Whenever you’re doing a renovation or an update to your house, there always seems to be the need for some sort of custom cupboards or cabinets.
There always seems to be a space where the measurements and sizes required are just off enough that you can’t really get away with using some pre-fab off the shelf stuff.
Of course – even if you can find something to fit your space – that kind of stuff is either crazy expensive or the workmanship is exceptionally terrible.
At any rate, it’s not that difficult to do on your own.
Even if nobody else does, I have faith that you can do this.
Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, and if you purchase something I may earn a small commission as a result (at no extra cost to you.)
Proper Planning and Design
Before we jump into this: don’t skip the planning stage! If you rush into building your cabinet without a clear idea of what you want and how to achieve it, you’re likely to make costly mistakes and waste precious time and money. Here’s what you should do instead:
- Start by sketching your cabinet idea on paper or using some sort of design tool (like AutoCad or even Fusion 360 – which has a free trial). Don’t worry if you’re not an artist – a simple diagram with measurements and notes will do.
- Think about the purpose of your cabinet and the items you want to store in it. Do you need adjustable shelves, drawers, hooks, or dividers? Consider all the options and make a list of features you want to include.
- Choose materials that suit your needs and budget. For example, if you’re building a garage cabinet, you may want to use plywood or MDF instead of solid wood to save money. If you’re building a display cabinet for your living room, you may prefer hardwood and glass for a more sophisticated look.
- Calculate the dimensions of your cabinet based on your design and materials. Make sure to account for the thickness of the wood and any hardware you’ll be using. Double-check your math and measure twice before cutting.
Tips and Tricks for Maximizing Space Utilization and Functionality
Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to make the most of your fireplace built ins / storage cabinets. Here are some little-known tips and tricks that can help you optimize space utilization and functionality, depending on the cabinet style and what you’ll be using it for:
- Use adjustable shelves to accommodate items of different sizes and shapes. You can buy pre-made shelf brackets or make your own with scrap wood and dowels.
- Install sliding trays or baskets for easy access to items that are stored at the back of the cabinet. You can buy them online or make your own with drawer slides and wire mesh.
- Add hooks or pegs on the sides or back of the cabinet to hang tools, bags, or clothing. You can use S-hooks, bike hooks, or coat hooks depending on your needs.
- Create a magnetic tool holder by attaching a strip of magnetic tape to the inside of the cabinet door. This will keep your metal tools organized and within reach.
- Make a pull-out cutting board or ironing board by installing hinges and wheels to a flat surface. This saves counter space and hides the board when not in use.
By following these planning and preparation steps and using these tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to creating a beautiful and functional DIY storage cabinet that will transform your space. Stay tuned for the next section on how to build it like a pro!
Building a DIY Storage Cabinet – My Project
For this particular project, I was renovating our house and we wanted to put in a couple of built in cupboards on either side of the fireplace for some added storage and a nice updated look.
As I would be painting the cabinets, I felt that it required less perfection than if I was going to be staining the wood.
My thought behind painting the cabinets was that I would be able to hide any imperfections a lot easier with some wood filler or paintable DAP, whereas using a stain would probably make my DIY sins a lot more noticeable.
But the path you take will ultimately depend on what you’re trying to achieve with your project.
So I decided to go the easier route, as any project that doesn’t require aerospace level tolerances and perfection is much easier for us mere mortals.
For me, being able to put in a couple shelves was good enough – I didn’t need drawers or anything like that for this project as these cabinets will be mostly holding a collection of random junk.
Which is never considered junk when the outside temperatures can drop to -40 or lower in the winter months.
Building a DIY Storage Cabinet – Simple Cupboard Design Ideas
As with any project, there are a few things that you’ll need to get started.
