I love to watch remodeling shows. Who doesn’t love a good before and after session? But every time they redo a kitchen they bring in the sledge hammers and destroy the old cabinets. Granted it’s great tv, but those cabinets are good. Even when they look bad, they’re good.
When I remodeled my kitchen I took another approach. I literally disassembled it. I took off the doors, removed the screws holding the face frames together, pulled out each nail holding the cabinet to the wall and took them down one by one. The lower cabinets were in rough shape but got similar treatment. I stacked them neatly in the garage knowing I would want to use them for something later.
The months rolled by and the new kitchen eventually came together with all new everything. After the garage was no longer the holding area for the remodeling materials I came back to those old cabinets.
I started by choosing a garage wall that made sense for the size and quantity of cabinets I had. I chose to sand, prime, and paint my cabinets inside and out because they were in pretty rough shape and looked so old. Also, I made repairs to some of the lower cabinets that had been damaged by water and neglect. You might prefer to throw those out. I used a good primer and then a latex exterior paint with a semi-gloss sheen knowing it would be more durable and easy to clean. Here’s a great painting tip. Use a roller to apply the paint in a quick, even coat then brush through it to get it smooth. It will save so much time. Now I was ready to install them.
As you begin installing cabinets there are a couple things you need to know. First thing is that your walls aren’t straight. Secondly, your floors aren’t flat. Now that you know, start by finding the highest spot on the floor. I got my 4′ level, set it on the ground along the wall and followed the bubble to the highest point and made a mark.
Next I determined how much work space I wanted between the upper and lower cabinets. 15″ to 18″ is common for a kitchen but I wanted a little extra for the garage. I gave myself 21″ because I like a lot of room.
Alright, time to measure and add.
The lower cabinets are 34 1/2″ tall + another 1 1/2″ for a work surface + 21″ work space = 57″. Now, from my high spot mark on the floor I measured 57″ up the wall and made another mark. This mark represents the bottom of the upper cabinets.
For the next step you will want a stud finder. If you don’t have one and don’t want one you can can also locate studs by pounding a nail into the wall over and over in a line until you hit a stud. Once one is found the next should be 16″ away.
Next I attach a strip of wood to the wall just below my 57″ mark. This can be almost anything such as a 2×4 or a 1×2 furring strip. I level it and support it about every other stud. This is called a ledger. When the upper cabinets go up, they set on this to keep them level and supported while I screw the cabinet to the wall. Like always I attach to studs and leave the cabinets a little loose until I have connected them to each other. Once they are all up and connected, I tighten them to the wall and remove the ledger.
The lower cabinets went in next and they were easier. I created a layout that complements the upper cabinets. I ended up with more uppers than lowers due to the fact that I didn’t move the old stove and dishwasher to the garage. This was an opportunity to customize to my particular interests. I left a gap large enough to fit my table saw and another gap for the compressor. I made shelves to fit in the other gaps.
After sliding the cabinets into place I leveled them by shimming from the bottom working outward from the floor’s high spot. I screwed them to each other and then to the wall and topped them off with half sheets of plywood reinforced with my 1″ x 2″ strips.
I hope that helps.