Hanging Kitchen Cabinets

snookums2December 5, 2011

While getting wood screws for door hinges, I asked the guy at the lumber yard if he thought using 3" coarse drywall screws was alright. He said he'd be fine with that because they aren't carrying weight but wouldn't hang cabinets with them (no sheer strength).

bing bing bing

Those ugly black screws I was shocked at seeing in the middle of my glass cabinet at the time of install are drywall screws. They use them for everything. They were 3". Maybe there's another screw that looks just like it but the ones in the hinge I asked and he said yes they were drywall screws. They are great, they use them on those heavy building doors, their sheer strength!!

They are into the studs. Four to a cabinet on the back and the cabinets are fastened together at the sides of the face also. These are standard cabinet sizes. What they call solid wood not the particle stuff. Largest is 36W x 30H.

Is this sound or should I have them replaced with cabinet screws? Is it alright to pull them just for aesthetics or could that weaken the grip by trying to replace them? I showed the KD and think she might have said a lot of guys do that but not sure she knew it was a drywall screw. I believe I saw them being used on the store's displays when I checked out what they had done there. I guess if something were to go wrong, there would be warning with a loose cabinet first rather than it simply falling off the wall?

I guess they must think these are stronger than cabinet screws. There were 4 rounded silver screws used overall. Not sure what type.

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They use them because they are cheap and they go in easily because they are sharp, but they are called drywall screws because that is what they are intended for. Drywall screws are strong, but brittle, which is why they shouldn't be used in a situation where they connect structural pieces, like stud walls, together. Brittle means they can crack under stress. Professionals who know what they are doing use wood screws or deck screws , which have the correct characteristics for this type of installation. They also sometimes use "cup" washers so the pressure from the heads is distributed over a wider area, and this is important if the cabinet back is particle board or MDF.

Having said that, I don't necessarily think your cabinets are in danger of falling off the wall...it's just a less-than-ideal and less-than-professional installation. If it were me, I'd get the right screws and replace some or all of the drywall screws with proper screws. Since the cabinets are already hung, it would not be that big of a deal to get a power driver and replace the sub-grade screws, one-by-one, with proper cabinet screws. If you get the same diameter screws as what was used, it will not weaken the installation and the cabinets will be more secure. They should have done this right the first time, but you might want to re-do this yourself if you have even minimal competence with tools as you will probably do a better job.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 4:26AM
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These guys are driving me crazy with this stuff. They love drywall screws and seem to use them for everything. They buy supplies on account so it isn't affecting them financially. After learning they were brittle, I asked if they had been used for the long screw on the interior door hinges. He said yes they have such sheer strength! They use them on heavy commercial doors. I humored him a bit with my insistence on using a long wood screw instead.

There are silver "cup washers" behind them as you say. I see four silver screws throughout but for some reason they switched.

Cabinet screws are a standard size and type? Nothing special to know?

I am not handy with tools but maybe could try one to see how it goes. Of course if I do that and it all falls down, it will be my fault for stripping the holes or something. I wouldn't know myself if it went in and grabbed securely or not.

I wish I could get someone else but I can't. I don't like the way they are doing things. We are paying a lot. It's not a bargain deal.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 7:36AM
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From what you describe, you have an less and idea situation but you're cabinets aren't going to fall off the wall.

As previously mentioned you can replace the existing screws, one at a time, with something more appropriate. If you want to use a traditional flat head screw, you may want to combine it with a "finishing washer" to keep the screw from pulling through the back of the cabinet.

You can also use cabinet screws with a large (wafer) head. They are available with painted heads to better match the interior of your cabinet.

McFeeley's is an excellent source of screws.

Here is a link that might be useful: McFeeley's

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 7:50AM
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I picked up the cabinet screws. The drywall screws are slightly angled into the washer. I would think this is bad news for setting the new bulkier screw head. If it follows the old path it will jut out and also not fit the washer properly. If it goes in straight the hole would be made bigger than the screw. What do you think? Not that important and best to leave as is? I hope that washer is still working with the screw not being flat in its place.

