How to Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets





Introduction: How to Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets

About: There is nothing I love more then making something new and usable again that someone else would have thrown out or torn down!

Today we’ll be moving on to the big post about how to build your own kitchen cabinets. The kitchen cabinets turned into my own little project, it was something I was equally stressed and terrified about and, don’t get me wrong, they are NOT perfect, but I’m very happy with them. When I get stressed about something to work on the worst thing is for me to have anyone around trying to help. (Sorry, Love-of-my-life, but, you know its true, I cannot be helped when I’m worried about screwing up a project.) So, I took several days off over the course of a couple of weeks to build the cabinets on my own. I figured, if I could build a wall I could certainly a build a cabinet! Right!?

Step 1: Frame Out the Cabinet Boxes Out of 2x4s

The main cabinet boxes themselves I built out of 2x4s and 3 inch long screws, they would not be going anywhere. In the photo above you can see the roughness of it all but they’re very sturdy! We ended up with a enormous amount of 1×4 scrap leftover from our floor and from doing all of our trim so, after a million cuts, I used the scrap to cover the bottom of all of the cabinets and build all of the shelves. (In the next picture you can see an already finished base cabinet on the right side of our kitchen. This is a save from when we remodeled the house and I really don’t know its history. But it has solid steel drawers and, with a coat of paint and new hardware, I think it turned out nice! I’ll be posting about it soon too!)

Step 2: Trim Out With 1x4s Throughout the Cabinet Boxes

You can see how excited we were to finally have some cabinets to put stuff in! What you see in the above picture took me two whole days. All of the 2x4s are covered in 1x4s and/or bead board and they are ready for paint! Just about everyone in my life questioned my choice to build our kitchen cabinets when I could certainly find decent cabinets used that I could modify to work. I would normally have leaned that way (we all know I’m a refinisher and not a builder!) but I wholly expected that trying to get premade cabinets to work on our very crooked walls and in our specific kitchen would have been far more trouble and we simply could not afford to have someone else build cabinets for us. On top of all of that, I had my heart set on using three old windows for cabinet doors. In my mind there wasn’t any choice and it was what I had my stubbornness set on and Lord help anyone who would try and stop me when that happens.

Step 3: Moving on to a Specific Cabinet

Now that you’ve got an idea of what the rest of the kitchen had to go through to get to its “finished” state, here is a closer look on exactly how I built each cabinet. With the kitchen basically done the over the refrigerator cabinet (and pantry – I’ll tell you about that in a later post) was just screaming to be built. Just look at how empty that spot is! And it was, of course, totally covered in crap we didn’t have anywhere else to put. So, after work one day, I told Diesel (the dog in the picture – doesn’t he just look so excited?) that it was time to get to work!

Step 4: Build the Frames for the Cabinet Box

No, the bottom of the cabinet is NOT sitting on top of the refrigerator, the angle of the picture makes it look like that a little bit but I built the bottom frame a good two inches above the top of the refrigerator. Just like with the rest of the cabinets I started on the outside and worked my way in. I measured and secured a board across the back and cut two more identical boards for across the front. From there I secured the outside boards (four of them) and then secured the two front boards that were identical to the board across the back. Everything I leveled as I went. This turned into a four foot wide by two foot deep cabinet so I didn’t mess around when it came to getting it WELL SECURED. I used 3 inch long deck screws liberally. The board in the center across the top of the cabinet is screwed directly up into floor joists.

Step 5: Connect the Frames and Then Cover the Cabinet Bottom

Now I connected the top and bottom frames together with boards running vertically across the front in three places on the cabinet. These I cut the same length and forced the top and bottom frames to match. If this had not been a 100 year old house with nothing level there would not have been any “forcing” but nothing here is straight so I improvise and work with how things are. I then had to crawl into the cabinet to cover the bottom of it with 1xs.

Step 6: Once Everything Is Trimmed Out You Can Paint

I covered the entire cabinet with 1x4s (the same boards we used on all of our trim etc) and you can see the end where I used leftover bead board that we put on all of our ceilings. I painted it with two coats of our flat white trim and ceiling paint and then put two coats of a semi gloss poly acrylic. From there I took some measurements and, after work the next day, stopped at our local lumber yard and had them cut my doors from a piece of smooth 3/4″ plywood.

Step 7: Getting the Doors Complete

All of my painting had to be done inside because our temperatures are now dropping below freezing at night now so I just said “forget it” covered the floor in a bunch of towels and got to work in our entryway. I don’t know if your dog immediately has to sit or lie down on anything you put on the floor but Diesel is entirely that way so, I laid down extra towels for him so he could “help”. The doors got the same white paint and poly treatment as all the rest of the cabinets. Then, my shiny knobs and hinges!

Step 8: Finished Cabinets

It is absolutely wonderful to have the cabinets in the kitchen FINALLY all complete! Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be moving on to other aspects of the kitchen, the before & after of the base cabinet that was my grandparents’ that we salvaged from the house, the easy tip & tutorial about how I built a little shelf beside the microwave, a post solely devoted to those windows that I made into cabinet doors, our tip & tutorial about our finished pantry that is the absolute love of my storage life and then, finally, the complete kitchen!! Can’t wait for you guys to see it!



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    16 Discussions


    1 reply

    Great job! I too am looking at putting in new cabinetry. Wanna come help? Or maybe we in the instructable community could provide a haven for husbands banned from their wives projects.

    1 reply

    2 years ago


    I love the simplicity....Even the framing is a great base to add your own unique ideas to.


    1 reply

    Building your own cabinets is a big deal. Yours turned out very nice! With a little bravery you can accomplish big things

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    Simply great! I think I'm gonna do it, too! :)

    1 reply