It’s easy to find cabinet screws but hard to find the right ones. Maybe you’re installing drawer slides or hinges? Most manufacturers will send the wrong screws. Or maybe you have a cabinet installation coming up and are looking for the right length screw? Or, perhaps you are planning assembly of cabinets with pocket holes?
Whatever your project, in this guide we’ll look to show you the right screw for a durable, long lasting cabinet project.
Why should you plan your screws?
Well, after decades of building and installing cabinets I’ve found:
- Hardware screws need the right length, head and thread design for a long-term fit
- Using the wrong screw will result in failure later. And hopefully it’s a door that came loose and not an upper cabinet that falls due to the wrong screw…
- What works in plywood won’t work in MDF or melamine
- Manufacturers rarely send the right screws with hardware
- Cabinet Installation:
- Cabinet Hardware:
- I prefer Rok #8 screws as they have a large flat head and aggressive threads to lock slides and hinges firmly to the cabinet.
- Cabinet Assembly:
Part 1 - Cabinet Installation Screws
Name Used For Shop Amazon GRK 2-1/2″ Cabinet Screw
Frameless and face frame cabinets. Colors: White, stainless, bronze. Check Price GRK 1-1/4″ Screw
Connecting cabinet sides together. Colors: White, stainless, bronze. Check Price GRK 1-1/4″ Face Frame Screw
Connecting face frames and installing filler strips Check Price Chicago Post Screw
Bolt frameless cabinets through un-used shelf pin holes Check Price
I’ll admit that screws can be an afterthought when it comes to the excitement of installing cabinets. While other cabinet installation tools may take priority, when it comes to an installation the entire process is really about … the screws.
After all, when the installation is done what’s holding hundreds of pounds of cabinet and contents to the wall?
Since the construction of your cabinets will dictate some of your choice in screws, let’s take a look at each screw based on purpose. And then how variations in construction will impact the choice in screws.
Choosing cabinet-to-wall cabinet screws
Nothing surprising here.
The first screw you’ll need is one that will hold the weight of the cabinet (and it’s contents) against the wall.
And, since you’ll get one shot at this you’ll want to consider:
- Thickness of the cabinet back, wall surface thickness (plaster/lathe, drywall, etc) and then stud thickness
- Metal vs. wood studs
- And, quantity of screws at ~ 4 screws per lineal foot of cabinets.
If you haven’t installed cabinets before, most cabinets are screwed through the back of the cabinet, into the drywall and then to the wood stud. Typically a 2-1/2″ screw is the minimum, but be sure to check your wall construction and cabinet requirements.
Recommended Cabinet to Wall Screw
For cabinet installations the torx-headed GRK’s have all the right features:
- Specialized threads for self-tapping
- Torx head that firmly grasps your bit
- Thin shaft for driving through hard materials
- Large, flat head for grabbing power when set
- Available in common cabinet installation lengths from 2-1/2″ up to 3-1/2″ (and longer)
- Colors: White, Bronze and Stainless
Cabinet to cabinet screws for lateral connections
If your installation involves upper cabinets, and you haven’t installed upper cabinets before, you might be surprised to quickly learn you’ll need to connect the cabinets together first. And then screw the cabinet to the wall.
Why do you connect cabinets together first?
It’s about the quality of the final fit and finish: you want the face frames or frameless fronts to meet precisely together. And since you can’t shim the finished fronts, you’ll use shims to adjust against the wall.
Since using the same screws in all visible areas is best, for most cabinets use a shorter version of the GRK cabinet screw. And, I prefer to have a variety of 1″, 1-1/4″ and 1-1/2″ of these screws on hand to account for variations in cabinet side thicknesses and gaps between face frames.
Besides, anyone serious about DIY projects will use these again later. So I don’t worry about over-buying on screws.
Recommended Cabinet to Cabinet Screw
And it will match the back of the cabinet.
Lastly, a couple of tips and tricks when it comes to installing these screws:
Cabinet screws to connect face frames
While securing cabinets through the sides works (especially in the back), a better way to secure face frame cabinets is through the frame itself.
And that’s where a face frame cabinet screw comes into play. As mentioned in the cabinet to cabinet screws, you’ll want to use a cabinet claw for these screws.
And as a bonus they also work great for installing filler strips.
