Guide to Installing Cabinet Hardware
How to install cabinet hardware
There’s more to installing kitchen hardware than drilling holes and screwing on knobs and pulls. Whether you’re installing hardware on brand new cabinets or replacing the hardware in a 100-year-old kitchen, think before you drill. Cabinets are expensive, and they look a whole lot better without extra holes. We asked Jerome Worm for some tips on how he installs the “jewelry of the kitchen.” Use these tips to help your next install go quicker and with fewer mistakes.
Use the door rail as a guide
The location of knobs and pulls isn’t written in stone, but there are some “standard practices.” One good rule of thumb is to line up a knob with the top of the bottom door rail. If you’re installing door pulls, line up the bottom of the pull with the top of the door rail. Always center them on the door stile.
Temporarily attach the hardware
Ultimately, the person paying for the hardware has the final word on where the knobs and pulls are to be installed. If Jerome’s customers don’t like his suggestions, he sticks a piece of reusable putty adhesive to the hardware and lets them put it wherever they want. He marks that spot with a pencil and installs the rest of the hardware accordingly. DAP makes a reusable adhesive called BLUESTIK. Buy a package at a home center for $3.
Cover unused holes with tape
Store-bought templates and well-used homemade templates have a bunch of holes you won’t use on every job. Avoid using the wrong hole by sticking masking tape over the jig, and poking through only the holes you need. Instead of using a pencil to mark the location of the hole on the cabinet, use an awl. That way your drill bit won’t skate off in the wrong direction when you drill the hole.
Hide old holes with back plates
If you’re switching from a pull to a knob or you’d prefer to select pulls with a different hole pattern, you can cover the old holes or hide damaged surfaces with back plates. Home centers don’t have a huge selection, so consider buying yours from an online source like myknobs.com. You’ll find hundreds to choose from.
Super-glue the knob
Oblong and rectangular knobs that fasten with a single screw are notorious for twisting over time. Thread sealant will keep a screw from coming loose from the knob, but it won’t necessarily stop the knob from twisting. Jerome avoids callbacks by adding a drop of super glue to the back of these types of knobs before he installs them.
Make a simple drawer template
If you don’t have a template, make one. This simple template consists of two pieces of wood and takes only a few minutes to make. This same template can be used for almost any size door and most hardware sizes.
Two-sided templates prevent tear-out
If you’re having problems with the wood on the back side of the cabinet doors tearing out every time you drill a hole, make a two-sided template. Make sure the spacer wood is close to the same size as the cabinet doors. The tighter the fit, the less chance of tear-out.
Use thread sealant to keep the screws tight
Every time the screw in a knob works itself loose, the owners of those cabinets are going to think unflattering thoughts about whoever put them in. Keep your customers happy—add a dab of removable thread sealant to every screw you install. Loctite is one brand.
Mix putty to match
If back plates won’t cover the old holes, use putty to fill them. The wood grain on cabinet doors and fronts usually varies in color, so take one of the doors to a hardware store or home center, and buy three different colors of putty. Buy one that matches the darkest grain, one that matches the lightest grain and one halfway between. Use the three to mix a custom color to fill the holes.
Install hardware higher on the lowest drawer
Most drawer pulls are centered on the drawer fronts, but if the cabinet you’re working on has two or three drawers the same size and one larger one at the bottom, install the bottom knob (or pull) higher than the center of that drawer front. Install it so all the knobs on the cabinet are spaced evenly. This configuration is pleasing to the eye—and you don’t have to bend over as far to open the bottom drawer.
Meet the pro
Jerome has become one of our go-to guys for trim carpentry and cabinets. Having installed thousands of pulls and knobs, he has assembled quite a toolbox full of tricks.