Cutting Shims

Fine points of a minor, but important element in cabinet installation: the lowly shim. April 14, 2010

Quick question regarding leveling cabinets. We do plastic laminate commercial casework and always have a ton of laminate left over. We always have in the past cut it up into small pieces and used it for shimming our base cabinet kicks along with other thickness of MDF etc. As I look and watch someone spend all day cutting shims I wonder if it would be cost effective to just buy wooden shims. What do you think?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor G:
Using a tapered shim is eons quicker than using laminate shims. Plus they are infinitely variable whereas laminate has specific thicknesses.

From contributor A:
We buy a bundle of cedar shakes a couple of times a year. We take the whole bundle and rip them into 2" strips throwing away the scraps. Immediately throw the shims in 5 gallon pails. They are the best shims for hanging doors, casework, trim, and whatever else would need a shim. We usually get about ten gallons of shims from one bundle. I think the bundle is about $20.

From contributor G:
I do the same thing but I cut mine to 1 1/4" widths.

From contributor S:
Same here I've just never been smart enough or had the time to rip them so I keep a 55 gallon trash can full and waste my time breaking them into sections when needed. I think I might follow suit.

From contributor D:
Does anyone use the breakaway composite shims?

From contributor R:
Good old low grade white cedar shingles. They are fast and easy.

From contributor A:
We actually cut for 2"(hanging doors with 1 1/4" is a little light) then cut the scraps for 1". I usually keep a gallon of the 1" for shimming baseboard, crown, wainscotting. Next batch, I'll meet you in the middle at 1 5/8".

From contributor O:
I bought six cases of the breakaway composites at a big box store when they reduced them to 25 cents per package (I think that there are 12 to the pack

From Gary Katz, forum technical advisor:
I like the breakaway ones for finish work, too, but Iíve always cut endgrain shims off 2x6 scraps. It's a little more time consuming that ripping shingles, and you have to use a table-saw sled, but the endgrain snaps off very easily.

From contributor V:
I'm a big fan of shim stock cut the way you describe. I ask the millwork shop to cut up a box or 2 of 2x2 squares of assorted thickness shims to be included with every delivery. I also keep a pail of dry cedar shims on the job as well.