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Install Cabinets Level

How important is it to install cabinets level? What if the ceiling is not straight? What do I do if the floor is not level? The three things that affect a kitchen or bathroom  cupboard installation are the ceiling, the walls and the floor. If any of these three are not in the proper position, the cupboards will need to be altered in order for things to operate correctly.

What happens if I install the cabinets out of level?
When kitchen cabinetry gets installed plumb, level and square everything operates smoothly. All of the parts that comprise a cupboard are manufactured square. The hinges, drawer slides, special racks and pull-outs are all designed to operate properly within square and straight members. If the boxes get installed crooked, then there is a greater possibility that something is not going to operate right or “look incorrect.”


A square door hanging on a box that is not square doesn’t look right. The same holds true with the drawers, they will not operate right or look right because they are manufactured square if the cupboards are installed crooked.

If not secured correctly, you may have to change drawer slides positions and spend a lot of time adjusting cabinet hinges to make things work.

How do I install base cabinets on an uneven  floor?

All you need are some shims, a jig saw and possibly a belt sander. You only have two options, you can either shim the end that is low higher or cut off the high end to make it lower. The determining factor is usually how the floor relates to where the finished sides of the cabinets are or what it is doing around the dishwasher area. Your dishwasher opening size for cabinet installation is the most critical height you must be concerned with. You cannot have the base cabinets be lower than 34-1/4 inches in height at the dishwasher.

How do I install upper cabinets on a ceiling that is not level?
The wall cupboards should have what manufactures refer to as a top scribe or upper cabinet starter strip. Both of these are long pieces of wood or mica  that get cut to fit the out of level ceiling, but get installed level.

What do I do if the floor and ceiling are fine,  but the walls are not plumb?

You are going to need to make the cabinet fit tight to the wall. You will do this by either cutting some off of the back of the cabinet, installing a new finished end panel, or cutting out the drywall. It is only important for a cupboard to be flat against the wall if it is on  a finished end. The main things is to install your cabinet as level as possible. This may mean that it is off of the wall a little bit.

How do out of level cabinets affect countertops?
Cabinets should be installed level because granite tops may crack over time if installed on a hump. Anywhere that there are seams in countertop pieces, the area must be perfectly flat on the cupboards underneath. If you are getting a tile back-splash or any wall splash that will have horizontal lines running through it, your kitchen will not look right with level grout lines and unleveled countertops.

Can’t I just caulk around the void areas?
You can use cabinet  caulking to fill in the voids of where cabinets were installed level against unleveled  surfaces.  You cannot fill in large gaps though because that looks too tacky!

You should always do as much as possible to get things level. I have worked for contractors who have rebuilt entire soffit areas because the carpenter made a mistake and built it out of level. There’s only so much tolerance that a cabinet installer can account for when the walls, ceilings and floors are not built properly where the cabinets are to be installed. Always invest plenty of thought into what you are doing so that you will have the best install possible with your Formica kitchen or bathroom vanity cabinets.

Categories: Installation Tips
  1. Marty
    July 6th, 2010 at 11:57 | #1

    How can I drop my upper cabinets down from the ceiling? When they were installed the ceiling is out of level so much that a couple of the doors scrap it when they are almost completely open.

  2. Bill
    August 11th, 2010 at 06:48 | #2

    Marty, there are three options here:

    1) Cut the doors off at the top

    2) Drop the doors down by moving the hinge placements. You MAY need to make different refrigerator upper doors and hood cabinet doors.

    3) Move the cabinets down and install a filler strip to the ceiling.

    They are prioritized by numerical order.

  3. Annie
    August 15th, 2010 at 17:59 | #3

    Our cabinets were installed about three years ago and the master bathroom vanity cupboards are really not level.

    Is it possible to have them fixed?

    I know this is a very general question without you seeing the situation.

    The cabinets are in a straight line between two walls.

    Nothing fancy at all about the design. There’s a large mirror sitting on the backsplash.

    All-in-all the length is about eight feet long.

    The counter-top is made out of cultured marble.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    By the way…I have really enjoyed looking at your suggestions for fixing cupboards.

  4. admin
    August 16th, 2010 at 08:44 | #4

    Annie, there are several things you can do i this situation.

    1) Hire a cabinet installer to raise them so they are level.
    This would require refinishing the toe area and repairing the plumbing cut-outs in the back of the cupboard.

    2) Just raise the countertop and add molding on the face of the cupboards to cover the gap.

    In either instance, you may need to have a plumber redo the plumbing depending upon how far out of level the cabinets are.

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