How To Fill A Gap Between Kitchen Cabinets And Wall

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There are many common issues that can result in gaps between kitchen cabinets and your walls. So, you may be wondering what you can use to fill those gaps. We have thoroughly researched the best methods to fill in unwanted gaps along your kitchen cabinets.

The ideal solution for filling gaps between your kitchen cabinets and walls is subject to change based on the width of the gap and your personal preference for the finished look. If the gap is small, then caulk will do. Consider the following steps to select and install the appropriate filling:

  1. Select either caulk, scribe molding, or cabinet filler strip
  2. Cut to size (scribe molding and filler strips)
  3. Install

Whether your cabinets and walls have intentional or unwanted gaps, filling them can be somewhat challenging. It may require some unique tools and skills. Keep reading to learn how to choose the ideal gap filler for your cabinets, how to install it, and how much space a dishwasher might need with your base cabinets.

Contemporary Kitchen with kitchen cabinets, How To Fill A Gap Between Kitchen Cabinets And Wall

How much space should be between the cabinet and wall?

There is frequently an intentional gap between your cabinet and the wall beside it, which usually measures one to three inches. This spare clearance will allow you to fit kitchen cabinets between walls more accurately. 

It is easier to fill gaps created by uneven walls after installation. Otherwise, you may struggle to fit wide cabinets that are designed to be snug from the beginning. A proper gap will allow most conventional kitchen cabinets to open correctly.

1. Select Caulk, Scribe Molding, or Cabinet Filler Strip

Using measuring tape, you will have to determine the size of the gap you are looking to fill. Caulk and scribe moldings are mainly used for smaller gaps, while a cabinet filler strip can be as wide as three inches. However, the methods of installation vary in difficulty and cost, as each requires different tools.

Should I caulk between the cabinet and wall?

Click here to find this latex caulk on Amazon.

Caulk is a joint filler generally made of latex or rubber. It can help with gaps that measure up to a quarter of an inch. Although silicone is sometimes preferred, double-check that you can paint your caulk. Paint does not adhere well to pure silicone caulk, which would only make the gap between your cabinet and wall even more noticeable.

Backer Rod & Caulk

If the gap measures slightly larger than a quarter of an inch, you might be able to use a backer rod to create a bridge. A backer rod is a foam rod that limits the amount of caulk needed and also adds support to the joint filler. However, this is rarely ideal, so larger gaps may require you to look beyond caulk in the first place.

What is a scribe molding?

Scribe moldings are thin, finished pieces of wooden trim that help cover slightly larger gaps. They are particularly useful because they are also somewhat flexible. This allows scribe moldings to work with curves and uneven walls. They are primarily used between the back of a cabinet and the wall.

Scribe moldings are generally considered effective with gaps that are up to half an inch wide, which is double the distance that caulk can fill. It is also more ideal for the back of a cabinet than caulk. And although cabinet filler strips can be scribed too, they are generally not as flexible or thin.

What is a cabinet filler strip?

These strips are often included with the kitchen cabinets themselves. They will be finished to match the cabinets and will also be made of the same material. Fillers usually range in size from one and a half inches to three inches wide. Some strips may even be as wide as six inches. 

As such, cabinet filler strips are the most effective way to cover large gaps between the side of a cabinet and the wall. However, they can also be the most complicated. Since walls are rarely perfectly even, the strips often need to be measured and cut to size with challenging tools. They will also need to align between the upper cabinets and lower cabinets.

What is an IKEA deco strip?

The official IKEA website explains these strips of wood are decorative pieces, mainly used with kitchen wall cabinets. You can use them to cover unsightly electrical disruptions such as cords and outlets as well.

They might also be used as a traditional molding on top of the wall cabinets. You can read the post “Should Kitchen Cabinets Reach The Ceiling?” for details on cabinet height. Still, the broad design of some of IKEA’s deco strips would make it relatively easy to repurpose them for other circumstances.

How thick are IKEA filler pieces?

