Cabinets should always be firmly mounted to walls to prevent accidental detachment. However, many existing cabinets in homes lack necessary support!
This short article and video show you easy ways to enhance your cabinet strength. Also, they show the best locations for fasteners and the best types of fasteners to use. Finally, I give you a few tips on how to set fasteners easily.
Securing Kitchen Cabinets Overview
If you have a cabinet wider than 12″, hold it in place with at least 4 screw. The best locations for these screws are the top rail and the bottom rail. The back wall serves as a third possible location. It’s not quite as ideal, though.
1. Construction of Cabinets
Most American cabinets are made with face frames. These are flat, outward-facing trim pieces that dress up the front of the cabinet. Also, they hide the plywood edges of the cabinet body.
These face frame pieces also allows the walls of the cabinet to extend past the floor and ceiling of the cabinet. This design creates little ledges–or rails–along the top side and underside of the cabinet.
These rails are by far the most effective place to install fasteners.
Their location above and below eye level keep screws out of visible sight lines. Also, most cabinet manufacturers make these rails 1/2″ thick. That way, they provide strong material to mount screws through.
2. Top Rail on Cabinets
Of the two rails, the top rail is the ideal location for fasteners. It sits near the ceiling. Not even the tallest of people will be able to see it!
The top rail is the most sensible place to install fasteners from a structural viewpoint. Screws driven through the top rail allow the cabinet to hang suspended from its highest point.
In truth, most cabinets could probably be fully supported by just two screws in the top rail. That assumes that they are driven into studs. (After all, the average load capacity of a single screw is somewhere in the hundreds-of-pounds range.)
Of COURSE, I would never consider two screws in the top rail alone to be enough support for a cabinet!
Obviously, you need to add fasteners at lower points in the cabinet, too.
3. Bottom Rail
The bottom rail is virtually identical to the top rail. That makes it the other ideal location for fasteners.
Screws through the bottom rail preventing the cabinet from pulling away from the wall. They also act as a backup for the higher fasteners, should something ever break or give way.
Often, homeowners don’t like to have fasteners in the bottom rail because they are more visible. However, these fasteners are essential for security. (Also, by using a trick below, you can make them slightly less noticeable.)
4. Back Wall
In a pinch, the back wall of the cabinet provides a location for fasteners. It has a lot of surface area. Plus, it’s an integral part of the cabinet body.
However, the back wall of the cabinet is often only 3/16″ thick!
If you drive a screw into this material, it can easily punch right through the cabinet back. When this happens, you lose all of the screw’s structural value.
So, if you need to mount screws through the back wall (possibly because the rails are inaccessible), be careful. In that case, use small washers on the screws. That way, you create more surface area for the fastener. Alternatively, use truss-head screws. The truss head works like a washer.
Also, to better hide these fasteners, put them just above a shelf. This makes them less visible when viewed from below.
5. Installing Fasteners in Cabinets
Inspect your cabinets and assess the number of fasteners needed. How about the locations of fasteners? Minimally, use 4 fasteners in strong locations in each cabinet. To be safe, add more.
Fortunately, this process is really easy!
The most important step is locating studs for fastening cabinets.
Cabinet fasteners must penetrate into structural wood in the wall to be genuinely secure. Drywall alone isn’t strong enough to hold a cabinet!
Here’s a The Honest Carpenter video about finding studs:
7 Best and Weirdest Ways to Find a Stud
And here’s one of the posts from this site that helps explain stud finding.
5 Ways to Find a Stud in a Finished Wall
Here’s the upshot
Really, the best way is to use a stud finder! (See the link above in the Materials List).
Let’s fasten those cabinets!
First, confirm your stud locations. Next, drill a hole in the rail or cabinet back so the fastener hits a stud. If it’s difficult to drill directly into the rails, you can drill at a slight angle.
Now, use a drill or driver to install a fastener in this pre-drilled hole.
In most cases, I use 2-1/2″ exterior screws. They have enough length to get through the cabinet and drywall, and still embed 1-1/2″ of fastener. Also, they’re extremely strong.
Additionally, these screws can be purchased with a brown coating. That allows them to blend in with cabinet tones!
Drive the the screw until the head is just flush with the face of the rail. You’ll feel it grab the stud in the wall. You’ll see the screw head bite into the wood of the rail. When the screw is fully driven, you’re successfully attached.
Securing Kitchen Cabinets Wrap-Up
Add additional fasteners anywhere that a cabinet seems under-supported. Or anywhere that you can’t account for 4 existing screws. You even check current screw locations just to be sure that they’re actually centered on studs.
In the end, you really can’t have too many fasteners in a cabinet. Good luck!
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