I am thinking of replacing all the cabinets in our kitchen.

What is the process for installing kitchen cabinets? (Ie. best to start in corner, and work out? Top cabinets first?)

Edit: We have two gaps. One where the stove will be, and another where the dishwasher will be. The dish washer gap will have the counter-top over it.

2 Answers 2


Everything Matthew said is accurate, good answer if you're mounting very close to the ceiling. A ledger is a good way to keep the uppers aligned and support the cabinet weight while installing.

There are several other techniques you should know however.

1) Screws holding the weight should be through a framing member or stile, not through a thin backer panel, they should go into a stud or a horizontal nailer installed between studs for this specific purpose. you may have to remove a strip of sheetrock to install a nailer. Do not screw into just sheetrock, even with anchors or your cabinets will be on the floor before you know it. Don't use drywall screws, get cabinet screws that have a built on washer.

2) Adjacent cabinets need to be clamped together and fastened together through the side stiles with counter sunk screws. This locks them together and assures the meeting stiles are flush and stay flush.

3) Always start in a corner if you have cabinets going down two walls. the corner cabinet is your anchor.

4) Carefully check the level of the floor and use embossing material to fill and sags or dips.

5) Dry fit the lowers, before attaching to the wall, shim the low ones, clamp the adjacent stiles together as you did with the uppers. Screw them to the wall, checking level in both directions (length and perpendicular to wall), then screw the stiles together as above.

6) measure precisely the openings required by your appliances. Give yourself no more than 1/4" over the actual appliance dimension. 1/8" is better. 1/16" on either side.

7) Install the lower kick plate last to cover and shims and gaps.

There are a lot of other tricks of the trade, but go slow, pre-plan and have a little extra man power to handle the cabinets.

Google up "This Old House" and watch some of the many videos on this topic.


Measure the ceiling height every foot. It is likely there will be low and high points so you may want to split the difference between the counter and the ceiling (if you're not mounting to the ceiling.

Uppers go in first, primarily because they're hard to install once the lowers are in.

Install a ledgerboard to align and help install the uppers. Get long screws and pre-drill. I really prefer the star-head cabinet screws.

As for the order of install, it depends on your room... do you have a large gap somewhere (like a hood for the range) or do you need filler strips somewhere?

Where will the fillers go? How will your lowers line up with the uppers? Will the gaps be wide enough for your appliances to fit?

The most important part of installing cabinets is planning and prepping.

  • That was one of my first thoughts, that I need to determine the highest points, so that I can shim up all other cabinets to that one.
    – MJ.
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 17:16
  • 1
    Great answer but you forgot that the hardest part IMHO is the trim! Proper measuring and cutting of the trim pieces (crown moulding, quarter round, etc...) makes the difference between a beautiful kitchen and a hacky looking DIY job. Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 19:21

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