Working With Leg Levelers

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Revising an installation process to include leg levelers. October 20, 2004

I am interested in trying out leg levelers but want some feedback. I usually make kick boxes and shim them to level. Leg levelers seem pretty simpleÖ what do you think?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor B:
I started using levelers too. I find they speed things along. I'm using the Camars that take a 15mm hole. You just set the sockets with a mallet. Be sure to set the sockets at the outer edges of the deck to take the load off the side panels. Otherwise, downward loads would cause the deck to distort, or fail!

Four legs are rated for 800 pounds. The toe-board gets clips on the back that snap onto the legs.

If water ever gets onto the floor, the cabinet boxes are out of reach. Leveling of the cabinets goes quickly and you can reach the back levelers from the front, whereas if shimming, you cannot get anything at the wall easily.

Another plus... With just the sockets in place, you can slide the boxes around the shop floor and not damage the frames/banding.

When you install the leg portions in the field, be sure to set them all the way into their sockets. If not, the cabinet may settle later with a full load inside and on top.

From contributor M:
We use the ones from Hafele. They come in two pieces - a base, and the leg. You screw the bases on the outside edges of your cabinet, press the legs in, and level.

We use a ledger board at the back. Set it level at 4" and screw to the studs. Now set the cabinet on the ledger and adjust the front. We do not use levelers on the back. Cuts our cost in half and it is every bit as secure.

Also, the levelers that we use do not require you to drill a hole in your deck. You attach from the bottom side.

One thing that you will have to resolve is how your toe kicks will terminate if it is on a peninsula or not terminating into a wall.

When my clients seem hesitant, I tell them that they have been doing it like this successfully in Europe for years. The only drawback that I can think of is that the toekicks can sound hollow - not a solid thud when you hit them. But they are strong and will stay in place.

From contributor A:
You are lying to the customer. What they have been doing successfully in Europe for years is the use of FOUR levelers.

From contributor W:
My background is installation. I don't make the boxes, but I've installed many, many kitchens. In my opinion, levelers are a must, or I'm going to bump my install fee at least a hundred bucks (more if a complicated kitchen).

The problem I've had with the platforms is that if you end up having to bump the base cabinets 1/2 inch one way or the other (like when you find out something ended up not jiving between the uppers and lowers), you're in for a helluva lot more work. If you value your installers, then do them a favor and use the levelers... there's just too many advantages not to.

From contributor I:
The Europeans don't know jack about saving money. I use a 3 7/8" ledge on the wall, screwed to the studs, set at a level line that I've lasered around the space. I only use levelers at the front, on both ends, and under every partition. I also set mine 1 1/4" short of the finished end, allowing for a 5/8" set back if I'm using 5/8" material for my toekick. I use Hafele as well, the screw on variety, and nail the kick on, as opposed to using the clips which take too long and are a pain. Just nail up high on the kick. The one thing I don't like is you have to bevel the back, top edge to clear the socket or knife off the flange edge at the front after screwing the socket down, so the toeboard fits tight vertically against the socket and foot portion. I would hate to install without them. They're inexpensive, fast, save material, allow easy packing in the truck, and allow a dead level install, easily.

From contributor B:
Using the clips takes too long and is a hassle, but beveling and knifing the back of the toe board is okay? Go figure!

From contributor I:
Yes, I have figured and the back bevel of the top back edge or knifing off the back at the leveler is required whether or not you opt to use the clip (I'm not that cheap or stupid) unless you leave the toeboard about 3/8" less in height, which doesn't support the deck between the levelers. I didn't design the blasted things - I'm just trying to make good use of them.

From contributor A:
No need to bevel the top back - the toekick is always 5mm shorter in height and the purpose of the toekick is not to support the deck. Start learning European frameless.

From contributor B:
Working within the 32mm system is meant to save labor and increase profits, not create more problems.

