How To Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets

How To Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets – Building cabinets for your kitchen, bathroom or built-in may seem difficult, but it’s not! Most cabinets are just easy boxes. And joins can be hidden on the outside of the cabinets that are then hidden when the cabinets are installed.

Last year I took on the task of building all the cabinets for a DIY kitchen renovation. I saved thousands of dollars making high quality cabinets with basic tools. You can read all about the cheap tools I used to build my cabinets here.

How To Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets

So if you want to learn how to build cabinets for your own remodels, I’m going to break down all the information for you.

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There are many reasons why building your own cabinets is better than buying pre-fab cabinets or paying a hefty price for custom cabinets.

There are two main types of cabinets you can see when you are looking to buy or build: face frames and frameless cabinets (or Euro-style cabinets). Both of these cabinet styles can be built by you.

Which one you choose depends on the style you want. Each of them has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Choose which one you want based on this and the style you want in your space.

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A face frame cabinet is a cabinet that has a frame that covers the front of the cabinet box. The box is made of plywood and then the face frame is made of solid wood (usually 1x2s) and attached to the front to cover the edges of the plywood. Face frame cabinets are more traditional in the US and are what we used in our kitchen remodel.

The face frame is made with rails and stiles around the perimeter and additional rails for framing around the drawer openings. When choosing drawer slides, you must be aware that the face frame will be in the normal way and must add blocking to the side of the drawer slide and even with the face frame or use special slides for the face frame.

You can use overlay cabinet doors (they sit on top of the face frame) or inset cabinet doors (they sit inside the face frame and are flush with the front). Overlay cabinet doors can leave the large look of the face frame or go smaller for a more modern look, depending on the hinges you choose.

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Frameless cabinets are cabinets made only of plywood. The edges of the plywood are covered with edge tape to finish them off. They are sometimes called European style cabinets and are made very popular by Ikea. This is a very simple, modern design for cabinets.

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One of the challenges with frameless cabinets is keeping the cabinet box perfectly square. If it is not square, you can struggle with installing a row of cabinets and hanging the door to show it.

You can use overlay or inset cabinet doors for frameless cabinets as well. The only overlay option for frameless is a full-overlay that covers the entire (about 1/8″) side of the cabinet.

Since there are many different types of cabinet boxes, this article will be a general overview of how to build a cabinet. I will try to cover all aspects of all types of cabinets. If I missed anything, leave a comment and I’ll answer it there.

To begin, let’s look at some parts of the cabinet box. This part varies slightly based on whether you are doing a face frame cabinet or a frameless cabinet.

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Each cabinet carcass will have two sides made of 3/4″ plywood. If you are building cabinets for a kitchen, all sides of your base cabinets will be the same size and all sides of your wall cabinets will be the same size. You can make deeper cabinets for the fridge and pantry if you want.

The back of the cabinet can be made from 3/4″ plywood or use supports (3-4″ pieces of 3/4″ plywood) to keep the box square and strong, then cover the back with 1/4″ plywood. This is especially helpful for cabinets that will need plumbing holes drilled through them. You can also save a lot of money by using 1/4″ plywood for the back on large cabinet projects.

Below is the lowest shelf of the cabinet. For basic cabinets, it sits level with the top of the toe-kick. For wall cabinets with a face frame, it sits level with the top of the face frame rail below so you don’t have a lip on the shelf.

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The base of the cabinets usually has a toe-kick to lift the cabinets up off the floor slightly. The toe-kick can be cut into the side of the cabinet. Or for the larger part of the cabinets, you can build a 2 × 4 box on the floor as a toe-kick and then set the cabinets on top of it. This helps if you do a large span of cabinets because you can get more sides cut out of the 4’x8′ sheet of plywood if you use the standard cabinet height, so you save money. And you can level the 2×4 box easily before installing the cabinet.

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Top: wall cabinets will have a top piece, but usually the base cabinets that are topped off with a countertop do not have a top piece. Instead, supports are used to keep the cabinet box square and sturdy, then the cabinet is closed off when the countertops are installed. If you are making a built-in without a countertop, you can add a top instead.

Supports are smaller pieces of plywood (usually 3-4″ wide and the width of the cabinet carcass) that are used to keep the cabinet box square and strong. You will use 1 or 2 in place of the top piece on the cabinets that will have a countertop on them. For frameless cabinets, you will use the support between to separate out the drawer section.

Face frame: If you are building a face frame cabinet, you will add a face frame to the front of the cabinet carcass. The face frame consists of stiles (the full height of the cabinet face frame) and rails (running horizontally between the stiles).

The cabinet carcass is a box-shaped plywood. If you build frameless cabinets, this will be the whole build. If you are building a face frame cabinet, you will build your front frame and then put the two together.

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If all your pieces are square and cut at a perfect 90 degree angle, you will have a perfect cabinet box. Then the only challenge you have to overcome during installation is your uneven wall.

When making many cabinets, take the time to lay out how you will cut each piece of plywood. You typically want the grain of the plywood to run vertically on the side piece. For horizontal pieces, have the grain running side to side, not front to back.

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To use a circular saw and guide line to cut plywood, lay a 2″ piece of rigid foam on the ground or your workbench and place the plywood on top.

Make sure the plywood is square, if not, start by cutting the short side to square it up to the long side. Then cut out your pieces. Label them when you want to make it easier to assemble later.

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Set your pocket hole jig to drill holes in 3/4″ thick material. I love the Kreg Jig K4 system and use it on almost every woodworking project.

Drill pocket holes on both sides of the bottom piece, the top piece, and the support piece. How many pocket holes you will need depends on how long your piece is. You want them at least every 4-5 inches. For the support pieces, make sure you have 2 on each end.

For the face frame cabinet, drill pocket holes in the front bottom, top, and side to attach the face frame later. It is very easy to drill pocket holes before assembly so don’t forget this step.

If you cut the toe-kick out of the side of the cabinet, cut this out now. You can use a jigsaw to easily cut any size toe kick you want, usually about 4″ tall and 2-3″ deep.

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All joints need wood glue to give your cabinet box strength to hold. If you are using finished plywood, ordinary wood glue will not work. Instead, use melamine glue (I love this RooClear glue).

Place one of the pieces on the bottom side of your work surface so that the outside (the side with the pocket hole) is facing down. Apply glue to the side of the bottom piece and clamp it to the side piece.

For the base cabinet, make sure it is parallel to the bottom of the toe-kick or the bottom of the side (if there is no toe-kick). For wall cabinets, make sure it is set so that it is parallel with the top of the bottom surface frame

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