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how are cabinets attached to walls?

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Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 12-29-2009 04:53 PM 5573 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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HokieMojo

2103 posts in 3188 days


12-29-2009 04:53 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cabinets french cleats cleats

I know this probably sounds like a dumb question, but I’ve really looked around and never seen the answer to this. If I were to build a simple plywood shelf/cabinet I’d like to know the best way to attach it to a wall. Please read the brief summary below to understand what I really mean here.

If I were to build a hanging shelf/cabinet, I’d probably use two sides connected by 3 shelves.
Bottom – Set into a dado
Middle – Also a dado
Top – Rests in a rabbet

Then to make it strong, I’d add a back made of plywood too. Depending on the width of the cabinet, I may or may not add dados to the back to prevent sagging. I could also drive screws through the back of the plywood into the shelves instead (or in addition to the dado).

Now for the question. I’m thinking the best way to hang these is to utilize a french cleat system. I guess that the 1/2 of the cleat that gets attached to the wall can just be attached with screws into the studs.

- What about the other 1/2 that gets attached to the cabinet?
- Do those just go through the plywood and into the cleat? Ussually cleats are only 3/4” thick so I can’t imagine there would be a lot of holding power in such a short screw.
- Is there any other mechanical joint that I should consider when implementing a cleat on a cabinet?
- How much does the position of the cleat matter?
- Should I try to use more than one cleat or is one sufficient as long as I use a similar thickness of material at the bottom to keep the cabinet plumb?

Sorry for such elementary questions but I’ve never hung cabinets before and I don’t want them to come crashing down and hit someone or something.

Thanks for your help everyone!


35 replies so far

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PurpLev

8523 posts in 3109 days


#1 posted 12-29-2009 05:14 PM

there’s an image on this page that shows the french cleat installation and hiding. there’s also a link on the bottom for a full pdf about hanging cabinets on walls if you’re a FWW member.

you could use a 1/2’’ back instead of the 1/4’’. that would give you more holding power – esp. if you plan on hanging it on the wall. whether you use french cleats, or drive screws through your cabinet into the wall studs.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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LONGHAIR

94 posts in 3275 days


#2 posted 12-29-2009 05:21 PM

I generally do it by recessing the back into the sides/top/bottom much the way I would a drawer bottom. Then add the cleat in the resulting space. This eliminates the need for adding something to keep it flat agaisnt the wall. You can pocket-screw the cleat in from the back and nothing shows from the outside.

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CharlieM1958

16241 posts in 3678 days


#3 posted 12-29-2009 05:25 PM

I’m sure you will get responses from folks who know more than me about hanging cabinets, but here is a clue for you: Go look at your kitchen cabinets, and those of a few friends or relatives, and see what is holding them up. You’ll be surprised at how little it seems to be.

In other words, I think you’re over-thinking it. Your French cleat idea would work fine, but even that might be overkill depending on what you plan to store in the cabinets.

From your description, I would put some screws through the plywood back into the shelves (even if you do use dadoes). Then I would simply hang it on the wall by driving screws through the plywood back into the studs. Depending on the cabinet width, you’ll probably be spanning two studs, and two or three screws in each stud would be plenty.

I know it sounds funny, but my understanding is that once you have that cabinet tight against the wall, friction is actually doing a lot of the work.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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jim C

1467 posts in 2559 days


#4 posted 12-29-2009 05:39 PM

Aw, just use some cheap picture hangers with small nails in the drywall. Just don’t put anything in the cabinets. LOL
Seriously, I like the french cleat if you’re hanging cabinets in the garage or workshop. They’re strong, easy to remove if your storage needs change, and the easiest one-person, no propping hanging method.
Just my opinion and choice.

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

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BreakingBoardom

615 posts in 2541 days


#5 posted 12-29-2009 05:47 PM

Seems like everyone has been mentioning the french cleat. It’s a pretty good route to go. It’s fairly simple, strong, and gives you some options in case you need to remove it easily for any reason or whatnot. If that doesn’t suit your needs, you can always just screw into the studs.

-- Matt - http://breakingboardom.wordpress.com/

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

8239 posts in 2889 days


#6 posted 12-29-2009 06:01 PM

There is a metal cleat you can buy that works like a wooden French cleat. (Z clip) Thinner so it needs less space in back.
Metal Cleat
Most kitchen cabs are just screwed into the studs in back with a couple screws through the face frame into the adjoining face frame.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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GFYS

711 posts in 2931 days


#7 posted 12-29-2009 07:24 PM

ancient chinese secret!

