Although building cabinets for your kitchen, bathroom, or built-ins may seem complicated, it is actually quite simple. In essence, most cabinets are basic boxes, and the connections can be concealed on the exterior of the cabinets, which are subsequently concealed during installation.
Styles of Cabinets
When shopping for or constructing cabinets, you will come across two primary categories: face frame cabinets and frameless (also known as Euro-style cabinets). It is possible to build both of these cabinet styles on your own.
The choice depends on the style you desire. Both options offer advantages and disadvantages, so choose the one that suits your preferred style and meets your needs for the space.
Could you explain what a face frame cabinet is?
Cabinets with face frames consist of a plywood box covered with a wooden frame (usually 1x2s) attached to the front to conceal the plywood’s edges.
Rails and stiles are used to create the face frames around the edge, while the areas around the drawers are framed by additional rails. It’s important to consider that when selecting drawer slides, the presence of the face frame may obstruct them, so measures such as adding blocking to the sides or using specialized face frame slides may be necessary.
It is possible to opt for overlay or inset cabinet doors. Overlay doors are placed on top of the face frame, while inset doors are flush with the front and located inside the face frame. Depending on the hinges selected, overlay doors can provide either a large or small reveal of the face frame to achieve a classic or contemporary appearance.
Can you define a cabinet without a frame?
Cabinets that are fashioned without a frame are known as frameless cabinets. Such cabinets are solely constructed with plywood, and the edges of the plywood are refined with edge banding. Often referred to as European-style cabinets, they achieved immense popularity with the advent of Ikea. Representing a straightforward, contemporary cabinetry design, these cabinets are uncomplicated in appearance.
A difficulty that arises with frameless cabinets is the maintenance of a perfectly square cabinet box. Failure to achieve this can result in difficulties during installation of a row of cabinets as well as hanging doors to create an even reveal.
Both overlay and inset cabinet doors can be used for a frameless cabinet. However, the only overlay choice available for frameless cabinets is a complete overlay that conceals the entire cabinet sides up to approximately 1/8″.
How to Build a Cabinet Box
- Table saw or circular saw with guide tracks
- Pocket hole jig
- Miter saw
- Drill and impact driver
- Measuring tape
- Optional: Shop vacuum
Parts of a Cabinet Box
Firstly, it is important to examine the distinct components of a cabinet box, which differ slightly depending on whether you are constructing a face frame or a frameless cabinet.
The cabinet carcass will consist of a pair of 3/4″ plywood sides. In constructing kitchen cabinets, the dimensions of the base cabinet sides and wall cabinet sides will be identical. If you so desire, you may create deeper cabinets for a pantry or refrigerator.
The rear panel of a cabinet can be constructed using either a 3/4″ plywood sheet or reinforced with supports (3-4″ pieces of 3/4″ plywood) for added stability and then covered with a 1/4″ plywood sheet. This approach is particularly advantageous for cabinets that require drilling of plumbing holes. Moreover, if you are working on a sizable cabinet project, using 1/4″ plywood for the back can result in significant cost savings.
The lowest level of the cabinet is referred to as the bottom. In base cabinets, it aligns with the top of the toe-kick, while in wall cabinets with a face frame, it aligns with the uppermost part of the bottom face frame rail to eliminate a ledge on the shelf.
Base cabinets usually come with a toe-kick that elevates them slightly from the ground. You can either carve the toe-kick into the cabinet side or construct a 2×4 box on the floor as the toe-kick, especially for extended cabinet sections. Doing this helps you save costs as you can get more cutouts from a 4’x8′ plywood sheet when adhering to the regular cabinet height. Additionally, you can level the 2×4 box conveniently prior to installing the cabinets.
The upper section of wall cabinets usually has a top portion, whereas base cabinets that are covered with a countertop generally lack a top portion. They are reinforced with supports to ensure structural integrity before being sealed off during the installation of countertops. If you intend to construct built-ins without a countertop, you can include a top portion.