You will need:
- A Table Saw
- A Circular Saw
- A Mitre Saw (not absolutely required – but will make your life much easier)
- A carpenter’s square
- Bar Clamps
- A Pocket Hole Jig
- Face clamp
- Screws for the pocket holes
- A Cordless Drill
- Measuring Tape
- Hinge Drill Jig
- Shelf Pin Drilling Jig
Some of the materials you will need are:
Now, soft close hinges aren’t absolutely necessary, but I thought I would spend the extra money and get them because they’re pretty sweet.
My justification for the additional expense was that: I was saving a lot of money on the project by doing it myself so I felt that I could afford to splurge a bit.
I built my cabinets out of 3/4″ sanded one face fir and they turned out great. You can use any material you want but I liked using the sanded 1 face plywood as there was less work needed to clean the wood up before I painted it.
Sure, it costs more but I think the savings of both time and hassle of having to sand everything down was well worth it.
Quick Note: 3/4″ is really overkill for these sort of cabinets – you could get away with 1/2″ for sure. If you do go with 1/2″ just make sure you adjust for any changes in the dimensions needed if you’re following my measurements exactly.
The Best Wood for Built-In Fireplace Cabinets
Is there a really a “best wood to build cabinets?” I think it really comes down to what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re wanting to build them.
Some cabinet builders just use MDF. You know – that particle board that’s made up of sawdust and glue.
From a design and function point of view it’s a treat to work with as it’s dimensionally stable, is straight and doesn’t want to warp or twist.
But cutting it produces all kinds of toxic dust that will plug up your nose even when making a small cut if you don’t wear a respirator.
(Not that I’d know personally…)
But a big downside of using MDF is if it ever gets wet, it tends to soak up moisture pretty good and then it begins to fall apart.
And for that reason, I personally wouldn’t use MDF in any sort of environment with water (IE bathrooms, kitchens).
MDF aside, you’re left with various forms and grades of plywood.
Some cabinets use cheaper plywood for the main parts of the cabinets and then wrap all visible areas in either a really nice wood veneer or fairly thin (1/4″ or less) plywood like oak or some other nice wood.
Or they use wood with the veneer already attached.
Others even go all the way and make their cabinets using full hardwood. But it’s incredibly expensive.
As I mentioned earlier, I used sanded one face fir plywood as it has a nice clean finish to it and takes less work to clean up before paint.
Keep in mind that if you go this route and end up using a softwood you will have to be a little more careful when cutting and handling your parts to make sure you don’t dent them or scratch them.
Softwood is much easier to cut and install and is less expensive, but is softer and will dent and scratch easier.
Another think to keep in mind if you’re using a softwood like I did, you will need to use coarse screws to assemble it.
If you are using a hardwood then you will need to use fine screws.
Let’s Get Building!
In making these cabinets, I used the sanded face of the plywood facing inside the cabinets (so that when you look inside you see the nice sanded face).
For the face frame section, I used 1″x4″ pine boards ripped to size because then I wouldn’t have to hide the plywood endgrain edges.
If I did run into a situation where I had to hide the end grain of the plywood, I used wood filler to cover the ends and then sanded it all smooth once it was dry.
You could also use thin strips of veneer or cut strips of pine to cap the ends as well. If you do this, you will just have to account for the extra material and cut down your plywood or other to allow for the extra width of the veneer or pine boards.
I didn’t go the veneer route as I found it to be very brittle and difficult to deal with. And as I was going to paint the cabinets anyways, using wood filler worked just fine.
If you follow my design exactly, you’ll see that I built a bit of a hybrid system where I combined features of both faceframe and frameless cabinets.
I built a faceframe that extended out past the face of the cabinet carcasses as this will give you some adjustability when you go to install your cabinets.
But I kept the inside edge of the faceframe flush with the inside edge of the plywood. Typical faceframe cabinets have a lip that goes all around the inside of the cabinet that reduces the size of the items you can fit inside the cabinet.
I wanted to have all usable space inside the cabinets.
I’ve included the sizes and cut lists below for the cabinets so you can see exactly how I built them.
