How to Build a Cabinet

Have you ever wondered how you could build your own cabinets for your kitchen, bathroom or office? Knowing how to build your own cabinets can save you thousands of dollars. Having nice cabinets in your home can make a big difference, but most cabinetry shops charge anywhere from $120-400 per square foot. Get started with Step 1 below to learn how to build your own cabinets and cut the price in half.


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    Plan your cabinets. Standard counter depth is 25", which the cabinets themselves being 24" to allow for a 1" countertop lip. Standard counter height is 36", with the cabinets usually being around 34.5" tall to allow room for the countertop material. For upper (or wall) cabinets, add 18-20" to the 36" counter height. Any space left over between that distance and your ceiling is fair game for upper cabinets. The cabinet width can be anywhere from 12-60", but always should be made in 3" increments. The most common sizes are 15", 18", 21", and 24". Always account for the size of the doors you want and can buy when planning the width of your cabinets.
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    Cut the sides. Cut out the side pieces out of 3/4" MDF, plywood, or an appropriate type of laminate. As the sides will not be seen, the material appearance does not matter, only the strength and durability. These panels will be 34.5" high and 24" wide. Clamp the two sides together and then use a jigsaw to cut a 3x5.5" toe-kick in one corner of the panels. This will be your bottom front corner.
    • If making upper or wall cabinets, the measurements should reflect your personal tastes. Standard depth is around 12-14". Height depends on how tall you want them to be and how high your ceilings are. The toe kick is obviously unnecessary in this case.
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    Cut the bottom. The bottom piece will be 24" deep but the width will depend on the dimensions of your kitchen. Make sure that the width of the bottom section accounts for the width that will be added by the side pieces being added on either side.
    • Again, for wall cabinets, the depth will be somewhere between 12-14", not 24". You will want to cut two of these pieces per cabinet for wall cabinets.
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    Cut the front and back base panels. Use 1x6 lumber and cut two pieces to the width that you cut your bottom panel. Skip this step if making wall cabinets.
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    Cut the top brace panels. Cut two more pieces at the same width to hold the top ends together. Skip this step if making wall cabinets.
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    Cut the facing panels. The facing panels will be assembled like a picture frame and will be the main part of the cabinets that show. Since this is the case, you will want to use dimensional lumber in a wood that appeals to you in order to make these panels. Good sizes to use, depending on the part of the face and the style you want, include 1x2, 1x3, and 1x4.
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    Join the base panels to the bottom. Align and glue the base panels so that one flat face is flush with the back edge of the panel and the other is 3" back from the front end. Then, using butt joints, screw through the cabinet base and into the edge of the panels. Pilot holes are a good idea here.
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    Join the sides to the bottom. Glue and then secure (again with butt joints) the side panels to the base and bottom structure, fitting the toe-kick in with the gap you made. Make sure all of the edges are flush. Clamps and angle measuring tools can make this easier.
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    Secure the top brace panels. Next glue and secure (so many butt joints) the back brace panel so that it will sit flat against the wall. The front brace panel should be placed so that it will sit flush with the countertop, once the countertop is placed.
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    Nail on a back panel. Measure and then screw a 1/2" plywood back panel into place. A thicker back panel will be needed for wall cabinets, like 3/4" MDF.
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    Reinforce the joints. Now, reinforce all the joints with corner brackets and screws.
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    Install the shelves. Measure, mark, and level locations for at least four corner brackets (two to a side) and then slide in the shelves. Wait to add the shelves for wall cabinets.
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    Add the facing panels. Assemble the facing panels into one unit like you would assemble a picture frame. You can use flat joints or you can miter them. Pocket holes, dowels, or mortise and tenon joints should be used, according to your skill level, to join the pieces together. Nail and the countersink the nails to attach the completed face to the cabinet.
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    Place the cabinets. Place the cabinets in their location. Screw through the back panel and into the wall studs to secure the cabinet it place. Upper cabinets may require more support, such as L brackets (than can be covered up by a backsplash), if you plan to put heavy items such as dishes in the cabinet.
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    Install the doors. Install the doors onto the face panels as recommended by their manufacturer. You can also install drawers, but this can become quite complex and is not recommended for a beginner.


  • Make sure all the blades on the equipment you are using are sharp and tightened into place before using.

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Categories: Cabinets and Cupboards | Woodworking