How easy is cabinetry installation? A Twitter question

Hi Corey, what's your take on installing a double vanity into a bathroom? How easy it is?

I received the above direct message question from a follower on Twitter this past week (sorry for the delay!) and I think I can answer this question with a bit of panache for said follower. The answer is more than 140 characters, so here it goes!

Installing any cabinetry can be easy and it can be difficult, but vanities are generally quick and simple. Here are some things to look out for:

1 FLOOR - Your floor should be pretty neat and tidy and always finished underneath before the cabinets are installed. This will be less troublesome in the long run because you will not have to cut around the toe-kick, and what have you, which causes extra time and labour for the flooring installer and the cabinet installer. So, for the amount of money you spend going around the cabinet, its also the same as going under the cabinet.

2 WALLS - It's always a good idea to know what's behind the walls, but sometimes that isn't possible. For a vanity with a lavatory (lav, aka bathroom sink) installation, you should have your Drain/Waste/Vent (DWV) and hot and cold water supply (supply) coming out of the walls (or floor sometimes). It's best to find and mark the studs with either a stud-finder or nail and hammer. If you're using using a nail and hammer, be sure to punch your nail below the countertop line where these holes will not be visible. You don't want to have to patch the wall after everything is installed.

3 SQUARE & PLUMB - Check your walls for square and plumb with a level and a triangle. This will give you a good idea of what to expect. You'll want to install the cabinetry agains the high point, so you'll need to measure the height of the cabinet (including toe-kick or kick-space) and find that on the wall. This is your starting corner.

4 DWV & SUPPLY - If you're installing a lav, you'll need to determine the position of the cabinetry and lav together. For the average installer, this is a no-brainer, for the newbie, this is where you want to stop and think it all thru. Measure all the cabinets out on the walls and pre-space, or dry-fit, before cutting out holes for the DWV & SUPPLY. Once you've determined your placement, start your cut with the lav cabinet base.

5 INSTALLING - Install the cabinets to the wall first, then to each other after, making sure they stay level and plumb to the level line - not to the walls. If you go too fast or add too many screws, you can actually rack your cabinet which will make the cabinet doors and drawers not open correctly. Worse yet, it can make them rub against each other. Always use the proper screws and g

rommets for installing cabinetry. Not only does it look nicer, you don't have to use FastCaps or Screw Plugs after the fact. Be mindful of where you're putting your screws if you have a shelf or drawers in the cabinet. You don't want to interfere with either.

- If you are installing near a toilet, you must have a minimum of 15" (18" preferred) from the centre of the toilet to the edge of the countertop (not cabinet).

- Never install a lav cabinet beneath a window (or a toilet, for that matter). There's no where for a mirror.

6 TRIM WORK/TOE-KICKS/FILLERS - You should never install a cabinet directly against a perpendicular wall (nor should you ever have a drawer against the wall where there is a door) but you should have a 2-3" filler between the wall and the cabinet. Toe-kicks and trim are installed very last (and I hope you ordered a touch-up kit!)

Time this should take for 1 cabinet: 15 minutes

How much should this cost to hire an installer: max $60/cabinet (includes toe-kick and fillers)

Other tips and tricks:

- You can order an oversized door in the same cabinet style, or trim, for the mirror above a lav.

- You can have a full-height vanity (36" high with countertop) or standard vanity (29" with countertop) but the general preference is full-height. If you are a smaller person, you may want a standard vanity. No one likes an achy back when plucking eyebrows.

- Lighting should always be flanking a mirror on the sides, never over head or above head. This is just so unflattering and can be difficult for cosmetic applications.

- Any receptacle (plug) within 36" of any water supply MUST BE A GROUND FAULT CIRCUT INTERRUPT (GFCI) receptacle.

- Countertop installation is always after the cabinetry. General thickness is 2cm, and you must have a minimum 4"  backsplash behind the sink to protect the wall from water. Mind you, I break the backsplash rule all the time because I think they'r ugly in a bathroom.

Video Links:

Hometime TV - Installing Base Cabinet


(Late addition) I do not recommend anyone, who is not a cabinet installer, to actually install their own cabinetry. I hope that you will see that there are many details to think about and by self-installing, and if you're in it to save a bit of money you will likely spend more on correcting mistakes and wasted time. Mistakes are going to happen, they are just much more costly and humbling when they happen to you when you have to re-order a door front, drawer, hinge, or, if you're unlucky, a whole new cabinet because companies are not liable for their clients mistakes.