DIY Builtins (Part 1)

DIY Builtins Cabinets

You guys. I am so happy to be adding a new blog post. It has been a while, but since revamping my website, I have decided to knock out at least one new post a month. I figured I’d start with my most recent project, our DIY builtins. I have another DIY in the works-and it is another pretty big project. If all goes according to plan, that project will be finished in time for my March post! Bear with me, as this February post is a long one. So long, I had to make it a two parter! I have had a lot of questions about this DIY and I want to make sure I give you all the details.

Speaking of DIYs, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how grateful I am to have an outlet that really fulfills me. Actually, I have a few. Since I was a child, I have been the creative type, but as we get older, I think we all lose a little of whatever it is that really makes us who we are. We become working adults, spouses, parents. You know- we become day to day machines that just focus on all the things that take over our lives. But, listen to me and hear me well. You MUST make time for what makes YOU happy. Whatever it is, make sure you allow it into your life. And if you are really fortunate, like I am, you will have a partner that supports whatever that thing (or things) is-no questions asked. And maybe they will even join in on your fun.

The Backstory

Anyway, you’re most likely here because you want to see how we tackled this DIY, so let’s get into that! I will start by saying this was a messy process. Also, if you plan to tackle this DIY, you will need a whole lot of patience, a good measuring tape, and your leveling tool will become your best friend-so get you a good one.

Viewers beware: the progress shots you will witness are not for the faint of heart.

If you have been following me at all over the last two years, you know that we have been living in our new house for about a year and a half now. It is pretty close to perfect and exactly what I wanted for us. When deciding on and creating our floorplan, every room was intentional. One nonnegotiable was it had to include two, separate main living areas; that was really important to us. We wanted a more formal area for guests and such, but we also needed a cozy space for us to lounge in as a family and watch movies. Our family room off the breakfast nook was that space for us. But, aside from the one wall of beautiful windows, it was just a big, bare area. I knew what it needed even before we moved in.

Here is a shot of the space before our build was complete

It took a little over a year for me to really commit to what end result I wanted, but I am so glad I didn’t rush into this project. I knew it was going to have such a big impact and it just needed that level of research and thought. I finally decided on my own version of the IKEA Billy Bookcase hack and added stock kitchen cabinets. You can Google or Pinterest that and find so many tutorials for DIY builtins, but keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” in the world of do-it-yourself projects! You have to figure out how things will work based on your own needs, measurements, etc. This post focuses solely on the cabinet portion of the project. Part Two will include the process of installing the bookcases.

The Project (the part you are really here for)

Step One: Choosing Cabinets

First things first. We measured the width of the back wall. Then measured it again. Always measure more than once. If you learn nothing else from me, learn that! After we measured, we decided on what size cabinets would fit the space. We ended up choosing stock kitchen cabinets. Stock base cabinets are 24 inches deep, but we knew that the 12 inch deep wall cabinets would be perfect for our project. We purchased four 36x30x12 inch wall cabinets and one 18x30x12 inch wall cabinet for the center. This left a one inch gap on each side of the cabinets that I was able to conceal with some trim later. We went with wall cabinets for the shallower depth, but remember, wall cabinets don’t come with the toe kick at the bottom that the base cabinets do, so building the base box was our next step.

Step Two: The Base

We knew we wanted our builtins to look, well, built in. To achieve that look, building a base for our cabinets was important. Raising the cabinets off the ground so that the baseboard can run along the front seems like such a small detail, but it is the one thing that truly makes the cabinets look like they have always been there. To create the base, we first removed our original baseboards from the back wall. We did this as carefully as possible so that we could salvage the baseboard to use later.

Our baseboards are just a simple 1×4 board (we went for the craftsman look when we built and I LOVE how simple our trim is). So, to raise our cabinets off the ground enough to match our baseboard height, we were able to use 2x4s. We built a rectangular box that was as wide as the back wall and as deep as the cabinets we purchased.

Before we secured the base to the wall, this is how we checked our measurements and ensured the cabinets and base would be flush against one another.

After measuring and cutting our 2x4s carefully, we used wood screws to secure it all into the studs in the back wall, and continued building the box from there. My handy husband used the “knock method” to find the studs, but you can always purchase a stud finder instead. Always check your measurements as you are building and take into consideration the true measurements of the pieces of wood because you want everything flush and seamless. After we secured the base of 2x4s to the back wall and two side walls, it was ready for the cabinets to be placed on top!

Step Three: Prepping & Securing the Cabinets

Before we secured the cabinets, we wanted the electrical outlets to still be functional. To do this, we measured where the outlets would be inside of the cabinets, and cut out a section in the back of the cabinet for the outlet to be accessible. We have 3 outlets on this wall and a cable jack, so we did this in 3 cabinets. Later, we added the outlet cover plates directly over the cabinets and outlet to give it a finished look inside the cabinets.

Precise measurements are key during this entire project!

Finally, we added cabinets to the base, one at a time and used shims and a level to make sure everything was flush and perfect. Wood screws were used to secure the cabinets into the back wall studs, as well as into the base we built. Doing this took several hours into the first night and then we continued for several more hours the next morning. The process went on until all of our cabinets were secured to not only the wall and base, but to the cabinet next each one, as well.

Step Four: Finishing the Cabinets

To begin finishing the cabinets, I used a trim piece to conceal the gaps on each end, caulked every gap and seam, and painted our cabinets. I used a 4inch foam roller for both the primer and the paint. Be sure to use a high quality primer. Since these were unfinished stock cabinets, primer is necessary so the paint does not absorb into the wood. We decided to go with the same paint our painter used on all our trim in the house. It is bright, white, and super durable.

Steph Five: The Countertop

Time for the countertop. We didn’t want a lot of overhang, and we didn’t need anything fancy for the look we were going for. We also wanted to be able to easily drill holes into the countertop. This is so the electrical cords could travel through the countertop into the cabinets so that we could use those outlets! We decided on a mock butcher block piece of wood. Then, ripped it to the correct length and width for what we wanted, and secured it with a nail gun to the the top of the cabinets.

After securing the countertop to the cabinets, I caulked around and under the countertop to conceal any unnecessary spaces. Caulking is necessary anytime you want to hide unsightly gaps. For the color, I decided on a stain that matched our flooring. Then I installed the plastic desk grommets. Later, I added matte black pulls. I went with a not so popular placement for the pulls, and I think it looks so chic and custom. After that, our cabinets were complete!

Alright, guys. If you are still reading, thanks for barreling through that one. I know it was long and messy- the project and this post! Part two of the DIY builtins process will be up in about a week or so. We added bookcases to our cabinets and it really made our room so beautiful. I hope you will come back to see how the bookcase process went! I’d love to hear what you think of this part of our project. Leave a comment or share this post if you think you have friends that would be interested. As always, I appreciate your support. Have a happy day!

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