I didn’t use any fancy dados or anything like that – just regular pocket holes and screws. For me, I love the Milescraft pocket hole jig as I’ve found the little magnet they put on it to be like an extra set of hands when you are using a clamp to hold the jig on the plywood. Much better than the Kreg Jig.
BUT the driver bit and screws that come with the Milescraft are no good. The driver bit is a special shape (IE not a standard bit side) and after making a couple sets of cabinets, I stripped the bit to where it wouldn’t work any more. The little edges of the bit are too fine and not hardened enough to stand up to repeated use.
The solution – buy Kreg pocket hole screws. They use standard drill bit sizes and will still work if you use the Milescraft jig.
Another little thing to keep in mind – when you’re drilling for the screw holes you want to ensure they are to be drilled on the side opposite the nice side of the plywood.
When you’re screwing the parts together, I found it worked well to clamp the wood together and then put the screws in. This way if the plywood has any sort of bow or warp in it, the clamps will hold it in place and then the screw will fasten it together – rather than the screw having to both pull the parts tight and fasten it as well.
I went about it in the following order:
1) Cut the cabinet sides to size & cut out reliefs on top and bottom for the toe kick and for the board across the top at the back for mounting it to the wall. Remember, you have to keep in mind that you will want the nice face of the plywood on the inside of the cabinets – so the orientation and where you cut your top and bottom relief will matter. Once this was done, I drilled the holes for the shelf pins on the nice side of the plywood to hold shelving on the inside of the cupboards and then pre-drilled all the pocket holes on the OUTSIDE non-sanded face of the plywood at the different places where I would be attaching the face frame, back mounting board, cabinet base shelf.
2) Cut the cabinet base to size & drill pocket holes on the outside edges on the non-sanded face of the plywood to attach the faceframe and to attach it to the cabinet sides.
3) Cut the back mounting board to size & the upper mounting boards to size & drill pocket holes on both ends of the upper mounting boards.
4) Screw the cabinet base to both of the cabinet sides and then install the upper mounting boards & back mounting boards to the cabinet sides. Make sure that the cabinet is square as you do this by using a square and measuring tape.
5) Rip 1″x4″ pine boards down to size to build the face frame and cut them to size. Then install the face frame around the outside edge of the cabinet base. Remember to keep the inside edge of the faceframe flush with the inside edge of the interior plywood of the cabinet.
6) Fill any any joints as required with wood filler – or you could just leave them if you wanted to. Sand and paint/stain as required.
7) Then I started working on making the plywood cupboard doors.
Plywood Cupboard Doors – A Simple, Quick Solution
Most of the door designs out there involve using special router bits to create rail and stile parts that click together.
But as I just wanted a basic shaker style cabinet, I figured that I could simplify the process by making the doors out of one piece of plywood and then gluing strips of 1/4″ plywood onto the sanded face in order to give the shaker detail.
By doing having the doors as one solid piece, the doors won’t pull apart at the joints if the wood expands and contracts – which would cause the paint to pull away from the joint over time and you would have to touch it up every once in a while.
So I figured it was a win-win because the doors won’t expand and contract wrecking the paint, and it was faster to make them.
All I did was cut pieces of 3/4″ plywood to the finished size of the door and then ripped strips of 1/4″ plywood for the detail and glued it all together. This gave the doors a 1″ thick finished thickness when all was said and done.
Then I used wood filler to hide the edges of the plywood all the way around and sanded it smooth once it was dry.
To hide the inside edge of the 1/4″ plywood on the shaker detail, I used a caulking gun with some paintable DAP to both hide the edges and give a little radius to the inside corner of the shaker detail.
I would highly recommend using masking tape to tape off both the top edge and inside edge of the doors before applying the DAP. Leave 1/8″-1/4″ of space offset on the inside of the shaker detail when laying out your tape.
Then apply the DAP and using your finger run it along the inside edge of the plywood in order to clean off the excess and leave a slight radius. (By DAP, I’m just meaning some paintable caulking.)