This is on a glass cabinet of course which is the largest and has the heaviest items so would benefit the most.

Maybe it would have fallen down by this time but it's still empty at this point.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:05AM
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You misunderstood: the proper term is "Shear strength" not sheer.

It means that when under load sideways, like how cabinet screws take downward load to the studs, these screws can snap and give way. They are brittle because they are very hard. Hardness/brittleness vs. softness/ductility is a measurement that has a determining effect on shear strength. Size plays in; you can give a brittle fastener more shear strength by making it larger in diameter.
An old-time flat head wood screw can be bent in a greater than 90* angle before it will shear off, a drywall screw can be bent 5* before it snaps. It's the hardness of the steel.

Deck screws are a safer bet for attaching cabinets. And the gold-plated (cadmium, actually) "grabber" screws are very nice if you can find them.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:31AM
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"Deck screws are a safer bet for attaching cabinets. "

Why not cabinet screws? I picked them up but the drywall screws are set slightly angled so I'm not sure what's best to do.

That's nasty on the 5* versus 90* snap factor.

So if it didn't get bent when it was screwed in, it's good strong steel support? Or the weight can finally get to it and cause it to give/bend (without much tolerance, I see). They are 3". Maybe another (rare) earth tremor would be a bad thing with these things.

I wish they'd just do things "correctly" as they are designed. This is very stressful. I don't want to be making calls as it's not my field of expertise.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:48AM
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The drywall screws aren't likely to have bent going in or they would have broken. It doesn't mean they are good. If the drywall screws didn't go in straight, it means that these guys are sloppy installers. In replacing the drywall screws with better screws, you would have a hard time trying to drive a new screw in straight when a slightly-off hole has already been made...and it would be weaker. The options are to have the new screws go into the old holes and be slightly crooked, or to leave the drywall screws in place and drill and drive the better screws into the wall above or below the present screws, assuming the studs in the wall have been accurately located (or you know where the mounting rail is if they used one).

Screw replacement using an adequately-powered, cordless driver would not be difficult if you have some experience with such a tool. However, from what you have written, I am reluctant to suggest you do this yourself since it does require a little experience to know that you are driving things in properly and can "feel" when the screws are grabbing correctly. Since this sounds like an expensive project, I think you should insist that they properly install the right screws for you.

I also see you have posted a number of questions in this forum about problems with proper installation of other items. Are you stuck with these folks because of a contract? I don't think you are getting the kind of job you should expect from a competent contractor. There's too much corner-cutting and sloppiness going on here.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 3:14PM
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Unfortunately, I have no control. I might try to see if someone else is willing to come in to finish the work then I'd do the tough job of asking them to leave myself. There's a personal relationship involved so it's not a simple situation. That person doesn't know what to do and it would be very difficult for them to fire their relative. Over what they probably deem to be pretty inconsequential or picky stuff.

I'm probably considered to be one of those fussy women and maybe most people's houses go up like this but we are paying them top dollar or more. This was my one time chance to fix the place up and I wanted it done really well whether it be structural or cosmetic. We were also happy to give them some work. They probably think they're doing a great and standard job and I am just impossible to please. Isn't that usually the case? Maybe I am and I apologize for that if so. But it is very expensive to end up with substandard jobs for reasons I don't understand. It's an exchange. I don't think I'm expecting perfect. I know things don't work that way. That's why I'm asking what's acceptable (compared to what I read how things should be done or how straight they should be when I see crooked.)

Maybe my doors are impossible for them to do straight and no one would bother to do any better (although I don't think so). It is shoddy builder construction.

