Installing Custom Cabinets on Toe-Kick Bases

Jeff Cleveland and Joe Peters rip plywood into five-inch strips for use in building toe-kick bases for a set of custom cabinets.

In the cabinet shop, Jeff checks the dimensions of a custom base cabinet before starting to build the toe-kick base for it.

After cutting plywood pieces to the required length, Jeff tacks the toe-kick base together using 1 1/4-inch staples with a 1/4-inch crown.

Jeff sets a stretcher into a toe-kick box. This provides a surface to screw the bottom of the cabinet to in the field.

Once the toe-kick base is tacked together, Jeff pre-drills and counter-bores in preparation for a stronger screwed connection.

Jeff sends home a 1¼-inch hardened screw. He doesn’t use glue for toe-kick assembly, he says, because he has always found the screwed connection to be plenty strong. Also, gluing the joints makes field modification difficult, should that be necessary during a cabinet install.

As a final step, Jeff uses a small clamp-on jig as a drill guide for making pocket holes in the toe-kick base. On site, he’ll set screws into the pockets to secure the toe kick to the kitchen floor.

On site, Jeff and Joe set a pre-built toe-kick base over the rough plumbing for the kitchen sink.

Jeff checks the box for level. The kitchen floor of the old house sags in the center and, as expected, the box is high at the back.

Holding the side of his pencil flat to the floor, Jeff scribes the back end of the toe-kick box to mark it for a leveling cut.

With a jigsaw, Jeff trims the back of the box so that it will lay flat and level against the sagging, out-of-level existing kitchen floor.

After scribing and cutting the back of the box to conform to the irregular floor, Jeff shims the front of the box to create a perfectly level base for the cabinet.

With the toe-kick base shimmed and leveled to his satisfaction, Jeff sends a screw home through the pre-drilled pocket hole, through the shim, and into the existing subfloor.

With the toe-kick base screwed firmly down, Joe buzzes off the shims flush to the base using an oscillating multi-tool.

Now it’s time to set the sink cabinet onto the leveled toe-kick base.

After setting two cabinets, Jeff clamps the pair up and screws them together.

Final step: Jeff fastens the cabinets down by screwing through the cabinet floor and into the spreader in the toe-kick base.

One last check with the level: looking good.

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