If you're remodeling the kitchen, you'll most likely install a bright and shiny set of new cabinets. This is definitely exciting stuff, but if you want it to go smoothly so that you can get to cookin’ sooner rather than later, there are a few preparations you need to make.
Before purchasing your new cabinets, be sure to measure your kitchen very carefully. Have someone help you with this because an extra set of hands can be invaluable in calculating space right down to the last three-quarters of an inch. Don’t just measure the wall - measure the wall near the floor, in the middle and then again up near the ceiling. Hopefully, you’ll get the same figure three times. But if not, it means your walls are out of square. If that's the case, you’ll need to buy cabinets that fit the smallest measurement you found, but keep shims and fillers available to help hide the gaps.
Next, get your measuring tape back out and draw a mark 48 inches off the floor. Do this all around the area you’ll be placing cabinets, and then take a straight edge and connect the dots. Place a level on the line you’ve drawn. If the little bubble appears precisely in the middle, your floors are level. If not, you’ll need more shims to level your cabinets and countertops.
Now, slap your tape along the walls and check the height of your windows, outlets and light switches. If any of them come down to within 40” of the floor, you may have a spatial problem with your countertop’s backsplash. The typical kitchen cabinet is 34 ½ inches tall and the countertop adds another 1 ½ inches, bringing the total to 36 inches. The backsplash behind the countertop, however, usually extends another 4 inches upward. It's best to keep your kitchen walls clear between 30 and 40 inches off the floor. If you find you have a conflict here, look for countertops with low backsplashes or none at all. Another alternative will be to make your own top or have one custom-made.
Now it’s time for your shopping list. Take inventory of what you have and make a list of everything else you’ll need. Be as thorough as possible so that you won’t have to stop mid-installation to run to the store for that one little thing you forgot. Your list should include your cabinets, countertops, adhesives, screws, hardware, shims, moldings, and any tools you’ll need.
One of the most important things to put on your list is an extra brain and another pair of hands. While you may have all the knowledge you need to get the job done properly, there are some things even the most experienced professional can’t do alone - like hold up a wall cabinet AND screw it in. Two heads are better than one and four hands are definitely better than two. Always know your limitations and call a qualified installer if you need help.
If you’re planning to do more than cabinet and countertop installations in the kitchen, get the other projects done first. It’s much more difficult to install flooring or paint the walls with cabinets in the way. Get those projects finished right after your old cabinets are removed, but before the new ones are installed. This also ensures that your floors will extend under the cabinets and your walls will be painted behind them. While this may not mean much to you now, if you ever decide to change your kitchen floor plan again, you know you won’t be faced with gaps in the paint or flooring.
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