Level of Difficulty: Intermediate Do-It-Yourselfer - Moderate
Completion Time: Week-end Project

The introduction of ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets has revolutionized the possibilities of a dream kitchen for do-it-yourselfers. In fact there are cabinet kits available on the market for almost every style and design of kitchen cabinets. Although this project may require several hours of work it is relatively easy. The kitchen cabinets can be assembled with a few simple tools and then installed by two people.

As with any major project you should carefully plan ahead before getting started. This includes drawing a map of the kitchen area and deciding the main function of the kitchen.


  • Clamps
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Jigsaw
  • Level
  • Measuring tape
  • Nail set

  • Paintbrush
  • Pencil
  • Screwdrivers
  • Stud finder
  • Utility knife
  • Wax pencil


  • 1" x 3" boards
  • Decorative moulding
  • Finishing nails
  • Kitchen cabinets (and accessories)

  • Paint
  • Quarter round
  • Screws
  • Shims

The cabinets mentioned here are called "face frame" cabinets. This means meaning they have a ¾" thick frame around the front of the cabinet box. (Frameless cabinets sometimes called European cabinets are box construction without the frame.)

Make a drawing of kitchen floor plan using graph paper. This will help keep the scale accurate. Mark out the room dimensions, appliance locations and all window and door spaces. Take this to a home improvement store and they will translate this into your kitchen. Make sure certain points are made:

  • Doors swing the right way
  • Finished panels on the ends
  • Toe kick and filler boards

When the cabinets arrive check and confirm the design and that the cabinets match the printout form the home improvement store.


Remove the old countertops, cabinets and appliances.

Patch any holes or any other drywall damage.

Install the flooring before the base cabinets. This will save time and mess cutting and fitting.

Paint the walls and the ceiling beforehand. This will make a neater job.

Select trim moulding based on the style of the kitchen as well as the cabinets.

When taking measurements keep in mind that the height of the cabinets can differ from one manufacturer to another. The measurements given below are for information only.

1.1 Turn off water and electrical supply.

1.2 Find the location of the studs and trace vertical lines from floor to ceiling with a level marking the layout of the studs.

1.3 Check if the floor is level. If not, find the highest point and mark it on the wall.

1.4 Measure 34 ½" from the highest point to indicate the top of the base cabinets and draw a horizontal line along the walls with a level. The average height for a kitchen's upper cabinet is 54". This allows adequate working room on the countertop with 18" of clearance to the bottom of the upper cabinets.

1.5 Measure 54" from the highest point to indicate the position of the bottom of the upper cabinets and draw a horizontal line along the walls with a level.

1.6 Screw a temporary strapping (1" × 3" boards) into the studs along the line for all the walls that will have upper cabinets. This board will support the cabinets during installation and ensure that they are level.

Because cabinets tend to be heavy help will be needed for the installation.

2.1 Make sure the cabinet holes are predrilled to prevent splintering, especially if the cabinets are melamine finished.

2.2 Position the corner cabinet first on the temporary strapping.

2.3 Make sure the top of the cabinet is level in all directions - front-to-back and side-to-side. Shim into position if needed.

2.4 Temporarily screw the cabinet to the wall, through the shims and into the studs using finishes washers. Wait until all the cabinets have been installed before screwing them in securely.

3.1 Position the second cabinet onto the strapping and clamp to the corner cabinet at the top and bottom.

3.2 Level in all directions and make sure the faces of both cabinets are flush. Shim if needed.

3.3 Secure the two cabinets together using long screws with finish washers. Be careful not to damage the finish.

3.4 Align the front screws (X in the illustration) over the hinge position, top and bottom.

3.5 Screw down the back of the two cabinets.

3.6 Screw the back ledger of the adjoining cabinet into the studs in the wall.

4.1 Repeat all previous steps and install all the upper cabinets.

4.2 Remove the support boards along the walls.

4.3 Screw all the cabinets down securely. Predrill to prevent splintering.

4.4 Cut off any protruding shims with a utility knife.

4.5 Install filler strips, if needed, between the wall and the end cabinet. Fillers that are less than 6" wide can be glued against the wall. Fillers more than 6" wide should be nailed to a 1" x 2" backer board glued to the drywall behind the filler.

Check the layout by fitting in the base cabinets beginning with the corner ones. Set the rest of the cabinets in place. Make sure they fit tight together.

5.1 Align the corner cabinet with the horizontal line traced at 34 ½" on the wall.

5.2 Make sure that it is plumb and level. Shim the cabinet in place.

5.3 Temporarily screw to the wall through the shims and into the studs without securing completely. Use washers for protection of the surface.

6.1 Position the adjoining base cabinet

6.2 Pull the two adjoining cabinet frames together and clamp to the corner cabinet at the top and bottom.

6.3 Level in all directions and make sure the faces of both cabinets are flush. Shim if needed.

6.4 Screw the adjoining cabinet to the corner unit by setting screws under the drawer slides.

6.5 Screw the adjoining cabinet to the wall.

Some cabinets, such as the sink base, might require cutouts for the plumbing lines and electrical wires (if the sink has a garbage disposal unit). Cutouts should be done before installing the cabinet.

7.1 Measure the exact location of the pipes.

7.2 Mark the size of openings on the cabinet.

7.3 Make the cutouts with a jigsaw or a hole saw.

8.1. Repeat all previous steps and install all the base cabinets. Level and screw the cabinets to the studs in the wall.

8.2. Screw all the cabinets down securely with a minimum of two screws in the wall studs and four screws between cabinets. Predrill to prevent splintering.

8.3. Cut off any protruding shims with a utility knife.

Most pre-fabricated cabinets will have screw holes and hinge inserts already drilled out. For those cabinets not already drilled out there are templates available. Hinges usually come in ½" overlay and full overlay hinges for the distance that the door will overlap the frame.

9.1 Align the doors on the cabinet and mark position.

9.2 Separate the hinge from the mounting brackets.

9.3 Measure down from the top of the door (3" is a standard size) and mark. Measure up from the door bottom for the lower hinge.

9.4 Mark the screw holes and the 1 3/8" hinge anchor hole.

9.5 Drill pilot holes using the hinge as a template. Only drill down 1/2" and avoid going all the way through.

9.6 Insert hinge hardware into the holes in the door and secure with supplied screws.

9.7 Position doors where they will be installed and mark the position for the mounting brackets (T-shaped metal pieces with three screw holes).

9.8 Install mounting brackets.

9.9 Install door by locking the hinges into the mounting brackets.

9.10 Align door with adjusting screw in the hinge.

On standard flat panel doors, knobs and pulls should be installed 1½'' - 2'' from the open corner of the cabinet. Templates are available to make this easier or you can create your own template out of cardboard.

10.1 Tape cardboard to the inside corner of the cabinet door.

10.2 Mark top and bottom of the door 1½'' - 2'' from the open corner of the cabinet and draw line to join the marks. Mark position of the knob. For handles, measure between the posts and mark the position.

10.3 Drill holes the width of the attaching bolt.

10.4 Install the doorknob or handle.

10.5 Repeat for all cabinet using the template.

10.6 Tape a piece of cardboard to the inside of the drawer.

10.7 Mark the center of the face for a knob. Otherwise, measure between the posts of the handle and mark the position.

10.8 Drill holes the width of the attaching bolt.

10.9 Install the doorknob or handle.

Cabinet trim - light shield, base shoe and crown - can be glued with heavy-duty construction glue or installed with brad nails.

11.1 Cut and/or miter edges of trim.

11.2 Pre-assemble pieces before installing and check fit.

11.3 Apply glue and clamp into place or nail.