Kevin Dean | Kitchen Designer | Dean Cabinetry

By Kevin Dean

Installing cabinetry is a difficult process.  The way cabinets are installed is just as important as how they are built.  The installation process creates the final product of your space. This is where you will live, work, and create memories.  Knowing what to expect and what to watch out for will make the process much smoother.

Cabinetry Installation Preparation


  • Preparation
  • Cabinet Installation
  • Punch List
  • Other Final Finishes


Before installation begins, the space should be thoroughly prepped.  Working around cabinetry after they are installed can lead to accidental cabinet damage that will delay the project. This means everything that can be done should be done.  The cabinets are a final finish product. They are very visible in your home. All of the surfaces and edges will be seen when the installation is complete.

Complete Before Cabinet Install:

  • If replacing existing cabinetry, it should be completely removed.
  • Drywall work including taping should be done.
  • The first coat of paint should be finished.
  • The floor should be complete.
  • Rough electrical work should be done.
  • Rough plumbing work should be complete.
  • Sink, disposal, dishwasher, & plumbing disconnected and removed.
  • Range, range-hood or over the range microwave are disconnected and pulled out of the kitchen.
  • Refrigerators are disconnected and removed from the kitchen.
  • Exposed radiators, heating ductwork, grills, or other registers are not in a location that would affect the new kitchen layout.
  • Plugs and/or switches should not be in the way of new cabinetry.
  • Cabinet hardware should be on site and ready for installation.
  • All appliances, including the sink, should be on site.

Cabinet Installation

Installation will take a few days depending on the amount of cabinetry.  A good installer will begin by reviewing the plans and identifying any unique conditions.  Identifying where problems could occur will save time during installation. The cabinets should also be looked over and inspected for damage during delivery.

Damage from delivery is not a problem, but should be noted as a punch list item. Punch list items will be fixed after the cabinetry is installed. The installer should gather the various tools he needs to complete the job along with preparing a staging area to perform necessary cuts.

Professional Cabinet Installer at Dean Cabinetry

First, the installer should measure the space and understand which areas of the space are level and plumb.  It is important to know where the cabinets may or may not line up. Figuring this out ahead of time is critical to a smooth installation.

The base cabinets should be installed first, beginning with any corner cabinetry, such as a lazy susan in a kitchen.  Then, working outward from the corner installing the cabinets one by one. The installer should make sure each cabinet is level as they work around the room. It is critical that the base cabinetry is level to properly support any countertops.  Once the base cabinets are complete, the installer should move onto the upper cabinets.

Installing the upper cabinets should follow in a similar fashion as the base cabinets.  Starting in a corner, working outward, making sure they are level as they go.  

Following the cabinet installation, the final touches will begin.  The order of this will depend on the installer. They will work to install the end panels, crown molding, cabinet hardware, light rail, skins, toe kick, and other details to complete the project.

Level Cabinets During Installation

Punch List

Cabinetry is a final finish product, meaning many edges and surfaces are visible.  Throughout the installation process, mistakes or errors may arise. In fact, it is very likely that they will.   As the customer, you want these to be fixed. A good installer and cabinet provider will be sure to address these issues.  Completing these final details may take some additional time. Modifications or refinishing may need to occur off site. New parts may need to be ordered from the provider.  

Why do punch lists occur?

  • 50% poor site preparation
  • 30% cabinet deficiencies
  • 10% installer error
  • 10% client change orders

Punch list items can be the most stressful part of a cabinet installation.  You, as the customer, want it done right. Getting it done right may take some time.  A quality installer and cabinet provider will make sure it comes out right for you.

It is important to inspect the kitchen and record any punch list items with the installer and address them with the provider.  Addressing these items shortly after installation will ensure a short punch list process. If properly prepared, only one punch list trip will be necessary.  Hopefully the punch list items can be completed within a week or two. If new parts have to be ordered, this time may be extended up to 4 weeks.

Other Final Finishes

Professional Kitchen Cabinet Installation by Dean Cabinetry

Once the cabinet installation is complete, the other final finishes can begin.  Remember to be very careful working around the cabinetry. Bumping the cabinets with a tool or dripping paint on them will add to the punch list lead time.

Complete After Cabinet Install:

  • Countertop templating and installation
  • Backsplash installation after the countertops are complete
  • Appliance installation
  • Sink installation and other plumbing after the countertops
  • Final electrical including lighting fixtures
  • Final coat of paint

It is important to get a touch-up kit from your cabinet provider.  Knicks and dings are bound to happen over the years. Having a paint marker or a small can of the original paint is useful.  If a mark occurs, simply use the marker or brush to apply a light amount of paint to the ding.

Congratulations! Your cabinetry installation is complete.  You can now enjoy the utility and beauty of your space.

Make sure to keep in contact with your cabinet provider.  A quality cabinet provider will be happy to fix the cabinetry if serious damage occurs. If you are happy with the installation and cabinetry, be sure to write a review and recommend the services to your friends.  Quality work should be rewarded.