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Your guide to kitchen cabinets, installing them, planning and design ideas, advice, suppliers & great kitchens in New Zealand

Kitchen Cabinets and How To Install Them



Kitchen Cabinets Construction

diy-kitchensMost kitchen cabinets in New Zealand are made from chipboard, known in the trade as Weetbix. Some better kitchen makers use HMR (High Moisture Resistant) board. This is a much better choice because it will resist liquid spills (not uncommon in the kitchen) and help prevent the swelling that happens when chipboard gets wet as shown in the picture below

Other, usually older generation, kitchen makers still use MDF board for their kitchen cabinets, which is stronger but not much more water resistant than chipboard. Whichever material is used the board will usually be covered in Melamine, a white low pressure laminate material.

kitchen-cabinetsYou do have choices. The cheapest is raw MDF board, which you paint yourself.  Melamine covered board, white being the cheapest but you can choose other colours at extra cost. Timber veneered board, in which wood veneer is used instead of melamine - this will need lacquering to protect it. Plywood can be used, which is strong and durable. Most expensive but very nice in the right setting, is solid timber, which gives more than a touch of opulence to a kitchen.

Most people regard the kitchen cabinets as a utility item that is to be covered up by the benchtop and doors or drawers. This is why the vast majority of kitchen suppliers use the plain white box. However there is one thing to look out for with these seemingly identical kitchen cabinets: the quality of the shelf edging. The cheaper cabinets will have a paper edge tape, which hides the cut edge of the board. This is paper thin and will easily chip and tear; it will not protect the board from moisture. Better is PVC edging and the thicker the edging the better. It starts at about 0.3 mm and goes up to 2 mm. This will give much better protection from moisture and 2 mm tape will give excellent protection from knocks and scratches, and will look good for years to come.

Bear in mind also that some of your kitchen cabinets have to be able to tolerate the heat of kitchen appliances.  All new kitchen cabinets look good when you open them. Only good quality ones continue to look good for years to come.

Kitchen Cabinets Installation

Base Cabinets

The first job is to disconnect power, gas and water to create a safe working environment. Then you should remove the old cabinets being careful to do as little damage to walls and floors as you can.  Once everything is out, do the necessary preparatory work on the walls, floor and ceiling. Once the area is ready to be decorated it’s a good idea to apply the first coat of paint to the walls and ceiling before fitting the cabinets. The finishing coat can be applied once they are in place.  Flooring is usually laid after the base cabinets are in.

Fittingpicture1_1501  Use a spirit level to mark a horizontal guideline on the walls at the intended height of the top of the floor cabinets.  Remember that that the benchtop you will be fitting must align with and accommodate any floor-standing appliances you have.


Fittingpicture22  Assemble the base cabinets, carefully following the assembly instuctions closely.  Set the leg height to roughly where it should be and, starting with a corner cabinet, move them into position.  Rotate the legs of each cabinet to adjust the height until it aligns with the pencil guideline on the wall. Use a spirit level to check that the run of cabinets is level in all directions.


Fittingpictures33  Once completely level, adjoining cabinets should be fixed together.  First clamp cabinets, then use a 3mm twist bit to drill between each of the two hinge holes through one cabinet and 4mm into the next. Be very careful not to dill too deep.  Use 25mm screws or those supplied to secure them.


Fittingpicture44  Unless you have a corner cabinet you’ll need to fit a corner post to turn a corner with a run of cabinets or there will be an ugly gap. Screw two brackets at the top and bottom of the inside face of the central post of the cabinet that extends into the corner. Screw two 15mm screws from behind through each bracket into the corner post.


Fittingpicture55  If you have a corner cabinet you simply line it up at a right angle, check the levels and screw them together using the pre-drilled holes.  Otherwise with standard base cabinets screw two brackets to the top and bottom of the outside face of the adjacent cabinet. Screw two 15mm screws from behind through each bracket into the corner post.


Fittingpicture66  Before fixing the cabinets to the wall check for pipes and electric cables.  An electric stud finder is useful here.  On masonry use a drill with hammer action, a masonry bit  and wallplugs. On GIB board use plasterboard fixings. Drill a pilot hole into the cabinet and secure the bracket with a 15mm screw. On end panels, angle screws slightly downwards.


Wall Cabinets

Fittingpicture71  Before fixing the cabinets to the wall check for pipes and electric cables.  Use a spirit level to mark a horizontal guideline for the bottom edge of the wall cabinets (measuring up from the top of the base cabinets allowing for the height of the benchtop).  Mark another guideline for the top of the cabinets. Following your plan, draw vertical lines where the cabinets will meet.

Fittingpicture82  If your cabinets came with wall brackets follow manufacturer's instructions to position them on the wall. Each cabinet needs two, one in each top corner. Hold a bracket in place and mark the position of the fixing holes, then fix according to type of wall (see below).  Hanging kitchen wall cabinets is best done with two people for ease and safety.


Fittingpicture93  Hook the wall cabinets onto the brackets and use the adjustment block to position them accurately using a spirit level layed across the top of the cabinet.  To adjust, turn one screw to level horizontally, then against the front face and adjust the other screw until the cabinet is vertical. Finally make sure that the cabinets are level with each other.


Fittingpicture104 To join cabinets on adjacent walls use the same method as per the base ones.  Finally, decide on the best position for the shelves and push the shelf supports into the pre-drilled holes. Tilt the shelves and slide them into place.



Fixing cabinets to different types of walls

Before attempting to drill into any wall be sure to check for pipework and electric cables with an electric stud finder.  hen use a power drill with hammer action and insert wallplugs and then screws. If you have slightly crumbling plaster, use longer plugs and screws.

On masonry use a drill with hammer action, a masonry bit and wall plugs.

On GIB board walls, use hollow-wall fixings to secure the brackets. For safety you must secure the wall cabinets to the wall framing.  Hang the cabinet on the brackets and adjust it as described above. Then unhook the cabinet.  Use a stud detector to locate a stud or noggin behind the wall.  If your wall cabinet has a solid back you can simply drill thropugh the back of it and screw it to a stud or noggin.  If your cabinet doesn’t have a solid back, pack out the cavity at the back of the cabinet with a length of timber, rehang it on the brackets and drill right through the back of the cabinet and packing to screw it firmly into the stud or nogging. Use two additional screws per cabinet.  Under no circumstances attempt to secure a wall cabinet to the GIB board alone.


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