Aligning and Leveling Wall Cabinets

Installers share tips on fitting cabinets to an out-of-whack room. March 3, 2009

I was curious to what point you guys shim wall cabs (euro). I had some pretty bad walls the cabs were hitting in the back open 1/4 inch front and one spot was 3/8. I put filler between or would have ended up with a 2x4 behind at the end of the run (12 feet plus 5 30/42's).

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor J:
Im not sure exactly what youre describing when you say open in the front, but I shim until the cabinets are level and plumb. Generally I'll attach all the wall cabinets in a run together and then scew it to the wall to make sure it's also a straight line. In my experience 1/4"-3/8" isn't really a lot when installing cabinetry. I've installed wall oven cabinets where the bottom of the cab was off 3/4" from the top.

From contributor R:
Walls rarely are flat much less plumb and level. The main thing is that the cabinets are plumb and level and that the fronts line up in a straight line. I've found walls that were out as much as 2" from top to bottom. That isn't real common, however, 3/4" variations are fairly common. Scribe the sides where cabinets meet the walls or use trim that will cover.

A horror story for you: I leveled a toe kick on an 11' long entertainment center and found nearly a 2" floor height variation. Unfortunately, I failed to check the walls. It turned out that the wall was square with the floor. In other words, the wall was out a bunch. The entertainment center was floor to ceiling. So, the top was also out the same as the floor. The crown looked horrible. And there was no easy fix without rebuilding the upper cabinets to sit away from the ceiling. The owner decided to live with it and I decided to wish I were dead.

From contributor F:
When I install it's usually by myself. For the wall cabs I'll make up as many deadmen as I need, and lift the cabs one by one onto the deadmen. Fasten two together then lift the next one into place. Once you get a whole run, or in cases of really long runs maybe half, then you attach to the wall as one large unit. Its much easier to level and square and eliminates having to worry about the fronts not meeting.

From contributor R:
A cabinet lift will be your best friend if you don't already have one. It is the best investment for an installer of just about anything you might otherwise think of as a luxury. I call a cabinet lift a necessity now that I have a nearly 60 year old back.

From contributor P:
I build frameless cabinets. To install wall cabinets, which I do before the base, I made a beam about 12" deep and 8" high and 6 or 8 ' long, and rest it on two skinny horses I made, so that the top of the beam is about 54" from the floor, (typical height for a wall cabinet). I bring the top of the beam up to a laser line, by adjusting the horses below it. Then I set a whole row of cabinets on the beam, screw them to each other, then shim and screw to the wall.

From the original questioner:
So ,say there's a hump in the wall. Would you would shim and use appropriate sized trim at the ends? Have you ever gone into the sheetrock?

From contributor P:
If there is a hump in the wall, which does happen, obviously the cabinets to either side need to be shimmed. This can mean that the cabinets on the end of the run don't hit the wall, (without shims) I always use applied finished ends. If the wall cabinet were flush to the wall, (which sometimes happens,) then the finished end for a 12" deep wall cabinet would be 12 7/8" wide (depth of the cabinet plus thickness of the doors, plus 1/8"). I rough size finished ends to 13 1/4" or more, to allow for possible shimming, and then cut to final size after the cabinets are hung. Yes, I sometimes go into the sheetrock, and did it on the last job.