From contributor J:
I'll give you an opposing view from the other posts (not that they are necessarily wrong, just a difference of opinion). I build my toe kicks separately out of 3/4" cdx, and install/level them prior to setting cabinets. Due to the high cost of plywood I decided to try leg levelers on two sets of cabinets. The first set I used the clips and felt that the boards were flimsy. If you kicked them they felt loose. It didn't give the feeling of permanence to the cabinets. I also didn't like the gap at the top of the boards (the 5mm). The second set I nailed the boards to the legs but still felt that the boards were flimsy if kicked, and there wasn't a lot to nail to. I also was concerned that if the wood floor installer tried to use the toe kicks to push his boards together, he might push a leg back or break the board. You also must use 3/4" material instead of the 1/4" I use for wooden kicks. When an HVAC duct is under the cabinets you must build a separate box to channel the air out the front.

I don't think I saved any on cost as I usually can build toe kick boxes for a kitchen out of one sheet of ply and can build them in about an hour.

From contributor I:
I'll ask, as I surely can't figure out why the deck would not need to be supported, especially on, say, a sink base or cooktop base cabinet. Why would they build in a 5mm gap? Maybe there's something I'm missing, which is a very real possibility, as I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but you can step in my sink base and it will not flex, as I think that it shouldn't. Could someone please further expand on the necessity of the 5mm void under the decks?

From contributor J:
I put a leveler in the front center on wide boxes. Not sure if this is the correct way or not. What keeps the bottom of the legs from pushing in if the toe-kick takes a hard kick? On wood floors I nailed them once leveled, but what about concrete?

From contributor W:
There are two issues being talked about here - subjective and objective.

Toe kicks are flimsy - don't save time/money - do save time/money.

They've been around for a long time, and are still around, and will stay around.

They may not be what you want to use, but come on, don't trash them just 'cause you don't like them. I got a $20 dollar bet that it's mostly the cabinet *makers* that are complaining about them, and the cabinet *installers* that sing their praise. Show me an installer that likes platforms over levelers, and I'll show you an installer that likes hard work ;). And as I read it, the original question was about platforms versus levelers.

From contributor A:
The 5mm gap - actually, it's a 3mm gap - is for the clearance of the socket. Either 3 or 5 - the thing is you don't see it. For sink bases or cooktop cabs, you install two more right in the middle. Another thing to keep in mind with frameless - I don't install the bases until flooring or tile work is done. This is not FF - the toe kick in frameless is meant to be taken out to store items under the base cabinets, but that's another story because I know you guys are using 4" toekicks. European frameless cabinets have either a 6" or 8" toekick.

From contributor J:
Contributor A, when installing toe-kick boards on tile, do you scribe them to the tile or let them rest on the high spots? Do true Euro cabinets use plastic or metal legs? If plastic, what keeps the leg from getting pushed back if kicked hard? How do you anchor islands and long peninsulas with levelers? How do you handle HVAC vents? With 8" kicks, do countertops come out to 39" or do you build cabs at 26"?

From contributor A:
Toekicks are not scribed to anything. Tile or wood flooring must be done properly. The pound rating for each leveler is more than enough for plastic levelers. A person standing at the countertop is never going to kick any levelers if the setup is done right. You don't anchor islands or peninsulas. You attach each cabinet together and in most cases (10+ cabinets) they won't move at all. For a small island, you just put two 90 degree blocks on two opposite levelers glued to cement or tiles with epoxy. With 8" kicks or 200mm the box will be 670mm or 26.37". And trust me, a 670mm box looks much nicer than a 30.23" box with a 4" kick.

From contributor J:
Thanks for the reply, though you didn't explain how you handle HVAC vents. Do you just cut the vent hole and hope it comes out the front or build a duct?

Your answers confirm why I don't use leg levelers. I don't do floors, tile or wood, so have no control over levelness. I also don't control if the customer chooses a rustic/rough tile with deep grout or v groove wood flooring. Butting flooring to the kick makes for a much cleaner job without gaps. Unanchored islands can and will move, especially if on a smooth surface like tile. I believe this would also be against code in my area as a GFI outlet is required and must be hard wired. One of the big selling points of Euro is the space you save by not having rails; this is lost with 26" boxes. Of course you can use that great storage on the floor behind your removable toekick. Thanks for the confirmation.

From contributor D:
I like the idea of a ledger strip, as now you have a perfect level starting point rather than trying to level the cabinets to each other.

They do sound like they may be flimsy, especially using the clips. Perhaps using more levelers would make the toe more solid as well, and less likely to be a problem if you kick it.

