Kitchen Cabinet Selection and Installation Guide

When you’re planning your kitchen remodel, one of the key factors you’ll need to consider is the cabinets.

They generally account for about half of the kitchen remodeling budget, so you want to make sure that you’re getting the best quality for your money.

Furthermore, choosing the right cabinet can make or break the overall design of your kitchen and make a difference between a beautiful, easy to use room and an aggravating mess.

Whatever style you ultimately choose, the key to kitchen cabinet success is to select a brand certified by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.

These cabinets are subjected to common kitchen traumas like high heat and vinegar spills, and they hold up the best.

Selecting the Right Cabinets for Your Kitchen

The first step in cabinet selection is to determine what kind of cabinets you’d like (and what you can afford!).

You have three options depending on your budget and needs:

  1. Custom – Custom cabinets are made to exactly suit your needs in terms of style, material, and layout. If you have an oddly shaped kitchen or want fancy pull-out drawers to store your small appliances, custom cabinets might be the best choice for you. However, they’re the most expensive option and take time to fabricate.
  2. Semi-custom – Semi-custom cabinets allow you to change the look of your cabinets, with more materials and colors available in comparison to stock units. Most lines will also offer a few accessories like deeper drawers or pull-out shelves, but these options are generally limited.
  3. Stock – Stock cabinets are the least expensive and have the fastest delivery time, since they just need to be shipped from the warehouse. However, you get fewer style and finish options.

Wood is the most common cabinet material, with lighter and darker finishes to suit any color scheme, but don’t overlook other options. Stainless steel and laminate cabinets are also popular, and they help to create a sleek look.

Whatever material you choose, make sure to get a high-quality, sturdy material. You don’t want to trust the safety of your prized heirloom china to a few sheets of particleboard.

Next, you will need to select the style of cabinets that best fits your decor. Traditional style cabinets have visible trim and suit more traditional styles like country and Tuscan kitchen designs.

Frameless European cabinets are also becoming increasingly popular. These cabinets have long lines suitable for simple, modern styles; only the kitchen cabinet doors are visible from the front. You can also select kitchen cabinet hardware to better coordinate with your room.

Simple Steps to Install Your Cabinets

  • The first step to installing your kitchen cabinets is to decide if you want to start with the wall cabinets or the base units. If you start with the base cabinets, you can cover the counter with a blanket and rest the wall units on it to reduce lifting. However, installing the wall units first is often quicker.
  • Depending on the cabinets you’ve selected, you may need to assemble them according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Measure everything carefully, and mark the area where each cabinet will be placed. Make sure to use a level to insure that you don’t end up with crooked cabinets. Use a stud finder to locate and mark the wall studs. You absolutely must attach your cabinets to studs, or they’ll fall down.

To Install Wall Cabinets

  • If you’re attaching multiple cabinets, it’s easier to connect them before you put them up. Attach several cabinets to each other with screws. (It’s helpful to drill pilot holes first.)
  • If you have a helper, you can have them lift the cabinets into place. However, it’s difficult to hold such an unwieldy load steady enough to attach it to the wall, so it’s a good idea to rest the cabinets on something and have your helper hold them steady. Try using paint cans or buckets. You can adjust the height with pieces of wood or books.
  • Attach the cabinets to the wall studs using cabinet mounting screws. Again, drill the holes before inserting the screws to avoid splintering your cabinets. Make sure that you connect the cabinets to all of the available studs. At minimum, you should use one screw at the top and one at the bottom.
  • Carefully remove your supports.

To Install Base Cabinets

  • Check the area to see if it’s level. If you’re installing expensive tile flooring, it’s silly to waste your tiles on areas that will be hidden under the cabinets, but you’ll need to fill those gaps or you’ll end up with a row of crooked cabinets. Tile underlayment is a good material for smaller gaps. You may need to use wood shims to fill larger holes or dips.
  • Start in the corner if you have a corner unit. If not, start in the middle and work out. Corner units generally require installation of wall supports called “cleats.” These are attached to the wall studs near the top of the cabinet, and the cabinet is nailed onto them. This helps to keep the unit stationary while you’re putting in the other pieces.
  • Set another unit in place. Before installing each unit, check to make sure that it lies flat against the floor (if not, add some material underneath to fill the gaps) and flush against the wall (again add filler if necessary).
  • Cut all of the appropriate holes for plumbing and other accessories before attaching the cabinets.
  • Connect a couple of the cabinets together using cabinet mounting screws. Fit them into place and screw them into the wall studs at top and bottom.
  • If you end up with unexpected gaps between the units, all is not lost. Consider installing a filler wood panel between them and paint or stain it to match. You can also use this technique to adjust the cabinet spacing to fit plumbing or wiring needs.

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