Cabinet Installation

The right techniques make cabinet installation a straightforward process. Here, some tips from the pros to make installation a level and plumb job.

Follow the basic rule of carpentry—the final results should be straight, square, and strong. In new construction, subfloors are usually in good condition and provide a sturdy, flat surface for base cabinets to rest on. The same goes for newly erected walls-today's engineered lumber products combined with good construction practices typically mean walls will be plumb and true. In older homes, floors are more likely to have high and low spots, and walls, floors, and corners may not meet at perfect 90-degree angles. Your cabinet installer will remedy minor problems with a few common tools and a little ingenuity.

No two jobs are ever alike for a cabinet installation, but most base cabinet installations are relatively straightforward. The first step is to identify the highest area on the floor and mark it on the wall. One technique is to use a shims and a carpenter's level. The rear of the base cabinet must be level with the front. If the highest point on the floor is closer to the wall, the front of the cabinet must be raised with shims. If the highest point on the floor is farther away from the wall, the rear of the cabinet must be raised to the equal height.

Drawing a straight line on the wall to mark the top of the base cabinets will assure that all of the base cabinets are installed at the identical height and the countertop will have a flat mounting surface. A 2x4 and a level are commonly used to make sure the line is perfectly straight. The standard cabinet height in the U.S. is 34-1/2-inches. Note: The height of the top line should be measured from the highest point on the floor.

With base cabinets, many installers secure all the cabinets to each other before attaching them to the wall. Standard bar clamps can be used to make sure each cabinet is secure before installing fasteners, but professional installers often use a tool called the "Cabinet Claw." Its jaws pull the face frames of two cabinets together, and a front clamp aligns them flush with each other.

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