Last Updated on December 24, 2015 by Kristi Linauer
It took me all weekend, but I got all of the cabinets on the wall of cabinets installed, including the upper cabinets, which I installed by myself. 🙂
I still don’t have the decorative trim (cabinet topper, crown, toekick, decorative feet, etc.) in place. I mean, I literally only got the cabinets and the decorative wood legs in place, but I can finally see this wall shaping up and I’m getting excited about how it’s going to look! So after a whole weekend of installing cabinets, here’s how it’s looking. (Ignore the trim piece at the top of the left spacer where the sconce will go. That piece shouldn’t be there. I just forgot to remove it.)…
One thing to note about stock unfinished cabinets is that the doors are kind of wonky and uneven. One door may be a full inch from the bottom of the cabinet, and the next door may sit only 1/2-inch from the bottom of the cabinet. It’s a pain, but it’s one of those “you get what you pay for” things. Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for wonky doors. I’ll be fixing those and showing you how I do it.
And you’ll also notice that I didn’t finish the taping and mudding above the upper cabinets. Just ignore that. It’ll get done, I promise! It’s just another example of how I don’t always do things in a logical, efficient order. Instead, I do things in an order that keeps me motivated to continue working. But it’ll all get done, even if it is illogical and inefficient. 🙂
So when I left you on Friday, I had installed the bracing and spacers for the lower cabinets, but I hadn’t actually installed any of the lower cabinets. They were just sitting there.
The main reason I hadn’t installed anything (besides the fact that I needed to install the uppers first) is because I first needed to have my wood legs cut down to 30 inches (they were originally 36 inches), and I didn’t have a tool that would cut through 4.5 inches of wood. Thankfully my neighbor saw my post about needing that done, and offered to help me! I went over on Friday evening and she and her husband and I cut the legs down using their table saw. And yes, it was a three-person job, but we got it done perfectly!
But I’m very glad that I was forced to wait a bit on the installation, because it gave me time to really look at and study the picture and notice that something just wasn’t right. When I posted the picture on Friday, it struck me how squished together everything looked around the wood columns. There was no “breathing room” around the columns, and while the cabinets doors did open and close just fine, it just didn’t look quite right.
So I ended up taking two of the 15-inch cabinets on the outer sections back to Home Depot, replacing them with 12-inch cabinets, and then filling in with spacers to spread things out a bit and give a bit more room around those wood columns.
But before I worked in that, I removed all of the lower cabinets and installed the upper cabinets (the main reason I hadn’t installed the lower cabinets yet).
I started by measuring and marking a line where I wanted the bottom of the cabinets be on the wall, and I also measured and marked the center of the wall. Then I used a scrap piece of wood and screwed it into the wall with the top edge of the wood right on the line that I drew. I used my level to be really sure that the piece of wood was level all the way across, and screwed it into studs.
Then I used that piece of wood to set the cabinets on while installing. That way, I just had to lift and set the cabinet into place, but once it was in place, I didn’t have to hold the weight of the cabinet. The brace did that for me. I could easily slide the cabinet to the left or right and get it perfectly into place before installing.
Now just a few important things about installing upper cabinets, especially if you’re doing it by yourself:
- Remove the doors and shelves (if you can) to get those out of the way and remove excess weight.
- Pre-drill the holes for the screws before you lift the cabinet into place. Do not try to screw in the cabinets without pre-drilling the holes.
- Insert the screws into the pre-drilled holes before you lift the cabinet into place. Just be sure they’re not poking out the back of the cabinet.
- You do still need to use your level to be sure that each individual cabinet is going in level. Don’t depend completely on the brace to keep things level. Just use the brace to hold the weight of the cabinet so that you can easily do the fine tuning before screwing the cabinet to the wall.
And again, when using stock unfinished cabinets, don’t be discouraged about the wonky doors. Those can be fixed.
I did have to move the brace twice to get all of the cabinets installed. I do think it’s easier and better to use a shorter piece of wood and move it, rather than using one long piece of wood as a brace, because the longer the piece of wood the less likely it is that it’ll be level all the way across.
The spaces are for the outlets, which are for my sconces and undercabinet lighting, and each outlet is connected to a light switch on the left wall.
