and it’s a square drive, you use a square bit instead of a Philips head bit, and it never slips out, that’s what I love about these, and these are very low profile heads, so these are appropriate for going sideways through the frame of your cabinet into the cabinet next to you so that it ties them both together. And see that really fine grain thread there? That fine thread will suck the two cabinets together nice and tight.

The best way to do this is you just drill a pilot hole through the frame of the first cabinet, and then just a teeny bit into the second one. You don’t wanna drill a pilot hole through both of the cabinets because you want meat for the screw to grab onto when you put it in. So this is an appropriate type one that you would wanna use. This is another one that is not appropriate, this is your regular drywall screw. I’ve seen lots of guys use drywall screws, and that’s why they end up with a gap between the two cabinets.

So I want you to take a look at this picture here that has the big gap on it, and I want you to ask yourself, is this how I want my two cabinets to line up? With this coarse grain screw? Do you want it to look like this, or do you want it to look like this? So you see how there’s no gap at all, that just a nice hairline little crack between them, there’s no big black ugly space that you would see in between there. That’s the way you want it to look, and people have to keep in mind too, just because you’re looking at the edge of a cabinet, that doesn’t mean that it’s perfectly straight. Wood is not straight, wood has a curve to it. Whether or not your eye can see it, but when you go to put two side by side pieces together, that’s when you find out that it’s not always exactly straight, which is why you’ll be putting in, if you go to use this screw here to screw two cabinets side by side, you’ll be going every few inches up in order to suck that crack in so that you can barely see it so it just looks like a hairline. Now, these screws here I like to use a lot.

These are my go-to screws, and I have all sorts of sizes of these starting at 1 1/2 going to 2 1/2, all the way up to three. And I like these for a couple of reasons. So if you look at these screws, first of all, you got the white head on there, and that’s a star head that’s on there. And these come with their own bit, let me see if I’ve got one in one of these here So let me pull this one out here.

So these come with their own bit that you stick in your drill, and that’s a star bit. And again, these won’t slip either, I’ve never had one of these slip ever, they’re just beautiful. And so these are also, these screws here, if you look at them, they’re in between the fine that I prefer and the coarse, so these are pretty adequate, in most cases, to use as well Alright, so another fastener type thing here that I don’t think is really appropriate anymore are these finishing washers, and what these are, these are these little washers here that you’ll sometimes see installers use, and what they do is they take their screw, and they run it through the washer, so that when they screw it into the back of the cabinet, here see. That’s what it looks like. Looks a little bit on the tacky side. But why in the world, folks, would you wanna go through all of this nonsense when you’ve already got the right screw right here? This already has a nice flat head built on it and everything and this is appropriate to go right up against that surface. These screws are not, and then all you’re gonna do is leave an imprint in the wood with that ring there, that washer.

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So instead of going this route, and by the way you have a thicker thread anyway, you wanna got this route with the finer thread. So let’s compare the two. If you look at them side by side there, you can see how the cabinet screw that I prefer to use has a finer thread anyway, it’s a much more appropriate fastener for using on the cabinets. And I’ll show you something else too. When I’m using this other one here, this is the finishing screw here, sometimes we will still go ahead and use this thing here, these are our little drill bits here, and these are used for doing your counter sink here, these are special counter sink bits.

So see how they’re angled right there? What they do is they’ll drill a hole that’s shaped for this type of a head. Because you want the head to lay in there flat. You don’t want your head to come chewing into the wood at the last minute and possibly causing a split or a crack. Whenever you’re hanging cabinets, that’s what you’re trying to avoid, because once you make that one crack, that’s it, you’ve ruined it, you don’t get a second chance to fix that. So that’s why it’s important to drill that pilot hole, when you’re putting two cabinets side by side like this, let’s say this is one cabinet, and this is the other, and you’ll see it later.

You put them side by side, you’re gonna drill a pilot hole all the way through the first one, and just barely touch the second one with it, and let the screw come in and grab all of the meat. So here’s your screw, it’s gonna come in like this, and it’s gonna go all the way in, and it’ll grab that meat by itself. You don’t need to make a hole all the way through, you just need to get the little thing started, that’s what keeps it from splitting. And I also wanted to touch on the drill, and we’ll show you that in a minute, but basically I prefer to leave my drill setting on one, and use an impact driver on setting one. And the reason for that is that once you’re screw’s in and you’re going right when you get to near the very end, it senses and knows all the resistance that you’re getting near the end of the screw.

