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Installing Kitchen Cabinets & Adjusting Cabinet Doors

How to Install Kitchen Cabinets
Includes Pro Tips from This Old House

Learn to Install Kitchen Cabinets

If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Right - Professional Installation Techniques Will Give Your RTA Kitchen Cabinets or Fully Assembled Cabinets a Seamless Appearance and Custom Look - Achieve The Look of Custom Cabinets For Less!

Details Make the Difference.

We Love This Old House, and We Love the Professional Quality Tips Given by general contractor and carpenter Tom Silva.  We Have Compiled Some of Our Favorite Videos on The Topic of Cabinet Installation - It's All About Getting Everything Straight, Level, Plumb, and Securely Fastened - Watch How Tom Does It!

Don't Miss Our Section On Eco-Friendly Cabinet Removal - Turn Your Old Cabinets into Green Cabinets

Tom Silva Hangs Kitchen Cabinets

This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shows how to hang cabinets like a pro carpenter. (See below for a shopping list and tools.)

Shopping List for How to Install Kitchen Cabinets:
  • kitchen wall and base cabinets
  • finishing nails - used to find wall studs
  • 3-inch drywall screws - used to fasten filler strip to floor
  • 1 1/4-inch pan-head screws - used to screw sides of cabinets together
  • wood shims
  • 2½-inch drywall screw with finishing washer - used to fasten rear of upper cabinets to wall
  • cabinet jack - used to hold wall cabinets
Tools for How to Install Kitchen Cabinets:
  • 4-foot and 6-foot level
  • drill/driver
  • hammer
  • tape measure
  • clamps - used to hold cabinets together
  • jigsaw - for cutting vent hole in over-the-stove cabinet

Tom Silva Installs RTA Kitchen Cabinets

This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shares expert tips and techniques for installing new kitchen cabinets. (See below for a shopping list, tools, and steps.)

Shopping List for How to Install Kitchen Cabinets:
  • Kitchen cabinets
  • 3-inch screws - to fasten cabinets to walls
  • Wood shims - for leveling and plumbing cabinets
  • 2x4 blocking - to secure peninsula or island cabinets
Tools for How to Install Kitchen Cabinets:
  • 2-foot and 6-foot levels - for determining level and plumb alignment
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver - to unscrew doors
  • Cordless drill - for drilling holes Impact driver - to drive screws Utility knife - for trimming shims
Steps for How to Install Kitchen Cabinets:
  1. Check the ceiling for level in two directions. If it’s out of level, find the low spot and use it as the measuring reference point.
  2. Measure down from the ceiling (or low spot) 33 inches in several places and mark the walls. These marks represent the bottom of the upper cabinets.
  3. Connect the marks with a long level and a sharp pencil to produce a level line along the kitchen walls.
  4. Mark the stud locations on the walls, then measure and transfer stud locations to the back of the upper cabinets. (If you prefer to proceed with one cabinet at a time, begin with the one that will hang in the corner of the kitchen, and continue with consecutive cabinets.)
  5. Pre-drill a screw-shank clearance hole through the cabinet backs at each stud location.
  6. Unscrew and remove the cabinet doors; place the doors in a nearby room for safekeeping.
  7. Hold the first wall cabinet in place in the corner of the kitchen. Be sure the bottom of the cabinet is even with the level line marked in Step 3.
  8. Drive one screw through the upper back of the cabinet and into the wall stud.
  9. Check the cabinet for plumb with a level. If necessary, slide shims behind the cabinet. Then drive in the remaining screws to secure the cabinet. Trim the shims with a utility knife.
  10. Repeat the previous six steps to install the rest of the upper cabinets.
  11. To prepare for installing the base cabinets, lay a 6-foot level on the floor in several places to identify the high spot.
  12. From the floor’s high spot, measure up 34½ inches and mark the wall.
  13. From that mark, draw a level line around the kitchen walls. This line represents the top of the base cabinets.
  14. Install the sink base cabinet first, centering it under the window.
  15. Drive shims under the sink cabinet, if necessary, to raise it flush with the 34½-inch reference line marked on the wall.
  16. Fasten the sink base cabinet to the wall studs with 3-inch screws. Before fully tightening the screws, slip a shim behind the cabinet to fill any void.
  17. Check the cabinet for level from front to back; slide shims under the front of the cabinet, if necessary, to level it. Trim the shims with the utility knife.
  18. Install the remaining base cabinets in a similar manner.
  19. To secure peninsula or island cabinets, screw 2x4 blocking to the floor. Set the cabinets over the blocking, then screw through the toekick and into the blocking.
  20. Cover the exposed end of the cabinets with a decorative panel. Drive in short screws from inside the cabinet.
  21. Install all the drawers and doors.
  22. Fabricate a filler strip to fit alongside the base cabinet that abuts the range. Fasten the filler by screwing through the cabinet face frame.
  23. Once the base cabinets are installed, make a template for the new countertop.

