The hardest part about starting any big project? Just getting started! I knew that building these cabinets was going to include a lot of steps! And that keeping the steps in order was going to be really important. But once I got past that mental block and made my first cuts, I was off to the races. There were still A LOT of difficult parts in this project, but getting started was definitely the toughest. Let’s start making cabinets!
Step 1: Building Bases
Building cabinet bases is important for two reasons. First, it gives some added support and allows you to screw the boxes into them, making them extra sturdy. But, it also allows you to easily create a toe kick!
Cut and Assemble
I used 2×4’s for my bases, and used the following dimensions:
- Width: Full width of the cabinet
- Depth: Depth of cabinet minus 3 ½” (leaving room for baseboard and toe kick!)
- Height: 3 ½” because this is the height of a 2×4! Remember that 2×4’s are not 2” x 4”. They are actually 1 ½” x 3 ½”
To assemble, I just used 3” wood screws to build the boxes.
I used my stud finder along this entire wall and marked where all my studs were using small pieces of painter’s tape. Once I had the bases built, I put them in place and checked for level. Then, I added shims underneath to make sure that the boxes were perfectly level. To install the bases, I used my 3” wood screws and secured them to the studs.
Making Cabinets around a Baseboard Vent
For my last cabinet (Cabinet D), I knew that I would have to figure out a way to help airflow from my baseboard vent. This vent was directly behind our old fridge, so it never got a lot of air circulation. But when I was reconfiguring this area, I was able to move the fridge over so that it only just covered a portion. Now, I needed to figure out how to make sure that the air didn’t get stuck behind the new cabinet.
I spent quite a bit of time figuring this part out. There are kits you can buy online, but honestly, they are a bit pricey for what they are. Instead, I decided to DIY mine.
Here’s the thing, air will move to the point of least resistance. So, as long as I’m being mindful and creating a clear path, it’ll work!
I picked up a register, some thin sheet metal, and metal shears. I started by cutting openings in the base in both the back and front that would allow the air to pass through. Then I used the sheet metal and basically enclosed the area of the base where the air would go through. The metal just creates a smoother surface and allows air to pass a little easier than bare wood does.
Next, I installed the air vent to the front of the base where I had cut the hole and honestly it’s worked great! We’ve definitely noticed quite a difference since installing all of this. We can actually finally feel the air coming through that was previously blocked off from the old fridge placement!
Step 2: Build Boxes
When making cabinets, this is kind of the main event!
- ¾” Plywood
- 1×3’s (common pine is fine!)
Cut and Assemble
First up, you want to cut all of your plywood and hardboard to size. The plywood will be the top, bottom, and sides, whereas the hardboard will be the backing. You can also pre-prime the hardboard first if you want to make that step a bit easier!
Then, your 1x3s will act as your supports so you can secure it to the wall. They will be the full width of the cabinet minus 1 ½” since you want to subtract the thickness of your plywood.
Next, you’ll want to add some pocket holes. For the plywood, you’ll add these to the bottom piece and top pieces, on the sides that are facing the floor and the ceiling. You’ll make sure that the pocket holes are facing the right and left so that you can secure the sides of the cabinet box. Then, take your 1x3s and add pocket holes to the back of each piece, again on the left and right.
TIP: Need a little more detail with this step? My DIY Workbench build may be helpful, so check that out!
After your pieces are cut and pocket-holed, it’s time to assemble. I actually brought all of my pieces up to my kitchen to do this part because I knew it was going to be pretty difficult to move it once it was put together.
To assemble, you’ll want to use a combination of wood glue and pocket screws for the best bond. I used my corner clamps and regularly checked for square before securing each piece. This part takes some maneuvering, especially with such large pieces, but it’s pretty straightforward!
Once it’s built and you triple-check for square, you can add your 1x3s. You’ll want to clamp them in place, then use glue and pocket screws to secure them to the inside edge of the cabinet box.
And finally, it’s time to add your hardboard. You’ll apply a thin bead of wood glue all along the back edges, then just lay the board over the back of the box. Once you have it completely aligned, add some small nails every couple of inches around the entire thing.
Note that for my Cabinet D box, where my coffee station would go, I did NOT add a top. I’m going to add a countertop later, so this would’ve been a waste of material. So, the top remained open for now, minus a little extra support.
To install this, you’ll obviously need to stand it up. The tall boxes can be a little heavy, and make sure you have clearance on your ceiling to do so! Once it’s up, you’ll prop it up on your base and check the entire thing for square and level. Once it’s good to go, you can secure the supports right into your studs with 3” wood screws!
For the cabinet over the fridge, since there isn’t a base, I did need my husband’s help to hold it up while I secured it! I pre-drilled some screws into the supports so that I wasn’t fumbling with screws as he held this over his head! You’ll also want to start with the middle screw so that you can check for level once some of the weight is taken off.
And that’s it! I know that this can seem really intimidating, but it’s not that bad! I was honestly quite impressed with how simple this process actually was and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Step 3: Add Shelves
OK, so we have our boxes, but now it’s time to start making the cabinets take shape. First, we’ll add some shelves.
Cut and Assemble
Even though I had pre-planned the size of these shelves, it’s always a good idea to verify that your math and plan actually work. So, double-check all of your measurements at this point now that you have your actual box built!
Then, you can start making your cuts using a circular or table saw. Once they are cut, you can add your pocket holes to the left and right sides of each shelf.
Once again, you’ll want to use a thin bead of wood glue and install using pocket screws. Making sure everything is level before you install is crucial. I used a combination of scrap wood and clamps to hold the shelves in place once I had everything level.
Step 4: Add Face Frame
Adding the face frame is really what takes your bare cabinet box to the next level. It covers all the rough edges and adds a thickness that just looks better!
I like to use select or pre-primed 1x2s for my face frame. They are a bit more expensive than common pine, but you want them to be as smooth and straight as possible, so it’s worth it. You’ll cut pieces that go around the entire cabinet box, and over each shelf. I also added face frames between each of my drawers, but I wasn’t ready for that step here, so I did that later.
There are two ways you can install face frames. You can either pre-assemble them using pocket holes, then nail them in place, or you can just nail them in as separate pieces. I opted to do the second one, but I should’ve done the first! When you pre-install them, it helps keep each of the seams much tighter. Some of mine are already separating a bit and will need to be fixed. You live and you learn, right?
Now that we are done making cabinet boxes, shelves, and face frames, it’s time to start adding some doors and drawers!