I can see a few reasons, but so far none are compelling.

Depending on how large plumbing access holes are you may want to ensure that it doesn't shift. (I did mine with 1.5" holes for water lines, and 3" for drain, and installed a larger piece of vinyl tile as a mouse arrestor.

if you don't have a cabinet with a built in back splash, being able to run a bead of caulk along the back edge keeps crud from making a bid for a life of obscurity.

On the other hand:

Free cabinets allow you to shift one over 3 inches to do the side of the stove and the floor.

Free cabinets allow you to pull them away from the wall at painting time.

Free cabinets make life a bunch simpler when it's reflooring time.

  • 29
    Free cabinets allow you to pull them away from the wall at usage time.
    – jsotola
    Mar 26, 2018 at 20:06
  • 1
    Do you have small cabinets? We have a 14-15 foot run of cabinets that have one piece of plywood on top screwed into each cabinet for countertop underlayment and leveling. Then a solid block of quartz on top of that. Even if our base cabinets weren't screwed to the wall , it's way easier to move the stove than it is to move the cabinet.
    – FGreg
    Mar 27, 2018 at 0:33
  • 6
    Here's another reason I haven't seen mentioned yet: doors can actually be quite heavy, and could risk tipping over the cabinet when it's opened, if it's not secured against the wall. I've seen this happen at my workplace just after we moved.
    – Nyerguds
    Mar 27, 2018 at 8:28
  • 10
    I have kids, if they would pull the drawer and start climbing on them, the whole cabinet might topple. That's why everything has to be screwed on the wall (stove, shelves, clothes drawer, ...)
    – the_lotus
    Mar 27, 2018 at 11:55
  • 2
    Isn't being attached to a wall is part of what makes them a cabinet? It sounds like you're interested in a sideboard rather than a cabinet.
    – R.M.
    Mar 27, 2018 at 16:15

5 Answers 5


Interesting question and comments. A few things strike me. First, a lot depends on the type of cabinets. Framed vs. frameless in particular. Both types have their merits, and I am not going to get into that debate, but most frameless cabinets I have seen on the market today rely on the wall to some extent for their strength and stability. In both cases, a floor that is not level or has waves in it can cause a cabinet to rack, drawers to malfunction or joints to separate when weight is placed on the cabinets. Maybe this is not necessarily a heavy countertop, but someone sitting on the countertop. As far as I know, all cabinet manufacturers recommend shimming the base cabinets at the floor to prevent this. In my experience it is extremely rare to find a perfectly level floor or wall. (and by extremely rare, I mean I believe it is possible, but have never personally seen it.) If the cabinets are not shimmed and secured to the wall, there is nothing to prevent the cabinet & shim system at the wall or floor from moving around.

The second issue that strikes me was partially mentioned before and that is door and drawer front alignment. In both frameless and framed applications, the cabinets are typically clamped and screwed to each other where 2 cabinets meet. This is to align the face of the cabinets and eliminate gaps. Then the drawer fronts and doors can not only be squared to the cabinet, but aligned with each other. If the cabinets are not secured to the wall for stability, any movement of a cabinet runs the risk of cracking the material around those connections.

Third, if the cabinets are not secured, finishing with any trim will be nearly pointless. If you want to run a piece of scribe to hide the gaps where the cabinet meets the wall or quarter round at the base, those would have to be connected exclusively to the cabinet and will likely not survive without being removed if the trim spans over more than one cabinet.

One final thought, I think the idea of free floating cabinets would technically work without running the risk of damaging the cabinets if the cabinets are of very high quality. Perhaps the type with feet as opposed to a continuous baseboard would do better. However, you would be taking an expensive cabinet and giving it he feel of a cheap installation. In my experience, I have seen a skilled installer who cares about the craftsmanship of his work take a set of the cheapest production cabinets you ever wanted to see and make them look like they belong in a million dollar show home. Unfortunately, I have seen a lousy installer butcher the installation of some very nice cabinets to the point where they were ripped out and re-done by someone else (rightfully so).

Whatever you do, I wish you success in your project!

  • Excellent answer. And while I haven't changed my mind, it has given me some additional considerations. My cabinets are veneer/melamine on HDF core, full back, full sides, 3/4 inch. They are in place on a very unlevel, but fairly smooth floor. (Floor has a slope of about 1/4" per foot.) In 10 years they have no racked at all. Finish: The wall at counter top level has a 1 plank wide strip of laminate flooring. Each individual counter top is pushed flush to that. In my eyes it looks better than a bead of caulk. Mar 28, 2018 at 14:40

Nearly all the reasons you proposed for leaving them free are rare occurrences. (I'm not sure what "doing the stove" means. Cleaning?) On those occurrences it's fairly easy to pull a few 3" screws and do your business.

To my mind they don't outweigh the reasons you offered for anchoring them, which mostly involve stability (safety) and a quality feel. Most folks want a sense of built-in cabinetry, rather than freestanding furniture, which can wobble and shift with use.