Installing Cabinet Hardware with Tom Silva

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva gives tips on installing cabinet hardware accurately and consistently.

Skill Level: Beginner


Shopping List:

  • Two-faced putty
  • Adjustable jigs



  1. On base cabinets with drawers, keep pulls on lower drawers slightly higher than center. They’ll appear centered when viewed from above.

  2. To visually check the location of a knob without making holes, use two-faced putty.

  3. Use a combination square to measure the center location and transfer that measurement to other cabinets.

  4. Use scrap wood to create a jig to ensure consistent placement of hardware.

  5. A basic plastic jig can be used for marking with several offsets located.

  6. An adjustable jig can ensure consistent placement and acts as a drill guide.

  7. Another adjustable jig offers spacing for both pulls and knobs on door and drawer front cabinets.


Environmentally Friendly Cabinet Removal
Hint: You Should Never Use a Sledge-Hammer!


Ok, I know it is tempting.  You've been watching a little to much DIY Network, and you are ready to go.  You HATE your cabinets and literally want to DEMOLISH them... with a sledge-hammer.  STOP... Please, Please, Please Don't Do This!  And let me tell you why.  Those awful cabinets that you hate so much are probably a prime example of 'one man's trash is another man's treasure.'  You may find it hard to believe, but there is always someone out there that has less... and they could really use the cabinets that you are about to tear up.

We personally recommend carefully removing your cabinets and donating them to your local Habitat For Humanity Re-Store (or other charity of your choice).  The Re-Store will take your kitchen cabinets including counter-tops, sink, faucet, hardware, and appliances.  These items can be resold in their store which helps generate income for their cause.  A True Win-Win! Other places to donate may include The Salvation Army, Goodwill, or even a local church (be sure to check with your chosen charity a couple weeks before demo begins to check their rules and requirements for donations).  You can also give your old cabinets a second chance on Let Go, Craigslist, or Offer Up. Whatever you choose to do, Go Green by giving your cabinets a chance at a second-hand life. :)

For more thoughts on this topic, check out these articles:

Removing Kitchen Cabinets By This Old House magazine

Q: How do we remove old kitchen cabinets?

How to Recycle Your Kitchen - By Christine Tusher - Houzz Contributor

Instead of adding to the junk pile — and paying landfill fees — get rid of old appliances, cabinets and countertops the ecofriendly way

How to Recycle Your Kitchen Cabinets - By Nicole Jacobs - Houzz Contributor

Check out these creative, environmentally friendly alternatives to tossing your cabinets in the dumpster

PLANT ONE TREE | Prefinished Cabinets Pledge to Plant One Tree for Every Cabinet Purchased

Every Kitchen Cabinet & Bath Cabinet Purchased will PLANT ONE TREE

PREFINISHED CABINETS is committed to PLANT ONE TREE for each and every cabinet purchased.  As a proud Small Business Partner of the National Forest Foundation, we plan to help them reach their goal of planting 50 MILLION TREES across our National Forests.  A simple $1 donation will plant a tree on a National Forest in need. For every dollar invested, the U.S. Forest Service provides an additional $2 value in the form of project support and implementation.  Click to learn more about our PLANT ONE TREE initiative and the National Forest Foundation.
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