Finishing & Installing a Built-In Cabinet Bookcase W/ Counter




About: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check out my site @

After building and constructing this built-in bookcase structure complete with drawers on the bottom, a counter in the middle and shelving all the way to the ceiling, I'm now finally ready to finish it and install it in the room. Built-ins can add so much style (and storage!) in a room, and these techniques I will show can be utilized for any structure, no matter what size or design you're going for. Let's get starte

Step 1: Counter

OK, so first of all, let's finish the counter. If you got a chance to take a look at the Instructable where I built the counter from rough sawn lumber, you know I'm now at the point of finishing it.. Last time I left off I just put on the first seal coat of polyurethane, well since then I've put on another four coats, and I'm now putting on the last fifth coat of polyurethane, sanding in between. I use long strokes to minimize bubbles, and really take my time. The counter has a really nice gloss level and it's just beautiful. So now, that has to dry for a couple of days.

Step 2: Painting the Base

First up, the base, and I'm using some drywall spackle to fill in the visible edges of the plywood, and then sanding smooth once it's dried. Next I'm painting the edges, and I've put some tape on the inside, because I'm going to clearcoat that. So painting the bottom and the sides with flat paint, and then removing the tape, and I've got nice lines. Next I'm clear coating everything, on top of the painted areas and inside as well to give protection. And I really like using water based polyurethane when you go over white paint, because oil based can add a yellow tone.

Step 3: Top Shelf Unit

Now we have the top shelf unit and I'm painting it white, spraying which is a lot faster. Then sanding after the first coat. I'm using dry wall spackle again to fill in the pocket holes, which does a lot to finish off the piece.

Let's add some face frames. I'm just cutting up simple framing lumber for this, and I want the face frame to just cover the plywood a touch over, so I'm cutting the wood 1 inch wide, and the nto size. Then simply gluing and nailing it in.

Now when the face frame is complete I first spackle in any holes from the nails, sand of course and then paint the whole unit again, with an extra coat on the face frames. And then once that had dried I sprayed polyurethane over the whole unit to add protection.

Step 4: Drawers

Let's go back to the base. In a previous Instructable, I built a set of nine drawers for the base using my box joint jig. Well, the drawers still need some face frames. And for that I have some nice 1/2 inch baltic birch plywood cut up. Simply clamping the frames in place, and screwing from the back. Once they were all attached I sanded each one on the edges, and this is really nice plywood, so no spackle needed. Then I simply painted the drawer fronts, and also added several coats of water based polyurethane on the fronts as well.

Time to put on the hardware. I'm using simple antique brass knobs and they're really easy to attach. Simply finding the center, drilling a hole, then drilling a larger hole on the inside with a spade bit to counter sink the screw and screwing in the knob. And repeat eight more times....

Step 5: Backing

OK, now let's focus on the backing. I decided to go with hardboard which I painted white as well. Of course I could have gone with beadboard here, but I wanted a nice smooth simple surface. So simply scoring to size and then nailing in from the back. I had to have them cut the hardboard up in the store, since I couldn't move a whole full sheet in my car, so that's why I have to do a little piecing together at the top. But if you connect the pieces in the back of a shelf you won't see anything in the front.

Step 6: Finishing Counter

So, at this point the counter has dried fully, and now I like to finish it off with some steel wool and soapy water. This is really just to take away small imperfections and get it super smooth. I'm using 4 zero steel wool, working the counter, cleaning it up and repeating a couple of times, and it really makes the surface very nice and smooth.

Step 7: Installation

We are now ready to install! To install the base to the wall, I'm using a couple of brackets, as well as screwing in the back piece directly. Then putting on the counter, and I'm simply screwing the counter to the base from underneath in the front. The top will sit on the counter in the back, so there's no need to screw it in in the back as well.

And then it's time to put in all the drawers.

I'm screwing it in to the wall using the nailing strips, so I've marked previously where the studs are, and now it's simply a matter of adding some screws at those points.

Step 8: Moulding

OK, one little detail left to do. To finish off the piece I want to add a piece of molding at the top. So I'm using a bit on the router and adding a nice profile on a piece of wood, then painting that white as well.

I also cut up a thin strip of wood to hide that little gap in between the counter and the backing, and that's generally a good tip - if you have a small gap or imperfection, simply add some molding. I started hammering it in, but quickly realized it was easier and faster to simply use the nail gun.

Then I nailed in the moulding at the top as well, and it looks good! Time for some caulk to hide the seams, and it does a great job again, of hiding any gaps or imperfections. And then simply doing a little touch up on the nail holes and areas that got a scuffed in the installation process.

Step 9: Conclusion - Watch the Video

Ok, so the built-in cabinet is now complete and installed! There were a lot of parts to this project but as long as you take your time and break it down, it's not a very difficult project.

Make sure to check out the video for much more in depth point of view!



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6 Discussions


3 years ago

These turned out very beautifully! Thanks so much for sharing!

1 reply

3 years ago

Great stuff as always!


3 years ago

Yaa fentaastic yaa