Installing Built-in Cabinets

Add architectural style to a new or vintage house with a built-in cabinet.

Intro

Built-in cabinets are one of the architectural features that give character to an older home. If your brand-new house doesn't have a built-in cabinet, you can add style and value by building it yourself.

First you need to do a little detective work on the interior wall where you want your cabinet to go. You need to find that wall's wiring, plumbing, heat ducts, cold-air returns, and other obstructions. If you can get into the attic and basement of your house, look for pipes, wires, and so forth going into the stud bay you're considering.

The cabinet construction is absolutely straightforward -- nothing more complicated than butt joints assembled with glue and screws. There's no fancy fitting for the back either. The frame for the front can be butt-jointed or mitered to coordinate with the window and door casings in your home.

Checklist

Time
Approximately 4 hours, plus time for the finish to dry

Tools
Tape measure, stud finder, 2-foot level, torpedo level, drywall saw, combination square, miter saw, table saw, hammer, drill with bits, nail set

Skills
Driving nails and screws, drilling, using table saw and miter saw

Prep
Wall surface should be painted; apply finish to all components of the cabinet

Materials
2x4 lumber for blocking, #6x2-inch flathead screws, quartersawn white oak or other lumber for box and optional shelves, shelf pins, masking tape, 3/4- and 1-1/4-inch brads, stain and finish, construction adhesive and caulking gun, woodworking glue and applicator brush, putty the color of your chosen wood

Step 1

After selecting the cabinet's location, mark the studs' edges on masking tape. With a 2-foot level, draw the opening's horizontal lines. Jab your drywall saw through the drywall at one horizontal line and cut the perimeter, letting the studs guide your saw for the vertical cuts. Remove the drywall rectangle.

Step 2

Cut a piece of 2x4 lumber as blocking to fit between the studs at the bottom of the opening. Drive screws through the drywall to secure the blocking in a level position, then drive screws through angled pilot holes into the studs. To avoid interference with the cabinet, countersink the screw heads. Blocking the top of the opening is optional.

Step 3

Referring to the Cabinet Assembly drawing, cut the lumber for the sides, top, and bottom of the cabinet. If you drill holes for adjustable shelves, make the lowest holes 4 inches from the bottom of the sides and the topmost holes 4 inches from the top. You'll probably find shelf pins that require 1/4-inch holes, but be aware that they're also available in several metric sizes. Screw and glue the box together; double-check for square before attaching the back.

Step 4

Make a face frame for the cabinet, allowing a 1/4-inch reveal around the front edges. Attach the face frame to the cabinet with glue and 1-1/4-inch brads. If you make the frame from stock that's 3/4 inch thick, choose 4d (1-1/2 inch) or longer finishing nails.

Step 5

Apply construction adhesive to the back edges of the face frame and to the lower blocking. Slide the cabinet assembly into its hole. Adhesive will hold it securely, or you can drive finishing nails through the vertical stiles of the face frame into the studs. Fill all holes with putty that is the color of the wood.


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