Installation of kitchen wall cabinets.  New Kitchen:

Installing Kitchen Wall Cabinets:
Part 1 Mounting A Group Of Cabinets


In This Article:

Wall cabinets are screwed together to form a group, a hole is drilled for undercabinet lighting, the cabinets are lifted into position, leveled, and screwed to the studs

Related Articles:

Skill Level: 3 (Moderate)

Time Taken: About 3 Hours

By , Editor


There are at least two major schools of thought regarding cabinet installation. Some say to install the wall cabinets first, others say to install the base cabinets first. On this job I did the latter.

Install First:



Base Cabinets

  • Can use counter as stage for lifting wall cabinets into place.
  • More room available for installing counter
  • Can stand on counter.
  • Best if counter is installed right away.
  • Can be a problem if counter is special ordered, such as Corian, which cannot even be ordered until base cabinets are installed.

Wall Cabinets

  • If two or more people are available to lift cabinets, this way can be fastest.
  • Easy to whack your head on wall cabinets while installing the bases.

I find that the best way to install wall cabinets is to fasten a group together on the ground and then raise the unit into place.


First Step: Connect Several Cabinets Together

Attaching cabinets together by driving screws through the face frames.

I pre-drill holes in the face frames and drive 2" deck screws into the adjacent unit's face frame, just like on these base cabinets. I use "Quick-Grip" style clamps to hold cabinets together while fastening.


Plywood spacer between backs of wall cabinets during installation.

The wall cabinets were initially joined only at the face frames, but that left the rear ends able to flop around. So I installed a little scrap of 1/2" plywood as a spacer.

On this job I used a hydraulic bottle jack to raise the cabinet assembly into place. There are many ways of rigging up fixtures to hold cabinets in place. I have used stacks of paint cans. Having a helper simply hold the cabinet while I drive a few screws has never really worked for me, although it can be faster. I often remove the cabinet doors to make the unit lighter and keep them out of my way.

Before anything else was done, I use a 4' level to draw lines on the wall where the tops of the cabinets will go.

Then I used a stud finder to locate the structure, and marked the stud locations just above the line.


Next Up... A Little Complication

This kitchen had wiring for under-cabinet lighting. The wires were just dangling from the holes in the drywall.

I drilled a 3/8" hole in the bottom rear lip of the cabinet, at a point that would line up with wire.

Of course, I checked to make sure the wire was not live.

Furthermore, the drywall crew had just popped a hole at some random location. The hole was too high for the bottom of these cabinets, so I used a drywall saw to cut a notch.

The wire was then able to reach the proper altitude. The notch will be hidden behind the cabinet.


Board placed across top of base cabinets to help with wall cabinet installation.

I set the cabinet assembly on the counter. The green board (red arrow)is a "load spreader" that I fastened to the bottom of this unit.

This board is necessary so the hydraulic jack has a sturdy surface to push on.

While this whole process may seem like a waste of time, keep in mind that I had no helpers, and the homeowner had left the building.

I placed some blocks of wood under the assembly.

I lifted the unit higher and placed large buckets underneath. Then the hydraulic jack would fit.

There were actually a few intermediate steps of lifting and block positioning in between the above photos. I realized then that I should have brought along my floor jack, the kind for lifting cars. It could lift the cabinets when they were raised by only 4 inches.

When the cabinet was in place, I fished the wire through the hole.

I used these big 3-1/2" cabinet mounting screws to attach the cupboards to the studs.


With the cabinet resting securely on temporary supports, I drilled holes in the back panel and drove screws into the studs.

After driving 10 or 12 screws the 3-unit assembly is installed, and the temporary supports were removed.

The screws at the top are much more critical than the screws at the bottom, because the weight of the cabinet tries to pull the top screws straight out (they are "in tension") while the bottom screws are placed under shear stress, which the screws resist quite well.

I make sure to drive a screw into every stud along the top and bottom rail. If any screw does not seem to "bite" well, I add another screw, inside the cabinet, on the same stud.

Never use nails to install cabinets.

Continue on to page 2 for the installation of a single wall cabinet, or...

See page 3 for the installation of a tall divider panel.



Tools Used:

  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Drill Bits
  • 4' Level, 2' Level
  • Stud Finder
  • Hydraulic Jack


Materials Used:

  • Wall Cabinets
  • Cabinet Screws
  • Shims


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Copyright 1999, 2005

Written September 12, 1999
Revised January 5, 2005