Why Would A Cabinet Fall Off The Wall Or Ceiling? (4 Reasons!)

Picture this – you are trying to reach for your favorite pack of noodles in the wall cabinet and, probably because it is filled up with heavy items, it falls in your hands and then off to the ground.

It is not uncommon to bump into perplexed homeowners in forums telling how they woke up to wall cabinets on the floor with all their leftover pasta strewn all over the kitchen.

Sometimes it strikes when you least expect it, such as after a recent kitchen remodeling that you thought fixed everything wrong in the space.

But, Why Would A Cabinet Fall Off The Wall Or Ceiling?

There are a plethora of reasons. Maybe you didn’t install your cabinets in the position of studs. Also, if the contractor didn’t fasten them in place firmly enough, it is just a matter of when and not how your cabinet will come smashing on the floor with a significant weight in them.

Four Big Reasons For Falling Kitchen Cabinets

Let’s dig a little deeper into this:

1. Stud Problems

The absence of studs in the part of the wall where the installation took place, or structural problems with those studs if they are present at all, is the number one cause of falling cabinets.

Most of the reported cases involve a contractor failing to install the cabinets in the same position as the studs – remember the cabinet needs to distribute its weight on the studs, not a bare drywall or brick wall with a layer of plaster.

In newer houses, the sturdy 2x6s or 2x4s used to frame the wall occur at regular intervals of 16″ so that they can support uniform 4’x8′ sections of drywall.

Older frame-construction houses, however, have their studs positioned about as 12″ or even 24″ apart – that’s little. Spacing in wall studs was not as critical in houses with walls covered with plaster or lath.

Since wall studs in older homes may not be positioned at standard intervals, your cabinet contractor should be knowledgeable enough to locate them using a stud finder. To securely refasten your cabinets in position, do not use any drywall screws!

Rather, use cabinet screws— they are also referred to as cabinet-hanging, powerhead screws, or washer-head.

Use some #10 wood screws measuring at least 3″ in length, such as the popular 3 /” cabinet screws. Anything too short will risk not hitting the stud via the plaster or lath.

You want the screws to penetrate the studs by at least 1 1/4″. If your wall cabinets themselves will be holding heavy items, fasten the units together with fine-thread #8 trim-head screw measuring 2 1/4″ long.

2. Overloading

Wall cabinets come with a maximum weight they can comfortably support even if they are attached to the strongest studs your home could have.

Filling your cabinets with sacks of grain you couldn’t build a pantry for, or loads of kitchenware that can take a toll on the cabinet will certainly collapse the cabinet.

According to the estimations made by Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, an average cabinet can hold a maximum of 600 lbs. in a given instant – add any weight beyond that and the chances of collapse will go higher.

 

This means you should only fill your cabinets with things that really deserve to be there.

For instance, food items belong to the pantry; stacking some sacks of your rice and stuff like that will certainly weaken your cabinet.

Most kitchenware is lightweight – either made of aluminum or stainless steel – hence their weight won’t add up to a dangerous level regardless of how many items you decide to cram in there.

Please note that nearly every other kitchen cabinet manufacturer dictates their own capacities and weight limits, but the 500 lbs. limit happens to be more common (although most probably a conservative estimate).

If you are having a custom wood kitchen cabinet built, they will not come with a specific weight limit suggested by the manufacturer. So, talk to your carpenter, and in case you are worried about overloading it, you can request the sturdiest and strongest custom wall cabinet the carpenter can ever make.

3. Weaknesses in Materials and Accessories

Cabinet material, fasteners, construction, joists, fasteners, and more are part of the mix that determines the weight limits of the kitchen cabinet.

Higher-quality cabinets are capable of holding more, heavier kitchenware and other items. This means the quality of wood and all the other materials used to make the cabinet has an influence on the weight limits of the final product.

Quality materials are durable and support big weights. Low-quality materials are more susceptible to disintegration, so they will make weak cabinets that support lower weights. Also, you need to distribute the weight evenly whenever you can.

So, basically, if your cabinet fell down yet the studs were good and everything else was how it was supposed to be, the quality of wood and other involved materials might be the culprit.

4. Problems with anchors

Anchors are normally added if the cabinet tries to dislodge or separate from the wall.

Anchoring can be temporary, so your cabinet probably fell down because the anchors lulled you into a false sense of security to believe that it would stay stuck forever.

Anchors don’t drop cabinets on their own; there must be a mitigating factor – maybe you overloaded the cabinet at some point or the wall became wet and weakened to a point where the anchors couldn’t hold the weight anymore.

Several kinds of anchors are applied in the installation of small cabinets. The most commonly used type is the Robertson screw, which comes with a much larger head compared to other screws of the same purpose. The large head provides enough gripping power against the nailer of the cabinet, reducing the likelihood the cabinet might separate from the head of the screw in the future.

Cabinets made from MDF (medium-density fiberboard) are notorious for breaking away from the wall of any type – whether drywall or stone-based – because its wooden nailer strip almost always fails.

Consider replacing toggle bolts, plastic, and mollys wall anchors if that’s what your contractor used during the installation process. Such types of anchors are made to mount to drywall, which can’t support large cabinet weights.

For you to install cabinets correctly, you will need to attach them to stud with the right type of screw rated for the job and one that can hold their weight as mentioned earlier.

The screw should also be driven through the cabinet’s nailer — located inside and across the cabinet top — and into the sturdy wall stud.

Most of the high-end cabinets sold today include both a bottom and top nailer, or a solid plywood backing that can support screws.

This gives the installer more locations to push the screw and perhaps hit the stud.

Related: How Can You Protect Countertops and Cabinets from Dishwasher Steam?

In a nutshell

Basically, there are a number of causes of falling cabinets:

  1. An issue concerning the studs: The absence of studs in the part of the wall where the installation took place, or structural problems with those studs if they are present at all, is the number one cause of falling cabinets.
  2. Nine out of ten times it involves a contractor failing to install the cabinets in the same position as the studs.
  3. The fact that they are wall cabinets should make you wary of filling them with heavy items as this might weaken the screws or anchors.
  4. The majority of cabinets sold today come with a maximum weight they can comfortably support even if they are attached to the strongest studs your home could have. Filling your cabinets with sacks of grain you couldn’t build a pantry for, or loads of kitchenware that can take a toll on the cabinet will certainly collapse the cabinet.
  5. The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association recognizes the average cabinet weight capacity of an average cabinet is about 600 lbs. in a given instant. Chances of falling increases when you add any weight beyond that point.

In case you are worried about overloading it, you can request the sturdiest and strongest custom wall cabinet the carpenter can ever make.

However, nearly every other kitchen cabinet manufacturer dictates their own capacities and weight limits, but the 500 lbs. limit happens to be more common (although most probably a conservative estimate).

If you are having a custom wood kitchen cabinet built, they will not come with a specific weight limit suggested by the manufacturer.

Regarding anchors, they don’t drop cabinets on their own unless there’s a mitigating factor like overloading the cabinet or the wall becoming moist and weakened to a point where they can’t hold the weight anymore.

Cabinet material, fasteners, construction, joists, fasteners, and more are part of the mix that determines the weight limits of the kitchen cabinet. Higher-quality cabinets are capable of holding more, heavier kitchenware and other items.

Quality materials are durable and support big weights; low-quality materials are more susceptible to disintegration, so they will make weak cabinets that support lower weights.

Cabinets made from MDF (medium-density fiberboard) are notorious for breaking away from the wall of any type – whether drywall or stone-based – because its wooden nailer strip almost always fails.

Remember that you need to distribute the weight evenly whenever you can.

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