Installing New Kitchen Cabinets the Old Fashioned Way, by Ourselves

Last updated Jun 12, 2018 | Published on Nov 20, 2017 | Re-modeling

As part of our overall kitchen remodel, we installed the cabinets ourselves.

We did have some significant, experienced (very welcome!) help with our brother-in-law, Bob. Between he and Dom, they managed to get everything done over the course of 2 months of weekends.

If you don’t have considerable experience with house projects, installing cabinets certainly isn’t the one to start with. But if you know your way around levels and carpentry tools, you can save a boatload of money doing the work yourself. Keep reading for what we did.

This post just covers the actual cabinet installation. For everything before and after, including preparing the walls, installing electrical outlets and all the finishing touches in the kitchen, visit the Kitchen page. For instructions on how we demo’d the floor and the old cabinets, click here.


Stud finder
Tape measure
Screw gun
Wood shims

We purchased our cabinets from Home Depot. They were one of 3 vendors we spoke to, we liked them the best and we were not disappointed. If you’re interested in my advice about how to buy kitchen cabinets, download our free guide, “How to Buy Kitchen Cabinets You’ll LOVE,” here. I promise, it will help!

We had Home Depot measure our kitchen (I highly recommend you do not measure it yourself!) and then met with a kitchen designer to plan things out. During that appointment we settled on the cabinet type, the countertop, backsplash tile and floor tile and the overall design.

When we designed the new kitchen, we kept the overall layout almost the same to keep costs down, but we did make some big changes and increased both our available space and efficiency. Here are the big things we did:

  • Purchased almond colored cabinets and floors to lighten up the small room.
  • Eliminated the soffit at the top of the cabinets, selecting cabinets that would extend to the ceiling (more storage!)
  • Upgraded the corner base cabinets to the latest Lazy Susan technology (much improved!)
  • Added a pantry cabinet to replace a cabinet that Dom had hand-made 20 years ago.
  • Added a coffee bar cabinet with pull-out storage on the base cabinet (love!)
  • Purchased the upgraded built-in double-drawer for silverware (highly recommend).
  • Added a spice cabinet (which I wasn’t as crazy about at first as I thought I’d be, but I’ve made it work)
  • Added a pots and pan cabinet with pull out drawers (love, love!)
  • Purchased a new dishwasher
  • Purchased a new sink (no choice there)

Within a week we had received a proposal which included the list of materials, the layout and design and a quote (see below for layout example).

DIY kitchen cabinet installation

We had a few questions and changes, took a few days to nail down all the details, then placed the order. The cabinets and all materials would ship directly to us and we could expect them in about 6 weeks.

We then received an installation pack from Home Depot which included the specs, layouts and detailed floor plans with all the measurements required to complete the installation (see example below). This would basically be our bible during the installation.

DIY kitchen cabinet installation

STEP 1: Received & inspected the new cabinets
In anticipation of the cabinet arrival, we had to clear out a couple of rooms so we could receive the cabinets, remove them from their packaging, inspect them and store them until we were ready to use them. Good thing we cleared out a good-sized space, the cabinets took up a LOT of room.

Once the cabinets were delivered, Home Depot advised inspecting each one as soon as possible so we could quickly report any issues. So, in the day or so after delivery we unpacked and inspected each cabinet for defects, and labeled each one so we would know where each cabinet was supposed to go.

We did have some issues with the glazing/finish on a few of the doors, which we reported to Home Depot and they replaced them. Luckily they were only doors so the installation could continue without them while we awaited replacements.

See pictures below!

STEP 2: Measured & marked EVERYTHING
The first thing Bob and Dom did was check all the installation guide measurements against the actual cabinets and the walls.

Bob’s rule of thumb is to always start at the highest point with a cabinet install. The goal is to have level cabinets. It’s easier to shim under the cabinets on the lower spots to make them level with the first one rather than start on a low point and trim the bottoms while working ‘uphill.’

So there’s lots of measuring. They also made sure they knew where the studs were so the cabinets would stay on the wall!

STEP 3: Installed most of the upper and base cabinets
They started at the back, right corner of the kitchen and installed the first two cabinets.

SETBACK – Once they had done that, they realized that in order to vent the microwave to the outside wall, they needed to work in the space above the corner cabinet. Having those first cabinets installed was in the way so they had to take them down.

They then spent the weekend planning out and preparing to install the vent for the microwave. It took a lot of time but was the right thing to do.

Once the vent was in, the corner cabinets went back up and over the next several weekends they installed most of the upper and base cabinets.

See pictures below!