And it starts clicking, and it’ll go like, very slowly. You don’t wanna come in on full speed number three and go and run that screw into there, it’ll split your wood. So you’re not here to be a macho neanderthal, hanging cabinets sometimes requires the touch of a surgeon, a gentle touch of a surgeon, not a neanderthal. Okay so just a little review here. On the top here you’re looking at the screws we prefer to use compared to the screws that we prefer not to use.

And we don’t want these because they’re a coarse grain, and we do want these because they are a finer grain. We don’t need these, because if you’re using this type of screw right here, it’s already got its own washer head built onto it, you don’t need anything else, you’re just doubling the work and the cost. Okay So let’s head back inside now and let’s go ahead and get those cabinets up. Okay, so here we have those three cabinets upside down on our nice level floor like we mentioned.

And it’s beneficial to do it this way because now we can attach these together and they’ll be flat, completely flat, along the top, and they’ll be flush to the center, and you’ll have them already done like this It’s best to do it like this first, because if you wait and put it on the wall like that, if you have a wavy wall, you’re gonna be screwed. You never wanna put cabinets up one at a time. Any time you can group them like this, and lift the whole setup in one piece, that’s the best way to do it. Alright so here we’ve got the clamps on, and these clamps will keep it nice and immobile while you pilot your drill in, you’re gonna drill a pilot hole.

When you do the pilot holes, you’re gonna drill a hole right through like this, all the way through the first one, and just barely touch the second one. So the pilot hole keeps it from splitting, but you don’t wanna pilot all the way into the next one, ’cause you want more meat for the screw to grab onto. Okay, so we line up our drill bit so that it’s not gonna be as long as the screw is, see that? So you can see that’s how far we’re going to drill into the second cabinet. You have to go all the way through this one, and just a teeny bit into this one, you wanna leave a lot of meat for that screw to grab onto.

You can see how level the floor is and the cabinets, because that thing’s right smack dab in the middle. Okay, so now you can see it’s very important here to have the entire front face of all of these cabinets have to be exactly flush. You don’t wanna see any lippage here, like you would see like when you’re tiling a floor for example. You don’t wanna see any lippage. So it has to be perfect, and how do you make it like that? Well you wanna make sure that this cabinet is square to here and so you see this gap here that has to be absolutely perfect, and so we’re cutting up some biscuits of wood now to stick in these back here to make sure it acts like a spacer and it maintains that distance.

Otherwise when you go to hang these cabinets, they’re gonna start flopping around, even though we’ve already screwed them in the front, they have to be secured in the back and we like to go completely through a piece of wood and into the cabinet. So now our biscuits are screwed into place, our spacers. And we have a nice parallel space here. So now that we’ve flipped over the cabinets, we’re using our level again to make sure that across the front edge of these cabinets, this is the top of them now, see? You wanna make sure that it’s completely level, straight, flat.

And so that’s why we had to size our biscuit there accordingly in the back, to slightly push out that cabinet and rotate it enough to bring it forward against the level. So here we’re doing the pantry unit, and at the end of the pantry unit, we have this two inch filler piece of wood here that we’re gonna start tying. See you’ve got those gaps? Okay so here we’ve got the pantry unit is connected up, and you can see, let me show you this here, if you look at the bottom, it’s all the way snug up against the wall, and keep in mind it’s standing perfectly level, and the front end of this is true, the front face. But even though it’s standing level, you can see how the wall is slowly starting to lean backward and by the time you get up to the top, you’re off almost a half inch up there. So that’s why we used shims like this, and we screwed through the shim to get through the wall so that when we’re done, the front face of this is completely level.

So now we’re gonna hang the other three cabinets that we just bolted together. They’re gonna rest on top of this ledger board so we can go ahead and screw them into the wall. Alright, so this cabinet is gonna go up against that pantry unit. So it needs to have that one inch spacer piece that you see there. That’s to allow for the swinging of the door, the opening of the door.

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A lot of people forget that, you know, you would just put the cabinet right up against the pantry unit, but that would be most incorrect. So we’re going to screw those two pieces together before we hang this cabinet on the wall next to the pantry unit. And you can see as we showed earlier, we screwed in all of the biscuits here in the back, so these are nice and parallel as you go across there from back to front. And same with this one over here. And so now we’re just clamping in these two pieces so that we can screw them in and they’ll hold in nice and tight.

