What you need to hang kitchen cabinets
Cabinets can require a variety of screws. So if you're installing recycled kitchen cabinets, for instance, you might have a hard time finding the ones you need.
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Q: We bought some inexpensive but beautiful face-frame kitchen cabinets at a store that sells recycled building materials, but nobody we've talked to agrees on the size and type of screw for attaching them to each other or to the wall. Please help.
A: That makes sense. There are many different cabinet types and materials, and there isn't one size or type of screw that will work with all of them. It wasn't that long ago that many carpenters went merrily about their business, putting in cabinets with nothing more than drywall screws. These aren't designed for wood-to-wood fastening, especially for heavy, concentrated loads produced by a cabinet that is full of dishes and glassware. If someone has told you to use drywall screws, disregard that advice.
Also, given that they are recycled cabinets, I wouldn't advise using the screw holes from the previous installation. You don't want to drive a screw into an existing hole and hit a snapped-off fastener lurking there, or find that the original installation was sloppy and that using those holes pulls the cabinet face frames out of line. Bore fresh pilot holes and cover the old ones with tinted wood filler such as Color Putty.
Home centers, lumberyards and online woodworking-supply houses (rockler.com, for example) sell a specialized screw that's ideally suited for fastening kitchen cabinets to the wall. It goes by different names: cabinet screw, washer-head screw, washer-head cabinet screw or button-head screw. Its large-diameter head bears down firmly on the cabinet's hanging rail, ensuring a solid installation. Attach the cabinets to the wall using No. 8 or No. 10 screws, approximately 3½ inches long. The best make of this screw that I've seen is the one by GRK. It has a corrosion-resistant finish, an aggressive wood-cutting thread shape and an extremely sharp split tip that makes it easy to start.
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To attach the cabinets to each other, use a No. 8 2¼-inch-long trim-head screw with a fine thread suited for hardwood. This fastener's small-diameter head is unobtrusive, so you don't have to hide it under a cap or wood plug.
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You'll need a variety of tools for this installation: a stud finder; drill bits and countersink bits to make the pilot holes for the screws; two carpenter's levels, a 2-foot one and a 4-foot one; clamps for holding the cabinet face frames in position as you bore the screw holes; and, of course, a reasonably powerful drill driver. I prefer an 18-volt model for this work. You also need general carpentry tools such as a circular saw for cutting filler strips, a chalk line, a razor knife and a chisel. A small laser level is helpful, though not absolutely necessary.