Common cabinet installation mistakes
By Laura Foster-Bobroff, Networx
One of the biggest causes of delays in project completion for kitchen renovations comes from mistakes related to the installation of kitchen cabinetry. Here’s a list of ways to bungle an upgrade:
1. Inaccurate measurements: There’s a reason this is listed as No. 1 -- accurate measurements are the single biggest way to avoid major delays in your project. This includes getting an accurate measurement of the height of the ceiling and the measurements from wall-to-wall, accounting for windows or doorways that break up cabinetry or effect how it’s aligned.
2. Forgetting about new appliances: If you’re replacing appliances, be sure to measure the size of your new appliances. What was standard size 20 years ago is not standard size today for many brands of refrigerators, stoves or dishwashers that can be much larger than what you had in your old kitchen. Get specs from each manufacturer and utilize those dimensions in cabinet layout.
3. Using an informal design layout: Even a DIYer should get a professional design layout. They’re usually free when purchasing cabinets in large home centers. Specialized kitchen stores may charge a nominal fee to help you plan the layout. They have design experts on hand to assist you in choosing appropriate styles including correct sizes for upper and lower cabinets. After measuring, this should be the next step in your project; otherwise, haphazard placement of cabinets will create an awkward space without visual appeal.
4. Miscalculating ceiling height: Along the lines of inaccurate measuring and layout, miscalculating the appropriate size and height of the upper cabinets is one of the easiest ways to cause problems. If you’ve got high ceilings, standard-size cabinets are minimized. Also, you may want the placement of upper cabinets to be higher or lower than typical placement, depending on how tall (or short) you are. If you have high ceilings and don’t want to purchase larger, more expensive cabinets to balance the wall space, you can compensate by having crown molding installed to fool the eye.
5. Not inspecting cabinets immediately after delivery: Many contractors make this mistake because they get caught up in all the preliminary work that needs to be done during a renovation, only to find on the day they plan to install the cabinets there are major defects or one or two cabinets are the wrong size or style. As soon as your cabinets are delivered, open all the boxes and inspect each cabinet to make sure they are ready to go. If not, at least you’ll have time to return or exchange them while you’re still working on the prep.
6. Wrong hardware: Make sure you have the correct number of knobs, handles and pulls as well as the correct amount of hinges or any other hardware necessary for installation. More importantly, for safety reasons, use appropriately sized fasteners to install cabinetry to the wall.
7. Improper planning for lighting: What do cabinets have to do with lighting? If you plan on utilizing under-cabinet lighting or installing track or recessed lights, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) if your electrician can do the preliminary work before the cabinets go up. Make sure to give him the measurements so that he knows how high the cabinets will be, as well as their depth. Ask him to double check before beginning work.
8. Improper planning for plumbing: As with lighting, plumbing needs to be accurately installed to accommodate appliances like dishwashers, trash compactors, and refrigerators as well as sinks and faucets. Have a firm design layout in place before you have the plumber begin work. Consider whether you’ll have additional plumbing work done, such as installing water filters or garbage disposals – even if you don’t plan on these things until the future, you’ll want to allow for it when installing cabinets. Plumbers can place additional plumbing in the wall for easy future access without having to disturb cabinetry later.
9. Attempting to install cabinets alone: This is not a good idea, even if you have muscles that match the Incredible Hulk. Installing cabinets is a two-person job. Cabinets are awkward, heavy and difficult to place.
10. Doors that don’t swing in the right direction: Sometimes the smallest things create the most annoyance. Be sure doors won’t interfere with anything else. A common blunder in small kitchens is when stove doors that won’t clear the cabinet after handles are installed because a spacer wasn’t utilized.
11. Spacers don’t match existing cabinets: Spacers provide clearance for handles or may be used as fillers to extend the cabinet face for a clean fit. Most manufacturers will provide spacers in the same color and finish as your cabinets, but if the cabinets are unfinished, you will need to stain extra slats of wood in varying sizes so they’ll be ready to go when you begin installation. It’s another of those little details that tends to be overlooked until the last minute.
12. Unleveled or offset installation: You’ll need to be an experienced DIYer to install kitchen cabinetry. If you have no experience, it’s worth it to hire a contractor to do this part of your home improvement project. Cabinets must be properly leveled and if you have old walls and floors, it’s tricky to get them accurately lined up to prevent future misalignment. Also, nothing looks worse than seeing a major difference in the placement of cabinets surrounding a window. Small differences create an oddball look since windows tend to draw the eye.
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