The Installation Process, Part 3
The kitchen cabinet installation process
If you, like I, have followed all of the user-friendly steps in the design, unboxing and tear out processes provided by CliqStudios — and as outlined in my previous blogposts — installation will be a whole lot easier and quicker.
It’s no surprise that women typically have greater success with installation than their male counterparts who regard reading instructions akin to emasculation. Okay, I have nothing to base this on and my statement may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but I simply can’t underscore the importance of a thorough review of the CliqStudios installation instructions — even if you are seasoned pro. There are steps specific to their products that will make installation a success. By the way, if you don’t like directions, CliqStudios has you covered with lots of online how-to videos. Even though there is no shortage of great installation information, I thought that I might share a bit about my installation experience along with some tips that will help make the process fun and lend professional results [What is a quality kitchen cabinet].
After reviewing installation instructions and videos, the next step — as mentioned in my previous blogpost on “unboxing and tear out”— is to compare your design with your order and each of your new cabinets. Once everything checks out, carefully remove and store all doors, drawers, and shelves. I used a piece of blue painter’s tape and an indelible marker to key each door, drawer, and shelf to it’s specific location to make reinstallation a breeze. Why remove these components, you ask? It makes the cabinets lighter, easier to manage, and is necessary for clamping together the face frame stiles.
You’ll need a few tools and materials for installation. They include a step stool or ladder, a driver drill, a couple of drill bits, an assortment of clamps, a tape measure, a studfinder, a bubble level, a laser level (if you have access to one), a finish hammer, a cutoff saw with a sharp finish blade, a circular saw (or table saw, if you have access to one), a finish nailer, eye protection, wood shims, pan head cabinet screws, finish head constructions screws, a few one and two by fours, and some construction adhesive. Tip: when it comes to screws, don’t cheap out. Get the best screws available and you won’t be sorry. Have several lengths on hand; use pan head cabinet screws for fastening to framing and finish screws for joining face frame stiles. Use screws that require a star bit for better bite and torque and less stripping.
Before moving the cabinets into place, you’ll want to identify and mark all studs and/or solid backing from top to bottom using a studfinder. The solid material will give cabinet screws something beefy to fasten to and will make for a worry-free installation. Tip: turn the power off to the circuits where you’ll be working to prevent shock should an errant screw hit a wire.
Begin by installing upper cabinets first. You won’t have to dodge lower cases and you’ll have room to place uprights for temporary support. Find the lowest point on the ceiling and measure down the wall the height of the tallest cabinet plus whatever distance your design specifies for crown or top trim and make a mark on the wall. Use an 8 foot level or a straight edge across walls horizontally to identify hiccups in the wall and place wood shims in low spots so the cabinets will fit snugly against the wall surface. Check walls for plumb and, if not, install shims as necessary. Next, use your bubble or laser level to draw a level line across the walls where the uppers are to be installed. Use construction screws to temporarily attach the top edge of a one by four even with your level line. This will act as a temporary cleat to save where and tear on your back.
Next, measure the distance from the floor to the top of the cleat and cut a couple of two by fours slightly longer — an inch or so — than that distance. You will use these to wedge below the upper cabinets as temporary supports to hold the uppers in place while you fasten them to the wall. Tip: use a wood shim between the top of your temporary uprights and the underside of the cabinets to prevent damage.
A couple of final steps before raising your cabinets — 1)fasten the recommended furring strip to the top of the upper cabinets to allow for the crown moulding or top trim; 2) transfer your solid framing locations to the inside face of the back of the cabinet so you’ll know exactly where to install fasteners; and 3)pre-drill the back of the cabinet with a small pilot hole for your screws for ease of installation and to prevent splitting.
With all of the prep work behind me, installing the upper cabinets was a breeze. The job is easier if you have a helper, but with the right prep, it can be a one person project. Fortunately for me I had my fearless brother at my side to make the project fun and professional. After raising the first cabinet into place, we used a two foot bubble level to confirm that the cabinet was both plumb and level, shimmed and adjusted as necessary. The driver drill makes easy work of driving the cabinet screws — top first, bottom last. Tip: place shims behind the back of the cabinet where all lower screws are to be driven to prevent the back from being pried away from the case.
After the first cabinet has been securely fastened into place the temporary uprights can be removed and the next cabinet can be installed. Put the second cabinet into place and use adjustable clamps to clamp the corresponding stiles together. After verifying that the cabinet stiles and lower rails align, tighten the clamps and use a pilot bit to pre-drill the stiles to make installing the finish screws easier and to prevent splitting. Install screws at top, center and bottom. Shim the back of the cabinet to the wall at the side and bottom and screw it into place. Repeat the process and you’ll be a pro just in time to install the lowers. With all of the uppers installed, you can remove the temporary cleat and move on to the lower cabinets. Tip: If you pre-drill and install face frame screws at hinge height, the hinges will conceal the screws and no putty will be needed.
You’ll need to follow most of the steps used in installing the upper cabinets to install the lowers. However, there are a few steps that are unique to the lowers. First, if the finish flooring in the area is or will be higher than the floor below the cabinets, as is the case with hardwood or tile, you’ll want to shim up the cabinet bases a thickness equal to the finished floor covering. This will allow for easy installation and removal of appliances. Next, when laying out your lower cabinets, make sure to allow the prescribed space for appliances such as a dishwasher, range and refrigerator. Use the bubble level to ensure that all lower cases are level and plumb in two directions — side to side and front to back. Shim as necessary and fasten the cases just as you did the upper cabinets.
After all cabinets are successfully in place, install the crown moulding and finished toe kicks using a finish nailer. Install finished decorative end panels by aligning them, clamping them, and fastening them with screws from the inside of the cabinet. Be careful not to use screws that are too long or the tips will come through the face of the panels. Yikes!
Next, use the the matching-color putty crayon and touch up paint supplied by CliqStudios to conceal screw heads and any imperfections that may have appeared during the installation process. You can now install the adjustable shelving, doors and drawers.
Complete the installation process with decorative knobs and pulls and step back and admire your beautiful, new cabinets.
In my next blog post, I’ll share the excitement we experienced during the reveal.