Cabinet jacks are a must to install upper cabinets. First, as you can guess, the best cabinet jacks will let you take the weight off you while you clamp and screw the cabinets. But, the best cabinet jacks are versatile to be used later for anything to installing microwaves to cast iron extensions on your table saw (I’ve done both).
What makes for a great cabinet jack?
Well, consider the following when choosing:
- Length is the #1 factor – and installing cabinets is usually done uppers first. So a jack with a reach from 54-90″ is preferred.
- Durability and construction to withstand abuse during transport
- Fixed versus articulating feet with pads
- And, if lifting is also an issue, cabinet lifts that will both lift and hold your cabinets
In this guide we’ve purchased and tested jacks to test their use in cabinet installations. While professionals may opt for the sturdy T-Jak’s, any DIY project will enjoy the budget price and strong build of the FastCap Upper Hand or Little Hand.
Best for DIY (floor to cabinet):
Best for installing uppers last:
Best for shimming base cabinets:
Back-saving cabinet lift:
What To Look For IN a Cabinet Jack
While cabinet jack features matter, there are two decisions to make before purchasing a cabinet jack:
- Installation order: decide if you are installing uppers first (most pros do) or bases first.
- Cabinet height: most upper cabinets are 54″ off the ground (check your buliding codes if unsure) and there is 18″ between the base and upper cabinets. Choose a jack that will fit that range.
Features to Consider
- Maximum and minimum length
- Weight support
- Extendable lengths
- Size of top and bottom pads
- “Freestanding” vs. swivel heads
- Reach for microwave and fridge cabinets
- Brand reputation
- Micro-adjustment of the lever or adjustment screws
Floor to Upper Cabinet Reach
The proper jack for your project must reach from either the floor (usually 54″). Or, if installing upper cabinets over base cabinets a jack that reaches 12 to 24″ is best.
Best Cabinet Jacks
With very few manufacturers of cabinet jacks there are not a lot of options to consider.
And, a brand most woodworkers know, FastCap has a solid handle on this market with jacks that cover all sizes and lengths.
This cabinet jack is my choice for a DIY install due to it’s proper height and economical price point.
First, this jack has a wide base and top pad, supports heavy cabinets up to 150 pounds, and with a 28-60″ reach will work for almost all upper cabinet installations.
And hey, I own this cabinet jack, and here’s a few features I like about it:
- Stands in place without falling over on large 6×6 pads
- Heavy duty upper squeeze handle for adjustment
- Micro-adjustment with positive grip top extension
- Quick adjust tab to slide the jack to rough height
- Top and bottom pads have a rubberized gripping surface
- Extends from a shorter working range to longer with dual locking detents
A pair of these is ideal as you can set one under the already installed upper cabinet with a little tension for a firm ledge. And then set the next jack under the upper cabinet you are installing after it is lifted in place.
Often used in combination with the UpperHand, a telescoping cabinet jack like the 3rd Hand support system will offer extra range.
- Extra length allows for (2 person) support of taller cabinets
- Micro-adjustment lever
- Rubber end pads
- 150 pound load capacity
And for dust control, these are common used to hold dust barriers when not holding the other end of that 12-foot crown molding.
A FastCap Little Jack works great for a remodel or for updates to cabinets when the bases are already in place.With a 6×6″ top and bottom pad these jacks will easily hold an upper cabinet in place. To use simply place on top of a board spanning the lower cabinet (or counter for finished kitchens). Then place the cabinet on top and use the lever to adjust the cabinet to it’s final height.
A Jack of All Trades base jack will help shim and level base cabinets. And this often frustrating task needs all the help it can get.
What other kind of jack could there be? Leave it to FastCap to introduce a tool most cabinet installers may not even be aware of: the “Jack of all Trades” for base cabinets.
This jack isn’t the same style as others on this list as it’s meant to lift base cabinets. And typically just a fraction of an inch.
So why would I want this jack?
If you’ve knelt on the floor trying to grab a heavy cabinet and insert a shim at the same time you’ll know it isn’t the easiest job. This jack allows you leverage to lift the base cabinet slightly and then insert the shims.
As you’ve either experienced or are anticipating, lifting cabinets is a heavy job.
And for professionals (or DIY’ers with a large project) the best way to take the twisting and lifting weight off you is to use a cabinet lift.
