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Hanging Kitchen Cabinets - Part 1 of 4: 4 Steps Before You Start

by Jim Mallery

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, hanging new kitchen cabinets should be doable. If you are a newbie to the world of "home work," you can hang them, but you might have to buy some tools and be extraordinarily careful. In this first of four articles, let's look at 4 steps to prepare to hang your kitchen cabinets.

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  1. Tools. Gather two drills, one for drilling and one for driving screws (don't just use one drill and change back and forth from drill bit to driver--much too tedious); a countersink drill bit to start screw holes; multiple #2 Phillips bits and/or a square-drive bits; a 4-foot level (6 feet would be even better, but they're expensive and are more of a specialty item); a torpedo level (9" or 1 foot); a chalk line; and a plumb line.
  2. Gather supplies. You need 1x2 or 1x3 boards of varying lengths. a ton of shims, and an absolutely straight 2x4, if you can find one.
  3. Screws to use. You need screws of varying lengths--if your cabinet stiles are 3/4", you need a box of
    1 1/4" all-purpose screws, preferably with square-drive heads (the heads are less likely to strip). If your cabinet stiles are wider, you need screws that extend at least half an inch into the adjoining cabinet. You also need a box of cabinet-mounting screws, 2 1/2", although you can use 2 1/2" all-purpose, square-drive screws. Cabinet-mounting screws usually are Phillips head; they have wide, flattened heads that act as a washer to more firmly hold the cabinet. The all-purpose screw has the more dependable square drive, but doesn't offer the wider surface on the head to hold the cabinet.
  4. The lone hanger. If you are going to be hanging the upper cabinets yourself--not recommended, but it can be done--you need to make some braces. Actually, these braces also come in handy if two of you are hanging the cabinets; you can use them to support the cabinets while you make adjustments. Make the braces with 2x4's in the shape of a capital I, with a cross piece at the top and bottom. They should be just three or four inches longer than the distance from the floor to the bottom of the cabinet. Nail or screw the top and bottom cross pieces perpendicular to the vertical 2x4; and nail supporting 1x2's at a 45-degree angle between the cross-piece and vertical 2x4. These braces wedge under the front of the cabinet, while the back of the cabinet rests on a 1x2 or 1x3 attached to the wall.

Gathering all your tools and supplies at the front end of the job can save you annoying trips to the garage, lumber yard, or hardware store while you are in the middle of the hanging. Next time, we will look at prepping the room for the cabinets.

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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