  • 6
    Safety is also a big concern. You really don't want kids climbing up draws and then being decapitated by the worktop edge when they tip and fall over.
    – user77994
    Mar 27, 2018 at 13:39
  • Doing the stove: The stove has to come out a minimum of 40 inches if you want to clean the wall, floor, and cabinet faces on either side of it. Moving a stove with small clearances in a galley style kitchen is difficult. If you have ever worked in an industrial kitchen, you move or lift everything you can to clean under it. Mar 28, 2018 at 14:20
  • While pulling a few 3" screws may be easy, getting them back into the same holes is not. As to how often I move base cabinets? About 3 times a year. Mar 28, 2018 at 14:21
  • 1
    Then your situation is out of the ordinary. In my region cabinets are installed and not touched until it's time to replace them 25 years later.
    – isherwood
    Mar 28, 2018 at 14:28
  • @Snow I just did a test with my smallest cabinet. With the drawer half open it takes 70 pounds of down force to get the cabinet to move. This corresponds with boys to an age of 7 to 12, and a height of 42 to 54 inches. A compromise for this would be to have a ledge on the wall (Incorporate into backsplash so in the recessed position, the ledge stops tipping. Given how easily drawers slide, however they would be a very unstable climbing platform. Mar 28, 2018 at 14:30

How about not screwing up your countertop seams, by moving? How about not collapsing sideways due to weight of porcelain + iron sink and granite counter? (I live in earthquake country...) How about not making drawers and doors not work correctly by being out of square? True, the back panel of cabinets ought to act as a shear brace... How about not having gaps develop between adjacent cabinets?

BTW here's another question about this.

  • On one side of the stove I have a 36" cabinet. On the otherside I have a pair of 24" cabinets on a common base. I have an island 10 feet long with a 16" overhang on one end, and a 16 overhang on one edge. This island has the sink and dishwasher in it. In this case it's a formica counter top, which is screwed to the cabinets. Mar 27, 2018 at 10:48
  • @SherwoodBotsford that island needs to be anchored to the floor with cleats and screws
    – Kris
    Mar 27, 2018 at 20:43
  • @Kris Why? We aren't in earthquake country. Mar 28, 2018 at 14:32
  • @SherwoodBotsford My 8 foot island with 14 inch over hang tipped over when a couple teenagers sat ion the edge. could easily have caused serious injury but only caused 1000 dollars in floor and cabinet/countertop damage
    – Kris
    Mar 28, 2018 at 14:36
  • I have 3 legs under the overhang. Also: I put the floor in before putting the island in. With the island unattached, it is simple to jack it up 3 inches (I put that much play in the plumping and wiring) to run the edge of new flooring underneath. Mar 29, 2018 at 15:26

In the UK at least your cabinets will all be screwed into the underside of your kitchen worktop (except stone worktops which will be glued down with silicone), and also all screwed to each other, so they will all be rigidly connected together anyway.

Cabinets may also have utilities such as gas and electric services passing through them. For this reason moving them could be dangerous as it could pull out a cable or damage a gas pipe.

Having all the cabinets rigidly in place also makes it easier to install a worktop without moving your nicely levelled cabinet tops. Besides, if you move the cabinets later, what's holding up your worktop? Maybe things work differently in the US.

Free cabinets would also spell doom for your nicely your nicely aligned cupboard doors. You would probably need to readjust every time you moved them. Because of expansion you would also probably have to have a bit of a gap between them to have any hope of getting them out and back in again.

I personally have enough trouble getting the damn built-in appliances in and out never mind all the cabinets as well.

  • 1
    They're no different in the US.
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 27, 2018 at 22:39
  • As mentioned in a previous comment, I have deliberate slack in the connection systems. No gas, but water has 6" vertical travel and 2 inch horizontal travel allowances and power has a foot. Mar 29, 2018 at 15:29
  • How do Install a worktop? I pick up the old one, and put down the new one. It's held in place by gravity. I have to move them 3 times a year to wax them anyway. Clean the crack at the edge of worktop and backsplash? Slide the worktop forward 3 inches, clean, slide back. No caulk getting groady. Want to pull the stove out to clean under it? Slide worktops sideways 2 inches, pull stove out easily, clean, reverse. If I had little kids, I would put a cleat under the worktops so they had to be lifted as well as pulled. Mar 29, 2018 at 15:33
  • @SherwoodBotsford, In the UK normally the worktop is screwed down to the cabinets, (or rather screwed to the cabinets from the underside). Then the wall is tiled down to the worktop surface, sometimes there is an upstand between the worktop and the tiles which is sealed with silicone. to the worktop and wall. everything is sealed, it is designed never to be moved. Most worktops are not natural wood but laminate, but even real wood will be installed the same way. To replace a worktop you would unscrew everything and put own the new worktop, screw it all together again and regrout/reseal.
    – crobar
    Mar 30, 2018 at 19:00

Every answer you've gotten as to fixing the base cabinets and leveling them to the floor and walls is correct and important.

Your desire, for whatever reason to be able to move the cabinets to paint, clean, etc. gave me a good idea for you. U should look into commercial kitchen cabinets on wheels. The wheels allow for movement to clean, and even rearrange them. The only "fixed" cabinets would be the sink (water and drainage) and stove (gas or electric, and required ventilation). Good Luck to you.

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