Installing cabinets is a precision job that requires speciality cabinet installation tools to achieve a professional result. For example, lifting a 75-pound upper cabinet into the air, holding it and installing screws is difficult.
The solution? A cabinet jack that will hold the weight while you screw. But, most DIY’ers and even some professionals don’t know to use this handy tool.
In this guide learn what tools to install cabinets are a must – and what will just make the job faster or easier:
- For professionals looking to upgrade or replace tools you’ll find construction-duty tools and muscle-saving lifts and straps.
- And for DIY’ers a short list of $300-400 worth of tools to help you save a few thousand.
Editor: I’ve installed over 100 custom built kitchens and use the tools on this list for my jobs.
Must Have Cabinet Install Tools
Upper Cabinet Jack:
› FastCap UpperHand Jack at Amazon ($108.20)
Align and clamp cabinets:
› Bessey Cabinet Claw at Amazon ($49.99)
Professional stud finder:
› Franklin ProSensor at Amazon ($54.95)
Base cabinet levelers:
› Viking Arm Hand at Amazon ($205.99)
Crown molding jig:
› Kreg Crown-Pro KMA2800 at Amazon ($34.97)
› Trend U/E Pro Scribe at Amazon ($29.99)
Most Used Cabinet Installation Tools
There are three distinct categories of any list of tools, and for cabinet installers the following is generally true.
- Cabinet claws
- Cabinet jacks
- Cabinet hardware jigs
- Cabinet wedges
- Crown moulding jigs
- Wood scribe
- Miter saw
- Six foot level
- Cordless drill
- Stud finder
- Trim nail gun
- Hole saw
- Belt sander
- Jig saw
- Laser level
- Trigger clamps
- Flust cut Japanese saws
- Moving straps
- Color Putty
- Hearing protection
1. Cabinet Jack
Installing upper cabinets is usually a team effort.
One installer lifts and holds the upper cabinet while the other installer aligns, installs screws, drops screws, wants an adjustment and, you guessed it, the fighting can start.
But, using a cabinet jack frees both installers to do the important work by simply fitting under the upper cabinet and taking the weight. And with a micro-adjustment handle allows for precision placement of the cabinet.
Freeing you to worry about alignment, shims, cabinet screw installation and level.
And, as a bonus, these jacks work great to help install microwaves and shelving.
Related Article: DIY Guide to the Best Cabinet Jacks
2. Cabinet Hardware Jig
For Knobs and Handles
The last step in most cabinet installations is the nerve-testing task of drilling holes in thousands of dollars of doors and drawers. To reduce chances of error use a cabinet hardware jig that will proper align your hardware.
Also available from truepositiontools.com
After drilling hundreds of drawers and doors the first experience I had with a cabinet hardware jig was both disappointing and exciting.
Disappointing? Only because I hadn’t purchased one sooner and saved myself the hassle of slightly crooked handles.
Aside from being able to quickly drill repeated holes, this jig prevents drill bits from wandering in course grain wood like oak.
There are dozens of imitations on the market – professionals know True Position Tools has the best jig on the market.
Related Article: Best Cabinet Hardware Jig for Knobs and Handles
3. Cabinet Claw for Face Frame Cabinets
While a traditional clamp will squeeze two pieces of wood together, they only work in one dimension.
The challenge with cabinets? Frames need to be compressed together and keep their back-to-front dimension flush.
The solution? A cabinet claw that clamps in two directions. And, as a bonus, has a guide bushing to drill holes for trim head cabinet installation screws.
4. Color Putty to Hide Gaps and Holes
I haven’t installed a kitchen I didn’t use Color Putty on.
Due to it’s plyable, finger friendly application it can be applied anywhere. And with the ability to mix colors to customize to your project it is the ultimate in versatile.
Wondering where you’d use it? Well, crown molding nails, face frame gaps, toe kick, base shoe and any other nail or crack can be quickly made invisible.
5. Wood Scribe For Fitting Cabinets and Walls
Shown: EasyScribe Scribing Tool
So connecting flat cabinets to each other is simplified with clamps and screws.
But how do you match a flat cabinet to a curved wall?
With a wood scribe, of course.
Cabinet to wall filler strip installation is a combination of skill and tools. And typically requires a belt sander and a wood scribe.
6. Laser Level For Perfect Fits
Shown: Bosch 30ft Cross-Line Level
I had to re-install the base cabinets in a kitchen a dozen or so years ago when the (extremely) uneven floor caused leveling issues.