Recommended Face Frame Screw
- Thin shaft with aggressive threads to connect cabinet sides together during installation
- Self tapping “w-thread” design
- Colors: White, Bronze and Stainless
Connecting frameless cabinet sides with a post screw
A post screw will connect cabinet sides using a two part screw.
Rather than a single screw with threads that lock into the melamine side, a post screw is installed through a shelf pin hole:
- The first half of the screw (the “female” post side) is longer and connects through both pieces of the cabinet side in the shelf pin hole.
- Then, the male side inserts into the post and is simply tightened. But for optimal holding power a dab of Loctite will secure the screw from accidental displacement.
These screws are great to avoid stripping screws in MDF and are nearly invisible after the installation.
Concerned you’ll lose a shelf pin hole on the top or bottom? Then simply line-up these screws and drill a hole just above and below. And as a bonus you won’t have to worry the pins were perfectly aligned.
Recommended Post Screw
- Installs through a small hole between frameless cabinet sides – or through existing shelf pin holes
- Secure hold between cabinets
Part 2 - Cabinet Hardware Screws
It’s surprising to some that you’d even need to consider this type of screw.
After all, the cabinet hardware you just purchased should have came with the right screws. Right?
Unfortunately, I’ve had bad luck with being able to use all the screws (both wood and machine screws) that come with cabinet hardware.
Stock up on machine screws for drawers
After the cabinets are screwed to the wall you’ll likely end up drilling cabinet knob hardware and installing knobs and handles.
And guess what?
There are specific screws for this job as well. After hacking and cutting many machine screws I’ve learned to always have a box or two of 8-32 x 1-1/4 inch and 8-32 x 1-5/8 machine screws in your toolbox.
Why? Because most custom cabinet fronts are 3/4″, drawer sides are 5/8″ and knobs needing about 1/4″ of screw length a 1-5/8″ machine screw can make the installation smoother. And hardware manufacturers just don’t supply what you’ll need.
Installing drawer slides requires buying your own cabinet screw
Installing drawers requires a mix of skill and the right Rok #8 screws
In fact, as I found in my guide to the best soft close drawer slides, beyond inadequate drawer slide screws some manufacturers just plain send the wrong screws.
Lastly, for face frame cabinets you will almost certainly need screws in the frame. And almost all hardwoods will require a pilot hole, best done with a self centering pilot hole bit, to avoid splitting the wood (or worse – breaking the screw). But for the record, I rarely drill pilot holes in softwoods.
Part 3 - Cabinet Assembly Screws
While most traditional plywood and face frame constructed cabinets are glued and nailed there are uses for cabinet screws in construction.
Cabinet screws to join melamine and particle board
If you’ve ever assembled IKEA furniture you’ll know what this is about. And, personally, I think their systems for connecting furniture and cabinets is ingenious.
But I still prefer to build plywood cabinets.
So how do you join melamine (aka particleboard) at right angles? With a confirmat head screw, as pictured below:
What is a confirmat screw? A confirmat screw is a special cabinet screw that leverages a large thread design suited to particleboard cores and a recessed flat head that can be concealed.
However, to use this type of screw you’ll need to invest in a specialty confirmat countersink .
Frequently Asked Questions for Cabinet Screws
How long are screws to attach cabinets to the wall?
While wall construction determines the length most screws are a minimum of 2-1/2″ up to 3-1/2″.
What screws are used to connect cabinets together?
There are three types of screws for connecting cabinets together. Face frame cabinets utilize trim-head screws drilled through the frames. While frameless cabinets use either shorter screws or Chicago bolts to connect the cabinet.
How many screws do I need to install cabinets?
For wall screws plan for 4 wall screws per foot of cabinet and then four screws per cabinet box for connecting cabinets together.
Three Screws to AVoid
So I promised three screws you should avoid.
And here they are:
- Drywall screws are NOT to be used for installing cabinets. Please, just don’t do it.
- Drawer manufacturer screws should be tossed and an appropriate length Rok #8 screw used. And to be clear, I’ll only use manufacturer screws in face frame connection points. Otherwise, what they send just won’t hold up to years of weight and slamming.
- Deck/outdoor screws (see #1)
Hopefully this article was helpful in understanding the subtle differences in screws you’ll need while building and installing cabinets. While not the most exciting purchase, a good assortment of cabinet screws will make an installation go smoother.
And prevent need for future adjustments caused by the wrong screw.
Cabinet Installation Series
Installing cabinets is a journey. Follow our 3 part series for more guides, tools and techniques to complete your project: