How to Install Knobs & Pulls


An easy way to update cabinets and drawers is to change their hardware. A new cabinet knob or drawer pull can modernize a plain piece of furniture, match a faux aged or antique cupboard, add charm to a nursery dresser or replace a broken pull so you can get into the drawer without prying it open with a crowbar. These are all good reasons to master simple installation techniques for occasions when you can't just swap new-for-old pulls using the same holes. A knob usually takes one hole and a pull generally has two; 3/16-inch is a common size for the screws.

Things You'll Need

  • Knobs or pulls
  • Washers (optional)
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Drill with 3/16-inch bit, or proper bit size
  • Carpenter's level
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Painter's tape
  • Decide where the knob or pull will go on the furniture. Typically, a cabinet knob is placed 1 ½ inches from the vertical, opening edge of a cabinet and 2 inches from the top of the cabinet on lower cabinets, 2 inches from the bottom of the cabinet on upper cabinets. Single drawer pulls are usually centered and 3 inches from the top edge of the drawer. Use those measures as a guide, but determine the best placement for your furniture. Just keep it standard throughout all pieces.

  • Stick a piece of blue tape where you will drill and mark it for drill holes. The tape peels off later with no problem and no residue and saves you marking on the wood or cabinet surface, in case you make a mistake and have to remeasure. Measure and mark all holes to be drilled.

  • Place the point of the nail on the mark for each hole and tap lightly with the hammer to create a "starter hole" for the drill bit. This helps you to guide the drill and keep it steadier.

  • Drill the holes from front to back -- outside to inside. This prevents accidentally splitting the wood. Wipe off sawdust and remove the blue tape.

  • Insert the screw from the back or inside and slip a washer over it where it pokes through the wood. Twist the knob onto the screw and washer on the outward-facing panel. Place a drawer pull against the screws. Use a screwdriver to tighten the screws and secure the hardware. Once the new knobs or pulls are securely fastened, stop turning to avoid stripping the screw or splitting the wood. Note that some knobs and pulls won't hide a washer once they are installed. In that case, skip the washer.

Tips & Warnings

  • When you are installing a wall of cabinets, make a scrap wood guide to keep knob or pull holes even. Glue or nail two pieces of wood into a right angle. Hold the angle against the edge of the first cabinet door and line it up with the marked spot to drill a hole. Do this for right- and left-opening doors. Mark the spot to drill, take the guide away and drill the holes. Place the guide on each cabinet and drill through the predrilled hole for every knob so the placement will be uniform.

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