I also think they might be stoned sometimes.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 4:21PM
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I've read all of your posts in this forum and you sound like someone who, although not possessing handyman skills, has a good sense of what is acceptable and workmanlike, and what is not. I do not think you are being unreasonable. There are people who seek a perfection in remodeling that is too much to expect from even an excellent contractor, but you do not strike me that way. And it's clear that you are dealing with someone who is, perhaps, adequate on some days. It's hard to deal with riding herd on folks like this on a day-to-day basis, but I encourage you to stick to your guns. You do not come across as an unreasonable person, or someone who is making trouble because you don't understand what is going on. Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 9:36PM
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I've read a few of your posts; enough! Stoned is really the final straw.

I don't know what the relationship is, but it sounds like it needs to be clarified - you are hiring them, correct? But unfortunately it sounds like you feel you are stuck. That needs to be remedied. Even if you have to imagine that you have an alternative, or later opportunities... whatever it would take for you to find the backbone to say something like "If you don't feel you can do this job properly for what we're paying, feel free to let me know; we can always find another contractor - I wouldn't want to burden you with work you aren't interested in!" And if they insist they will do it, then clarify your expectations: done right first time to a high standard - right tools, right materials, right methods. Are they interested under those conditions or not?

As for the drugs, I think there too, a friendly invitation to feel free to exit might work. "I'm really sorry but I cannot have anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol working on the premises. If you are under the influence, feel free to leave now, and come back another day when you are straight. I can wait as long as x days this time, but won't be able to wait that long again."

You have to give yourself permission to end the relationship, and be prepared to do so, in order to remain in the authoritative position.

We don't need contractors often, but my parents increasingly do. It seems to me that it is awfully easy to lose control of these relationships, especially once someone is on the job. Even really good workers have a bad way of believing that because they are the experts on the type of job, they can tell my parents what to do. Fortunately, since my parents built their house pretty much with their own hands, they are pretty tight in the saddle and know their stuff, although they seem like meek old people on first impression.

You might also break the job up into small increments, and make it dependent on the successful completion of each step whether you employ them again for the next one. They need a message.

Karin L

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 7:29PM
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Snookums, I thought I'd check in with you to see how it's going?

I face this kind of stuff a lot, with the few people I've been able to hire. I know more than the average bear, which frequently seems to be more than my contracted employees assume I do. Most learn not to try to BS me in a very short time. "Help me understand why..." is something I use a lot and if it doesn't fly with me? It's my way or the highway and I take responsibility. I pay cash and unfortunately, frequently by the hour to fix the crap done previously on my house.

I have suffered with repairing the 'House of Good Enough For Now' for 6 years now. Everything -- EVERYTHING -- my STBX GC husband did has had to be redone, with great costs. Like you, I want things done once, done right, and done the way I want them to be done.

I strongly insist and hope you're getting used to the idea that they don't have to like you. It's OK for you to be picky and get what you want. Who is writing the check? Plus, you do not have to explain why. "Because I asked for it" is all you need to have in your arsenal.

Anyway, I hope it's going better.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 10:38AM
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I'm a little late chiming in. I see drywalls used all the time to hang cabinets. Is it the right way? NO. Have I ever seen a wall of cabinets come down when 3" drywalls are used? NO.

If you are looking to make it right then changing them out is the right method. If the holes are on an angle there is a way to cover most of the hole and still use the new screw. Take a drill bit and start it in the old hole but keep it level and straight. Keep the speed high and make a new straight hole that starts out in the old one. When you thread the new screw make sure you follow the new path. If you are having trouble starting a new hole in the old one then start a new hole 1/32" away from the old one. The pan head of the new screw will cover most of the old hole....

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 10:58AM
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You can also put glue in the old hole and stick toothpicsk in it. Let them dry and cut them flush with a utility knife.

Then just redrill. I realize this is usually done on cabinetry inside, but it worked for me on the wall part, too. Took awhile, but the drill didn't try to change direction into the old holes.

Maybe an amateur thing to do, but sometimes those things work despite the amateur-ishness.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 11:16AM
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