Supports refer to narrower plywood pieces, usually measuring 3-4 inches in width and the same length as the cabinet frame, that provide stability and maintain the cabinet’s structural integrity. When installing cabinets with countertops, one or two supports replace the top piece. In the case of frameless cabinets, supports are employed to partition off the drawers.
When constructing cabinets with face frames, you will attach the face frame to the front of the cabinet body. The frame consists of vertical stiles which span the entire height of the cabinet face, and horizontal rails that connect the stiles.
Building the Cabinet Carcass
The box of the cabinet is made of plywood, and for those constructing frameless cabinets, this comprises the entire construction. However, if constructing face frame cabinets, the face frame is built separately and then attached to the box.
Here are some guidelines for achieving flawless cabinet boxes.
Having perfectly square and accurately angled pieces will result in flawless cabinet boxes. However, during installation, the only obstacle you may face is the unevenness of your walls.
- Before cutting any wood, make sure the blade is set to a true 90-degree angle to the bed/plate of the tool. Even being off by 1 degree can cause your boxes and face frames to be wonky and un-square.
- You cannot measure out all the pieces and then cut them. The blade will remove a section of the plywood (known as kerf) when you cut making your cuts slightly short (resulting in non-square cabinet boxes). Instead, measure out the first cut and cut it. Then measure from the new edge to the next cut line and cut. Also, make sure the edge of the blade is on the outside edge of the cut line so the full amount measured is left behind.
- Quickly check all cut pieces for square by measuring from the top right corner across the piece to the lower left corner. Note the measurement. Then measure the opposite two corners. If the measurements are exactly the same, your piece is square.
1- Cut the Plywood
It is important to plan the cutting of each piece from the plywood sheets when producing a large number of cabinets. The side piece should generally have a vertical grain orientation while the horizontal pieces should have a side-to-side grain orientation rather than front-to-back.
In order to cut the plywood with a circular saw and a guide track, place the plywood on a 2″ rigid foam that is on your work surface or on the ground.
To ensure the plywood is squared, trim the shorter side to match the longer one before cutting out the pieces. It is advisable to label the pieces during the cutting process to simplify the assembling later.
Utilize the remaining sections of the plywood, from cutting the larger pieces, to create the support pieces.
2- Drill Pocket Holes
Configure your pocket hole jig to bore holes in materials with a thickness of 3/4″.
Make sure to drill pocket holes on the bottom piece, top piece, and support pieces on both sides. The number of pocket holes required will depend on the length of your piece and should ideally be at intervals of 4-5 inches. Additionally, ensure that you have two pocket holes on each end of the support pieces.
Remember to drill pocket holes on the front of the bottom, top, and side pieces of face frame cabinets prior to assembly in order to attach the face frame later. This step is essential and will save you time and effort.
Cut out the toe-kick from the cabinet sides at this time if you are doing so. Employing a jigsaw would make toe-kick cutting into any size a breeze, although they are typically 2-3″ deep and 4″ tall.
3- Assemble the Box
For your cabinet box to endure, wood glue is necessary for all joints. However, if you choose to use pre-finished plywood, conventional wood glue may not be effective. In such cases, opt for melamine glue instead.
Place one of the side pieces on your work surface with the outer side (containing the pocket holes) facing downwards. Spread glue on the edge of the bottom piece and fasten it to the side piece using a clamp.
Ensure that the base cabinets are aligned with either the bottom of the toe-kick or the bottom of the side (if toe-kick is absent). As for the wall cabinets, ensure that they are installed in such a way that their top aligns with the upper part of the bottom face frame rail (consider that a 1×2 face frame measures 1 1/2″ high so position the top part of the bottom piece 1 1/2″ from the floor).
Make sure the item is square and fasten it securely with 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws using a square.
Connect the upper part (or bracket if not using a top piece) using the same method. Ensure that the upper section aligns with the top of the side parts. For the brackets, confirm that they align with the front of the side parts.
