DIY Built In Shelves (Part 1)

January 29, 2013

When we purchasd our new house we had lots of ideas of how we wanted it to look once we moved in. Of course, buying a townhouse in a complex means that there are certain things that are going to be the same as every other unit (layout, finishings etc.) There were also some other things we wanted to do, or change, to make it more our own. We did do about $4,000 worth of upgrades when we purchased: Frameless glass shower for our ensuite bath, granite countertops in all the bathrooms, changed the kitchen countertop to white quartz, enclosed the downstairs room, plus laminate in that bedroom (that will be an office), tile throughout the entranceway to the garage, and a central vacuum.

However, there were many upgrades we did not purchase due to the high price. Many are things we could do ourselves later down the road if we choose, such as framing the windows and crown moulding. We also opted out of the window covering upgrade because of the steep price (still can’t believe they came standard with those old aluminum mini blinds). It also helps that a family member owns a window covering business and will kindly help us with much nicer coverings than the faux-wood upgrade we would have had to pay for. I personally love the top-down-bottom-up honeycomb shades for the bedroom so you still get light up top, but privacy on the bottom (a must – especially in townhouse complex when you can easily forget someone is across the way) like These Applause Honeycomb Shades here.

One other ridiculously overpriced upgrade was the built in options they offered. The one for the TV, Kitchen as well as the closet organizer were crazy for what you got. A teensy-tiny closet organizer that barely fit anything (Adam made me a closet organizer pretty much the first week we moved in, and it is awesome! plus it fits everything I needed), and a super shallow kitchen built in with no cupboards, made of flimsy looking hardware. Needless to say Adam and I figured we could do something better ourselves, at a Fraction of the crazy price they were asking. Plus, it would be totally customizable to what we wanted.

The empty space

I have always loved the look of built in book shelves, and our super open-concept second floor with the kitchen/dining/living room we don’t have many corners for bookcases (we had three in our condo). I wanted something that I could display my cookbooks in, picture frames, and other items. We really don’t need two tables – in the show room they had a large dining room table, and a small round table across from the kitchen in the nook area where our bookcase is going to be and where their built in was – but, with only two of us we usually end up eating at the island, coffee table or dining room, so another table was not needed.

Kitchen ‘nook’ across from the island

After looking for ideas and inspiration online, and help from Adam’s dad and Nash, we got started on the design. We decided to use pre-built kitchen cabinets from Home Depot for the base, so they would be sturdy and also hide/store extra kitchen items with cupboard doors. Plus, they were pre-made and already finished so it was easy.

Adam has compiled a list of products, tools and instructions for the base so far.

So here’s Part One:

Products needed:

All Purchased from Home Depot

  • 4 x pre assembled cupboards 30.25” x 30.25” x 12” $99 each
  • 3 x 10 foot 2 x 4 3.87 each
  • 1 x 8 foot 2 x 4 2.77 each
  • 1 x 4×8 sheet of 3/4 inch mdf 37.84
  • 1 x box of 100  3 inch wood screws 9.99

Running Total: $458.01
Total time so far: One Saturday  

Tools required:

  • Drill
  • Chop-saw
  • Sand paper
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Measuring Tape

After first getting measurement of where the cupboards were going, it turned out that the pre-made cupboards from home depot were almost a perfect fit for the space, all we will need to do is install two 2″ spacers on either side.

Step 1 Make a box for the cupboards to rest on. These cupboards are designed to be upper kitchen cupboards, so I could have just mounted them to the wall, however, since we are planning to build bookcases on the top, I wanted to rest them on the ground as well.

To make the base, I used the two 10′  2 x 4’s as the long sides, and cut 1′ pieces to screw on to the end. I then cut six 9 1/4′ pieces to fit exactly between the 10′  2 x 4’s to add strength to the base. I just laid this base on the ground, it is not screwed in to the walls or to the cabinets. This makes it easy if I were to ever want to remove them. The existing baseboards behind the cabinets are untouched.

The existing baseboards are 4″ high so I wanted the box to be just over that height. I got the mdf ripped at 11″ for the top of the box, Home depot offers lumber cutting and it is very accurate and straight. Much faster and easier than using a table saw.

Step 3 After you have the base made, I ripped the MDF at the same dimensions of the base and placed it on top. I fastened it with 3” deck screws.

Step 4 Mount a 2 x 4 to the wall to keep the spacing correct and keep the cupboards from moving. Using 3″ screws to hit each stud. Mount it to the exact height of the cabinets you are using.

Step 5 Mount the cabinets to the 2 x 4 using 2” deck screws, I used twelve of them.

Step 6 using MDF ripped at 15″, make a shelf for the top of the cupboards, (will be doubled up when I start the next phase of construction)

Part one – Done!

Poops was a very good helper, even with her pink bandage (more about that later)


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1 Comment

  • Reply Aunt Weez February 3, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    OK very nice work Adam! Your condo is quite similar to ours. I’m looking forward to seeing it with the new spaces you created for storage,with design!! Our home is rustic/comfy no white leather/glass!! Humm which sister is this?? Luvs Aunt Louise

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