Making Cabinet Shelves Accessible

Introduction: Making Cabinet Shelves Accessible

About: Senior VP of an independent oil company. Never met a hobby I didn't like!

Isn't it frustrating trying to use under counter cabinet shelves? Unless you get down on your hands and knees, they are unusable, save for the front few inches. Builders are getting a little smarter by putting big drawers in place of doors and shelves but they still do shelves and legacy homes are cursed with them. Here is how I fixed them in our new home.

I made pull-out shelf/boxes that hide behind the conventional cabinet doors.

Step 1: Step 1: Preparing the Cabinet for the Slide Out Box

The first step is to knock out any existing shelves behind the doors. Ours had half-shelves that were dado'd into the cabinet sides but they were particle board so broke out easily with a few hammer blows. I fitted my new box/shelves with full-opening drawer glides so I cut insert boards from 2x4s that screw to the bottom of the cabinet. These need to be 1-1/2" high, wide enough to stick out a little past the cabinet frame and door hinges, and a snug fit length as deep as the cabinet box. I screw them to the bottom with drywall screws.

Be sure the insert boards are 1/8" to 1/4" past the frames and hinges so the box clears them easily.

I am not giving many dimensions since all cabinets are built differently.

Step 2: Step 2: Making the Box

Now it's time to make the boxes. They pretty well dimension themselves. Make them 1" narrower than the space between the glide boards installed in the last step. Drawer glides are universally 1/2" thick so the 1" narrower dimension allows for them. Make the box about 1" shallower than the dimension of the cabinet from the inside of the face frame to the back wall. Account for any board at the back of the cabinet that might haver been added for installation. Finally make the box as tall as you want to hold the stuff you need to store. As the photos show, I mimicked the existing cabinets with a bottom box with 6" high sides and a half shelf 12" off the bottom. I added a rim around the top shelf so stuff won't fall off the back.

I make my boxes of 3/4" Baltic birch or Radiata plywood. I want them robust so use the thick wood. The floor of the box is a good grade 1/4" plywood.

The first photo is all the parts of a box except the 1/4" floor. The box sides are full size. I cut 3/4" dados on the front and back edges and horizontally 12" up from the bottom for shelf. I cut a 3/4" dado across the back box wall for the shelf. Finally I cut a 1/4" dado on the bottom edges of all 4 box sides 1/2" up from the bottom for the floor of the box. All dados are 3/8" deep in the 3/4" plywood. The floor of the box is 3/4" narrower and 3/4" shorter than the outside dimension of the box.

Step 3: Step 3: Mounting the Box

Mounting the drawer glides is quite simple. The wall piece simply sits on the bottom of the box, against the boards installed in step 1 and flush with the back side of the face frame. The piece that mounts to the box is attached flush with the bottom of the box and flush with the front of the box. No fancy measurng needed.

Step 4: Step 4: 2-door Cabinets

The previous example was for a one door cabinet. As shown in figure 1, 2-door cabinets often have a dividing bar between the doors attached to the face frame. The photos show how I handled that. I carefully removed the dividing bar from the face frame. Most cabinet makers use pocket screws to assemble the face frames. The first photo is a picture of the screws holding a divider board to the frame. You need a square drive bit as shown in the second photo to remove the screws. Once the screws are out, tapping sideways with a hammer soon loosens and removes the boards. They came out so cleanly, I was able to attach them to my slide out boxes with the bracketry shown. If you have to be destructive in removal, you will need to make new ones and match the finish. This construction yields a convenient grab handle for pulling out the drawer and when stows and the doors shut, it is impossible to tell this isn't a conventional cabinet.

Step 5: Step 5: Under Sink Slide-outs

I made similar slide out boxes for the nasty under sink area. This is another place that accumulates a lot of unusable stuff due to inaccessibility. The function is similar, the biggest difference is I used full extension bottom glides that attach under the boxes instead of on the sides. The photos show I also made sub-boxes that can be removed fur use in transporting cleaning materials to other locations.

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