You’ve prepped your kitchen and dry fit your cabinets. You’ve even checked everything for dings and dents from shipping. Now it's time to install the cabinets. There’s just one question, which do you install first, the uppers or the lowers? It's really up to you. However hanging the upper cabinets first will give you more room to maneuver in the space rather then having to lean over at the lower cabinets. And you won't need to worry about protecting the base cabinets as you work, although you may still want to protect your floor with drop cloths or cardboard.
There are a couple of important things to take care of before you install your cabinets. First, use your level to draw a level line on your wall right where the bottom of your cabinets will be, then screw a ledger board along the line. This 1x2 or 1x3 board will ensure a level installation and helps support the unit while folding it in position. Remove the doors and shelves from the units. This will only get in your way when you’re screwing the cabinets to the wall. Take numbers on them so you know which doors and drawers to go with which cabinets. Always start with a corner cabinet. That way if you need to adjust your spacing later, you can do it in the middle of the wall were it’s easiest.
Lift the unit onto the ledger board. If you can't get a friend to help you with this, you can rent a manual cabinet lift or other support. Then check the cabinet for level and plumb on all sides. Use wood shims as needed to make the cabinet plumb and square to the corner. Then go ahead and drive screws through the back of cabinet into the studs. Your screws need to be long enough to penetrate the drywall and the stud. Don’t even think of using nails here. With the corner units secure, you can move on to the next cabinet.
Lift the unit onto the ledger and snug it flush with the corner cabinet, then clamp them together. You can use adjustable clamps or C-clamps for this. Drill pilot holes to the face frames and screw the units together to the frame of the corner cabinet. Check to make sure the cabinet is leveled and plumbed and shim where needed. Then secure the unit to the wall with screws driven into the studs.
It’s rare that your cabinets will perfectly fit the dimensions of your kitchen. This is where the extra wood strips the manufacturer includes with the cabinets come to the rescue filling any gaps between the units. With all the upper cabinets installed, you can unscrew the ledger board and cut it back any excess shims. Well, your upper cabinets are up and they look beautiful. Now you’re ready for the base cabinets.
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