The right cabinet installation tools are the difference between a great cabinet installation and a disaster. Perhaps you want to avoid the $5000 professional installation expense and try a DIY cabinet installation? Not sure if you can lift and hold the cabinets? Or, maybe you have most of the tools and want to round your list before the installation day? Whatever your need, the tools in this article will help.
Look, after installing over 100 kitchens I know cabinet installation tools are unique.
Not sure yet if you need to invest in specialized tools?
Well, consider that there are tools on this list that will:
- Allow a single person to install upper cabinets
- Another that will eliminate complex angle cuts on crown molding
- And a last that will prevent you from needing to re-install base cabinets when the solid surface installer rejects an uneven installation (it’s happened to me!)
So rather than fight an installation, budget a few hundred dollars and make sure you have the right cabinet installation tools for a high quality installation.
You won’t regret the investment later…
Cabinet Installation Tools
1. Cabinet Claw for Holding Face Frames During Installation
- Secures face frames together during cabinet installation
- Bi-directional clamping for side-to-side and front-to-back
- Offers an integrated guide bushing for drilling pilot holes
- Clamps frames while trim-head screws are used to connect the frame
And, if you’re interested in more cabinet clamps check out cabinet clamp guide for clamps from construction to installation.
2. Cabinet Installation Jack
If you’ve installed cabinets before you know one of the most physical jobs is holding upper cabinets in place while they are shimmed, clamped to adjacent cabinets, and then screwed together.
But the cabinet jack alleviates the weight-lifting by holding the cabinet in place while it is installed.
- Lengths from 18-144″ to support base-first installation or fridge cabinets
- Holds weight of cabinets while they are clamped or screwed
- Enables a one-person installation
These work great in combination with #1 on this list (the cabinet clamp) to form the duo know as the cabinet jack and claw.
3. Cabinet Hardware Jig to Install Knobs and Handles
Installation doesn’t stop when everything is on the wall.
Well most cabinet installations involve drilling and installing cabinet knobs or handles.
So, instead of spending hours with a tape measure, pencil, and combination square marking out knobs take a look at a cabinet knob drill guide to make the job easy and accurate.
Key reasons to use a jig:
- Ensure accurate hole placement from door to door
- Avoid door and drawer front damage (which often cost more than the jig!)
- Professional-grade versions available to install up to 38″ long handle bars
Tip: Use a thick backing block to avoid splintering the back of the door with the pilot drill bit.
4. Laser Level to Avoid Re-installing Base Cabinets
I had to re-install a kitchen once when the (extremely) uneven floor caused leveling issues.
Why? Well, the solid surface installers rejected the plane as not perfectly flat.
Now, this was a multi-room wrap-around kitchen with 65′ of base cabinets.
But, on a basic U-shaped kitchen the risk is the same.
So, for any installer, I highly recommend a laser level in the center of the room to give you a perfectly flat plane to install your base and upper cabinets too.
Key features to look for:
- 360-degree beam for “set and forget”.
- Green line or red line is fine. But, if you do exterior work a green line can be advantageous.
- Accuracy of these lasers in a kitchen with walls 10-15′ apart should be acceptable.
5. Crown molding guide to eliminate compound cuts
One of the trickiest jobs in a cabinet installation is cutting inside and outside angles in crown molding.
And let’s face it: most DIY installers will never cut a more complicated angle than for crown molding. Besides, an inside, compound angle on a $80 piece of trim is nerve wracking for an even a professional!
So, make this job a little easier and pick up a tool to simplify the complex compound angles involved with crown molding.
6. Cabinet wedge to position 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.
7. Six foot cabinet level to span cabinets
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.
8. Squeeze clamps for holding frameless cabinets
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.
9. Belt sander to sand face frames
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.
10. Stud Finder for locating studs and avoiding wires
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
Features of popular stud finders:
- Locate wood stud edges to center screws
- Find electrical lines
- Identify plumbing / utility lines
- Metal stud identification
11. Japanese pull saw to trim shims
I’ve mentioned a few times in this article I really prefer a composite shim for cabinet installation.
But, if you found yourself with wood shims, a pull saw is a fantastic way to do flush wood trimming.
And in cabinet installations with wood shims you’ll find yourself in this situation.
A great benefit of this tool is it’s reusable for future woodworking projects where flush cuts are needed (dowels, thru tenons, etc.).
12. Trim nailer for crown and other molding
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.
13. Miter saw for installing cabinet 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)
14. Jigsaw to cut outlet and plumbing holes
While your first reaction to a jigsaw on this list might be “Hey, I’m not building cabinets” – this is a tool you may use a few times.
First, every cabinet installation requires a few outlet holes and plumbing holes to be cut.
And second, if your project will continue to installing laminate counters you’ll possibly 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
15. Hearing protection for saws and nailers
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.
However, this doesn’t mean it has to be dull! Due to Bluetooth everywhere you can pair up with a dual hearing protector and phone-connected headset.
An then use these later to mow the lawn…
16. Holesaw kit for plumbing lines
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.
17. Cabinet Moving Straps and Dolly
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?
18. Wood scribe for filler strips and counter scribing
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.
19. Color putty to magically hide nail 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.
20. Portable shop vac to cleanup wood chips and dust
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…).
Best Selling Cabinet Installation Tools
Best Selling Tools on Amazon
Last update on 2020-08-08 at 09:53 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Frequently Asked Questions for Kitchen Cabinet Installation Tools
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.
Types of Kitchen Cabinet Installation Tools
Installing cabinets is a great DIY project.
But without planning, following instructions, and having the right tools it can go bad quickly.
So how do you sort out what tools you really need from what’s optional?
Let’s organize your cabinet installation tools into three categories:
- Must have: tape measure, miter saw, hole saws, cordless drill, 72″ level, stud finder, jig saw
- Improves quality: cabinet clamp or claw, cabinet jack, laser level, belt sander, trim nailer, wood scribe
- Makes certain tasks easier: hardware jig, crow molding jig, cabinet wedge, pull saw, multi-tool, color putty, shop vac
Cabinet Installation Tools Summary
The right cabinet installation tools are the difference between a good and great installation. Without these tools you’ll find a tendency to cut corners, make mistakes and not complete the job as best you could.
Cabinet Installation Series
Installing cabinets is a journey. Follow our 3 part series for more guides, tools and techniques to complete your project: