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How to Install Kitchen Cabinets | Ask This Old House

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.)
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Shopping List for How to Install Kitchen Cabinets:
Kitchen cabinets [https://amzn.to/2ZEdM2g] 3-inch screws [https://amzn.to/2Prpf1l], to fasten cabinets to walls
Wood shims [https://amzn.to/34sYQDw], for leveling and plumbing cabinets
2×4 blocking [https://amzn.to/2ZGAurp], to secure peninsula or island cabinets

Tools for How to Install Kitchen Cabinets:
2-foot [https://amzn.to/2ZLPXpd] and 6-foot [https://amzn.to/2ZEDvs7] levels, for determining level and plumb alignment
Tape measure [https://amzn.to/2MXmOkN] Screwdriver [https://amzn.to/2N3Nlxd], to unscrew doors
Cordless drill [https://amzn.to/2ZQS4nM], for drilling holes
Impact driver [https://amzn.to/2LraKFj], to drive screws
Utility knife [https://amzn.to/2MXO9n9], 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 34_ 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 34_-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 2×4 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.

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Homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions for us on smaller projects, and we’re ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by our viewers—and we make house calls! Ask This Old House features some familiar faces from This Old House, including Kevin O’Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook.

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How to Install Kitchen Cabinets | Ask This Old House


  1. call someone who knows what they're doing…not these two!!!

  2. I would never wear a tool belt to install cabinets.

  3. What do you do if the ceiling is not level?

  4. I notices these are Chinese cabinets in a box, many have poor glue and the plywood delaminates with sun and moisture and they have the fancy hydraulic closers and plastic orange drawer releases under the drawers. I would put a wide pan under the sink to catch and water or drips.

  5. Today I went from finding a good deal on a sink on Facebook marketplace, to completely remodeling the kitchen 🤔

  6. What do you do if there aren't studs right where you need them?

  7. Marvelous camera work and description of your approach for leveling and measuring and whether to shim or not. Also I love the z theory for aligning that blind cabinet to the stove area and making it accessible easily to remove If necessary.

  8. I love to screwed from behind.

  9. how much weight can those cabinets mounted with screws to the wood studs take? Can the cabinets ever pull off the wall from the studs and collapse? Or the shelves alone collapse down from those little feet of steel or plastic used to hold them in place?

  10. How do you secure the cabinets? They'd be too heavy to screw directly into the plasterboard, no? Do you have to screw them into the studs ?

  11. Not changing that floor (old dirty vinyl) at a time like this… is just a mistake.

  12. Hello! Doing a kitchen remodel on an old home and this was very helpful! A question for the community – why is the tile in the sink base area not tiled closer to the wall. It's the same at my house and I was going to tile close to the wall when the new floor goes in.

  13. At point 3.21 by the expression on Kevens face it looks like Tom passed ⛽️ poor guy such a confined space, should have opened that window incase of these unforseen accidents. it's nice how Tommy kept his composure🤭🙃😉nice job guy's 👍👍

  14. i guess no floor cleaning before the install . lmao

  15. You Americans have kitchens that would date back to the 70's in European countries. They all come with adjustable legs now.

  16. Screwing it from behind is always the best way to go!

  17. Amazing I install the same way 👍

  18. lol attach with 3" screws, use shackled screws, or add washers ppl.

  19. Tommy is a G! screw it from behind eh haha

  20. I recently moved into an apartment and I am beginning to see roaches coming from under my sink. I've noticed that there's spaces as to where no caulking in alot of places and in other places like when you remove the drawers the cabinets are not flush with the wall. What actions should I take???

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