How to Level Base Cabinets for Quartz Countertops

Installing quartz countertops in your kitchen can transform the look and feel of the space. However, proper installation is key to ensuring your countertops fit right and last. An essential first step is leveling the base cabinets, providing a solid foundation on which to install the quartz. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to level base cabinets for quartz countertops.

Why Leveling Base Cabinets is Important

When installing quartz countertops, having properly leveled base cabinets is crucial for several reasons:

  • It helps ensure the countertops sit flat and do not rock or wobble. Quartz slabs are heavy, so any unevenness in the cabinet base gets amplified once the tops are installed.
  • Level cabinets allow for a uniform reveal around the edges of the countertop. If cabinets are uneven, some areas will have larger gaps than others between the counter and cabinet.
  • Proper leveling prevents stressing the countertops. If underlying cabinets are unleveled, it can put torque on quartz slabs and cause cracks or breaks over time.
  • Good leveling provides for easier installation of the countertops. It lets installers evenly apply adhesives and allows the quartz to sit flush against the cabinets.
  • Level base cabinets help align any seams between multiple slabs so they are less noticeable.

Tools and Materials Needed

Leveling base cabinets requires just a few simple tools and supplies:

  • 4 to 6 foot level – The longer the better to check level across cabinets
  • Wood shims – For shimming under cabinets to adjust height
  • Pliers or nail puller – For removing toe kicks
  • Hammer – To tap shims into place
  • Tape measure – For measuring reveal and distance between cabinets
  • Pencil – For marking locations to install shims

Steps to Level Base Cabinets

Here are the key steps involved in properly leveling kitchen base cabinets before installing quartz countertops:

1. Remove Doors, Drawers, and Toe Kicks

First, remove all doors, drawers, and false drawer fronts from the base cabinets. This allows easy access to the interior and clearance to work. Use a nail puller or pry bar to remove any toe kicks attached to the bottom of the cabinet bases.

2. Check for Level Front to Back

Place a long level on the top front edge of the cabinet and check if it is level from front to back. Repeat for all base cabinets. If needed, use shims between the rear cabinet feet and floor to make adjustments.

3. Check for Level Side to Side

Check the tops of the cabinets with the level to see if they are level from left to right. Place shims under the appropriate cabinet feet to make any necessary adjustments.

4. Check Diagonal Measurements

Measure diagonally from the front left corner to the rear right corner of the cabinets. Then measure diagonally from the rear left corner to the front right corner. The measurements should be equal if the cabinets are level. Adjust shims as needed to achieve diagonal parity.

5. Check Reveals and Gaps

Make sure reveals between adjacent cabinets are consistent, typically 1/8 to 1/4 inches. Check that gaps between cabinet bases are even across any runs. Adjust shimming if needed until all reveals and gaps are uniform.

6. Re-check Levels and Make Final Adjustments

Repeat steps 2-4, re-checking each base cabinet with the level and making any final shim adjustments needed until all cabinets are perfectly levelled.

7. Secure Shims

Once leveling is complete, use a hammer to lock the shims securely in place by tapping them tight to the floor. Snap off any excess shim length.

8. Re-Install Toe Kicks

With the cabinets leveled, re-attach or replace any toe kicks using nails or glue. This finishes off the base cabinets, concealing all leveling shims.

Installing the Quartz Countertops

With properly leveled cabinets, you can now install the quartz countertops knowing they will be supported across their entire length and width. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for securely attaching the slabs to the cabinet bases using adhesive and any edge clips or brackets. Taking the time to get the foundation right ensures your beautiful new quartz countertops will fit perfectly and function flawlessly for many years. Let the countertops be the star, not uneven gaps or a rocking surface. Proper leveling of the base cabinets makes that possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much of a gap should there be between base cabinets for quartz countertops?

Ideally there should be a consistent 1/8-1/4 inch gap between base cabinets to allow room for any slight settling or movement. This also allows consistency in the reveal with the countertop overhang.

What is the best way to secure a shim when leveling cabinets?

The most secure method is using a hammer to tap shims tight between the floor and cabinet until they are snug and locked in place. Make sure not to damage the cabinet base while tapping.

Should anything be applied to shims before installing?

Applying a few drops of carpenters glue or silicone to shims can help hold them in place when leveling cabinets. This keeps shims from slipping during the tapping process.

What should I do if a cabinet corner is significantly higher than the rest?

Rather than shimming other cabinets up to match a high corner, it is better to identify why that corner is higher and lower it with targeted shimming to match the plane of the other cabinet bases.

How can I access the feet on enclosed base cabinets for shimming?

For enclosed cabinet bases, carefully lay the cabinet on its back or side to access the interior and foot locations for any shimming that needs to be done. Use care not to damage the cabinet.

Final Thoughts

Properly leveling your base cabinets is a crucial first step in any quartz countertop installation. While it takes some time and care, it ensures your countertops fit right and function as intended. The small effort pays off in a smooth installation and years of enjoyment from stunning new quartz countertops. Follow this guide to feel confident tackling this important preparation step.