Kitchen Cabinet Installation Guide
Remodeling your kitchen may seem like a large project. However the following step-by-step guide will show you that it may not be as difficult as you imagine. Plus installing your new RTA kitchen cabinets will not only save you money but will give a profound sense of accomplishment that you can be proud of every time you enter your beautiful new kitchen. The steps outlined below start with the disassembly of your old kitchen, assessing the condition of the kitchen floors and walls, laying out the location of the new RTA kitchen cabinets, and then installing the new cabinets. Please note this guide is general in terms of procedures and issues you may encounter. Your specific kitchen may present situations that are too detailed for this guide. Like any carpentry project, a good understanding of wood working is required to successfully install your cabinets. If you find yourself with a problem that is beyond your capability we recommend that you enlist the help of a professional.
STEP 1. Remove Existing Kitchen Appliances, Countertops, and Cabinets
- All utilities (water, electric, and gas) should be turned off before any connections are disassembled. If you are not comfortable in turning off the utilities, please have a professional perform these tasks.
- Remove existing appliances including refrigerator, stove, cook top, oven, dishwasher, microwave oven in order to provide access to the cabinets.
- Remove existing faucet and sink.
- Remove existing counter top.
- Remove cabinet doors, drawers, and shelves.
- Remove existing molding around the cabinets.
- Remove existing cabinets. Locate the mounting screws in the old cabinets, these will be found along the back panels of the cabinets and through the face frames between cabinets. First remove the screws through the face frames holding the cabinets to each other. Then remove the screws that hold the cabinets to the walls. You may need help holding the wall cabinets when the mounting screws are removed so that the cabinets do not fall.
STEP 2. Assessing the Kitchen Floors and Walls
- Once the appliances and old cabinets have been removed from the kitchen you can assess the floors and walls of the kitchen to determine if they are uneven, not square, or out of plumb (not vertical). Floors may have high or low spots, corners of the rooms may not be square, and walls may not be plumb which will affect the installation. Identifying these items at this stage will help you make the proper adjustments during the installation of the cabinets.
- Using a carpenter’s level (typically 4’ long) on the floor find and mark the high points where the cabinets will be located. Do not forget to consider the entire cabinet foot-print area on the floor.
- Draw a level line around the walls of the kitchen and measure the distance between the line and the floor at various locations around the room. The smallest distance between the line and the floor will be the highest “high point”. The difference between the smallest distance and the other distances will give you an indication of how much the base cabinets will need to be shimmed.
- At the highest “high point” on the floor measure the distance to the top of the base cabinets and he bottom of the wall cabinets. Base cabinets are 34 ½” tall. The distance to the bottom of the wall cabinets is typically 54 inches (34 ½” base cabinet height + 1 ½” counter-top + 18” back splash) above the floor. Draw a line for the top of the base cabinets and the bottom of the wall cabinets around the kitchen.
- Using a carpenter’s level check the walls at various locations to see if they are plumb. Note any discrepancies because you will need shims when mounting the wall cabinets in order to make them vertical.
- Using a carpenter’s square check the corners of the room where the cabinets will be installed to determine if the adjacent walls are 900 to each other. Note any discrepancies as they will need to be taken into consideration when placing the cabinets and installing filler pieces.
- Locate the wall studs around the room and mark the walls. Wall studs are typically 16” or 24” apart, but each stud location should be verified with a nail. When locating the studs with a nail do so where the nail holes will be covered by the new cabinets.
- Draw the locations of the cabinets on the walls to be sure the kitchen design will fit and the RTA kitchen cabinets are where you will want them to be. Be sure to take into consideration the width of the cabinet body is approximately 3/8” less then the face frame dimension.
STEP 3. Installing Wall Kitchen Cabinets
- After the kitchen floors and walls are assessed and you know where the studs are located you can begin installing the wall cabinets. It is typically better to install the wall cabinets first so that you are not working over the base cabinets.
- In order to align the cabinets on the wall attach (screw or nail) a temporary ledger board (1”x2” works well) at the line drawn on the wall that corresponds to either the bottom of the wall cabinets (typically 54” above the floor), or the top of the wall cabinets. The illustration shows the ledger board located at the top of the cabinets.
- Starting at the corner cabinet first, measure and mark the cabinet where the wall studs will be located. Drill pilot holes for the mounting screws in the top and bottom hanging rails where the studs will be located.
- Set the cabinet on the temporary ledger board and support the front of the cabinet with a wooden T-brace. Note installing wall cabinets is much easier with 2 people. Check the cabinet alignment using a level and shim where needed to make the cabinet vertical and horizontal. Attach the cabinet to the wall using #8 wood screws that penetrate the wall studs by at least 1 ½”. Each wall cabinet should be attached to the wall with at least 4 screws. Do not fully tighten the mounting screws.
- If the corner cabinet is a blind wall cabinet, be sure to mount the cabinet the correct distance away from the adjacent wall in accordance with the installation instructions. See the instructions on installing blind corner cabinets.
- Install the next wall cabinet by first locating the wall studs on the cabinet, drilling pilot holes, setting the cabinet on the ledger board, shimming the cabinet to make level if needed and screwing to the wall. Do not fully tighten the screws to the wall.
