Home » Projects » Cabinet Installation » Can I Install Kitchen Cabinets Myself? DIY Guide 2022
When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Disclaimers.

Can I Install Kitchen Cabinets Myself? DIY Guide 2022

After building and installing over 100 kitchens I have a good perspective when someone asks “can I install kitchen cabinets myself”.  How?  Well, I was trained (and have trained) cabinet installers and know what skills are needed.  But since the answer isn’t black & white the final answer is yours.  Hopefully the considerations here will help you make the best choice for your situation.

Maybe one of your motivators for attempting a self-install is to save money.  How do I know?  I’ve installed quite a few factory cabinets to save friends thousands. And these aren’t small numbers: a typical range is $2500-4000 (or more) depending on the size of your kitchen.  

 

Can I Install Kitchen Cabinets Myself?

1. Make sure a DIY installation is allowed

If you haven’t started the search for your cabinets yet then keep one thing in mind: not all cabinet manufacturers allow their cabinets to be installed by a do-it-yourself.

Rule of thumb:

  • Custom shops that build the cabinets install them.  No DIY installers allowed.
  • Big box stores and retailers like Home Depot and Lowes will allow DIY installation.
  • Internet orders assume a DIY or third party, homeowner hired installer.

There may be exceptions to this rule so be sure to check .

2. Checking your skills

A big part of cabinet installation is patience and the willingness to learn.  But, you also need the right skills and some level of construction or woodworking experience.  Why?  Installing cabinets requires skills such as:

  • Ability to read fractions on a tape measure and knowing how to add/subtract them as needed for laying out the kitchen and doing cuts.
  • No fear of saws, drills or other tools as they will be needed for the installation.
  • Eye for quality to ensure that each piece installed is … perfect.  What separates a lot of cabinet makers from home construction framers is an eye for detail and knowing they need to be perfect.
  • Layout skills and ability to follow directions.  A cabinet layout is complicated and requires some time spent laying out pieces, figuring out appliance widths, and where cabinet filler strips will be needed.

If you are not willing to take the time or aren’t comfortable with power tools then look to an installer to do the job for you.

3. Having the right tools

There are not many projects on the interior of the home that require more tools than cabinet installations do.  How many tools will I need?  It depends on what you already own but a drill ($100-200), miter saw ($100-400), jigsaw ($50-200), circular saw ($50-150) and a myriad of smaller hand tools and drills bits are generally the minimal tools required. 

For a comprehensive look at the tools required check out our guide to cabinet installation tools.

4. Muscle to lift the weight

When I was 20 I could, and did, lift any cabinet to anywhere I wanted.  Now, fast forward 20 years and two back surgeries later I will still lift what I need but smartly.  Why is this a discussion here?  Because cabinet construction is a mixture of being (a) heavy duty for decades of use and (b) cost-effective through use of particle board materials vs. lighter plywood.  Cabinets are heavy and if you can’t lift over 50 pounds this might not be the job for you.

With that, most kitchens have five or more upper cabinets that need to be lifted, held in place, and then screwed in place.  There are tools, such as the cabinet jack, that can alleviate the strain of holding them up.  However, you still need the strength to lift the cabinet in place to start.

5. Transporting the cabinets to the kitchen

Depending on the size of your kitchen this could be a problem.  A real big problem.  Sometimes I’ve rented covered trucks, like a 26′ U-Haul, to ensure the cabinets were in the right spot safely (and dry).  You might be thinking about your space now and considering doors, elevators, hallways, and ground transportation.  

The good news is this problem is generally easy to solve but hard to execute.  It will require some extra muscle (at least two people) to move kitchen cabinets into position for installation.  Keep in mind this is part of the installation cost you are charged and it might take a few dollars to safely ensure your cabinets arrive. 

Oh, and don’t forget to recycle the pile of cardboard you will likely have.  That cleanup is a small job to itself.

6. Working under a time constraint

Kitchen’s are a finicky thing.  With their complexity to build, order, ship, install and then dependencies on flooring, solid surface installers and tile crews for back splashes they often fall right in the middle of a complicated construction plan.  

Are you lucky enough to be the project manager?  Excellent.  Or, are you trying to save some money on a new home or remodel and step in for this expensive task?  

Make sure you are aware of the time window, plan for it, and work out contingencies to avoid schedule changes from eroding your savings.  

How long does it take to install a kitchen?  Some estimates say plan 1-1.5 hours per “box”.  I think that’s a great place to start with.  Most kitchens are at least 10-12 boxes so plan for at least a long weekend.  I can typically install a good size kitchen with help in an day, but that’s knowing all the tricks and not having to do rework.   

7. Comfort with power tools

Belt Sander for Installing Cabinets

Over the years you may have heard the saying measure twice and cut once.  Well not only does that saying go for cabinet installation but it also means you will have to use some dangerous saws.  Really?  At minimum a miter saw, circular saw, jigsaw or table saw will need to be used.  If you can’t or won’t use these saws then you shouldn’t install a kitchen.  

8. Don’t trade quality for cost

Perhaps this should be #2 on this list but I am keeping it here in the hopes serious would-be-installers will pause to consider it.  A typical kitchen is $4,000-10,000+.  Include your appliances, solid surface counters, and fancy knobs and we are looking at a complete kitchen cost of $15-,000 or more.

