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Hanging Kitchen Cabinets - Part 2 of 4: 5 Steps to Prep the Room

by Jim Mallery

In a previous article, we discussed the 4 steps to take before you start hanging your cabinets. Once you have gathered your tools and supplies, you should make sure that your kitchen is ready to receive the new cabinets. Here are five tips for prepping the kitchen:

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  1. Floors. Often new cabinets are accompanied by new floors, and normally the new floor would go down before the cabinets, whether it is wood, stone, tile, or linoleum. You can save yourself hours of annoying adjusting and shimming if you make sure your floor is level. If you are at the subfloor stage (plywood over joists), correct for high and low joists with leveling compound, a belt sand, or layers of flooring paper or roofing felt--whatever does the job. You can use that long, straight 2x4 or your 4' or 6' level to find the high and low spots. You want the cabinets to sit atop the finished floor not on the subfloor, which would cause the finished floor to abut the bottoms of the cabinets. This would make it difficult to install or remove your dishwasher.
  2. Plumb walls. You so want your walls to be plumb--straight up and down--so that you don't have to hassle with trying to shim the cabinets as you hang them. If your wall is not plumb--check it by dropping a plumb line or with your level--fix it now rather than shim your cabinets as you hang them. Using lathe or strips of 2x4 ripped on a table saw, build out the wall to an appropriate thickness either at the line where the top of your cabinets attach to the wall, or at the point where the bottom of your cabinets attach to the wall--depending whether your wall leans in or out.
  3. Wavy walls. Not all walls are straight. Either because of crooked studs in the wall or mud on drywall joints or sloppy work by an inebriated carpenter, your wall may look more like a rollercoaster. This can be very problematic when you hang cabinets and you need to fix it. If you are dealing with a drywall seam, belt-sanding the seam so that it is flat with the rest of the wall is fine--remember, this part of the wall is not going to be visible. If a warped stud causes the bulge in the wall, you may have to selectively build out the wall with lathe so that your mounting lines are straight, much as you would do to correct an out-of-plumb wall.
  4. Get wired. If you haven't already, consider wiring for under-cabinet lighting. See a discussion of some options on Ask the Builder. If you have glass doors in your cabinets, consider lighting inside the cabinets. And of course, you should have all of the rough plumbing and wiring for the sink and appliances like the dishwasher and garbage compactor, completed.
  5. Studs. Locate and mark all of the studs, putting the marks in the backsplash area so that you can see them as the cabinets go into position. You screw into the studs to securely mount the cabinets.

Once you have your tools and supplies and have squared up your room, you are ready to start hanging the upper cabinets. We'll discuss this in our next installment.

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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