Next time you’re hanging around a bunch of carpenters
and the conversation starts to lag, ask whether it’s more
efficient to hang kitchen wall cabinets with one or two people.
I’ve done it both ways, and have found that I can do the
job more efficiently alone. This may sound surprising. Without
a helper, positioning overhead cabinets can be a real balancing
act, with the installer struggling to brace a cabinet with one
hand while reaching for a clamp with the other. Dropping the
cabinet may mean ordering a costly replacement, and putting the
job on hold while you wait.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Solo installation
can be easy; all you need are a few simple brackets and clamps,
the right kind of fasteners, and a good organization system. If
after reading this article you’re still not ready to go
it alone, these tools and techniques will still make the job go
smoother for two people.
installers put the base cabinets in first, then use them to
support the uppers. This sounds good, but I find it’s
inefficient. Not only must you reach over the base cabinets to
hang the uppers — a position my back loudly complains
about — but there’s a real danger that you’ll
damage the base cabinets as you work over them. Installing the
uppers first also leaves plenty of room to get under them to
make adjustments, and lets you stand next to the cabinet when
working — a position that my back seldom complains about.
The only problem is that you might forget about the uppers when
installing the lowers. You would be surprised how easy it is to
unthinkingly stand up and whack your head.
To temporarily support the upper cabinets, I use a set of
easy-to-build wall-support brackets. No high-tech gimmickry
here, just some plain old 1x4 pine that can be screwed or
nailed together in a few minutes (see Figure 1).
1. The author supports uppers with a pair of
site-made brackets. He positions the top of the
brackets a few inches below finish cabinet height, and
uses shims and a T-Jak screw jack (shown leaning
against the wall) to raise the cabinets to their final
I make my brackets 52 inches long (a few inches shorter than
the common 54-inch upper height) and fasten them to the wall
with two screws each. I then place the cabinet on the brackets,
shim it to the proper height, and clamp it to the adjacent
cabinet. That leaves both hands free to screw the face frames
together and to fasten the cabinet boxes to the wall.