Cabinets in Basements

Q: I'd like to install cabinets in my basement, but how do I protect them from water damage?

installing kitchen cabinets
Photo by Brian Smith

I have some old kitchen cabinets that I'd like to put in my basement, which sometimes gets a little water after a hard rain. How should I install the cabinets to prevent them from getting damaged?
Rosa Mendoza, Chicago


Norm Abram replies: Reusing old cabinets is a great way to recycle and to gain some extra storage space in the process. But you're right to be worried about the water because it's a serious problem in basements and garages. Here are some things to keep in mind before you install them.

The best cabinets for these locations are made of plywood. Particleboard and medium-density fiberboard cabinets have a harder time surviving anywhere it's damp, unless you can keep the humidity below 65 percent.

Before you install the base cabinets, seal their bottom edges with an oil-based paint or primer, which makes a good barrier against moisture.

Never put cabinets directly on a concrete floor. Even in a dry basement, wood can absorb moisture from the concrete, so place the cabinets on nonabsorbent spacers, such as scraps of vinyl flooring or plastic decking, depending on how much water gets into your basement. Avoid using metal, because it rusts.

You can level the cabinets with wood shims sold at home centers; just be sure you slip them between the cabinet and the spacers so that they don't absorb moisture from the concrete either. Even better are the stiff plastic "installation shims" made by Wobble Wedges.


TV Listings

Find TV Listing for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.