Tips on Choosing and Buying Kitchen Cabinets
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Published by TOP4 Team
Quality control and a broad range of options make styling today's mass-produced cabinets competitive with all but the most costly custom-made units. You can order stock cabinets, then assemble and finish them, purchase units which require only finishing, or select pre-finished versions ready for installation. You should also keep in mind that most manufacturers offer several lines, each constructed of slightly different materials and priced accordingly.
Judge construction by taking a close look at how joints are fitted and the way insides and backs have been finished. Check out the hardware, too. Quality cabinets have doors that swing freely and latch, securely, and drawers that roll on metal tracks.
Measuring for new cabinets
Standardised dimensions and modular designs greatly simplify the job of tailoring cabinets to suit your kitchen. Just measure the space available, order a series of units that comes close to fitting it, then make up the difference with fillers between cabinets.
• First, carefully plot your kitchen on graph paper, making both floor plan and elevation drawings. For base cabinets, measure at benchtop and note any variations. Make sure that you include door swings, power points, window casings, pipes, appliance sizes and nay other features that could cause an unpleasant surprise.
• Now fill in the layout you want, using the following information as a guide. Height measurements shown accommodate the reach of an average-height person and are accepted as standards throughout the kitchen and appliance industries.
• Base cabinets typically measure 900 mm high by 600 or 450 mm deep.
• Fillers fit between units, letting you adjust a bank of cabinets to the space available. Rip them to the width you need.
Installing kitchen cabinets
Achieving a built-in look with prefabricated cabinets might seem to call for some tricky carpentry. Not so! Examine a unit and you'll see that the manufacturer has done most of the work, providing you with perfectly modules that you can interlock with screws or dowels.
• Assembly consists of carefully levelling and plumbing each cabinet, then fastening it to the wall studs and to its neighbours.
• Level the base cabinets. You'll probably need to use shims to accomplish this. Use the screw sizes specified by the manufacturer; drive the screw through the frame, not the thinner back and side panels. And never install cabinets with nails — they don't have the holding power of screws, and they might split the wood.
• If a skirting board, door or window casing gets in the way, remove it and trim to fit after the cabinets are in place.
• Cap off base cabinets with a bench top from a timber yard or a kitchen or building supplier. Most will cut one to size and even make a cut-out for the sink if you supply a pattern. (Measure carefully, through — mistakes are costly.) You can also make your own bench top by veneering exterior-grade plywood with plastic laminate.
• Install the bench top by screwing angle brackets to the bench's underside and to the cabinet frame.
• Finish off the job by installing moulding to cover any gaps that occur between the cabinets and wall or floor.
• To hang wall cabinets, first build a movable support you can put on the bench. Next, rest a unit on the support, shim behind to plumb the cabinet, then screw through the frame to the wall studs.
• Begin the installation by marking the locations of the wall studs. Set a cabinet into place, then level it by tapping shims underneath. Level from front to back as well as from side to side.
• Now drill pilot holes and drive screws into the studs. A screwdriver attachment on an electric drill speed this job along.
• Once you have levelled and secured the unit, chisel away any shims that protrude.
• Sometimes a thin shim between cabinets will compensate for minor irregularities. The face edges must butt tightly, though.
• Fasten units together by drilling holes and driving in screws. Countersink the screws heads about 12mm.
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