On Installing Cabinet Pulls

By on August 5, 2016

We believe that cabinets are to kitchens and baths what furniture is to other rooms in the home. Indeed, a handsome set of built-ins in a family room or den can well be considered furniture.

Design, material, quality of construction and finish are the elements that influence weather a cabinet can be considered to be in the same league as furniture. A well-built cabinet can last indefinitely. And although its finish may become a little worse for the wear over time, the finish can be periodically renewed to maintain its beauty. A new coat of paint can breath new life into a previously out-of-date color scheme.

One aspect of cabinet construction that has a great deal to do with appearance is the hardware, namely hinges and pulls. Hinges hold cabinet doors to the cabinet boxes. Pulls are what you hold on to when opening and closing a cabinet door.

Irregardless of the cabinet style, traditional or Eurostyle, all cabinets that contain doors have hinges. The same can’t be said for pulls. In many instances, a cabinet will be designed without the use of a pull. Instead, the cabinet door is constructed with a finger pull which consists of a small area which has been recessed into the back side of a cabinet door. Sometimes the entire back edge of the door is back-beveled. In either case, a pull is not required.

Why do some cabinets have pulls and others don’t? Personal taste. For some, a cabinet pull adds ornamental value to the cabinet. Conversely, others believe that a pull simply adds clutter to an otherwise simple, elegant configuration. Still others approach the issue from a utilitarian point of view. They find that a pull makes using the cabinet doors far easier.

It’s true that pulls can add ornamental value to a cabinet. Pulls come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and finishes. Round knobs, oval knobs, D shapes, polished chrome, brushed nickel, bright brass, a rainbow of colors and hand painted porcelain are a few of the choices.

Frequently, a pull is coordinated with other finishes in the space. For example, a hand painted porcelain pull may be chosen to match hand painted counter tile. A brushed nickel D pull may be the best choice where a clean, clinical look is desired.

The choice in pull styles have expanded with the rage in solid surface counter material. Custom fabricated pulls can be made to match synthetic and composite counter materials consisting of a solid color, multiple colors or variegated patterns.

There are as many different prices for pulls as there are choices. A single pull can range in price from just under fifty cents to upwards of fifty dollars. Solid metal, custom made material and hand painted finishes are among the more costly options.

A fresh coat of paint or varnish and a new set of pulls is one of the most cost effective ways to embellish the appearance of a kitchen or bath and enhance the value of a home. On the contrary, a poorly installed set of pulls can detract from appearance and value.

Therefore, while pull installation is a great do-it-yourself project, the more professional the installation the greater the payback.

Whereas we’d like to say that the key to a perfectly positioned cabinet pull is ninety percent skill, the truth is that it has more to do with the use of a “jig”. A jig is a device used to guide a tool. A jig has been a lifesaver for many a carpenter or cabinetmaker. It the case of cabinet pull installation, the jig is used as a hole-drilling template from a piece of scrap wood. We made our jig out of 1 by (three quarter inch) pine.

Start by determining where the pull is to be positioned. If the pull will replace an existing pull (and the new pull is larger) use the bottom hole as one of the two holes for the new pull. While location will vary, typical pull placement is approximately two inches from the bottom edge of the cabinet door to the lower hole. The second hole corresponds to the size of the pull. Both holes should be about one inch in from the side edge of the door.

Once pull location has been determined transfer these measurements to a piece of pine. Drill guide holes in the pine. The holes should be only slightly larger than the diameter of the screws used to anchor the pull. Attach two pieces of wood, (at one side and the bottom) to the template using glue and construction screws. These two pieces of wood will serve as stops and complete the jig.

The completed jig can be used as a template to drill holes in the cabinet doors. Simply flip the jig to drill holes in opposite hinged doors. Also, the jig can be used upside down when installing pulls at base or lower cabinet doors.

A neat trick that is used to conceal holes from a pull which is being replaced is to select a new pull with a decorative backplate. Use putty and paint or wood dough to conceal holes at the interior side of the doors.

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