Installing Semicustom Cabinets
How to level, scribe, and fasten cabinets without marring the perfect factory finish.
Synopsis: Isaak Mester’s Master Carpenter article, “Installing Semicustom Cabinets,” teaches best practices for everything from unpacking and organization to careful layout tips and how to properly set upper and lower cabinets. Cabinet installation begins with establishing a reference line, which is drawn from the floor’s high spot, unless the gaps at the low points would be too large to mask with trim. Mester shows how to split the difference to get the best possible outcome. Setting begins in a corner and working outward, maintaining plumb and level with each successive cabinet. When it comes to finish pieces, such as crown molding and end panels, Mester demonstrates how to work carefully and efficiently with prefinished stock to prevent time-wasting and costly mistakes.
On the face of it, installing semicustom kitchen cabinets is pretty straightforward: Attach a run of boxes to the wall, make sure all the doors and drawers work, and don’t scratch the paint. Unless kitchens are a regular part of your work week, however, you’ll find that the installation can go sideways in a hurry if you don’t pay attention to some key aspects of the job. In demonstrating the installation of this fairly typical kitchen, I illustrate the most important tricks of the trade that help to make this a professional-looking job.
First, unpack carefully
The designer and the client picked semicustom cabinets from Kraft-Maid for the kitchen. In price and quality, they usually represent a comfortable midpoint between small-shop custom cabinets and big-box-store economy cabinets. The carcases are made of plywood, and the face frames, doors, and drawers are hardwood. The quality of the finishes is excellent. The cabinets were configured with a mix of drawer and door bases, two lazy-susan corners, and some glass-door uppers. Cabinets like these are usually shipped…