How To Install Base Cabinets

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  • Before You Begin: If you’re installing a new floor, this is the best time to do so since you can run it under the cabinetry – unless you’re installing a floating floor.  A floating floor should be installed after the cabinetry, but the cabinetry must be raised to a height just above the flooring. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble installing appliances later.
  • Cut plywood strips to the thickness of your new floating floor and underlayment.  Before tacking the strips, level them with shims.  This will make installation easier.
  • Remove cabinet doors and drawers before you begin for easier installation.
  • If the wall is extremely bowed, shims can keep the cabinet square and fill the space between the base and the wall.
  • If your wall is bowed, glue shims over the stud lines where you’ll secure the mounting screws. This will prevent the cabinet backs from bowing when you drive in the screws.
  • To even cabinet tops against the back wall, shim under the cabinet base against the wall.
  • As you progress, keep the screws loose so you can realign as you go. You’ll go back and retighten later.  Keep the faces and tops lined up with your reference line.
  1. Starting with a corner, use the guides you marked on the walls to transfer the stud locations to the cabinets, taking care to account for the face frame.  Drill the holes and set the corner cabinet in place.  The horizontal line on the wall is your main guide. The line on the floor is your secondary guide.  Line up the top and shim underneath the base, front and back to get it level and plumb.
  2. When everything aligns, drive the screws at the back just tight enough to hold the cabinet in place.
  3. For the second cabinet, drill pilot holes through the back and position the cabinet next to the first.  Even the faces, shimming where necessary as shown, and clamp the cabinet faces together.  Drive screws into the back, just tight enough to hold it in place.
  4. Drill pilot holes with a countersink / taper bit through the face frames and connect the cabinets with #8 screws.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you reach the sink base.  When you get to the sink base, cut the holes for plumbing in the back and install the cabinet like the rest.
  6. If you did not raise your cabinets for floating floors, you’ll likely need to shim under the base near the wall.  Use the shim of the adjacent cabinet as a guide. When you cut that shim, cut another and leave it in place.
  7. When you reach the end of the row, don’t be alarmed if you have a space at the end.  Set the last cabinet in place without connecting it and measure the gap at the top and bottom. Mark and cut the filler strip.
  8. For uneven walls, clamp the filler strip to the frame. Use a compass to scribe a line following the contours of the wall and cut at a 7- to 10-degree bevel. Check the width of the piece, mark and cut the cabinet side if you need to – or use a plane for minor adjustments. Clamp the filler piece flush to the cabinet, drill holes through the frame and attach the piece with screws.
  9. Once all the cabinets are connected, tighten the rear screws and remove the clamps.
  10. If you have spaces without frame to support the countertop, such as end walls and corner cabinets, attach 1-by-2s to the wall with screws.
  11. Cut and attach the toekicks with finishing nails.  If you’re installing a floating floor, complete your flooring installation before this step.