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March 2009
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Tall Cabinet Installation

Here are a series of tall cabinets I recently installed for a client who needed storage that could be moved later.
Simple storage units with oak face frames and panel doors with beveled frames so knobs or handles are not required. These are 18'' wide, 24'' deep and under 7' high. These were installed to corral the toys and stuff that the arrival of their first child spawned. Tallcabs

We also installed a fluorescent fixture to provide indirect lighting. The lighting allows them enough light for reading as well being able to remove the lamps that had graced the various end tables. This shows the light in action. The grey cabinet was an addition after the other cabinets had been purchased and painted.


This is a temporary placement. As the child grows, most of these cabinets will move to other areas of the house. Attaching these cabinets to the wall  requires some thought.  Knowing that most of them were moving at a later date and needing to provide backing for then, I decided to leave the base trim in place. This allowed us to install a spacer on the right cabinet to give us spacing for the trim detail to come as well as providing solid blocking on the wall behind them to attach them firmly to the wall.


Our first order of business is to determine the height and length of our wall cleat. Look at the back of the cabinet for backing that is installed from the factory. Having backing separates good cabinets from crap that will make you cry long after you spend the money you thought you saved.


Our cleat is going to be mounted horizontally, centered on the bottom of the upper cabinet base. The back of the cabinet itself has a backing board to hold the shelf in place as well as keeping the cabinet sides parallel. This will allow us to screw the cabinets to the wall with the screws just above the 'floor' of the upper cabinet opening, making then unobtrusive.

The laser line. Using an inexpensive laser we mark our horizontal. I love this thing. I used to use plastic tubing as a water level which required two people, and was a mess to work with.

Laserline The Chalk Line. Next I used a chalk line to snap a line for the top edge of the cleat. This gives you wiggle room to find your studs, and gets covered when you install your cleat. 


I found the studs, which in this case were 24'' on center, and attached the cleat to the wall with 2- 2'' screws at each stud location. I like screwing things together not only for the additional strength now, but for the ease of removal later on. Raise your hands if you have done demo where things were nailed to the wall, and you had to repair a lot of damage from taking stuff apart.


Attaching the cabinets to the wall is 'relatively' straight forward. You want to check that the cabinets are plumb in both directions. Side to side, so they will not look like they are either leaning into the wall or falling away from it. Front to back, plumb keeps the doors from swinging open or banging shut. It is the little details that make jobs well done.

Your floor is not perfectly flat. Trust me on this. In addition to getting your cabinets plumb, you want them level. Starting from the corner, you slide the next cabinet into position using shims where necessary to align the cabinet frames. Don't worry about the doors yet, as they are coming off and will be adjusted later. Attaching them to each other requires some clamps and some screws. Here I am using Irwin Squeeze Clamps to hold the frames together. Notice that I have removed the doors from one of the cabinets, to allow me to get the clamps in place. Next we use a counter sink drill bit to drill our holes.

Tech Tip: Screw the frames together in one direction. Right to left or left to right depending on conditions. If you anticipate moving them later, leave the screw heads sunk but exposed so you can find them later. Touch them up with a spot of paint and there you go.


For the most part there should not be gaps between the cabinets, but be prepared in case there are. Wood moves. You can now reattach the doors, lining them up as you go.

Here is the trim detail for this unit. The trim is simple door stop material. It has a light radius on one edge and a square corner on the other edge. The gap on the right side of the cabinet is equal to the top gap, it is just the picture and the idiot with the camera.


Not shown here is the 1/4'' plywood attached to the side of the left cabinet to create a finished end. The rest of the plywood was used on the roof of the cabinet as well as a solid kick panel at the floor.

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