STEP 4: Installed coffee bar cabinet
They installed both the upper and lower cabinets for the new coffee bar cabinet. This was a brand new cabinet and would open up a lot of storage to us that we didn’t have before. Picture below is after the countertop installation.

DIY kitchen cabinet installation

STEP 5: Installed pantry cabinet
Next, they installed the pantry cabinet which was a huge full length cabinet.

I was then able to move all the pantry items from my old pantry, which had been stored in the breakfast nook, to the new one.

I took the opportunity to completely re-organize the space. I planned and measured and ordered all the appropriate containers ahead of time. I even created my own pantry labels, and I’ve made them available for you to download for free! Click here to instantly download my custom hand-drawn pantry labels!

See the images below for both the outside and inside of this great new cabinet.

DIY kithen cabinet installation

DIY kithen cabinet installation

STEP 6. Prep’d for the countertop installation

We decided to have someone else install the countertop. We had never done it before and, because we invested a significant amount of money in this item, we didn’t want to chance screwing it up. So we left it to the professionals.

While we were waiting for the base cabinets to be done we made a final decision on the kitchen sink. I had decided to go with a gorgeous copper sink and had ordered it to arrive in time for the countertop installers to take their measurements. Unfortunately the sink didn’t fit and we had to go with plan B – the standard stainless sink. It was a bit of a debacle and you can read all about it in this post – the Copper Kitchen Sink that Wasn’t.

About our Countertop

We decided to go with a dark brown color to off-set all the white and beige everywhere else in the kitchen, and I wanted a matte (not shiny) finish. Which is almost impossible to find in a countertop.

The best option for that kind of finish was a product called Dekton. This material also happens to be almost indestructible, impervious to practically anything you can throw at it or put on it.

We loved the look and the features so Dekton in the Danae style is what we purchased.

So we were psyched about the countertop measuring appointment. Aside from the sink problem, that appointment happened as planned and they scheduled the installation appointment for approximately 2 weeks out.

Once the countertop and sink were in, we would have an almost fully functional kitchen, for the first time in a couple of months. Something to look forward to!

STEP 7: Installed countertop and sink
The installation date arrived and we were beyond thrilled with how everything came out and the fact that we finally had a kitchen again. Best feeling ever!
STEP 8: Moved kitchen supplies and tools into the new cabinets

The countertop installation allowed us to move our kitchen supplies and tools that were stored in the back room into their appropriate spots in the kitchen cabinets.

It took a little trial and error to figure out exactly where everything should go. Overall, though, we had more space in the new kitchen than we had in the old so things became much better organized in the new kitchen.

It’s difficult to even count the features that I love about this new space, but I gave it a go. View our Tour My Kitchen page for all the details.

STEP 9: Hooked up plumbing & installed dishwasher and garbage disposal
Once the sink was installed, we hooked that up to the plumbing underneath. We then installed the faucet, dishwasher and the garbage disposal.

We realized after we installed the dishwasher that it had a dent in the top, something every one of us had missed when we unpacked it. No worries, we contacted Home Depot and they sent a technician out and replaced the damaged parts.

STEP 10: Installed appliance garage and remaining upper cabinet
The appliance garage to the left of the window had to wait to be installed until the countertops were in so once that happened we got those last two cabinets installed. Here’s the appliance garage and the cabinet just above.

PLANNING FAIL – when we drew up the plans for the garage, we remember to swing the door to the left but we forgot to change the door swing for the cabinet above. Bummer but a good reminder to make sure you CHECK ALL YOUR DOOR SWINGS if you order your own cabinets!

DIY kitchen cabinet installation

STEP 11: Installed the backsplash
We had purchased individual tiles for the backsplash. It had been a while since Dom had done any tiling so he read up on it, purchased all the necessary materials and gave it a go.

Before we installed the cabinets, we had measured for and installed cement board in the areas where the backsplash tile would be installed so the wall was prep’d for this installation. The process for installing it was pretty much the same as installing a tile floor, which you can read about here.

Dom did a fabulous job with the installation. The backsplash looks awesome and it hasn’t fallen off the wall yet! See pictures below.

STEP 12: Installed pulls and moldings
Dom purchased a template and used it to help him install all the door and drawer pulls. Dom and Bob spent a weekend and installed the crown moldings at the top of the cabinets and the moldings on the bottom of the upper cabinets. Dom added some under-cabinet lighting in the coffee bar cabinet.

Great finishing touches!

Left to do

We still have yet to install the cabinet skins and kickplates and the broom closet door (we’ll be getting to those soon).

How about you?

Do you have a favorite renovation? I’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments below!

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Thanks SO much for reading!

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