With the upper cabinets installed, I was ready to install the lower cabinets with the new configuration (smaller cabinets, more space, and spacers added around the columns). Adding all of the spacers presented a bit of a challenge, but here’s how I did it.
First, I installed the two center 24-inch cabinets, and then attached a 1″ x 2″ strip to the outer edges of these cabinets using wood glue and my nail gun with 2.5-inch finishing nails.
Next I added some spacers to the side of the cabinets. I just cut pieces of 1″ x 2″ lumber, and stacked two pieces on top of each other, and then glued and nailed them to the side.
Stock cabinets like this are made with particle board sides, so if the sides are going to be showing, you have to cover them with panels. They sell oak panels that can be used, but I’ve found that if the cabinets are going to be painted, it’s much cheaper to use 1/4-inch MDF cut to size.
My columns are 4.5 inches square, and the edge of the spacer board already in place is 3/4-inch. That meant that I needed a piece of MDF cut to 3 3/4 inches by 30 inches high. I cut and attached that to the side, nailed into the spacers.
That gave me the perfect depth (4.5 inches) for my wood column. I put the column in place, pre-drilled a hole, and then attached it with one 3-inch screw going through the lip at the top side of the cabinet (close to where the purple pencil is), through the top spacers, and into the wood column.
With that column held temporarily in place, I took my next cabinet and set it in place. This was a 12-inch cabinet, and I had attached a 1″ x 8″ spacer to the side of it, just like I had attached the 1″ x 2″ to the side of the 24-inch cabinet. This 1″ x 8″ was attached to the side of the 12-inch cabinet just using wood glue, which I had allowed to sit overnight to dry thoroughly.
I set the cabinet with the 8-inch spacer in place behind the column, used my level to be sure it was exactly in place, and then marked where the edges of the blocks on the wood columns needed to go on the spacer.
Then I removed the cabinet, unscrewed the one screw holding the wood column and removed it. Next I lined up the column on the marks I just drew on the 8-inch spacer, and attached the column. I used wood glue, and then 2-inch nails through the back of the spacer and into the column to get it into place quickly, and then used two 1.5-inch screws to really hold it in place. (I pre-drilled the holes!!)
Then I added wood glue to the sides of the column and the edge of the 1″ x 8″ spacer and set it back into place. I replaced the screw going through the upper lip of the 24-inch cabinets and into the wood column, and then added another screw at the bottom going through the inside of the 24-inch cabinet and into the bottom block of the column. And finally, I finished up by screwing the 12-inch cabinet to the back bracing on the wall.
And if that sounds complicated, believe me, it was 100 times more complicated trying to work out the logistics of how to get that done, which is why just installing the cabinets on this wall took me all weekend. 🙂
Someone with a much more analytical brain than I have could have whipped that out in about 30 minutes, and probably could have found a much more efficient way to do it. But unfortunately, I’m stuck with the non-analytical, non-numbers-oriented brain I have, so stuff like this takes me forever to figure out. But I got it done!
With that 12-inch cabinet and the wood column finally in, I just had to add the last cabinet and it was done.
I had hoped to get more of the trim work done, but I didn’t get very far on that at all. I did attach the trim to the bottom edge of the upper cabinets, though. Here’s how I did that.
I started by attaching 1″ x 2″ lumber to the bottom of the cabinets, making sure that the 1 x 2 was flush with the front of the cabinets.
You can see that the frames on the cabinets aren’t perfect. Such is the nature of stock cabinets, but it’ll be all covered up when I’m finished. Then I used my level to draw a line all the way across very close to the bottom of the cabinets.
And then I used that line to attach the trim.
The 1 x 2’s gave me something substantial to nail the trim into, and the line made it quick and easy to attach the trim as straight and level as possible.
So that’s where I ended up last night when I called it quits.
There’s still so much trim work to be done, but that’s what will really take these cabinets from “cheap stock” cabinets to “fancy custom” cabinets. I’m hoping to get all of the trim finished today. But before I can jump into that, I suppose I have a bit of taping and mudding to do. 🙂
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I bought in 2013. Matt has M.S. and is unable to do physical work, so I do the majority of the work on the house by myself. You can learn more about me here.
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