Drama-Free Cabinet Hardware Installation

The snow days, inability to be outside due to the cold, crazy puppies, frozen pipes, snow and wet prints all over the floors, etc., drove me bonkers. We had to figure out ways to get a change of scenery without breaking the bank or getting frostbite. So, we visited friends. The kids played while I sat shooting the breeze in the kitchens of dear souls who offered a respite and either a hot and frothy mug or a cold and foamy one depending on the time.

One such dear soul has a great old house with a spanking new kitchen that they renovated about a year and half ago. It took a while for me to realize what was off, but eventually I realized that in addition to an oddly located bank of open-fronted cabinets full of mismatched bowls, they had no hardware on the other cabinets and drawers. And these weren’t the sleek, modern cabinets that don’t require a knob or pull. As I watched her opening and closing cabinets and drawers, I could see that life would be easier with the darn things.

“Where’s the cabinet hardware?” I asked, offhandedly.

Oops. Well, I won’t bore you with the details of the Battle of the Cabinet Hardware that has taken place in that kitchen. After sarcastically asking if I thought she was “displaying” her mismatched bowls in open cabinets, my friend said their frustration with misaligned doors and disagreement on pulls led them to put all the hardware in a drawer and the two cabinet doors in a closet while they cooled down. That was about 10 months ago!

So here are some tips, tricks and hacks for installing cabinet hardware for the uninitiated to avoid the drama.

Hang the Cabinet Doors Properly. 

Easier said than done. Nowadays European hinges are in favor and they can be daunting. They’re cool because they’re concealed. European hinges have a mounting plate that secures to the cabinet and a cup that sits in a circular mortise drilled in the back of the door.

A cool feature is that they offer adjustment in two and sometimes three directions, making it easy to fine-tune the alignment of the door. Side adjustment regulates the gaps between doors, cabinets and walls for perfect parallel alignment. Height adjustment aligns doors precisely at the top and bottom. Depth adjustment (not always available) lets you bring door faces in line with the vertical front of the cabinet. Another benefit is easy removal of doors for cleaning and refinishing. If you figure out how to adjust the hinge, you can align the doors properly.

Know How to Use Putty and a Template When Installing Knobs and Pulls.

Cabinet Hardware Template

This cabinet template will make your job easier.

Reusable putty is a great alternative to tape or glue on a variety of surfaces and can be reused for lasting convenience. So you’ll use it to test out where you want the knob or pull and get a good visual before marring the cabinet surface! A template is an alignment guide for easy mounting of standard knobs and pulls on cabinet doors. The one I just googled had 20 possible locations for consistent knob mounting and cost less than $5.

Mark Your Spot with an Awl. 

Awls are used to mark wood. The point is tapered and usually round, though there are also reaming blades (uh, what's that?) offered. It's also used to make pilot holes in wood for nails and screws.

Keep Screws In Place with Thread Sealant and Knobs and Pulls In Place with Superglue. 

If you have oblong or rectangular knobs that only have one screw, then be prepared for them to spin askew and frustrate you. To stop this issue with your cabinet hardware, use superglue on the knob and a thread sealant on the screw! Thread sealant is an all-purpose gel that locks, seals and retains threaded joints. It’ll lock adjusting screws in any position, thread 1/8 inch to 1-1/2 inches. Voila!

Cover Your Mistakes. 

Wood putty, also called plastic wood, can fill imperfections (such as nail holes that you or your silly spouse haphazardly eyeballed) in wood prior to finishing. You can buy several pigments and combine them to mimic the grain of your wood. Also, pre-finished cabinets should come with a stain or pen to fix scuffs and scratches. Keep this in the drawer and use when needed. If you stain your own cabinets, then save a small container of stain and store it in a handy drawer to use as needed.

Place the Knobs or Pulls Where They Belong! 

Don’t try to be funky. In cabinets with a center panel, the pulls need to be centered outside the panel. Drawer pulls are centered, but if the drawers are varied sizes, then space them out equally. Do your research about cabinet hardware placement: there are many guides, like this how to install new hardwarehow to mount pulls and knobs, and how to replace cabinet hardware.

See? No drama necessary.

By Bridget Gorman Wendling

Mar 20th 2015 Bridget Gorman Wendling

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