How To Install Kitchen Cabinets: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Install Kitchen Cabinets

Upgrading your kitchen with a brand new set of cabinets can make a huge difference in the look, utility, and value of one of the most important rooms in your home. But carrying out the installation properly is key to ensuring your new cabinets serve you well for years to come. In this DIY guide, we’ll walk you through the entire process of installing kitchen cabinets from start to finish using best practices that prioritize sturdiness, alignment, and aesthetic appeal.

Plan the Cabinet Layout

The first step is planning out precisely where your cabinets will go. Measure the total length and height of each wall to find the maximum dimensions for your upper and lower cabinet runs. Mark every window, door, and appliance – anything that will disrupt the cabinet layout. Then map out different configurations on graph paper, allowing for corner cabinets, islands, pantries etc. The ideal workflow is from the bottom cabinets up.

Recommended Cabinet Spacing

AspectRecommended Spacing
Between floor and bottom cabinet frame4”
Between countertop and wall cabinets18”
Between countertop and cabinets3/4”

Prepare the Work Area

Once you’ve mapped out the ideal cabinet footprint, it’s time to prepare the space. First, remove existing cabinets without damaging walls or utilities. Consider hiring a kitchen plumber and electrician to alter pipe and wire routing before the new cabinets are securely in place. Protect floors with drop cloths. Clean walls and fill holes for a pristine backdrop.

Gather Materials and Tools

Installing cabinets requires an array of essential equipment, materials, and hardware:

  • Cabinets and hardware
  • Levelers, shims
  • Nail gun, drill
  • Measuring tape, stud finder
  • Filler, caulk
  • Wood filler, sandpaper

Check each cabinet box thoroughly before beginning, ensuring you have all necessary pieces and that each section is intact and undamaged. Carefully unpack cabinets and organize hardware like hinges and screws for each stage of the process.

Install Mounting Rails and Reinforce Wall Studs

With the space prepped and your materials gathered, it’s time for installation. First, locate and mark wall studs at least every 16 inches across spans where cabinets will be installed. Attach horizontal mounting rails anchored securely into those studs – these rails will bear the weight. The bottom rail goes 4 inches above the floor; the top should be 18 inches below the ceiling.

Recommended Screw Sizes

MaterialRecommended Screw Sizes
Studs3-1/2″ to 4″ fine-thread drywall screws
Rails3″ course-thread drywall screws
Cabinets2-1/2″ to 3″ flathead wood screws

Ensure Rails are Level

With rails securely screwed into the studs, use a high-quality level tool to ensure they are perfectly horizontal. Shim beneath rails if necessary before proceeding.

Hang Wall Cabinets

With solid mounting infrastructure in place, it’s time to hang cabinets, starting with upper wall units. Have a helper hold each section flush against the wall while you drive screws through the inner top and bottom cabinet rails into the mounting rails behind. Make certain cabinets sit level; adjust as needed with shims between the wall and cabinet. Leave 1/8” gaps between cabinet boxes.

Build Base Cabinet Sections

Next, assemble each base cabinet per manufacturer instructions, securing them together in each section you’ve designed before fitting them to the wall. Pay meticulous attention to keeping every front aligned and each section level during assembly. Use filler strips to cover gaps between separated cabinet components.

Attach Doors and Drawers

With all cabinets assembled into sections, attach hinges, doors, and handles per included hardware instructions. Ensure adequate clearance so doors and drawers open, close, and align evenly without rubbing. Adjust until satisfied because from here on adjustments become more difficult.

Secure Base Cabinets

Now you’re ready to mount the base cabinet sections to the wall. Beginning with a corner or endpoint, set the section in place, ensuring it’s level, properly positioned, and flush against the wall. Secure through the cabinet rails into the wall studs and bottom mounting rail using long wood screws. If needed, place shims between the cabinet and wall to fill any gaps as you anchor.

Connect Cabinets Together

After securing an initial base cabinet section, use C-clamps to hold the next section tight against its neighbor while carefully driving screws through the adjoining cabinet sides. Remove clamps and repeat until all base sections are united together and anchored firmly to the wall as one unit.

Scribe and Caulk Countertops

With all cabinets installed solidly, it’s time to install your countertop. Gently lay the countertop across the new cabinets. Use a scribe tool to carefully score a faint line where the counter edge meets the wall, fully outlining any slight wall irregularities. Remove the top and trim with a belt sander (or have a professional fabricator cut) along the scribed line so the shaped edge fits tightly to the wall. Permanently install the custom-fit countertop with adhesive and caulk any gaps for a seamless finish.

Touch Up and Clean

Examine your newly functioning kitchen cabinet system, opening and closing every door to ensure proper fit with no rubbing or catching. Make final door and drawer adjustments as needed. Use wood filler to patch holes, sand smooth, vacuum away dust, then clean all cabinet boxes, doors, shelves, and countertops thoroughly before loading in dishes and supplies to enjoy your gorgeous new custom cabinetry!


In conclusion, successfully installing new kitchen cabinets requires careful planning, securely mounted rails, properly leveled and joined components, and meticulous final adjustments for optimal performance and visual design. Follow these step-by-step guidelines and you’ll have a stunning, highly functional new kitchen in no time!

Contact Pinnacle Building Group for expert kitchen cabinet installation!

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