When dealing with frameless cabinets, make sure to fasten any intermediary support components that are intended for the drawers.
Afterwards, affix the rear component (when utilizing 3/4″ plywood) or incorporate an additional support to align it with the top of the rear using glue and pocket hole screws.
Afterwards, affix the opposite end by utilizing adhesive and aligning the base, upper, and supportive components. Fasten together with clamps, guaranteeing they are perpendicular and firmly fixed using pocket hole screws.
To utilize 1/4″ plywood as the rear part, measure and trim it appropriately. Verify that the box is square (refer to the tips section) and secure its squareness while fixing the plywood back by using glue and brad nails.
If you desire to use a thicker plywood while finishing the toe-kick, make sure to adjust the size of the cut accordingly. However, a 1/4″ plywood will also good enough to complete the task.
Building the Face Frame
Trim the rails and stiles to the desired size.
- The stiles will be the same height as the side of your cabinet carcass unless you have a toe-kick. For toe-kick cabinets, the top of the face frame rail should be flush with the top of the bottom shelf. So if your face frame is made of 1x2s (1 1/2″ thick) and your plywood is 3/4″ thick, your stiles will be 3/4″ longer than the length of the sides minus the toe-kick.
- The rails will be the width of the cabinet, minus the width of the face frame (x2) plus 1/2″. The added 1/2″ will make the face frame hang over the sides of the cabinet box giving you a 1/4″ tolerance on both sides when installing the cabinets.
Usually, each cabinet comprises of 2 rails and 2 stiles. Each drawer section should have a bottom rail. If the cabinet is large, you may consider adding a center stile to facilitate door installation.
Create 2 pocket holes on each side of the rail parts (and also on the middle stile if it’s accessible). Apply wood adhesive to the rail’s end and align it to the stile’s top. Employ a face clamp to press the pieces together to promote evenness. Use 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws to secure the connection.
Do the same process with the opposite rail at the bottom of the stile.
Next, apply wood glue to the opposite end of both rails and connect the second vertical piece.
Measure for the center and attach it in the same manner if a center rail is going to be added.
Finishing the Cabinet
Face frame cabinets are intended.
You can attach the face frame if you wish to paint/stain/seal it and the cabinet box in the same color. To begin with, paint/stain/seal the sides and front of the face frame, if you have used pre-finished plywood.
In order to affix the face frame, apply wood glue onto the edge of the plywood cabinet carcass. The application of melamine glue is unnecessary in this scenario as the plywood edges and the rear portion of the face frame remain incomplete.
Ensure the face frame protrudes 1/4″ over the edge and is aligned at a perfect right angle with the cabinet box, then clamp it tight. Next, fasten the face frame with 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws into the pocket holes drilled earlier.
Your cabinets that you made yourself are now prepared to be installed!
In the case of cabinets without frames:
Apply iron-on edge banding to the exposed front edges of the cabinet box and trim it to ensure a flush finish. Afterward, you may proceed to paint, stain or seal your cabinets.
Your self-made cabinets are prepared for installation!
The Ultimate Guide To Cabinet Materials
During your kitchen renovation, you will have numerous decisions to make regarding new kitchen cabinets for your home. These decisions will include whether to refinish, resurface, or replace your current cabinets, as well as choosing the appropriate materials for your kitchen cabinets. The following is an overview of the top-rated materials for kitchen cabinets, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Wood Cabinet Materials
Wood and wood-based materials comprise the majority of kitchen cabinets and commonly used materials encompass hardwood, plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard, and wood veneer.
Wood that comes from deciduous trees is known as hardwood.
One of the most commonly used materials for cabinets is hardwood, which has been in use since their inception. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when selecting hardwood for your kitchen cabinets.
The benefits of using hardwood.
Discover the main benefits of utilizing hardwood as a material for your cabinets, which will aid in determining the best approach in refinishing them.
