Why did my kitchen cabinets fall off the wall?

Why did my kitchen cabinets fall off the wall?

Having just completed a report for a homeowner who woke to a resounding crash the evening after her new kitchen cabinets had been installed, I thought this was an item worth covering.  A quick search on Google will show you that this is a surprisingly common occurrence.

Without doubt, the major cause of cabinets detaching from walls is due to poor installation.  Think of the weight of wall mounted cabinets when empty, then add the weight of what you store in them – maybe crockery and glasses – and it soon becomes clear how strong the mounting between cabinet and wall needs to be.

smashed plates

Unless you really know what you are doing I would say that this is a job for a professional, and one that comes with a recommendation.  However, if this is a job that you want to tackle yourself, you could do worse than looking at the relevant fact sheet on the Bunnings website.  Bear in mind though that you’ll not only need a couple of (strong) mates but a few specialised tools, the cost of which will quickly add up.

So here are my essential “do’s and don’ts” for installing wall mounted cabinets.

Know your walls

This first step requires a bit of construction knowledge.  The type of walls in your home – timber stud walls with plasterboard finish, brick, or combination brick / besser block with plaster finish – will dictate the type of mounting or mounting system to use.

Timber Stud Walls

For timber stud walls, common in many Australian homes, you need to locate the studs to screw into.  The surest way to do this (and one of those tools you may need to buy) is to use an electronic stud finder.

The manual way to do it is to look for any slight pinhead shaped dimples in the wall surface, which indicate where the plasterboard has been nailed to a stud.  To confirm this, try tapping on the wall.  A hollow sound indicates no stud; a slightly higher pitched knocking sound with fewer echoes indicates you have found a stud.  Once you have found a stud, the next one will usually be approximately 450 mm further along the wall.

While there will be a lot to do with positioning the cabinets where you want them and making sure that the cabinets are level by using a spirit level, the most important step is to ensure you use the right type of mounting and that you fix the cabinets to the studs.  As a minimum, you will need at least 75mm screws.  In many ways, the bigger the better.

I’ll repeat that.  Don’t forget that you need to make sure that the screws go through the cabinet and wall and into the studs, not into fresh air!

Solid Brick Walls

In older buildings with solid brick walls the most common error is to underestimate the thickness of the plaster and the depth of the masonry. You should be using expanding bolts such as dynabolts for the best grip.

Here is where you will need some building expertise to gauge the length of expandable anchor or bolt that you need.  They can range in length from 40mm up to about 160mm.  As a general guide, plaster and masonry will be at least 20 to 25mm thick, and you will want the expanding bolt anchored at least another 50 mm into the brickwork, plus of course there is the thickness of the kitchen cabinet to factor into the equation.  So as a minimum, you should be looking at 90mm long dynabolts.

Like a lot of home improvement jobs, this is a bit more complex than it might first appear.  In my opinion definitely one for the experts.  But if it is one you want to take on for yourself, this post will hopefully help point you in the right direction.

All the best, Martin

Categories: Home Repairs and Maintenance

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