Installing first cabinets - A few quirks with molding?

Kristen HallockJuly 8, 2013

We finally started installing cabinets yesterday. Woo Hoo!

Our ceilings are about 8' tall. And this is a complete DIY kitchen remodel. This is DH's 2nd time installing cabinets.

We have 39" upper cabinets and then a 2 5/8" molding that goes around the top of the cabinets. DH has never installed molding like this. We figured that standard countertop height is 36", right? Our base cabinets are 34.5" tall and we plan to get Quartz countertops. That will bring the counters to 36" tall I think.

I had wanted the regular 18" between counters and upper cabinets but I think we are more at 19.5". I'm not sure if this will be an issue? I am short (only 5'2") so this is not ideal to me, but its not awful either. Also I can store a step stool in a lower cabinet to help me reach the upper shelves. We've tested the molding at the top of the cabinets and with the molding placed at the top we have just enough room to open and close the cabinet doors. Thats how its supposed to work, right?

We have Kraftmaid cabinets and have the Large Cove molding.

Here is the first picture! We've only got 4 upper cabinets installed so far. Some of the doors have not been put on yet because DH still has to screw the cabinets to each other.

This post was edited by khallock on Mon, Jul 8, 13 at 9:51

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Top alignment height for 39" cabinets is 93" from the finished floor. You use a laser level to find the high spot in the floor, measure from that, and draw a level line all the way around the room. It's the same with the base. You do a level line 34.5" from the high spot in the room, and shim all of the others to that level line.

With full overlay cabinets, you don't attach the molding directly to the box. You need an intermediate molding piece between the cabinets and the crown. You've got to have a cleat to attach to the cabinets, and then you attach the crown to the cleat. Take a plain 3" tall filler ripped to 1 1/2" and nail it together in an L shape. Apply it with the bottom of the L brought forward to the plane of the door, and the other section vertical. The cove molding is then attached to the vertical portion and touches the ceiling. That lets the cove "float" up and down the filler to account for any variation in ceiling height.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 9:47AM
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Kristen Hallock

Ugh. ok! My husband is not going to be a happy camper to find out he has to lower those cabinets again.

Should the cabinets be off the wall in order to install the cleat on top of the cabinets? And by cleat I think you mean the piece of wood that sits on top of the cabinet frame that you nail the molding to, right? Is it possible to install the cleat with the cabinets already up? Assuming that the cabinet height is correct?

The Large Cove molding is 2 5/8" tall.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 10:22AM
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Here is a pic- You can attach blocking of any sort to the tops of the cabinet- IT does not have to be continuous. Does need to be at corners.
Can be added before if need be.

To add after cabinets are installed blocking is easier since you will have to clamp it to keep it from moving. (A notch in the bottom can help with positioning, did not draw that)
IF attaching from bottom pre drill the rail slightly oversize for the screw, countersink ahead of time.
Clamp the block and screw. You can use any wood, pine is easiest.
Then the fascia (vertical) can be attached with a pin gun keeping a minimal overlap.

If you do not have any talls in the run you can leave the cabinets at the height you have (BUT I wouldn't suggest it)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 12:01PM
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Kristen Hallock

OK. So we will have to put a small block on top of the cabinet frame and then clamp it and then screw it from underneath. sounds easy enough.

Why wouldnt you leave the cabinets at the height we have now? Is it because they will be 19.5" above the counters? or is there another reason? Would you suggest moving the cabinets down a tiny bit so that the molding doesnt overlap with the frame of the cabinet at all? But instead starts right above it (attached to the new block)?

We were only planning to have a 2 5/8" molding to the ceiling. Nothing else.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 12:54PM
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Sophie Wheeler

You need a "starter strip". It's the L shaped piece that GD talks about DIY making but is a lot easier for DIYers to work with than making your own. Or you can do the blocking that jakuvall shows. You will still need a facia strip with two finished edges to cover the blocking and to attach the cove molding to.

Leaving the cabinets as they are means that the shelves are all 1 1/2" higher than normal. That can be an issue for comfortably reaching the second shelf. Also, things won't align with any tall cabinets that you might have. The fridge cabinet won't align. The under cabinet range hood will be too tall to be as effective. Standard alignment height is standard for many many reasons.

The KD who took your order should have explained how to properly install when he learned you were DIY. It would have saved you some work here.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:01PM
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Kristen Hallock

hollysprings - I am having a hard time understanding why it needs to be an 'L' shaped piece.