- Hardwood is, of course, a natural material, harvested from trees. Because of the natural element, this means that each panel can vary slightly, as individual trees have their own textures, colors, and grain patterns. This natural variation adds to the appeal of hardwood as a cabinet material – it’s truly unique and beautiful in its own way. Just like hardwood floors are highly valued, hardwood cabinets can be as well.
- Hardwood is highly durable, and it is also pretty easy to repair. You can even handle many of these repairs yourself (like for scratches, stains, and watermarks), through sanding or refinishing. You can also hire someone to help with these repairs for a reasonable price.
- Hardwood kitchen cabinets have a very long lifespan, due to their durability.
- There are many different kinds of wood to choose from, each with its own distinct look, feel, and coloring. Some of the most popular woods include red oak, white oak, hickory, cherry, hard maple, birch, ash, and pine.
Drawbacks of using hardwood
Although hardwood possesses evident natural charm and attraction, it is important to contemplate its drawbacks as well.
- Perhaps the biggest drawback of hardwood is that Hardwood is highly sought after, and is very expensive, as far as materials go, since the wood is costly. On average, wood (or wood-combination) cabinets “start at about $80 per linear foot, especially in the stock and semi-custom realm,” but the cost can easily double if you choose a high level of customization.
- Wood is heavy – if you want to go full hardwood with your kitchen cabinets, you need to make sure the structure is sound enough to support them.
- Different types of wood can be less durable than others. For example, red oak is a very strong, durable wood type, while something like pine is a softer wood.
- Warping is possible with hardwood. Changes in temperature and humidity will cause wood to contract and expand, so if you have a full hardwood structure, this is a potential concern.
One way to avoid the expensive price of hardwood is to combine different materials. This is commonly done by using hardwood only for the visible face frame and door/drawer fronts, while incorporating medium-density fiberboard or wood veneer parts to lessen the expense and add stability. Familiarity with these shortcuts can help prevent your kitchen renovation from becoming a disaster.
“Thin sheets of wood pressed and glued together to form strong and sturdy boards used in construction and furniture-making.” Plywood is created by bonding together multiple layers of thinly sliced wood, resulting in a robust material ideal for use in building and crafting furniture.
One of the favorable materials for cabinets is plywood due to its numerous advantages. It involves bonding thin wood layers together with glue, heat, and pressure into alternating angles, resulting in a sturdy structure. Better Homes & Gardens suggests that by altering the wood’s grain direction, plywood obtains uniform strength in all directions. Read on to find out more about one of the top cabinet materials, hardwood.
Benefits of using plywood
With a wide range of advantages, plywood is a highly flexible material that is well-suited for use in cabinetry.
- Plywood is considered by many to be the best option for cabinets – it resists moisture (unlike hardwood), is very flexible and easy to install, and is highly durable. It is certainly the “best material for cabinet sides, backs, shelves, and drawer bottoms”.
- Due to its unique construction, plywood has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of all of the best cabinet materials. It is very strong, and resilient as well.
- Plywood is easily repairable, and replaceable. It also withstands and holds up to drilling better than other materials. It is basically a homeowner’s ideal cabinet material.
- In terms of affordability, plywood is highly accessible. It’s much less expensive than hardwood but costs more than lower-end materials, like particle board and laminate.
Drawbacks of using Plywood
Although plywood has several advantages, it is essential to take into account its drawbacks.
- You need to make sure you are using the right thickness of material for each area of the cabinets. Thinner plywood is typically used on cabinet backs; thicker plywood is used on the drawer bottoms, as well as on the sides.
- Plywood cabinets may lack consistency. There may be “gaps or holes where the boards were combined,” which can make it more difficult to install plywood cabinets.
Particleboard is a type of engineered wood made from wood particles, such as sawdust, wood chips, and shavings, that are mixed with a adhesive resin and compressed into boards.
A frequently mentioned alternative to plywood when discussing cabinet materials is particleboard. This material, also referred to as chipboard or low-density fiberboard (LDF), is created by compressing recycled wood products, including wood chips and sawmill shavings, into sheets. In order to enhance its appearance, particleboard is typically coated with laminate or wood veneer. The following are some notable benefits and limitations of particleboard.
