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Kitchen Cabinet Installation – Step-By-Step Instructions on How to Install Kitchen Cabinets Yourself

Now that you have your new kitchen cabinets, you are ready to
move on to the next big step…..Installing your kitchen cabinets. While
the actual installation of the Kitchen Cabinets isn’tall that hard, the
critical first step is measuring and marking out where the cabinets
will go. By placing layout markings on the walls and floors, it will not
only help you with kitchen cabinet placement and stud locations, but it
will also help you locate where adjustments and shims will be required.
Before we get started there are a couple of items that you will need
for the project:


Level or Laser Level


Tape Measure

Stud Finder


1″ x 3″ Piece of lumber (6′-8′ in length) or an Inverted U-shaped frame (see notes below)


Screws (long enough to go 1 1/2 into the studs)

Utility knife or chisel

Marking Compass

An extra set of hands (you may have to bribe one of your friends)

I mentioned above, you have the option of using a piece of 1′ x 3′
lumber for the installation or building a frame to support the cabinets
(I have included a picture of a sample frame below). This can be made
out of 2′ x 4’s and should be tall enough to support the bottom of your
wall cabinets. If you plan on installing more than one kitchen, then I
would suggest the frame, but a piece of lumber will do just fine if this
is a one time event. In either case, you will need another set of hands
to help with the installation.

In this case we bought (RTA)
Ready-To-Assemble Kitchen Cabinets from RTA Kitchen & Bathroom
Cabinet Store. Now the kitchen cabinets are assembled, we are ready to
start marking out our layout lines. Some people start with the base
cabinets, but we are going to start with the wall cabinets first. There
is no right or wrong way to start, I just prefer to start with the upper
cabinets first.

1. Use a level and a pencil to draw a parallel
line across the wall about 3 inches up from the floor. Measure down from
this line, to the floor, and find the floors high point (if it has
one), and mark a line at that point. From that high point, Measure up 34
1/2 inches and draw a level line across the wall to designate the top
of the base cabinets.

2. Now that you have the top of the base
cabinets marked, measure up another 19 1/2 inches and a level line
across the wall to indicate the bottom of the wall cabinets. Lightly
mark each cabinets’ dimensions and placement on the wall to make sure
that your original layout is correct.

3. Use a stud finder to
locate the wall studs. Use a pencil to mark the stud locations at least 6
inches above and below the line for the bottom of the wall cabinets.
Draw straight vertical lines between the top and bottom marks to
indicate the center of the studs.

4. If you decided to go with the
piece of 1′ x 3′ lumber, now is where you will use (if you decided to
go with the U-shaped frame, it will come into play after all your lines
are laid out). Screw a temporary 1′ x 3′ support rail to the wall,
aligning the top edge of the rail with the line for the bottom edge of
the wall cabinets. Attach it by driving 3 or 4 two inch screws through
the rail into the wall studs.

5. Now that we have all the lines
marked, it is time to start installing your kitchen cabinets. We are
going to start with the corner cabinet (here is where your helper’s
extra set of hands will be needed). Place the corner cabinet onto the
temporary support rail and have your helper hold the corner cabinet in
place. Drill pilot holes through the sturdy cabinet back or its support
rail and into the wall studs. Screw the cabinet into the wall using two
screws that are long enough to penetrate the studs by at least 1 1/2
inches. Check the top of the cabinet for level and the front of the
cabinet for plumb. If you have to correct the position, just back the
screws out a little bit and top shims behind the cabinet at the stud
locations. If it is plumb and level, drive the screws all the way in and
add several more into each stud to ensure that the cabinet is secured
tightly to the wall.

6. Now we are going to move onto the cabinets on
either side of the corner cabinet. As you install each one, use the
clamps to secure each cabinet to the neighboring cabinet and then check
it for plumb with your level. On faceframe cabinets, it is a good idea
to drill two 1/8 inch pilot holes through the sides of the faceframe and
use screws. In this case, with frameless, ready-to-assemble kitchen
cabinets we are going to screw through the plywood sides and use shims
in between the cabinets to ensure a tight fit and make sure that the
cabinet faces are plumb.

7. After all the wall cabinets are in
place, install the corner or end base case cabinet. Use shims where
needed to level the cabinet and raise it up to the line which indicates
the high point of the floor. Be sure it is level from front to back and
from side to side, then screw it to the wall studs. If you don’t have a
diagonal corner cabinet or blind base cabinet in the corner, push the
adjoining cabinet into place and clamp the two units together. Add a
filler strip if needed to allow the doors and drawers enough clearance
to open and close properly. If necessary, tap shims under the cabinet
and behind it to adjust for plumb and level.

8. Drive screws
through the cabinet back (and shims) into the wall studs. Trim any
excess material from the shims with a sharp chisel or knife. Continue to
add adjoining cabinets in this manner, joining them the same way you
connected the wall cabinets in step 6.

9. If your cabinets end up
butting against another wall, you may need a filler strip to make up the
last few inches. If you have custom cabinets, they should have been
built to fill this gap, but if you are using stock or RTA Kitchen
Cabinets the filler strip may be needed. If you do need to use a filler
strip, leave the last cabinet detached from the other cabinets. Clamp a
straightedge to the face of the nearest installed unit, extending far
enough for you to put alignment marks on the end wall. Allow a 3/4″
offset behind those marks (for the thickness of the filler piece) and
fasten a cleat to the wall. Then install and fasten the last cabinet and
measure the gap between its face frame and the wall.

If the wall
is flat, simply rip the filler board to the required width and fasten it
in place. If the wall is irregular, you’ll have to scribe-fit the
filler board. Start by setting a marking compass to the width of the
gap, then place a strip of 1″-wide masking tape along the filler board
in the area where it needs to be trimmed. Clamp the board to the end
cabinet’s face frame, then trace the wall contour with the compass.
Remove the board and cut along the scribe line with a jig saw, then
reinstall it to check the fit. When it’s right, drive screws through the
adjacent face frame into the edge of the filler board. Screw or nail
the other side to the cleat.

At this point, your kitchen cabinet
installation is complete. If you purchased matching crown molding or any
other details, these should be easily installed now. Depending on
whether you had to use shims under the base cabinets, you may have to
install some trim pieces by the toe kicks to cover up the shims or any
gaps at the bottom of the kitchen cabinets.

I hope this helps make
your kitchen cabinet installation as smooth as possible. If you need
any help with cabinet selection, kitchen layout tips, or ideas for
cabinet styles, check out RTA Kitchen & Bathroom Cabinet Store