Cabinet Hanger Cleats

Ways to install back-panel cleats for attaching cabinets to walls. June 18, 2005

I'm trying to find the best way to make the cleats to hang upper cabinets. What material works best, how is it built into the box itself, and what angle is the cleat cut at?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor F:
Lots of ways, really. Some dispense with cleats altogether and build with a .5" thick back. With white melamine, I laminate .75" ply. One face and one edge with white laminate, about 2" wide. With show wood interiors, I use a solid piece with a .25" round over at bottom front edge. You should screw down through the cabinet top and also into the end of the hanger cleat so it is connected to the box. Some build with a cleat at top and bottom on the wall side of the back as to be hidden from view. This will make the useable space inside the box shallower.

From the original questioner:
I haven't seen a cleat on the bottom of a cabinet. Would it be the same as the top? Also, do you use cleats for base boxes? How do you fasten those to the wall?

From contributor F:
As far as a cleat at the bottom of a wall cabinet (upper), I have only seen them used when hidden behind the back to "balance the cabinet." It would have to be the same thickness as the one at the top. I call the ones I use on base cabinets "stringers." I let mine in to be flush with the top and backs of partitions and wall ends.

From contributor J:
I've built both ways that contributor F is referring to. 1/2" backs will be more expensive than a simple cleat or nail rail in the top of the cabinet with 1/4" back behind it. Just cut up some extra lengths of face frame material (I use 2") and use it for your cleat. Round it over nicely on the bottom edge and pocket screw it to the sides and top of the cabinet flush with the inside of the rabbet that accepts your back. If you don't have some way of drilling pocket holes, I would highly recommend that you make the small investment to do so. The Kreg Jig will start you out nicely for around $150 bucks... They are priceless, in my opinion, and will save you lots of dollars in clamps and time.

From contributor J:
P.S. I wouldn't put a cleat at the bottom, as you will lose valuable depth and some plates will not fit properly (learned that one from experience!). You can put a couple of screws through the 1/4" back near the bottom just to keep the cabinet from pulling out at the bottom. Really, gravity and the weight of the cabinet will hold it to the wall with only the top screwed, but you never know, just to be safe.

From the original questioner:
I'm more familiar with putting the cleat behind the back so it is concealed. But doing it the other way, where and how does the back fit?

From contributor J:
You should cut a 1/4 x 3/8 rabbet on the back edge of your end panels. The cleat goes in front of the rabbet on the part of the panel that hasn't been cut. Back of the cleat will be flush with the front of the rabbet. Back goes in the rabbet and tight against the cleat.

From contributor T:
I have always preferred the French cleat because it is completely not visible. I prefer a 1" spruce cleat fastened to the wall with a 45 degree back cut. The fastener will vary depending on the wall construction. The matching cleat is attached to the back of the cabinet at the vertical rails. The cleat is not attached to the back in any fashion so the back can remain at 1/4" because it has nothing to do with the hanging system. This 3/4" cleat has the matching 45 cut and its location is 3 or more inches from the top of the cabinet.

The reason for the 1" receiver cleat and the 3/4 hanging cleat is that the 3/4 piece is always applying pressure down into the cut of the 1" piece and keeps the cab hugging the wall. Matching 3/4 pieces will keep the cab off the wall because it bottoms out in the cut.
Of course, the end finish panels have a scribe of at least 1" to cover the exposed ends of the cleats.