Even for clients who are generally happy with their cabinetry, a common kitchen upgrade in my area is to change out an existing laminate countertop with one made from granite, quartz, marble, or some other natural or synthetic stone. The problem, though, is that stone countertops are much less forgiving of out-of-level cabinetry than laminate countertops are. The Marble Institute of America recommends the top surface of the cabinets be within 1/8 inch (3mm) of flat and level across a distance of 10 feet (3 meters). If your clients currently have a laminate-type countertop, odds are that their cabinets don’t meet this recommendation.

That’s where I come in. For the past several years, I’ve specialized in prepping cabinetry for stone countertop installations for several big-box home centers in my area. To be profitable, I’ve had to develop a fast and accurate way of leveling existing out-of-level cabinetry for this popular upgrade.

Establishing a baseline level. The most efficient way to establish a level line for cabinets is with a self-leveling laser, though it is possible to do this with a spirit level if the level’s accurate and long enough to span the longest run of cabinets. Trying to achieve a variation of 1/8 inch or less over the total span of a set of cabinets just isn’t possible using a short spirit level on top of each box, which might itself be level but still be out of plane with other cabinets.

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