Dear James: I want to install new upper kitchen cabinets. I bet a friend I could do all the work myself, but now I am not sure. Is it possible for a medium-sized woman to handle this type of project herself? — Mary S.
Dear Mary: Many projects seem relatively straightforward and simple until you actually begin to research them in more detail. Installing kitchen cabinets is possible to do alone. The installation process does not make much difference whether you are a petite woman or a bigger, strong man.
The most difficult aspect of this project is handling the awkwardly shaped and sometimes heavy cabinets while you precisely place them on the wall. You will have to get a couple of tools at your local tool rental shop. Check on the rental fees, as you might find it is less expensive to lose the bet than to rent specialty tools.
One tool you will definitely need to rent is a cabinet lift (www.e-zspreadnlift.com). This tool slides underneath the cabinets and allows you to crank them up to any level you need. The lift is mounted on casters, so it is easy to roll the tool with the cabinets on it up to the wall. Don't crank the cabinets up high until you have them near the wall, to avoid the possibility of it tipping over.
Another tool you can rent is a face-frame clamp (www.adjustableclamp.com). This tool allows you to line up the front faces of the cabinets before attaching them together. It has padded covers to eliminate scratching and a drill guide to keep the pilot holes straight.
A third tool is a combination laser level and stud finder, to aid in positioning the cabinets on the wall. You should just buy one of these, as you will find many uses for it, from hanging cabinets to putting up pictures. You can find inexpensive ones at most home centers and hardware stores.
When your cabinets are delivered to your home, always open the boxes immediately and inspect for any damage, even if you do not plan to start the project for a while. If they were damaged from shipping, you will have a better chance of getting them replaced if you contact the company immediately.
Use the stud finder to locate the studs inside the kitchen wall. The cabinets should always be screwed into the studs, not just the wallboard. You may decide to cut away some of the wallboard and nail blocking in place between some studs. Replace the pieces of drywall. You don't have to finish the seams with tape and compound, as they are hidden behind the cabinets.
If your kitchen is similar to most, the walls are not perfectly flat, and it may be difficult to get all the cabinet fronts aligned properly. For this reason, it is often better to assemble the cabinets together first and then install the assembly on the wall. With the cabinet lift, the weight is not a problem.
Cabinets full of dishes can get quite heavy. Always use the mounting screws supplied with the cabinets or buy special cabinet mounting screws. Standard screws or drywall screws are not going to be strong enough for the weight. Special trim screws with small heads are adequate for assembling the cabinets together.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.