Cabinet Hardware: Installation Tips & Tricks

March 22, 2021

One of the simplest, most budget-friendly ways you can update your kitchen (or any room with cabinetry) is to update your hardware. New cabinet hardware can dramatically change your space and easily be done in an hour or two — talk about a quick transformation! There are many options out there to choose from when it comes to cabinet hardware, including cabinet knobs and cabinet pulls. Consider this your handy guide to cabinet hardware installation with tips and tricks from interior designers to make it easier.

Types of Cabinet Hardware

The two main types of cabinet hardware are knobs and pulls. While the general design rule is “knobs on doors, pulls on drawers,” we at Centered by Design believe rules are made to be broken — so feel free to choose whatever works best for your space and lifestyle.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Overall, using pulls will give you a more modern look, while knobs lend a more traditional, sweeter vibe to cabinetry. If you have a kitchen with paneled appliances, you’ll also need appliance pulls. There are also many variations on cabinet hardware, including cabinet latches, bin pulls, finger pulls and more.

When counting how many pieces of cabinet hardware you need to replace your current set, we always recommend counting twice — and then counting again. A pro tip: Place a colored sticky note on each cabinet you’ve counted to ensure you don’t duplicate (when tallying up what you need in a large kitchen, counting can be tricker than you’d expect!). It’s also a smart idea to order a few more pieces than what you need, as sometimes cabinet hardware can come with imperfections.

Considering a larger kitchen reno? Download our 50-page Insider’s Guide to Kitchen Design PDF to guide you through the planning and execution.

Credit: Jack Creasy, Traditional Kitchen Knobs and Bin Pulls

Credit: Sarah Sherman Samuel, Modern tiny knobs and half moon finger pulls

Credit: Plain English, Round or ball knob

Sizes of Cabinet Hardware

This is really up to personal preference and the look you’re going for. But, here are some general rules of thumb when it comes to hardware sizing:

  • Pulls should typically be one-third of the width of the drawer. (For example, a drawer that’s 24 inches wide would need an 8-inch pull.)
  • Knobs should fit on your cabinet rail (on Shaker-style cabinets) with a little room to breathe on all sides. (If you have flat-panel cabinets, size is personal preference.)
  • Appliance pulls nearly always come in 12- or 18-inch lengths (occasionally bigger), so get one that’s proportional to your appliance size.

Something to think about if you’re on a tight budget is that pulls are generally more expensive than knobs, since they’re larger.

Credit: House and Home, Linear pulls

Credit: Frenchy Fancy, Modern Finger Pulls

Placement and Installation of Cabinet Hardware

The best part about changing out your cabinet hardware is that there’s no need for drilling holes (unless you’re switching from knobs to pulls or vice versa, which would require filling in the holes and potentially hiring a carpenter). You can just remove your existing hardware and replace it with your new pieces.

With that in mind, you generally won’t have to worry about the placement of the new hardware. But as a general rule, pulls should be directly centered on a drawer front, and knobs placed at the corner of the cabinet where the rail (horizontal) and stile (vertical) panels intersect. If you have two knobs on a wide drawer, each should be placed on the outer thirds.

To install: Start by hand-tightening the screws on knobs and pulls, then use a screwdriver to ensure they will stay in place.  If you have thick drawers or cabinets, you may find that the screws that come with your new hardware are not long enough. In that case, feel free to use the screws that used to hold your current hardware to attach the new ones.

Below are all cabinet installation photos from the Centered by Design portfolio of work:

Where to Buy Cabinet Hardware

You can find cabinet hardware at any building supply store, including many options at Home Depot and Lowe’s. However, if you want a more designer or customized look, look beyond those basic stores. Here are four of our favorites:

House of Antique Hardware: Vintage and antique-inspired hardware will add a punch of character to any kitchen or bathroom.

Restoration Hardware: High-quality hardware makes a difference, and there are many options here.

Anthropologie: If funky, patterned and/or colorful is what you’re seeking, check out their eclectic and unique offerings.

Schoolhouse: Classic and clean hardware found here will go with every type of aesthetic.

Want more ideas for stores to shop when designing your home? Download Our Favorite Resources for Interior Decorating PDF.

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Meet Claire

Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!

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