I sure do not follow the logic of an 8" toe. Why give up 4" of cabinet? So you can store 4" more under the cabinet? I can not imagine anyone storing anything under the cabinet! As far as looks, I am not convinced at all. While I have not seen a cabinet with an 8" toe, I am sure if I did I would feel that the toe is too high. After all, it is what you are used to seeing that makes it look right or wrong.

I do not understand how you can nail the toe board to the levelers. Are they not made out of plastic? Seems that a nail would either break or damage the leveler.

How far do most offset the toe board from the front of the cabinet with either an 8" toe or a 4" toe? Is there a standard here as well?

From contributor I:
What I want to see is the 8" high leveler.

What is the purpose of the 3-5mm gap other than to be in the way of the toe board setting flush against the socket? I can't see storing stuff under the cabinets (on the floor) - that's where the bugs and dirt are.

From contributor P:
We use Camar leg levelers and treat kicks as the last thing we do and do not fit them perfectly up against the cab. However, if you wanted to waste time and do it, you could - there is no need for a 3mm gap at the top of the kick using Camar on the fronts of cabs. The socket you put on the bottom of cabs has a flat spot on front.

There is a need to cut a saw width out of top edges of any return kicks on sides needed.

We just love them and have used them without incident for over four years now. I don't see how you could get any simpler installation. I don't even mark a line on the wall any more. I simply put all base cabs up against the wall and see where I need to raise levelers up and down to get proper counter height - usually one or more of the cabs is at the correct height. I put a 6' level on top and begin leveling. It usually takes me around 1/2 hour - 1 hour to place an entire wall of base cabs.

From contributor N:
In new construction where everything should be very close to level, platforms might be alright, but in the remodel jobs that I do, there are frequently floors out of level by an inch or more from one side to the other. In these cases the leg levelers really shine. If I had built a platform in the shop and brought it to the job, it would require lots of shimming. The levelers just let you put the cabinets where they belong and start installing. The secondary benefit is it allows me to set the elevation of the sink at 36", which is the most used area, and adjust the adjacent cabinets either higher or lower as is needed. Although sometimes if a range or dishwasher height will end up wrong if the sink is at 36 inches, that can be adjusted for too. I do use platforms for islands because most of the time customers want a 12 inch overhang for seating and the platform gives more ability to secure the cabinet to the floor.

From contributor A:
Contributor D, when the first cabinet is leveled, all the others are going to be leveled as well because of the connectors. Each cabinet side has four 8mm holes for the connectors. If you want to see an 8" toekick, start looking for European made kitchens in the 50K range.

Contributor I, the 3-5mm gap is only to clear the socket. With a toekick, dirt is very minimal. I would say you have more dirt and bugs under your bed than under the cabinets.

From contributor D:
I am not sure what you are referring to for 8mm for connectors. I thought most just use the system holes (5mm) to connect cabinets together. What type of connector are you using and where are you drilling the holes?

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the input. I just installed the leg levelers I got from CSH and found that the cap for the bottom does not always fit into its place and needs to be bored out a bit. Also, I make my cabinets out of plywood and am concerned with the white screw caps that are seen from the inside of the cabinet. Doesn't this make the cabinets look pre-manufactured?

From contributor M:
Try the Hafele ones - a base that you screw to the bottom of the deck, and a leg that presses into the base.

From contributor A:
Contributor D, the 5mm holes or system holes for connecting cabinets together are no longer in use in high-end manufacturing in Europe. Line drilling is a thing of the past; consequently, you don't see Swiss cheese cabinets anymore. The 5mm drilling is only for the hinge plate and/or shelves. To connect the cabinets, the holes are actually 8.2mm and Hafele has those connectors.

From contributor O:
I'm in the process of using levelers for the first time. I think I've figured out how to position the clips easily.

First, I don't understand where this 5mm gap comes from. The levelers I bought come with clips that, when used, bring the kickboard flush with the top flange of the leg. No 5mm gap between the kickboard and bottom of the cabinet is required.

