The Best Screws for Kitchen Cabinet Installations

Sometimes the hidden features of a project are the most important. Take the hardware and screws that securely hold kitchen cabinets in place. Visit any home improvement store and you will find a host of screws for different uses.

Drywall screws, wood screws, GRK screws, and pocket screws with a bugle-shaped head all have a specific purpose, so let me briefly discuss each.

Table of Contents

Drywall Screws

I consider this a fastener-type screw because it helps attach drywall (known as wallboard or gypsum) to metal studs or wood. Compared to wood screws, drywall screws have a sharper point and coarser thread, to ensure a more secure drywall grip. Why do I like them? Given their strength, they can hold the drywall securely, are easy to install. Of course, I can use my power drill to secure them into studs easily. On home renovation projects, I’ve seen their widespread use and for a DIYer like yourself or I, they’re very good because they’re inexpensive!

GRK Screws

I particularly like using GRK screws, because of their specific design and use in wood. When I work on projects like kitchen cabinets or decks, they can provide a strong hold. They’re also great for outdoor use due to rust resistance.

Pocket Screws

Pocket screws are used to join two pieces of wood. Their special design allows for insertion at an angle to create a hidden joint. I find pocket screws very useful because they’re easy to use and because they can create a very strong, tight joint. Once I finish any project, they’re not visible, helping to create a polished and finished look. Woodworking projects are the most common use for these screws; especially furniture building, cabinet-making and other do it yourself (DIY projects).

Wood Screws

Wood screws are a fastener to help attach wood pieces. They make these screws of steel with a pointed tip. Threads extend through the entire screw length, while its recessed head supports drills or screwdrivers for grip during use/installation. Their strength allows me to secure wood easily with a power drill or screwdriver. As well, when used, they can be flush with the surface of the wood, to support a smooth surface of varnish or painting.

male contractor installing kitchen cabinets with power drill

The Best Screws for Kitchen Cabinets

Notably, a self-tapping thread design and a square-shaped drive system were two phrases that were going to become very familiar to me.

We can only explain the best screws for kitchen cabinet installations by recognizing their function and learning the basics of their reason. I took on the task of helping Joe, a seasoned carpenter, to install my new kitchen cabinets

I am here to share some of my experiences of the importance of screws and hardware.

Here are a few facts that I learned:

  • Square drive system flat head 3″ alloy steel is the best for cabinet to wall installation
  • GRK trim head round tor screws work well when securing face frames
  • Frameless cabinets recommend Phillips and slotted 1 1/4″ Cabinet-to-Cabinet steel posts

There is no question that we need the best cabinet screws on the market for durability and safety. It is also wise to take a course in cabinetmaking if you are planning on having a hands-on approach with your professional. I had become familiar with the safety, types of wood, and power tools through a basic course at a nearby community college have. Cabinet installation is a skilled trade that takes years to perfect.

Visit to Big Box Stores

I accompanied Joe on the shopping trip to home centers and local stores, where I was startled at the price of a piece of wood and cabinet doors. You certainly could not afford to make many mistakes in locating stud locations or hanging frameless cabinets. The different materials could cost you dearly.

The price of a single family home has increased by $14,000 in the past few years due to lumber cost and supply. The cost of cabinets has followed suit.

While Joe was busy checking and loading the prearranged order of face frame cabinets and the right cabinet installation materials, I wandered over to the section where the screws were kept. The walls were lined with every type of screw imaginable. Selecting the right screws for the job was going to be harder than I thought. 

I turned to see Joe laughing at my expression of total confusion. I followed him like a school girl with my pen and paper, hoping to learn the difference between a variety of screws. Torx screws were first on the list of different screw types. Joe explained that these types of screws were better than square drive screws in providing maximum torque. 

Washer head screws were next for good tightening of joints. Besides being self-piercing, there is a built-in washer to allow better distribution of weight. In my eagerness to help, I picked up a box of drywall screws. Joe promptly returned them to the shelf and explained the difference between drywall screws and cabinet screws.

The head of the screw defines the difference in use. All screws made for drywall will have a flat head and a Philips head type. Cabinet screws have a washer-head screw or a button-head screw top. The different names given to cabinet screws usually apply to the shape of the head, but can apply to the manufacturer, like GRK trim handy screws. 

After picking up a few more boxes of trim head screws, very small head screws, and other specialty screws, we headed to the drill bits that were appropriate for our screws. I paid close attention to each drill bit he selected. Joe never stopped talking about how making a poor choice of screws could lead to a new kitchen cabinet pulling away from the back of the cabinet that was not designed for heavy loads. 

If you think about it, everything that is piled into your own cabinets can carry considerable weight. Cabinet installers are aware of the importance of balancing the right weight bearing screws to be the best fasteners. We were careful to pick out the best manufacturer. I suddenly felt silly in thinking that any screw could work like proper cabinet screws. 

woman looking at male contractor installing kitchen cabinet door in the kitchen with power drill

Kitchen Cabinet Installation

Hanging the Cabinets

After unloading all the cabinet material, the ideal location for all the cabinets needed to be marked. If you think that easy ways can be used, think again. There are no shortcuts in hanging cabinets. The cabinet manufacturer may provide a short article on installation, but having a seasoned carpenter is something I always recommend.

We started by locating the wall studs with a stud finder and made a vertical line for each one. Another critical factor is to know if you have wood studs or metal studs. This will determine the type of pilot hole and the type of impact driver screw head to use. Usually, a magnet will pick up the steel beam and stick to the wall.

It is a good idea to know the approximate height of the upper cabinet box in relation to the ceiling. I wanted an open space for now with the option of filling it in later. Joe made a straight line from the floor to the top of the base cabinets. Joe then made a chalk line from the ceiling to the floor. This ensured a level line from the bottom edge of the upper cabinets to the bottom cabinet frame.

Once the location of the kitchen wall cabinets get perfectly measured and marked, screw holes need to be determined. A clearance hole saves us from drilling at awkward angles when securing the top cabinets overhead. Either use a cabinet jack or a ledger board to keep the height adjusted. Keep slip shims and a level close by for constant balancing and filling in gaps. Walls along the back panel of a cabinet may be bowed. A filler strip and slip shim can eliminate this space.

Attaching Multiple Cabinets

I was amazed at the perfection of our first hung cabinet. So I let out a gasp when I saw Joe loosen the screws. He explained that the bottom of the upper cabinets were not level and needed adjusting. The sides of the cabinet appeared a little crooked, as did the edge of the first cabinet. The level confirmed that the first cabinet was a fraction of an inch off. This was not noticeable until placed beside an adjacent cabinet. The edge of the face frame looked perfectly level to me.

Not only did Joe have a good eye, but he had the patience of a saint. The cabinet sides and the top of the cabinet were barely noticeable, with the cabinet face frames covering the slim imperfection. However, that is not the highest point in good woodworking practices. Just as there is a specialty screw for every carpentry task, so is the good rule of thumb in providing unmovable shear strength when fastening cabinets. 

I further discovered that there were a host of problems that could throw off your entire cabinet hanging project. First, concrete walls require different mounting screws. A second piece of advice is to never use butt joints that are glued together. They are not strong enough to hold cabinets. 

Joe’s precision and knowledge of attacking a problem and paying attention to detail, right down to the bottom shelf pin holes, gave me a new perspective as to why I hired him. There are plenty of DIY books that explain how to hang your own cabinets. However, it would take many volumes to wrap your head around the different screws, the importance of weight balance, and the absolute precision of leveling. 

After all, who wants an overhead door flying open because we ignored a centimeter of an inch in a cabinet hanging?

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