Why? Well, the solid surface installers rejected the plane as it wasn’t perfectly flat. I’ll say they were a little too picky, but regardless it cost me a half day to fix.
If your kitchen will have solid surface counters AND you have an L or U-shaped kitchen it’s worth using a laser level to ensure your base cabinets are installed flat.
To use one of these tools you’ll want to install it on a pole in the center of the room, set the laser line for the upper cabinets (bonus, not required) and base cabinets so you have a visual reference as to “perfect”. Then simply install and ship cabinets to this highly visible line.
If you have the budget a 360-degree laser is best.
7. Crown MOlding Jig for Easier Cuts
Cutting crown molding can be tricky for even a professional. With the compound angles you’ll need to put your saw through (if its even capable), precise fit requirements and math most DIY’ers struggle.
The solution? This simple jig will take one of the compound angles away, and lets you simply cut a 45-degree (or other) and worry about just a single dimension.
8. Cabinet Wedge to Shim Cabinets
Now this tool might be a surprise to even a cabinet installation professional.
The cabinet wedge is an air powered wedge that will help with a task you don’t even know will be an issue: lifting base cabinets just ever-so-slightly to find perfect level.
And then you can place the shim.
But seriously – is this worth it? Yes! Leveling base cabinets on uneven floors is a major pain-point and this nifty tool (or 3 of them, in fact) will make the job easier.
The alternative? You’ll be lifting, shimming, and leveling while fussing with shims and bulky cabinets. And I don’t like that amount of time on the floor.
9. Trigger Clamps for frameless Cabinets
Shown: FastCap Jack of All Trades
As an upgrade to the cabinet wedge (at least for base cabinets) and a 2-in-1 deal for frameless cabinets make this FastCap unique tool a professionals consideration.
- Reversible jaw for lifting or clamping
- Large, heavy duty trigger clamp for holding frameless cabinets firmly in place.
- FastCap innovation and reputation
And coupled with the cabinet jacks the combination provides a quick and effortless way to steady a cabinet and securely screw it with perfect alignment vertically and horizontally.
10. Six Foot Level For Installing Cabinets
Shown: OX Tools Tradesman Level
You can’t install a kitchen without a level. And I’m not talking about that 12″ long plastic level you have in the utility drawer.
A cabinet installation requires at least a 6′ level for a number of reasons:
- Ensure cabinets spanning gaps over ranges, sinks, and other areas are level with each other.
- Checking cabinet alignment vertically between upper and lower cabinets.
- Making sure your lower cabinets are absolutely flat for installing solid surface tops.
11. Belt Sander For Flushing Cabinet Frames
Shown: SKIL 6-amp Belt Sander
I can’t remember an installation where I didn’t use a belt sander to adjust either a face frame or cabinet back.
Due to kitchen walls and drywall that aren’t perfect you’ll need a belt sander to adjust the cabinet sides, face frames or bases.
Because your woodworking aspirations will determine what size and type of belt sander you’ll need there is a range of cheap to professional. For example:
- A single installation a belt sander can be found for under $50 that will do the job.
- But for around $200-250 you’ll find sanders with more power, better dust collection and larger belts.
12. Stud Finder for Locating Studs
Shown: ProSensor 710 Stud Finder
Cabinets falling off the wall.
Drilling a cabinet knob in the wrong spot.
Hitting an electric line or plumbing with a screw.
Look, there’s no reason to hit anything behind the wall while installing cabinets. Due to readily available 4-in-1 stud finders that can locate just about everything behind the wall you cannot safety install a kitchen without a stud finder.
Want another option? Check out cabinet hanging rail systems for an alternative to screwing cabinets directly to the wall.
Features of popular stud finders:
- Locate wood stud edges to center screws
- Find electrical lines
- Identify plumbing / utility lines
- Metal stud identification
13. Japanese Saw for Flush Cuts
While I prefer a composite shim for cabinet installation because they snap off, if you found yourself with wood shims, a flush cut Japanese saw is a fantastic way to do flush wood trimming.
A great benefit of this tool is it’s reusable for future woodworking projects where flush cuts are needed (dowels, thru tenons, etc.).
14. Cordless Nail Gun
Cabinet installation almost always involves some sort of trim – including the tough-to-tackle crown molding.
And while you could tackle this with a pilot bit, brads and a hammer with a nail set I’d recommend against it.