Secondly, to position the clips I plan to use a small piece of double-stick tape on the clips with most of the tape's backing still on for side of the tape that is touching the clip, while the other side of the tape (the side that will come into contact with the kickplate) will have all of the tape backing removed. I'll then attach the clips to the legs, then press the kick plate against the sticky tape. Then, with a gentle pull, the double stick tape will come off of the clips and remain on the kickplate. Thus, the tape will "record" the correct and precise position of the clips for me. I'll then screw the clips onto the tape, and *voila*, perfectly positioned clips.

From contributor S:
If you install the kick after the flooring is installed, you will end up with gaps either up top or at the bottom (or both) unless you scribe the kick boards to any imperfections in the floor. If the floor is perfectly level (not likely in this life), this won't be a problem, but if the floor is perfectly level, why use levelers? If gaps are acceptable to you and your client, don't sweat it.

From contributor D:
Line drilling is a thing of the past! I have just got my head around using system holes for everything! I have not purchased a line boring machine yet but I do have a dual row line boring machine very high on my want list (the type that bores from the bottom). Perhaps I need to reconsider! What are you doing for shelf holes if you are not using a line boring machine?

From contributor M:
Contributor O, too much work! Measure where your clips need to be vertically, then lay your toe kick down in front of the levelers - lay it flat on the floor. Now mark the location of the levelers on the toe kick. Install your "rail", center it on the leveler line, and then install your clip. It has enough horizontal travel, and will snap on to the leveler.

From contributor U:
Maybe someone can help me out with one issue regarding levelers. I can see how they speed installation, and I especially like the idea of using only front levelers with a ledger screwed to the wall for back support. My question is this: How far from a finished end do you mount your levelers? Is there adequate support for the end panel, which of course, is directly bearing the load of the countertop?

From contributor B:
The levelers are always catching the side panel to take the weight. And the side panel would go all the way to the floor, so that also carries the load of the top. Kicks are cut 90 degrees and die onto the side of the side panel.

From contributor U:
Not sure I get what you are saying. Do you always use an applied panel for finished ends, and it runs to the floor?

From contributor I:
I return my toekick with a 5/8" setback on finished ends, leaving my ledge board 1 1/4" short of the box length on finished end, usually attaching the leveler socket within 2" of the finished end with my standard setback from the front. While not directly under the finished end, I haven't had any problems with loading, considering the weight is also on the ledge board, and centered under any intermediate partitions. And by setting the toekick tight to the bottom of the case (requiring knifing off the socket flange at the front, the kick can bear some of the weight as well - 2" of unsupported cabinet), if I add a shim under the kick at the finished end, though I normally don't see a need for it.

From contributor A:
The levelers are never catching the side panel and the side panel never goes to the floor. That's European frameless.

An end panel is never bearing the load of the countertop - the whole cabinet is bearing the support and the four levelers are rated to support the cabinet and the granite without being on the edge. It is not what you think about frameless, it is how the system was designed for frameless.

From contributor U:
Are you saying that much of the load is transmitted through the sides to the back, which is attached to the wall? I can buy that, as long as your backs are engineered properly as well. Thanks for the insight.

From contributor A:
I never said that because the back has nothing to do with load bearing. This is very simple - we have a base cabinet with four levelers, each one rated at 200# and installed at the bottom. Now take five cabinets, connect them together and you have 4.000#, figure out what the five cabinets and the granite weights and you have the answer. Even if those levelers are not on the edge of the sides, all ten sides should collapse in sync to get a total failure. Not in my lifetime.

From contributor U:
The levelers may well be rated at 200 lbs. each, but what is the rating on the deck to side connection at the front? All the load for that leg is being transmitted through that joint. Two zipperscrews or confirmats at the front, screwed on edge into the deck of, say, 3/4" particleboard core melamine... How about the deflection of the deck? What if some 300 lb person decides to sit on that corner? Thoughts like that make this cabinetmaker a bit too nervous. Believe me, it really sucks getting sued. If you are having no failures with your levelers, I think your cabinets are probably transmitting more load to the walls than you think.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor H:
The European style cabs that I have been building for years have a 4 inch kick, and I use levelers with clips and havenít had any problems. The gap between the case (1/4") makes it easy to install the toe-kick when the floor is out of level. If youíre worried about the bottom of the cab sagging, shim between the bottom and the kick. This will also take care of the flimsy toe kick problem. I use 3/4 inch toe kick.