While cabinet lifts are generally $500 or more (there are a variety of options) they are also reusable for:
- Lifting loads into and out of a pickup bed
- Hoisting other heavy items onto and off shelving
- Microwave installation
And just about anything else that needs lifting within the lifts specifications.
The T-Jak 104 supports a 53-84″ working range to meet all heights of cabinets. And for contractors it serves a second job as a drywall jack with pads.
One of the pro choices because of it’s screw-type adjustment and 400 pound rating.
This jack also features extension rods to take it’s working height close to 12 feet. And when paired with it’s drywall tabs it is built for holding a sheet of drywall to the ceiling.
If you are planning to install your base cabinets first and just aren’t sure if you’ll use a cabinet jack later then this might be your best option.
For example, while other jacks are good at, well, jacking, the Rockwell JawStand will do both. While NOT as good of a jack (due to it’s design) it will offer up support and then turn into an outfeed support later.
How to use a Cabinet Jack
If you haven’t installed cabinets before it’s tempting to start with the base cabinets.
But in most cases this will lead to more issues, heavy lifting in awkward positions and a potential for damaged base cabinets.
Why I Install Upper Cabinets First
I’m the kind of carpenter that doesn’t build things on the floor, lift things more than I need to or make a mess I don’t have to.
So it sounds tempting to use the base cabinets as a resting place for upper cabinets right?
Well, unfortunately it creates a few issues:
- You will be leaning over the 24″ deep bases for *everything*
- Increased risk of damaging the base cabinets with your tools
- Awkward lifting angles, even with a jack
- And, to use a jack you’ll need a sturdy plywood base spanning the lower cabinets
But, if you’re adding a cabinet to an existing kitchen (rare!) there might be a few uses for a shorter jack.
Two Jacks are Better Than One
If you’re installing with a partner, you’ll have the luxury of being able to use two cabinet jacks instead of one.
And, by doing so, you’ll gain the advantage of stability as you start to install shims and screw the cabinets to each other.
Using a Jack by Yourself
With most upper cabinets maxing out at 48″ you’ll be able to lift the cabinet in place by yourself.
And that’s when a free-standing jack, like the UpperHand, is useful to allow you to lift and rest the cabinet in place. Then once the cabinet is set:
- Use the adjustment lever to set the height of the cabinet
- Then, install screws into the adjacent cabinet
- Insert shims as needed against the wall and screw the cabinet to the wall.
- Release the jack
Seven other uses after the project is done
But what will I do with a cabinet jack when the project is over?
Here are seven things you can use a jack for after the kitchen is installed:
- Use as a load bar in your truck to prevent shifting of cargo (the FastCap 3rd Hand works best)
- Make dust shields for drywall projects
- Hold microwave cabinets in place during installation
- For the taller jacks, like the T-Jak, hold drywall to the ceiling
- Use as a spreader for framing projects to nudge (or hold) walls in place
- Support laser levels for tile projects
- Hold deck beams in place during rough framing
Cabinet Jack and Claw
After you’ve set the cabinet on the cabinet jacks the next task is to install shims and cabinet screws. And that’s where the cabinet claw comes into play:
Now obviously the cabinet claw will only work for face frame cabinets, so for a frameless design you’ll want to consider the FastCap Jack of all Trades (above) that will provide a secure grip will the cabinet is installed. And it even doubles as a cabinet jack for base cabinets.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cabinet Jacks
How do you hang upper cabinets yourself?
Upper cabinets are best installed using a cabinet jack that will hold the cabinet in place so your hands are free to screw the cabinet to the wall.
What is the best cabinet jack?
There are two types of cabinet jacks in this article and which one you choose will depend on your installation style.
How many cabinet jacks do I need?
For upper cabinets under 18″ you can use a single jack. However, for cabinets over 18″ two jacks will allow the installer to more easily balance the cabinet during installation. Due to most upper cabinets lengths at 24-36″ two cabinet jacks are recommended.
For the price of a dozen cabinet knobs you can improve your cabinet installation with a cabinet jack – and use it for future projects.
Cabinet Installation Series
Planning & Tools To Install Cabinets
Guides for Cabinet Installation
Finishing Cabinets With Molding and Hardware
- About the Author
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Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.