Installing Cabinet Fillers- Top Scribes and Side Scribes
If you have purchased your cabinets from Home Depot or Lowe’s, you’re going to have to cut your own fillers and toe boards to length and width. Generally, when installing kitchen or vanity cupboards that have been pre-fabricated, the top scribes or battens are shipped separately in eight foot lengths. The side scribes or filler pieces are cut to the correct length or height at the factory, but will need to be cut to the necessary widths.
Before cutting any of these parts to width, it’s important to actually hold the filler or scribe piece up to the area of the ceiling, wall or floor that it will get installed next to. The chances are probably pretty good that the filler will need to be fit to the contour of the wall. This is called scribing and it is usually done with a table saw and a belt sander.
Here’s a great video that will give you an idea of how to mark your pieces correctly in preparation for scribing them. In this clip the demonstration shows how to level a base cabinet to the floor.
It’s also a great idea to hold your level against the side walls, ceiling and floors so that you have a good idea if they are plumb, level or square. You must plan on installing the cabinets plumb, level and square and then cut the wall-fillers, toe boards, and top scribe batten pieces to fit the walls, ceiling and floors.
Fitting Cabinet Side Fillers (or, “scribes”) to the Walls
Once you have installed your prefab cabinets level and plumb, hold your filler piece up to the wall and determine if you can just cut it with a table saw or if you will have to do some custom sanding, using a belt sander with 40 grit sand paper. Once you have made the filler piece fit, having less than an eight of an inch gap, screw it to the cabinet side.
If your wall is very wavy and it’s necessary to form the cabinet side scribe (filler) to the contour of the wall, do this before cutting the filler to width. Once you have the piece nicely formed, figure out how much you need to cut off with your table saw. You will need to let the straight edge of the filler ride against the table saws fence. Make sure you allow for the thickness of the blade. In some cases you will actually have to free-hand cut the scribe piece because the dimensions will be different from the top to the bottom of the filler.
Top scribes or batten pieces can either be installed before or after the cabinets are installed. If you fasten them to the ceiling first, you must fit them to the ceiling and install them level. This is usually accomplished the easiest with two people working on the project. When they are installed, they should be recessed back from the front edge of the cupboards by ¼” to ½”. When scribing these pieces to fit the shape of the ceiling, a belt sander is generally used unless you are really good at free handing with the table saw. Small shims can be placed between the ceiling and the top of the batten pieces as long as the space is within range that can be caulked with colored cabinet caulking to match.
The finished toe base pieces always get installed after the cabinetry has been anchored to the walls. If you are tiling after the cabinets are installed it really doesn’t matter how well the finished toe base material fits the floor. But if your installing cabinets on top of tile then you will need to scribe the toe pieces to the tile.
Remember when you are installing the side fillers, scribes, toe boards and batten pieces, take your time. Your kitchen or vanity bathroom cabinets will look so much nicer if you take the time to fit the fillers tightly to the walls, the battens to the ceilings and the toe bases to the floors.