I found this website which seems to show what needs to be done. I am looking at either the 1st or 2nd diagram. Would one of those not work here?

Here is a link that might be useful: Installing crown molding

This post was edited by khallock on Mon, Jul 8, 13 at 13:25

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:23PM
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You don't need an L-shaped piece or a fascia piece. You can attach the crown directly to the blocking. It's an aesthetic decision if you want the fascia piece or not. If the crown isn't beefy, the bottom of it might look lost behind the door without the fascia. With the tight tolerances you want to keep, you need to make sure the ceiling is level, and if not adjust the height of the cabinets accordingly. You say you only want the small molding, but if I were you I would seriously reconsider using the fascia piece. It would allow you to lower the cabinets to a more user-friendly height (I, personally prefer 16" above the counter, and I'm 5'-6"), and make installing the crown much easier if the ceiling is not level. You could still proceed with installing the cabinets (although they would have to move) and not be held up waiting for the fascia molding to arrive.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:43PM
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Kristen Hallock

Thank You.

It would be nice to have the cabinets slightly lower. Maybe at 18" or even 17".

So for this fascia piece, I would need to order that directly from the cabinet maker, right? (Kraftmaid in this case). Or since we just have natural maple (no stain) could we get this someplace else? Like buy strips of maple and just poly it ourselves? DH never wanted the hassle of installing crown molding and this is probably going to piss him off. LOL!

At Lowes the guy originally told me that I would just have to put a block on top of the cabinet face and attach the molding to that. The plan was to have 39" cabinets and then a 2 5/8" molding to go to the ceiling. I believe it was planned to have the cabinets 18" above the counter.

I believe our ceiling is level. The house is about 20 years old and we just had new sheetrock installed on the ceiling. There has never been any talk between my husband and the dry wall guy about the ceiling being uneven.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 2:16PM
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Kristen Hallock

Forgot to add that the range hood is a free standing Stainless Pyramid hood. So it really doesnt need to align with anything. Also, the pantry and fridge cabinet are side by side on a wall all by themselves. So I am not sure what they have to do with anything.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 2:37PM
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If you don't do a starter strip or facia piece, then the molding is installed behind the level of the door. It will be flush with the box, not the door. That's not what you want. Yes, it's an "aesthetic" decision, but it looks wrong to have the molding behind the door.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 2:45PM
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If your refrigerator panels and pantry cabinet are 93" tall, then you will have a gap between the crown and the ceiling without something in the same finish as the cabinet to take up that space. You will also have the same gap between the crown and ceiling if you move the wall cabinets down to the correct height. And, it will match.

Having a gap on the tall cabinets but not the wall cabinets will be very obvious.

Having both have the same gap, will at least not look "wrong", but having such a small gap will look accidental rather than deliberately ending the cabinets and molding 12" below the ceiling and having that be your gap.

You need an additional piece. Preferably from the cabinet company so that it will all match and age correctly together. A home finished piece may match now, but over time, the difference in actual finishes on the pieces will show up.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 3:10PM
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Kristen Hallock

Ok, now I am following you!

So is it possible to install the upper cabinets now (I guess I would have to move the cabinets down so that the tops are 93" from the floor so that they are the same height as the 93" pantry, right? And then later install the starter strip and molding on all of the upper cabinets?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 3:44PM
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Kristen Hallock

Alright, does anyone have a link to an online site that shows all of the moldings that Kraftmaid offers? I just want to go into Lowes knowing what I need to buy. Something simple that will fill that small gap between the top of the cabinet and the Large Cove molding. Something simple.

Will they also make something for the sides of the cabinet so that the molding sits flush?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 4:04PM
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Here are a few- a couple of years old-two are flipped to show which way you would mount them.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 4:19PM
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Yes, you can go ahead and install the cabinets now. Even if you had the molding on hand, you would still install the cabinets first. Since you're moving the cabinets down, I would install the blocking before putting them back up. It's easier, and no screws will show. Well, that's if you're not using a prefinished L-shaped piece, but just a regular blocking piece.

By the way, it doesn't look "wrong" to have the molding behind the door. It's a simpler look than what is in fashion right now, but it's not wrong. Just look around at classic furniture pieces, and you'll see it.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 5:42PM
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Kristen Hallock

So I was wrong. The cabinets as they are hung right now are going to be 18 5/8" above the countertops (which should be 36") So that is not as bad as 19.5".