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HokieMojo

2103 posts in 3188 days


#8 posted 12-29-2009 09:00 PM

Thanks for the replies. I guess my main concern was the idea that the cleat will probably attach to the plywood back but that the plywood would probably only be nailed in place and that might be a weak link. It sounds like if I use screws instead, that shouldn’t cause a problem.

The reason for my concern is that I want this to be large enough to hold shop tools (circular saw, cheap craftsman router table with router, drills, jigsaws, cans of finish, routers, etc.). All this stuff will be heavy/clunky, so the cabinet will probably be about 20 inches deep and will have to support a lot of weight. I’ll probably make two of them that will be about 48” across to minimize costs and maximize storage.

I want the cabinets to hang in my garage so I can store large tools underneath them (jointer, tablesaw, my future router table, etc). A third small cabinet will probably hang above my planned workbench. That one is particularly import and because it would be terrible if it fell while I was using a powertool on the bench or something like that.

Thanks again for the help everyone. Purp, the photo you included was particularly beneficial.

View jim C's profile

jim C

1467 posts in 2559 days


#9 posted 12-29-2009 09:36 PM

Sounds like there is going to be a lot of weight in that cabinet.
I would use no less than 1/2” plywood backing that is glued and screwed to the frame, and instead of the cleat method, use at least 3” decking screws with washers through the plywood backing, into the wall studs. Construct the width of it so the ends cover the wall studs. As an example, if it’s going to be 48” wide, construct it to be 50” wide so you can screw it on the wall and be able to hit the centerlines of the studs at either end. Screw every corner and on the centerlines of all the studs it covers.
Just my opinion.

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

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a1Jim

115201 posts in 3037 days


#10 posted 12-29-2009 09:46 PM

Another advantage to french cleats is that you don’t need to hunt for studs that you have to hit from inside the cabinet, you connect the cleat to the wall and level the cleat. You just have to make sure the cleats have good solid connections so glue and screw the cleats on the cabinets back and in the rabbit.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View thiel's profile

thiel

374 posts in 2752 days


#11 posted 12-29-2009 10:31 PM

My understanding is that with a flat-backed cabinet, most of the holding power comes from static friction between the back of the cabinet and the wall, so the screws are really only there to keep the two surfaces in close contact.

On cleat-based systems, it’s the cleat that’s doing the holding, so you’re relying far more on the shear strength of the individual screws and the strength of the attachment between the cleat and the cabinet itself.

I hope that helps…!

-- Laziness minus Apathy equals Efficiency

View thiel's profile

thiel

374 posts in 2752 days


#12 posted 12-29-2009 10:35 PM

My understanding is that with a flat-backed cabinet, most of the holding power comes from static friction between the back of the cabinet and the wall, so the screws are really only there to keep the two surfaces in close contact.

On cleat-based systems, it’s the cleat that’s doing the holding, so you’re relying far more on the shear strength of the individual screws and the strength of the attachment between the cleat and the cabinet itself.

I hope that helps…!

-- Laziness minus Apathy equals Efficiency

View jim C's profile

jim C

1467 posts in 2559 days


#13 posted 12-29-2009 10:48 PM

thiel,

I have read about the static theory before, but I don’t necessarily agree. That would mean only one or two small screws would be sufficient to hold a cabinet with heavy objects ? Or am I missing something ?

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

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thiel

374 posts in 2752 days


#14 posted 12-29-2009 10:59 PM

Yep… that’s exactly what I mean. When you consider how much you can load in a cabinet, yet how easily you can bend/shear a screw, it’s clear that there are other forces at work.

I’m sure many of us have held an entire sheet of sheetrock up on a wall using only one hand (while reaching for the screw gun). Same principle at work.

Not saying the screws don’t contribute something, but (IMO) the lion’s share of the work is done by friction….

-- Laziness minus Apathy equals Efficiency

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5604 posts in 2692 days


#15 posted 12-29-2009 11:01 PM

A couple of options. But typically Cabinets are either installed on French Cleats, or simply screwed through to the studs. I like cleat installations as they tend to be more flexible…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

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