Hanging Cabinets on Adobe Walls

Quick tip for installing support blocking for cabinets into an adobe wall. September 5, 2006

I am new to the town of Taos, NM and need some information about hanging cabinets on adobe walls. Do I pre-drill the walls as I would regular stud walls? Should I use a masonry bit? What type and length screws should I use? Is any gluing necessary? Any information will help.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor A:
The builder should lay either lumber nailers or wooden blocks (known as "gringo blocks") in the locations where cabinets will be hung. It helps to take a picture of the walls before plaster goes on. If there are no gringo blocks, it's important to use any kind of support you can, i.e. side walls, decorative posts etc. to support wall cabinets. The screw holding power of adobe is highly variable and unpredictable, and gypsum plaster is not much better. I have never had any problem setting base cabinets with 3" deck screws right though the plaster, since the load is on the floor, but uppers - especially with heavy loads like dishes - are a different story. There used to be an adobe anchor made that was a three part wooden wedge that expanded as it was driven into a square hole made with a piece of square metal tube, but this was still no better than the quality of the block. Also a lot of old houses and some new ones have wooden bond beams at about 7' off the floor that make for great hanging.

From contributor B:
This brings back memories. I used to live in Silver City, NM in the 80's - lots of adobe homes. I live in AZ now, and there are none here. Anyway, Contributor A mentioned the method we used. We cut 2 X 2's to 6" and then set up a jig to cut taper cuts from the center of the back to nothing at the front (twice) the 6" length. This gave us three wedges, two at about 3/4" and one at 1-1/2". We would then just tape them back together the way they came off the table saw, throw them in a box, and off we'd go to the job site. There we'd lay out the locations needed to hang the cabinets (54" and 84"). Then we'd take one of the blocks, mark it on the wall and chisel out the adobe about 4" deep. Then we'd place the block in with the 1-1/2" X 1-1/2" end out and start driving it in until it was good and tight. There was usually some excess wedge sticking out that we just cut off flush with the wall or plumb with the corresponding block above or below it. This is one of those things that's easier to show you than to explain but I hope this gives you the general idea.