4 Solutions to Cabinet Installation Problems

February 18, 2016

There are always hiccups in kitchen remodels

Even after checking the room carefully, marking all of the cabinet locations on the wall, and snapping a level reference line around the room, surprises can sneak in. 

Here are some field-modification solutions to common problems that can arise during cabinet installation.

PROBLEM 1: Wide casings can interfere with cabinet doors and drawers

When tucking a pantry cabinet tight to a wall, be sure to allow enough space to clear the window and door casings, if present. Otherwise, the cabinet door won't open fully to 90 degrees, and the pullouts won't have clearance.

This falls into the same category as installing a vanity tight to the wall and having the drawers slam into the door casing as they're opened. (Please do not ask how we know about this problem.)

SOLUTION: Apply filler strips to the face frame edge before installing the cabinet. Plan for these strips when laying out the kitchen in the first place.


PROBLEM 2: A corner in the kitchen is not square 

In the remodeling world, it is more typical for corners to be out of square than it is for them to be in square, so this problem is common.

SOLUTION: Split the difference between the two sides proportionally, depending on the length of the adjacent cabinet runs. If the out-of-square corner shares two long runs of cabinets, then split the difference equally.

If it joins a short run and a long run, take up most of the discrepancy on the short side and let the long run sit tight to the wall.

PROBLEM 3: Unexpected hump in the floor

Even after shooting grade on the floor with a laser level and tape measure, sometimes humps can sneak in that weren't obvious earlier. If the hump and general slope of the floor are greater than the thickness of a shim, or about 1/4 in., then it is time to consider alternative options.

SOLUTION: For big humps, consider trimming instead of shimming. Shimming all adjacent cabinets up to match a corner cabinet that sits 3/8 in. high means some pretty serious shimming by the end of the run.

Alternatively, you can cut the toe kick down to accommodate the hump — a good choice in this case.

PROBLEM 4: HVAC supply register in floor under cabinet

Forced air systems include supply registers in each room. In the kitchen, sometimes the registers need to be located along walls with cabinets. If floor registers are placed in front of cabinets, then food and liquids can spill in, decompose, and contaminate air quality. Besides, they just don't look as good as when they are hidden.

SOLUTION: A simple way to redirect the air is to build a box that sits in the toe space under the cabinet and directs the air horizontally out of the cabinet. 

Make sure to seal the seams of the box and to seal the box to the subfloor to reduce air leaks in the system. John seals the inside and outside of the box with construction adhesive. 

Toe kick supply registers don't always work out, though. Read this mystery tale of the Energy Vanguard: The Case of the Duct That Wasn't There.