Do you want to look at cabinet joints that don’t align, sloped counters, or dinged cabinets (it happens!) you couldn’t afford to replace?  If you are committed to doing a quality installation, and re-doing what may have been damaged or done incorrectly, then keep on the path to a self-installed kitchen.  

But, if you think spending a few thousand more for a professional installation is going to result in a higher quality installation and more enjoyment later then go that route.    

9. Fractional math

As we all become more specialized and pay others to do work for us we lose some of the skills that once were common-place.  One example?  Reading a tape measure. 

I grew up with one and was lucky to learn from ten years old how to read fractions.  I can find 5/16″ on a tape without trying, subtract fractions with different denominators (7/8″ – 5/16″ = 9/16″), and layout kitchen cabinet cut sheets without a calculator.  You, however, won’t need that level of skill but it is a must that you can read a tape measure and use it to layout, plan for cabinet filler strips, and make cuts.

10. Knowledge behind the wall

What does that mean?  Well, the only way an upper cabinet stays on the wall after it’s loaded with piles of dishes is if it is properly screwed to the wall.  Second, you need to make sure you don’t damage any utilities (pipes, wires, venting) in the process.  If you have been around construction and seen the bare studs, wires, water lines and such then you have a good visual.  

A part of this puzzle is making sure you use the right cabinet screws – including the right length.  For most 1/2″ drywall applications a 2-1/2″ screw is perfect.  Check out our guide to cabinet screws for more on what you’ll need.

Summary

For more guides on selecting tools, supplies and tips on installing cabinets be sure to check out our series:

Leave a Comment

Power Tool Brands for Woodworking
9 Unique Tool Brands For Serious Woodworkers

Makita vs. Dewalt. Milwaukee vs. Festool. Woodworkers are used to comparing tool brands to decide what their next tools should be. But what most woodworkers miss is the unique tool brands that make woodworking faster, easier and improve quality. For example, FastCap has a glue bottle that takes the hard squeeze out of that Titebond bottle your stressed hand is used to gripping. Or, Powertec has a huge line of high quality tools at a much discounted price vs. large

Read More »
Workbench Organization Storage
Easy Workbench Organization With These Unique Solutions

Workbench organization isn’t just important for looks. It makes projects easier to start (and finish) and reduces time spent hunting for tools and supplies. In this guide learn how a few minutes time will have your bench upgraded from messy to tidy with easy to use products like: PEGBOARD ORGANIZERS: will quickly organize tools and parts. And free up valuable bench space. PROFESSIONAL SCREW ORGANIZERS: is a see-through and portable solution for small part and screw organization. BENCHTOP TOOL ORGANIZERS:

Read More »
Best Router for Router Table
The Best Router for Router Tables and Lifts

The best router for router table use is always one that will fit a router lift. But, for woodworkers that will use larger router bits for raised panels or subject the router to continuous use then horsepower and machine durability are a key consideration. While sticking to mainstream routers that are compatible with lifts is generally easy, making sure the router has key features like electronic speed control, soft start and compatible bases for off-the-table use are just as important.

Read More »
Best Cabinet Hardware Jig
Cabinet Hardware Jigs, Templates and Guides for Better Accuracy

The best cabinet hardware jigs are designed to be used for jobs of any size, are made from all metal components and are easy to use. But, for budget minded projects or one-time use, a less expensive jig with a reputation for durability and precision is what DIY’ers or occasional woodworkers will choose.  But, most importantly, the top cabinet hardware jigs will work on all styles of doors, including shaker cabinets that have a challenging inset face. So what makes

Read More »
Best Benchtop Planers Thickness
The Best Benchtop Planers for Small Workshops In 2022

While some woodworkers get by without one, a benchtop planer is usually a must for any woodworker. But finding a quality wood planer that will put a great finish on both hardwoods and softwoods can be difficult. And, since there many types of planers, its worth noting that a benchtop planer typically features: Straight or helical blades Support for boards up to 13-inches (33 cm) Single phase 15-amp motors Adjustable height up to 6-inches (15.2 cm) Single or two speed

Read More »
Best Orbital Sander for Woodworking
Professional Grade Random Orbital Sanders

Until you’ve connected a random orbital sander to a dust extractor you don’t know what you’re missing. Which is why the best random orbital sanders are both great at removing wood but also have the features and power professionals turn to. After using every type of random orbit sander to build cabinets and furniture the simple answer to which random orbital sander is best comes down to owning two orbital sanders: Cordless. There’s no reason to drag a cord around the

Read More »
Wood Vise in Cabinetmakers Top
Best Woodworking Vises, Types and How To Mount Them

Adding a vise to your bench seems simple. But as experienced woodworkers know, buying the best vise for your bench isn’t as simple as buying on price. Serious woodworkers will opt for many vises but a mainstay is always a   for its versatility, compactness and all-wood jaws.  A vises number one job is hold onto your woodworking piece when you need it. And then disappear when you don’t so it doesn’t take up valuable space on top of the bench.  Which

Read More »

Need Help Finding Wood?

Everyone does. Signup for a FREE hardwood directory that organizes 300+ hardwood retailers across the USA.

Disclaimer: DIY projects can be dangerous, hire a professional (link to Home Advisor) if unsure.

free wood (knowledge)

All you need to do is sign-up and as a BONUS receive a guide to 300+ lumber retailers (with price lists).

***CHECK YOUR SPAM FOLDER***