When it comes to cabinets, our very own Eric Jaeger is one of the best resources out there. A former contractor, Eric has experience on both the installation and design sides of cabinet projects and offers a unique perspective to both homeowners and professionals. In this series, we sit down with Eric to learn more about the cabinet process from design to project completion—and the do's and don’ts in between.
Today, Eric answers questions about installation day. Watch our interview above or read the highlights below.
Who should install cabinets?
Cabinet installation requires advanced woodworking skills, and we recommend hiring a professional. Why? Every home is different—walls aren’t always plumb, corners aren’t always perfect, floors are often uneven. An experienced cabinet installer makes the job look easy—but don’t let good craftsmanship and skill fool you. Installing cabinets is a difficult, laborious task with many opportunities for costly errors. Semi-custom cabinets don't come with an installation manual, and no matter how much research you do to prepare, you’ll almost always run into a situation that only someone with on-the-job experience can effectively work around.
Cabinet installation tools and techniques
If you are the one installing cabinets, here’s a good rule of thumb: Always start by using a laser level to find the high point on the floor. This will be your starting point for installation. Then, determine if your walls are vertically plumb, or if they bow in or out in places. You’ll make adjustments to install everything level to your laser line, and if any of your walls are imperfect, you will need to shim/adjust as necessary in order to achieve a proper and aesthetically pleasing installation.
Should I install upper or lower cabinets first?
There’s no objective answer to this question, and remodelers and cabinet installers will have different preferences. Ultimately, the best installation is what you’re most comfortable with. That said, there are benefits and downsides to each approach.
The benefit to installing lower cabinets first is that they provide you a working surface for installing the upper cabinets, which can be helpful if you’re installing by yourself.
The downside to installing lower cabinets first is that it opens up room for damage if you slip up installing the uppers. Keep lower cabinets protected by creating a “sub-top” using OSB or plywood, taking your tool belt off, and being careful not to drop tools and equipment.
Make decisions that will produce the best outcome
For most, a remodel (especially a new kitchen) is a special project that’s personal and maybe even the realization of a dream or goal. Cabinets are a prominent feature in any room, and they’re something you’ll look at day in and day out. Before you decide to save a dollar or two by DIYing your cabinets, consider the risks involved and be sure that you make installation decisions that will produce an outcome you’ll be happy with for years to come.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a homeowner looking to learn new skills, we’re always here with solid advice to help you build a successful project. For more insights into the cabinetry process, check out our cabinet delivery day advice and an overview of our cabinet options.