My husband hasnt come around to moving the cabinets down. He thinks it will be just fine to mount the molding to the face of the cabinet. He says "there is enough room".

I can sit on this a few days. He MIGHT come around to moving them down but 5/8" is so miniscule to him and he'll probably complain about doing it for quite some time. To be fair he works 60+ hour weeks and then has been coming home and working on electrical, plumbing, installing windows, etc... etc... since April! So he is really sick of this kitchen remodel and 5/8" is not really on his radar. I dont know if its worth it to bother him about this.

So even if we mount the rest of the upper cabinet (only 2 more regular ones) at this same height, I still have a short wall where I will have a 24" wide tall pantry, and then the fridge next to it with a 21" tall cabinet above and a side panel on the fridge to make it look built it. And the space from the top of the pantry to the ceiling will be 3". And I will NEED to get a filler piece there since the Cove Molding is only 5/8". So would it be awful to only use the filler piece there? Will it be that noticeable that the molding is so different from the wall with the pantry/fridge and the rest of the upper cabinets?

Jakuvall - Do those pieces of molding sit right on top of the cabinet frame? Do you put a block behind them? I wonder how long it takes to order something like this from Kraftmaid. I am just not seeing how we can attach stuff like that after the cabinet is up on the wall. Seems like it would be a PITA.

Catbuilder - I have the Cove Molding, but not whatever filler piece I need. If I even need one (except of course for the pantry/fridge cabinets). When you talk about blocking, would you install it behind the cabinet frame at the top? And then put the Cove Molding right on top of the cabinet frame and just attach it to the blocking behind it? It seems like IF we did that then we wouldnt need a filler piece for the regular cabinets, just the tall ones like the pantry and over fridge cabinet.

Here is a mock up of what the kitchen is going to look like. The fridge/pantry is on a wall of its own.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 8:28AM
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DIY install of cabinets isn't for everyone. It's more complicated that people think it is. With all that is on your husband's plate, I'd suggest moving this off of it and hiring a professional cabinet installer to do this correctly. And yes, order the molding. I know he's likely to be resistant to the suggestion. Tough. You want your kitchen done RIGHT. Or, you WILL regret it.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 9:21AM
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Kristen Hallock

Sorry, no chance of that happening. He's done it before and it was fine, just without the molding part. I just need to figure out how the molding is supposed to sit on top of the cabinet. I thought it get nailed to the face. But it seems like it sits on top of the frame, with a block behind it. Just wish the cabinet guy at Lowes had ordered that for me when we ordered the cabinets. Now it seems like I will have to wait.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 9:41AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Crown molding only gets applied to the cabinet face frame with partial overlay cabinets where the face frame is actually exposed. With full overlay cabinets (or frameless without a face frame) where the doors cover the face frame, you have to use blocking or a starter strip to apply molding. Very likely the guy at Lowes didn't tell you this because he didn't know this. He's probably never been on a job site the whole time he's been employed there, and the training they give those "designers" is virtually non existent.

If hubby doesn't want to rehang the cabinets, then take a break from the project for a day or two. He's not seeing the forest for the trees. People DIY because they can take longer and eventually get as good results as a pro because they have the time to do that. If he's going to get in a hurry and do it wrong, he needs to stop until he remembers why he is DIYing in the first place.

When you are both ready to begin again, ask him if he wants there to be a very noticeable shadow line difference between the two sides. That's what a small gap does. Some modern designs create this shadow line as a feature to utilize for uplighting, or to accentuate the straight line of the cabinets without molding.

When he's ready to hang the cabinets at the correct height, you can show him this diagram. Either way works. It all depends on which molding you choose. Getting the blocking the consistent correct depth is harder than dealing with a one piece already L shaped molding though. That's easy to tell if you have it at the correct depth. Having the depth be varied means the molding doesn't line up correctly.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:07AM
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Kristen Hallock

Hollysprings - thank you! That makes total sense. It really helps to see a good diagram.

So if we go this route, we can put the blocking and straight edge molding OR the L-shaped molding up on the cabinet BEFORE installing them? And then install the Cove Molding after the cabinet is up on the wall?