- Clamp together the stiles of the face frames of the two cabinets such that the frames are flush on front and even at the bottom and top. Carefully drill pilot holes through the stile of one cabinet and slightly into the next near the top and bottom of the cabinet. Counter-sink the pilot holes. Screw the cabinet face frames tightly together.
- Recheck the cabinets for levelness and adjust the shims if needed. Tighten the first cabinet securely to the wall.
- Repeat the steps with each wall cabinet around the kitchen. After all of the wall cabinets are installed and secured to the wall the temporary ledger board can be removed.
STEP 4. Installing Fillers and Valances
- Fillers are needed to fill in gaps between the cabinets and a wall and to provide adequate clearance for doors and drawers especially when using blind corner cabinets. Fillers may need to be cut to size to fit in an odd dimension next to a wall.
- Measure or mark the required width of the filler at the top and bottom of the filler piece. Cut the filler and attach with a similar procedure as used to secure the face frames together.
- Valances are installed between cabinets. If the valance has a decorative scroll pattern and needs to be cut to length, it should be cut equally on both ends so that the decorative scroll remains symmetrical.
STEP 5. Installing Base Kitchen Cabinets
- As with the wall cabinets, the base cabinets should be started at a corner.
- When using a Blind Corner Cabinet first position the cabinet the appropriate distance away from the adjacent wall in accordance with the installation instructions (see instructions for installing blind corner cabinets). Next shim the corners of the cabinet such that top of the cabinet is at the top-of-base-cabinet line you drew on the wall (34 ½”) and the cabinet is level side to side and front to back. Check for level along both sides and the front and back of the cabinet and make sure all four corners are touching the floor or shim. Attach to wall with screws through the hanging rail that penetrate the wall studs by at least 1 ½”. Each base cabinet should be attached to the wall with at least 2 wood screws. Do not tighten the screws to the wall at this point.
- Next attach the filler board to the adjacent cabinet and install to the wall with a similar procedure. Screw the filler board to the Blind Corner Cabinet.
- When using a Rotating or Easy Reach Corner Base the corner cabinet and the two adjacent cabinets located on both sides of the base cabinet will be installed as an assembled unit. Before the three cabinets are assembled together they each should be set against the wall and shimmed so that they are at the top-of-base-cabinet line and are level front to back and side to side. Next, attach the face frames of the two adjacent cabinets to the corner base. Clamp the face frames together, drill pilot holes through the stiles of the adjacent cabinets, and tightly screw the three cabinets together. Place the three cabinet assembly as one unit into the corner using the shims previously set and check to be sure the unit is at the top-of-base-cabinet line and is level front to back and side to side. Attach assembled unit to the wall with wood screws through the hanging rail of the two adjacent cabinets. Finally screw to the wall counter top support boards at the top-of-base-cabinet line.
- When using a Base Corner Filler the two adjacent cabinets will be attached to the base corner filler pieces and the assembled unit will installed together. However, before attaching the adjacent cabinets to the corner filler pieces set the adjacent cabinets in position against the wall and determine what shims are needed. Next screw the filler pieces to the adjacent cabinets thus creating a unit of cabinets and set the assembled unit in place using the shims previously set. Check the cabinets for level on each side front to back and side to side and adjust the shims as needed. Attach assembled unit to the wall with wood screws through the hanging rails of the adjacent cabinets. Finally screw the wall counter top support boards at the top-of-base-cabinet line.
- Install the remaining cabinets in succession using the same procedures described above. Set the cabinet in place and determine the shims needed to bring the cabinet up to the top-of-base-cabinet line on the wall and to make the cabinet level front to back and side to side. Clamp the face frames of the cabinets together, drill pilot holes and screw the face frames of the cabinets securely together. Then attach the cabinet to the wall using screws through the hanging rail that extend into the wall studs at least 1 ½”. Continually check the levelness across the top of the cabinets. If necessary adjust the shims as needed.
STEP 6. Installing Counter Top
- Counter top installation varies with the type of counter top used. Some stone counter tops require a plywood base while other counter tops can be mounted directly on top of the cabinets. Each base cabinet should have corner braces installed at each corner that have counter top mounting holes. These corner braces along with the screws provided can be used to attach the counter top to the base cabinets. Carefully follow the manufactures instructions for installing the counter top.
STEP 7. Installing Trim Molding
- Installing trim molding including crown molding gives your new kitchen cabinets that professional finished look and feel. The moldings are installed where the cabinets meet the walls, soffit, ceiling and floor. The moldings should be measured or marked to length and carefully cut with a miter box or miter saw to ensure square or properly angled cuts. Small finish nails or a pin nailer should be used to attach the molding to the cabinets.
STEP 8. Door Adjustment and Final Touch-Up
- After you have installed your new kitchen cabinets you may need to adjust the cabinet doors so that they close and open properly and are perfectly aligned. All hinges have adjusting screws on the cabinet so that the doors can be brought into alignment. If adjustments are needed make sure all hinge screws are tight. Finally you may notice nicks or scratches in the finish of the cabinets. These can be fixed with touch-up stain or paint. Touch-up kits are available for each cabinet color and style. Be sure to include the appropriate touch-up kit with your cabinet order.