Once you’ve done this and are happy with how smooth it is, start carefully peeling off the tape to leave a nice clean edge.
When this is finished, you’re ready for paint.
Once painted you can install your hinges and mount them onto the cabinet carcasses.
The Kreg hinge jig couldn’t have worked better – I just set the location of the jig to the hinge manufacturer’s recommended setting and drilled the hole to the proper depth using the jig and everything worked out perfectly.
After that, you just need to screw the hinges onto the doors and cabinets and you’re ready to install the finished cabinets!
To finish everything off, I had some cedar beams ripped to size and used them as tops for the cabinets, placing the live edge to the font so they would be visible.
Benefits of Built-Ins Around Fireplace
1. It’s an Excellent Way to Add Decorative Accents to your Fireplace
Enhance your home’s coziness and aesthetics with built-ins around your fireplace. Customization options like glass doors and interior lighting can showcase your favorite decorative pieces. Use the surrounding area to highlight eye-catching decor and create a focal point that adds warmth and style.
2. It Makes the Fireplace Look More Prominent
When it comes to making a statement in your living space, nothing says coziness and relaxation quite like a fireplace. Adding built-ins around your fireplace not only creates a consistent look but also enhances its aesthetics and visual appeal. The ample space provided by custom built-ins can be utilized to create stunning visual displays that draw the attention of anyone who walks into the room. Here are three specific examples of how built-ins can enhance the overall appearance of your fireplace:
- Highlighting Eye-Catching Decor: The surrounding space of the built-ins can be used to highlight eye-catching decor, such as bold decorative items or contrasting colors that stand apart from the room’s overall design. By placing these items strategically, you can frame the fireplace and draw everyone’s gaze towards it.
- Creating Visual Depth: Shelves are the perfect location to add interest and visual depth through the use of accessories such as vases, potted plants, and vintage books. This can give your fireplace a modern touch or a more traditional look by adding a bold color or wainscotting.
- Mantel-Only Fireplaces: If you have a mantel-only fireplace, adding decorative items to your mantel can help make it the focal point of any room. Use small, color-coded stacks of books or accents in a contrasting color to draw eyes towards your mantel. Focusing on mantel decor allows you to easily switch out items for each season and holiday, keeping your home fresh and festive with minimal effort.
3. Conceal Any Unsightly Cords or Electronics
Built-ins around a fireplace can provide a practical solution for concealing unsightly cords and electronics. With shelves that are deep enough to hold and hide cables, internet and TV cords, you can keep your living space looking tidy and organized. Closed storage with cabinet doors can also help to reduce clutter and provide a more refined appearance. By using unfinished kitchen cabinets, you can easily customize your built-ins to fit your space and needs. Cutting out the backs and fronts of the cabinets can also help to prevent overheating and allow for signal reception from remotes. With built-ins, you can have a functional and stylish solution for hiding cords and electronics in plain sight.
4. Increase the Usable Space in your Home
Custom built-ins or bookshelves around a fireplace can be a great way to increase the usable space in your home. You can add shelves or cabinets on the bottom and mirrors on the upper half of the walls to make your living room appear larger and brighter. Closed storage with cabinet doors can provide a refined appearance and help you keep your space organized by tucking away remotes, extra blankets, family games, and more. If your fireplace hearth has an elevated base, extending it to both sides for low shelves or drawers can add storage and more seating, creating a cozy reading spot. With a bit of storage hiding in plain sight, you can make the most of your living room, especially if you’re working with a small space.
5. Add Warmth and Coziness to your Home
Built-ins around a fireplace can add a sense of warmth and coziness to your home. They can create an inviting atmosphere that beckons people to gather around the hearth. With the right decor, the built-ins can enhance the ambiance of the room and make it feel more relaxing and comfortable. From family photos to natural design elements, the options for customization are endless. The warmth of the flames combined with the personalized decor can create a sense of comfort and relaxation that is hard to replicate in any other part of the home.