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This weekend I'll be building a couple of base cabinets to replace some of the existing ones, which I assume are original to the house (circa 1960s). I consider myself handy but have never built cabinets before. I've done a lot of research, purchased a pocket hole jig, and have most other common tools. The cabinets will be face frames, 3/4 plywood boxes with poplar rails and stiles and 1/4 inch plywood backs.

Thee kitchen layout is an L shape. One run will be 5 1/2 feet long, replacing an existing run of 3 separate cabinet boxes, which I'll now be making as one unit. It will meet an existing lazy susan corner cabinet. A small 12 inch cabinet will be made to meet the other end of the corner box. The cabinets will be painted - but I was attempting to hide all of the fasteners anyway (pocket holes, end panels, etc).

My question relates to installing, and comes in two parts.

Q1: Securing to Other Cabinets

The existing cabinets are screwed together, side to side, right through the face frames with big counter sunk screws. It seems other people practice this method as well. It seems silly to go through the trouble of hiding fasteners and building nice boxes if I'm going to have these big fat screws visible. Is there another method? The only place this will apply is where to two new boxes meet the corner box.

Q2: Securing to the House

The next question is related. The existing cabinets appear to have a couple of drywall screws through the back panel into the wall, close to the top. While it irks me to have exposed screws again, I can get over it as they'll be up behind the drawers. I'm mostly concerned about trusting the screw through the 1/4 inch panel. The existing cabinets seem ok, but do wiggle a small amount if I try now that the counter is off. What is the proper way to secure base cabinets? All of my searches turn up discussions about hanging wall cabinets, which I wont be doing. Do I need to secure to the floor? The corner box is "floating" away from the wall and appears to be nailed or screwed through the toe kick, but its difficult to figure out whats going on down there.

Any tips are appreciated. Thank you!

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    I am just too lazy to answer and you already have a good one. But your main concern should be attaching cabinets to each other for the bottom runs. On the bottom I just want them the same height and level and attached to each other. If I have a group of cabinets I might only put in 2-3 screws total attaching to the wall. There is no real extra holding power if you have 3 screws or 30. A group of bound cabinets are not going anywhere and if you do need to move them you do not want to tear them up when doing so (think new counters/sink/plumbing - stuff like that). – DMoore Jul 1 '16 at 17:09
  • For #1 - Why not just screw the cabinet boxes together with a 1/2" shim (or 1/4" depending on your overhang of the face-frame), instead of screwing the face frames together? Seems strange to me to deface the face-frame in any way altogether. – Jim Cody Nov 22 '17 at 18:33
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While I am not a cabinet maker by trade, I have successfully built two full sets of cabinets (base and uppers) and am currently getting ready to hang my third in my newly renovated kitchen.

First, always start with the corner box. If it is not already level, square and secure, you'll want to make it so before attaching the other boxes as it's your foundation.

For #1: Yes, you will clamp the front frames together to align and level them to the corner box. Then secure them to the wall using #2 answer below. Then you need to attach the frames together as that will keep your seam from becoming a gap. Your screws need to be 90 degrees not angled when you screw the cabinets together. Do not glue, you may want to replace or refurbish later. You can easily hide the screws by counter sinking your screws 1/2 inch or so and using a plastic or wood plug. Or simply use a nice brass finish screw to compliment your woodwork. Or use a screw that blends in with the color of the wood if you are really concerned about it. Since your cabinets will be painted simply paint the screw head if it is even visible.

For #2: In all of my cabinets I have built a 1 x 2 solid wood rail at the top and bottom of the back of the cabinet that the 1/4 inch panel is nailed. I use this to attach the cabinets to the wall studs for base and upper cabinets. I use 3 inch drywall screws. You do not need to secure to the floor unless you are creating an island that does not have wall access.

I have not tried them, but you can also purchase rails in 8 foot lengths that you can hang on the wall, then attach brackets to your cabinets that hang on the rail. This secures the top of the cabinet but I'm guessing you'd still need to fasten the bottom through a stud.

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    I tend to avoid drywall screws for structural things, as they're brittle and can snap with too much torque. As an alternate for joining face frames, trim screws have decent holding power and tiny heads, so easy to plug or fill. – Aloysius Defenestrate Jul 1 '16 at 13:23
  • I do agree that drywall screws are not made for hardwood materials because as you mention they tend to snap with too much torque. However, I am referring to using them in the framing studs to secure the cabinets to the wall which are usually soft pine and the drywall screws course threads are made for such a purpose. Deck screws are also a good choice for this purpose. I only use Kreg cabinet screws in all of my cabinet making where screws are necessary. – Jared Jul 1 '16 at 15:07
  • FWIW I built and installed cabinetry for about 4 years and I agree with you on the points in your post. Shims are going to be your best friend when leveling and its crucial to get them level front to back and side to side. – Steve Salowitz Jul 1 '16 at 15:47
  • I didn't realize that screwing them together prevents gaps from forming, interesting. Good options for hiding the screws, or choosing something decorative - I didn't think of that. – plast1k Jul 1 '16 at 19:52
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1) For connecting face frames use 2-1/2" or so #8 wood screws. Pre-drill the holes with a counter sink bit. Best way to hide them is to place them where the hinge hardware will cover them up.

2) For securing the cabinets to the wall use cabinet screws with a nice washer head, not drywall screws. If you need to attach a cabinet to a side wall or adjacent cabinet, just attached some spacers to the wall made of 2x4s and plywood to get the correct thickness, then attach the cabinet to that. This is useful in the case of having no studs behind a narrow cabinet.

Washer Head Cabinet Screw: enter image description here

  • Smart idea hiding them with the hinges! And I'll look for those screws, thanks. – plast1k Jul 1 '16 at 19:49

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