Most IKEA filler pieces will measure around three-quarters of an inch in thickness. However, there are a variety of different fillers that are uniquely suited for certain purposes. For example, a countered IKEA filler can measure as thin as one and one-eighth of an inch.

2. Cut Scribe Molding or Filler Strips

If your gap is too large, then you will have to work with scribe moldings or filler strips. Either way, these are likely made of wood that will need to be cut down to size. Both gap fillers should be equal in length to the kitchen cabinet, from the top edge to the bottom edge. 

Use a miter saw to cut down a strip of wood to length. Then, use a table saw to adjust the width of the filler. The width should be slightly larger than the gap to begin. 

Next, you need to scribe the wood for a perfect alignment against the wall. This is the most challenging part of the process and may require professionals due to the necessary skills and tools.

Click here to see this scribe compass on Amazon.

Press the wood against the wall, and then clamp it to the cabinet. This will allow you to use a scribing compass, which is necessary to mark the curvature of the wall all the way down your filler. Finally, a belt sander tool can be used to trim the wood down to the scribe line you marked.

Click here to see this belt sander on Amazon.

3. Install

Scribe moldings and filler strips both need to be installed similarly, because they are both strips of wood. Meanwhile, caulk works more like glue, and will not require all of the extra treatment for wood.

Installing Caulk

If necessary, you can add in a backer rod. This will shorten the amount of caulk you need and help create more stability by evenly pushing the caulk against the sides. 

Click here to find this backer rod on Amazon.

Make sure to use a caulk that you can paint to match your cabinets. Caulk is applied as one steady line or bead. This should be used inside of a gap that measures a quarter of an inch or less. 

Caulk is typically available in squeeze tubes, which then need to be secured to a caulk gun. A caulk gun is a moderately sized hand tool that allows you to fasten a caulk squeeze tube to it, open up the tube’s nozzle, and then distribute the caulk with a trigger. The trigger pushes a plunger downward, which forces more caulk out of the tube, saving you a lot of work.

Installing Scribe Moldings

You may need to close the gap between the back of your cabinets and the wall, commonly found with end cabinets. If you’ve selected and finished scribe moldings, then your next step is to attach them to the back gap of the cabinet. 

Align the molding with the top and bottom of the cabinet, and make sure the flat side is pressed against the cabinet. Then, use a pin nailer to secure the molding at either end. 

Click here to find this pin nailer on Amazon.

Pin nailers are a specialty type of nail gun that is compatible with small, headless fasteners that will remain hidden when you’re done. Add more of these fasteners about four inches apart until the scribe molding is totally secured. If necessary, you can cover the resulting holes with wood filler.

How do you install filler strips on base cabinets?

Filler strips for base or wall kitchen cabinets are mostly installed the same way. They need to be measured, scribed, cut to size, and finished. However, upper cabinets will likely require a cabinet jack to hold your strip in place.

Click here to see these cabinet jacks on Amazon.

Filler strips are thicker than scribe moldings and may need screws instead of just adhesive. Clamp your filler strips to the cabinet again so that you can drill pilot holes through the cabinet box and into the strip. You can hide these screws by drilling them beside the hinge arms. Washer-head screws are ideal because the head has a large diameter.

Click here to find these cabinet screws on Amazon.

How much gap do you leave between the cabinet and dishwasher?

It isn’t always necessary to leave a gap between the dishwasher and cabinets. In fact, it’s possible to purchase mounting brackets that secure the dishwasher directly to the base cabinets instead of the countertop.

This is often done when you have granite or stone counters, which you wouldn’t be able to drill. You can read the post “How To Secure A Dishwasher To The Cabinet” for more details.

Summary

There are many kinds of gaps between kitchen cabinets and the walls. These issues require different solutions, depending on the size and position of the gap. While caulking is easier, it isn’t ideal for most types of cabinet gaps.

Unfortunately, scribing is a challenging yet necessary process for scribe moldings and filler strips to fit properly. Still, with the correct tools and steps, it is possible to install these fillers yourself.

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