Particleboard offers several benefits.
Particleboard offers a great value as a cabinet material – outlined are the key advantages of choosing particleboard.
- Particleboard is inexpensive – one of the most affordable cabinet material types available for purchase. This is because particleboard is made with scrap materials. In general, according to KompareIt, the cost savings is generally 10 to 20 percent for mid-grade cabinets (compared to a high-grade cabinet set made from plywood).
- High-quality particleboard can be very sturdy and durable. You just have to make sure you use a high-quality option.
- Particleboard is one of the best choices for cabinet and drawer interiors. It’s lightweight, cost-effective, and easy to fit into the necessary spaces.
The drawbacks of particleboard.
Although there are cost benefits to particleboard, it is important to also take into account certain drawbacks associated with it.
- Unless you find a very high-quality variation of particleboard, for the most part, it is not very durable. Due to its construction, particleboard is “weak in compression and tension”.
- Particleboard is not moisture-friendly and can degrade and discolor if it comes into contact with water.
- If cabinets or drawers are overfilled, cabinet shelves and drawer bottoms made of Particleboard Can Fall Victim To Sagging.
A type of fiberboard that has a moderate density is known as Medium Density Fiberboard.
When searching for a material for your doors and drawers that is of superior quality than particleboard but not as expensive as plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a great option. MDF’s strength comes from the fact that smaller fibers are used in its construction, as opposed to particleboard. Well-known for its use in IKEA cabinets, medium-density fiberboard is a composite material that consists of recycled fibers, wax, and resin that are compressed and sealed in a high-pressure system. The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using MDF as a cabinet material.
Benefits of Medium-Density Fiberboard
Here are some important facts to know about MDF, which is considered one of the top cabinet materials due to its numerous advantages.
- Due to its unique composition with smaller fibers, MDF is strong and highly durable.
- MDF is resistant to warping and expansion from temperature changes and moisture.
- Since the surface of medium-density fiberboard is smooth in finish, it lends itself well to being painted or stained.
- MDF offers superior screw-holding power, and is fairly easy to manipulate, as far as cabinet materials go.
Drawbacks of Medium-Density Fiberboard
Along with the benefits mentioned previously, there are a few disadvantages that you should be aware of prior to buying fiberwood.
- MDF is not as strong as other cabinet materials, like plywood or hardwood. It is susceptible to sagging and damage if cabinets and drawers are overloaded.
- Some people have concerns about MDF due to its material makeup. “Of all the pressed woods, medium-density fiberboard emits the greatest amount of formaldehyde gas, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association”. So if you are highly concerned about materials that are used in your home, you will want to do extra research before moving forward with MDF.
Refashioned timber surface layer
Wood veneer is another potential material for kitchen cabinets, consisting of a thin layer of solid hardwood that is scraped off a log. Although it shares many of the same advantages as hardwood, its usage in smaller quantities gives it some other distinct characteristics that should be taken into consideration.
Benefits of Using Wood Veneer
- Wood veneer is usually used in tandem with other materials. Wood veneers, which are usually less than 2mm thick, “are typically glued and pressed to particleboard or MDF to produce flat panels”. In this way, homeowners can reap the aesthetic and durability benefits of hardwood, but save costs by leaning on plywood, particleboard, or MDF to compose the whole of the cabinets.
- Wood veneer is preferred over other top finishes since it is lightweight yet stable.
- Wood veneer is also an affordable variation of true hardwood.
The drawbacks of using wood veneer.
Although wood veneer has minimal drawbacks, it’s necessary to comprehend the appropriate and inappropriate applications to achieve the finest results.
- Most notably, it should be known that wood veneer is a finish material, and should not be used for cabinet interiors (e.g. the box or frame), only for cabinet doors. You will have to choose another material option, such as plywood, particleboard, or MDF to construct the interior of the cabinets.