Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

New Kitchen Cabinets: How to Get Them on the Wall

by Jim Mallery
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Once you have gathered your supplies and tools and prepped your walls (as demonstrated in two earlier articles), it is time to install your upper kitchen cabinets. Here is a nine-step guide for mounting your uppers.


  1. Screw a 1x3 ledger board to the wall at the bottom edge of the cabinet. Make sure it is level, and screw it in at every other stud. As a guide, the standard distance between your countertop and upper cabinets is 18". (Note: The diagonal of a 12" square tile is 17", so using one-foot squares diagonally for your backsplash works well.)
  2. Remove cabinet doors and shelving, labeling each piece with masking tape to avoid confusion later.
  3. Drill ¾" holes in the backs of the cabinets where needed for any in-cabinet or under-cabinet wiring. Remember, because the wiring is behind the cabinets, you can cut the drywall as needed to move the wires to an advantageous position.
  4. Starting with the corner cabinet, assemble as many pieces of the cabinets as you can lift at one time--if you have a helper, you might be able to handle two or three sections; if you are alone, you probably want to mount just one section of cabinet to the wall at a time.
  5. With the cabinets on the floor, place an adjoining cabinet against the corner cabinet. Clamp the stiles together (the stile is the vertical member of the cabinet's face frame). Be minutely exact, aligning everything perfectly. Drill pilot holes into the stiles at the hinges so that the hinges will hide the screw heads. Screw the cabinets together, using #8 screws long enough to come about a ¼" from the edge of the neighboring stile (usually 1 1/4" long).
  6. Raise your cabinet section (or sections) to the ledger board that you screwed to the wall. If you have a helper(s) have him support the cabinets while you check for plumb and level (you should already have plumbed and straightened your walls). If you are by yourself, lift the cabinet onto the support board, then hold with one hand while you brace the cabinet with the T-brace that you learned how to construct from a previous post. (This can get a little tricky, which is why upper cabinets are generally a two-man job.) You can make minor adjustments by shimming the cabinet as it rests on the ledger board.
  7. In the lifting process, feed any electrical wiring through the holes you drilled in the back.
  8. Once the cabinet is perfectly placed against the wall, screw it in. You should use two 2 1/2" #10 screws for each stud. Put the screws in the top and bottom ¾" of the cabinet so that they are hidden by trim.
  9. If you have more sections to attach, lift them into place, clamp them (making sure they are perfectly placed), screw the stiles together, and screw them to the wall.


That gets your cabinets on the wall, straight and plumbed. In a subsequent article, we will install the bases and trim them out.

About the Author
Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.

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