Now if you look on the back of the cabinets here, see how you have these thicker braces that run along the top and the sides and the bottom? So this top one here is where we’re gonna run our screws through when we mount this to the wall. And the screws will go right through this piece, right through the drywall, and right into the blocks that we installed onto the stud wall before we drywalled up the wall there. And so we’ll have screws in the top, and maybe even some on the bottom too We’ll get that up in a minute. Alright, since this middle cabinet here is going to go over the microwave oven outlet, we’ve outlined where exactly it’s going to be, we calculated it and we drilled the four corners here, and then we’ll come back with a jigsaw and cut that out.

I have this piece of tape down here just as an indicator when we hang this up on the wall whether or not this will be in line horizontally with the outlet. So here we’ve set the three cabinets here onto the wall, and if you look here where I put my indicator tape, it landed right smack dab in between the two lines where we know our outlet is. So when we come back later to saw that off, we’ll be perfect. So here’s a little trick here when you’re trying to put that little end piece molding in right there, that filler piece, see how we maintain that nice hairline crack  and you do that by sticking a shim in here, that wedges it against it from the wall. And also here, sometimes you get a space here in between the cabinet and the wall, so we always like to shim it out here, and then your little mounting screw that you’ll see back here in the corner goes through that shim, that we are nice and straight there.

So we got the light rail corners here, you can see the two pieces that are gonna go on the bottom of the cabinet here, and we’re forming them at a 90 degree angle, and you always put a little bit of glue on there. And then we use the little triangle shaped piece to wedge it in there. Next And then the other side, yup. Another two. Alright, so installing the light rail, see the corner here, you have that little crack there, so we always fill in that gap, make sure that’s nice and tiny, as small a crack as you can possibly get. Then you nail it into place. So you can see right under here we have blocks that are on the underside of this, you can’t see them but they’re right behind it, and it’s a nailing block that you just, brad nail this into, ’cause you can’t put it right into the bottom of the cabinet.

Okay, so this is, we pointed out earlier to you that this is the cabinet that is going over the fridge. And we always get them super deep so that it lines up with the front of the fridge. But the problem is is that you get this big, sort of a hanging cantilever effect, it wants to sag. So what we did here was on the side wall here, we stuck in this block and screwed in into the stud right through that block to keep this thing level here on the front, and we did all this before we put in the filler piece, which is going to come in next. And you can see because it’s slightly moving it out from the wall by pushing it up, and because of the curvature of the wall, we had to shim in the back there.

So our screws inside the cabinet are going right through these shims. And here you can see the final installed product here. Everything worked out quite nicely for us So some things. I want you to keep in mind here, and this is why we so stress the fact that you always wanna tile under your cabinets here, and make sure you have a completely, perfectly level, flat floor here so that your cabinets will be nice and level. But of course you can shim them if you have to, but it’s so crucial before the granite guys come to have these guys right here to be completely level all the way over to this one here, this is our dishwasher panel up against the wall.

So you always wanna lay down like a six foot level here and make sure it’s completely, totally, 100% flat, it can’t rock at all when you put that level down because when they put the granite on there, the granite will crack if it’s not completely level. And then over here, you remember we talked about this block that we put here to help secure the front end of the cabinet here, and then that all gets covered up by the spacer piece up against the wall. Now, this wall here is not completely straight, so we had to taper the cut when we cut this on the saw here. And in fact there was even a little bulge out right in this area of the mud here, we had to cut into the drywall just a teeny bit for that. And you can see here the light rail came out pretty nice too and then over here on this side, this is the stove side here and all the way over here against the pantry, and this is a really nice pantry, too.

These drawers come all the way out, which is a really nice feature to have. And they go all the way in, slow close, and of what we always do, slow close on the doors. And if you ever have to adjust your doors once you put them up, if you need them to go right or left, you go right here and you use a Phillips head right here on this screw, and if you turn it, it’ll automatically go either left or right. So these are great for doing your fine adjustments. And then back over here, this is where the left panel is for the dishwasher, I wanted to show you what we had to do here in order to get this guy to be nice and perfectly level, plum and true here, too, ’cause you need exactly 24 inches across for your dishwasher to fit in here.

So you can see all of the shimming that goes on behind the scenes. This will all get covered up by the granite, but you can see how uneven the wall was going up ‘Cause as you go down to the floor there, it comes down almost to a point, see? The caulk line that we had to do here gets wider as we go up to the top here, right And here on the windowsill, we’ll have the granite guys cut us a piece here that will match to put here as well. And don’t forget, once you install your cabinets, to always run a bead of caulk up the edge, because that caulk is stronger than a thousand nails.