DEAR MIKE: I have a bare wall in my laundry room and would like to buy a cabinet and hang it there. What is the cheapest and easiest way to do this? -- Dawn G.
DEAR DAWN: Glad to hear you're into being cheap and easy. I have some buddies who would love to hang out with you.
As far as cabinets go, you pretty much get what you pay for. You can go to a home center and buy a cabinet that you have to assemble for around $40. This type of cabinet will be made of particle board with a thin melamine covering. The back of the cabinet will be about one-eighth of an inch thick but will have thicker borders for hanging the cabinet.
Generally, these types of cabinets assemble very easily. Where two cabinet edges meet there will be matching holes. Into one of the holes you will screw a long screw with a rounded ball on the end of it. The rounded end of the screw will fit into the matching hole on the opposing piece and get connected with a cam. Rotate the cam and the edges will be locked together.
The cabinet will come with instructions and will be easy to assemble. Once it is assembled, you get to hang it on the wall.
It is a nasty project to try to hold a heavy cabinet against the wall, try to level it, and finally secure it. This is a great time to rejuvenate some neighborhood friendships.
You can ask for help or you can install a temporary ledger on the wall. The ledger will create a tiny shelf that you can rest the cabinet on while you adjust and secure it.
Use a 1X4 at least the width of the cabinet. Draw a level line on the wall where you want the bottom of the cabinet to be. Align the top of the ledger to this line and secure the ledger into the wall studs using 2 1/2-inch drywall screws.
With the doors off of the cabinet (to make it lighter), lift up the cabinet and set it on the ledger. With the weight of the cabinet resting on the ledger, you can adjust the cabinet left or right or bring the cabinet itself back into square.
The ledger will mark the level line, but you also need to hang the cabinet so that it is plumb. Hold your level vertically against the front of the cabinet and adjust it so that the bubble is between the lines. You can insert wooden shims between the cabinet and the wall until the cabinet is plumb. If the cabinet is not plumb, the doors may not fully close or may sometimes open by themselves.
Locate the studs and drive the screws (the ones that came with the cabinet) through the cabinet and into the studs. The manufacturer will direct you where to place the screws, usually inside the cabinet at the top and bottom. The top and bottom will have bracing supports to stiffen the box and support the weight.
Once the screws are in, you can remove the ledger.
Then reinstall the doors on the cabinet and adjust them until they close easily and evenly.