Especially with four common nailing tasks:
- Crown molding installation
- Toe kick installation
- Base shoe
- Skirt molding (often used to conceal lighting)
Best of all, if you own one of the modern battery ecosystems there’s a cordless option to skip the noisy air compressor.
Related Article: Best Cordless Nail Guns for Woodworking
16. Miter Saw For Cutting Trim
Every cabinet installation requires a miter saw to cut trim and crown molding.
Because it makes quick work of helping install cabinet filler strips between face frames, cutting trim, and slicing complex angle crown molding you’ll find installing a kitchen without one a challenge.
A few things to look for:
- You can skip the cost of the compound, sliding miter saw if you use a General Tools jig as mentioned above
- But, make sure you invest in blocking or an in-feed / out-feed table for supporting the trim
- 10″ is fine for homeowner use (I build kitchens with a 10″ saw)
Related Article: Best Miter Saws for Woodworking
17. Jig Saw for Cutting Pluming and Electric Holes
Shown: Dewalt Cordless Jigsaw
While not something you think about first, every cabinet installation requires a few outlet holes and plumbing holes to be cut.
And, if your project will continue to installing laminate counters you’ll need this for cutting out the sink hole.
A few features that should be top of mind for a jigsaw:
- Adjustable stroke for aggressive cuts in soft wood, or less aggressive in harder woods (and laminate tops)
- Smooth machined bottom to not scratch the surface
- And variable speed control to adapt to number of teeth on the blade
- Cordless to avoid (literally) cutting the cord
18. Hole Saw Set for Plumbing
Shown: Dewalt Hole Saw Set
Every kitchen or bath installation involves drilling a few well placed 1-3″ holes in the cabinets for plumbing hot/cold water supplies, waste return lines, and dishwasher hoses.
While you can saw these holes, I prefer to take a few extra minutes and locate the holes and then use a slightly larger hole-saw.
A few things to look for:
- Variety of hole saws up to 4″
- Quality of the mandrel
- Depth of the hole saw for thicker material
Fortunately, most hole saw needs in cabinets are for thin material up to 3/4″. So, no need to break the bank on a cabinetmaker-grade set of hole saws.
19. Hearing Protection
Shown: 3M Bluetooth Ear Muffs
This is a part of cabinet installation most forget about until the saws and nailers start.
But, you’ll need high quality noise reducing headphones to avoid ear damage.
And with bluetooth hearing protection you can listen to music or make and take calls from these earmuffs.
20. Cabinet Moving Straps
Shown: Shoulder Dolly Moving Straps
Don’t forget the first part of installing cabinets is getting them in the room.
And for a DIY installation that can mean a heavy lift of bulky cabinet boxes.
So, why not take a page from appliance movers and prepare ahead with shoulder straps designed to redistribute the load and prevent injury?
21. Portable Cleanup Vacuum
Shown: Dewalt Cordless Vacuum
At the end of every cabinet installation there is a mess.
As you can guess, dust from the saws, wood chips from drilling holes in the cabinets, and drywall dust from any minor wall modifications are all over. Since you’ll need to get into small spaces all over the kitchen a compact vacuum is a time saver.
Best of all this doesn’t have to be just on of your cabinet installation tools – it’s versatile for your workshop as well to cleanup dust around and in your power tools.
The alternative? A shop vac or a vacuum that wasn’t made for dust and chips (and one I’d get in trouble using…).
Frequently Asked Questions
What tools are needed to install kitchen cabinets?
While there are many tools required, a cordless drill, miter saw, jigsaw, cabinet jack, cabinet claw and a level are the main tools required.
Can I install kitchen cabinets myself?
Yes but only with the right tools like a cabinet jack or cabinet lift that will allow you to support upper cabinets while in the air.
What screws do I use to hang cabinets?
The standard screw is the GRK Cabinet Screw with a length of 2-1/2″. However specialty screws like the GRK Trim Head are used for connecting face frames.
How do you hold cabinets in place during installation?
To hold cabinets in place during installation use a cabinet jack that will allow you to make minor adjustments to the cabinet height and hold the cabinet in place.
By now you probably realize the right cabinet installation tools are the difference between a good and great installation. So, rather than find out during your installation you could use a tool grab them first.
Cabinet Installation Series
Planning & Tools To Install Cabinets
Guides for Cabinet Installation
Finishing Cabinets With Molding and Hardware
Last update on 2022-09-25 at 06:05 / Images from Amazon