Also, what do you use for the sides of the cabinet? to make the molding flush?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:26AM
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Kristen Hallock

One last question -

If we move the cabinets so that the tops of the frames are exactly 93" above the floor, can we install them and then put the "L" molding on afterwards? I need to order that and who knows how long it will take to get it from Kraftmaid.

If you install the "L" molding afterwards, could you just nail it (or screw?) it in thru the top of the frame?

I just hate to have to be sitting here for X # of weeks waiting for molding so I can install cabinets.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:47AM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you choose to go the single piece molding, you can install the blocking before you put the uppers up, but nothing else. All visible moldings (and the starter strip is a visible molding) have to be a long continuous piece , mitered at the corners, just like the crown. It's essentially the first layer of your crown, and has to be cut and installed as such. It's something that if someone doesn't have experience with, they should go down to a box store and buy some scrap and practice cutting on the cheap stuff and not the $100 sticks of molding.

You didn't get the sides as flush finished plywood? There's a "reveal" (gap) there between the side and face frame? Then you order a "skin" to flush the side with the face frame. Make sure it's veneer and not vinyl. (The current cabinet sides are a printed melamine) Both can age slightly differently than the doors over time. You can also order an applied door to cover the skin if you want something more decorative, but that adds 3/4" of an inch to the run. Don't forget to skin the sides of the cabinet next to the hood as well as all of the exposed ends. I'd personally take it to the next level and do the applied doors on the visible ends facing the room. It will look better now, and over time.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:57AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Here's a quick and not to scale drawing of where a skin is applied on the side. It flushes the side and finishes it off.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 11:04AM
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Kristen Hallock

Wow. Our kitchen guy ordered plywood ends for all of our cabinets that would be showing on the sides. But I dont think they are FLUSH plywood ends. Do they offer both? Do you have to specify flush? Seems like a waste that I paid for plywood ends if I now have to cover them with a skin.

One more question. Here is a picture of Kraftmaid cabinets from someone on this site who used the Large Cove Molding. How do you think this molding was attached? this is kind of the look I am going for.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Sophie Wheeler

That looks to be a single bead molding/pilaster which they also used as a light rail. They installed it, then blocking, and then the cove is applied on top of that. The sides are also flush finished plywood, which yes, is different than plywood sides.

This post was edited by hollysprings on Tue, Jul 9, 13 at 12:33

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 12:28PM
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Kristen Hallock

Well if you see the Kraftmaid Large Cove molding, it does actually have a built-in bead on it. So I wonder if they just used the separate bead molding only on the bottom of the cabinet and just did the cove molding on the top.

I decided I am not going to stress about this. It is what it is. And 5/8" isnt going to ruin my project.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 1:23PM
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Sophie Wheeler

This is worth doing right. 5/8" isn't insignificant. That's index finger sized. It's enough that you won't be able to overlook it.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 2:06PM
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Kristen Hallock

Yes. But I'm talking about leaving the regular uppers as-is. and then just buying that extra molding piece for the pantry/fridge wall. So there wont be a gap anywhere. But the fridge/pantry molding will sit higher up on the cabinet. The pantry/fridge gap is actually 3/8" if we did have a gap. DH is talking about shimming those cabinets by 3/8". I know, its more work trying to make this work than it would be to take down the cabinets! Sometimes DH just has to be right, you know?

We'll see.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 3:14PM
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I have a similar issue, and this thread has been a wonderful help. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 11:32PM
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Some manuf's let you order an extended faceframe at the top so that you have built-in fastening for all kinds of crown, and it makes out-of-level ceilings much less of an issue.
I think the one set of 39" uppers I have installed (and had a big crown) were made that way.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 8:19AM
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Kristen Hallock

Thanks everyone. I'm going to let my husband do it his way. He doesnt even want molding and doesnt like it being very pronounced. So he doesnt want to add anything additional.

As an aside, I called the Lowes Kitchen Designer that I worked with and he insisted that its normal to have a "Shadow Line" because "no molding can go all the way to the ceiling. I laughed at him and told him that I never see a shadow line in the magazines! And he tried to tell me that was because they photoshop it out! Can you believe that? What an idiot!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 9:01AM
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Wide or extended top rails are great but can cost much more than a mounting molding. Some brands offer a wide reveal at the top eliminating the need for blocking, one mfg is no charge for that.
Wide rails are often best option for inset.
In all cases adjustment for out of level ceiling is required-ALWAYS.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 9:08AM
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