Kitchen Cabinets and Countertops Makeover

New kitchen cabinets and countertops are a fantastic way to add a new dynamic to your kitchen. Steve Watson and his Don't Sweat It team show you how.


A ceiling and cabinet makeover, along with new flooring, make this kitchen a far more inviting space.

A ceiling and cabinet makeover, along with new flooring, make this kitchen a far more inviting space.

Materials and Tools:

kitchen cabinet order (homeowner preference)
8' black pragel countertops (3)
4' butcher block countertop (1)
p-trap assembly and accessories to move sink
dishwasher hose and drain assembly
box 3" decking screws (silver/grey)
box finish washers
builder's shims (3 packs)
table saw
circular saw
power miter box
cordless drill with battery and magnetic screw tip
countersink bits
laser level (optional)
measuring tape
speed square
chalk line
safety glasses




Move out appliances. Pull the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and all other appliances, and move them temporarily out of the room. It's much easier and quicker to work without them in the way.

Pull the countertops. Check under the counter to see if they are nailed or screwed in place. If they are screwed, unscrew them. If they are nailed, tap a wonder-bar between the counter and cabinet and pry up, being careful not to damage the wall.

Pull the base cabinets. Unscrew the base cabinets from the wall and remove them. Watch for any plumbing or electrical that runs through the base cabinets to the garbage disposer, dishwasher, ice maker, etc.

Pull the upper cabinets. With the base cabinets out of the way, unscrew the upper cabinets from the wall and remove them.

"Intermission" In this kitchen makeover, we also replaced the old floor and ceiling. With the old cabinets removed, now's the time for the floor and ceiling to happen. (See the other two projects in this episode for summaries of the steps in those procedures.) The cabinet project continues once those phases of the makeover were complete.



Mark in your cabinet layout. With the old cabinets removed, draw the new cabinet layout on the wall using a level as a guide. This will help you determine any leveling issues and inconsistencies in the walls before you start actually installing. Refer to the drawing provided by the kitchen designer or cabinet manufacturer for the layout.

Paint.You now know where all the cabinet elements are going because you've established your layout. If you paint now, you can avoid most of the cutting-in and save time. You'll probably have to touch-up here and there, but it will be quicker to do it now.



Hang the upper cabinets. By starting with the upper cabinets, you can avoid leaning over the base cabinets to screw into the wall. This makes the process faster, and puts less strain on your back. If your cabinet layout wraps around a corner, start in the corner and work both ways. For a straight layout, start with a feature cabinet (i.e. the cabinet over the sink) and work both ways. This will ensure that everything fits and is center. Screw them to the wall studs using 2-1/3-inch decking screws, and screw them together using 1-5/8-inch screws.

Using filler strips. Always have a few filler strips on hand. They can be cut to fit between the cabinet and the wall to fill that last inch or two in the cabinet layout.



Install the base cabinets. Using a level, find the high point of the floor, and start there. It's easier to shim up the cabinets at the low point than to cut off cabinets at the high point. Screw them to the wall studs using the 2-1/2-inch decking screws.

  • Tip #1: Screw the cabinet frames together first. Remove the doors when hanging the upper cabinets, it makes them lighter and easier to control. Clamp the face frames together and screw them to each other before attaching them to the wall. In this way, if the wall is slightly uneven, the faces of the cabinets will still look right.
  • Tip #2: Why decking screws? Using decking screws to anchor kitchen cabinets to the wall is much better than using drywall screws. Decking screws are thicker behind the head than drywall screws, making them less likely to snap off. They are also moisture resistant (important in a kitchen) and most brands use a special combination head design that eliminates slipping and stripping of the screw head.

Install the countertops. Install the countertops by cutting them to length with a circular saw and screwing them into place from underneath.

Important: When cutting laminate countertops, always start from the back. Make sure to leave factory edges exposed (around the range, refrigerator, etc) and put the cut edge against a wall. If you must expose a cut edge, you can contact cement a piece of laminate over the exposed particleboard.

Reinstall the appliances. Reinstall the sink and appliances to complete the project.

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