A few months ago for the One Room Challenge we installed built-ins in our laundry room/pantry. We had never tackled a project like this before and we were excited to try our hand at built-ins. There were some speed bumps, along the way, but overall we felt like we did pretty well for a our first. On the DIY scale I would rate this a moderate project (if it’s your first time doing built-ins). We learned a lot along the way and while we definitely aren’t professionals I wanted to share how we were able to install built-ins on our own and all of the lessons we learned along the way. Here are the before pictures of the space so you can get an idea of what we were working with.
Below I have included each step we took and the tools we used to create a much more functional (and pretty) laundry room and pantry! If your pantry is feels a little drab and un-organized this is a great way to add character, storage, and function, if you have the space to do it! I promise, if we can do it, you can too!
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Here are the tools you will need to complete this project:
- tape measure
- stud finder
- reciprocating saw
- mitre saw
- table saw or circular saw
- kreg jig
- kreg jig screws
- 1×4″ lumber for supporting pieces
- liquid nails
- liquid nails
- 36″ base kitchen cabinet
- counter top of choice (we went with this one from Ikea)
- paint brush (my favorite paint brush)
- Kilz (my favorite primer)
- paint of choice
- cabinet hardware of choice
The first thing you need to do is measure your space. We had two sections were were adding cabinetry to, the wall under the window and the wall the washer and dryer are on (opposite walls in the space). The room is a little less than a 5×10′ rectangle. We wanted a designated laundry area and a designated pantry area. We determined the opposite ends of the rectangle would work for each of the spaces respectively.
For the pantry end we were working with a wall 58″ wide. We envisioned storage under neath the window, with a counter top spanning the length of the wall, and open shelving above. We opted to use pre-built stock kitchen cabinet for the cabinetry portion of this project (to save ourselves time because we are not woodworkers). This wall was enough space for one 36″ standard kitchen cabinet, but not two. We both closed and open storage for the laundry area so we decided to place a 36″ base kitchen cabinet on the right with open storage on the left.
We wanted the cabinet to be flush with the wall so we measured where the trim would need to meet the cabinet and removed the trim behind where the cabinet would go using our reciprocating saw.
Lesson #1: We cut off too much trim (as you can see above) so there are gaps that still need to be fixed. Yes, still, because we haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Lesson #2: Make sure the cabinet is level (front-to-back, and side-to-side) once installed. Use shims to raise up any un-level areas.
We planned to install a countertop to span the width of the wall (over the cabinet and the open space to the left of the cabinet so we attached support pieces of wood that the counter top would rest on over the open space. We basically created a “box” for the counter to rest on. To do this you need to measure a) the length of the back wall above the open space, b) the length of the side wall (to the same depth as the front of the cabinet), and c) the length of the front opening (that should be flush with the front of the cabinet). We used 1×4″ pieces of lumber that we ripped down with our table saw to be 1×2″ that we cut to length required fore a), b), and c).
Tip: 1×2″ lumber is usually more expensive than 1×4″ lumber, so if you have a table saw you can rip it down yourself and save a little bit of $$.
Before attaching the support pieces to the wall we used the Kreg Jig to drill 2 pocket holes in each piece for the location where we planned to use Kreg Jig screws to attach the support piece to the countertop. Using the Kreg Jig allows for “hidden” screws and a more seamless look. These screws will be screwed into the counter top after it is installed, however it’s easiest to pre-drill the pocket holes before attaching the support pieces to the wall. On the front support piece (that will be flush with the front of the cabinet) we drilled 2 pocket holes using the Kreg Jig on the side that will be hidden (facing the back wall) in order to attach the front support piece to the wall and to the cabinet.
To attach the support pieces to the left and back walls we used regular 1 1/2″ wood screws. Using the stud finder we made sure to hit at least 1 to 2 studs for each piece we installed. We installed the final front support piece using the Kreg Jig screws to attach the left side to the wall and the right side to the cabinet. We were unable to hit a stud on the left side where it attached to the wall, but give the left, back, and right sides were all very well supported we were okay with this.
Lesson #3: Be sure to use the level the ensure all of the support pieces you have installed and that they are level with your cabinet… otherwise the counter will not be level once it’s installed.
Once you have installed all of the support pieces you are ready to install your counter top! If your countertop is laminate and not already cut to the right length you will have to cut it down using a circular saw. Don’t worry, this is really easy! We set up our countertop on a saw horse upside down (you can use any raised surface you are comfortable using a saw around). Mark the length you need. Use painters tape and tape over the line. Re-draw the line over the painters tape for accuracy, if necessary. Use the circular saw to make the cut along the line, then peel the tape off. We were very surprised at how easy this really was!
Now that it is cut to length you can place your countertop into position on the cabinet and support pieces. Once we had it in place we lifted the counter top off the cabinet end and applied liquid nails using a caulk gun to the top rim of the cabinet, then we lowered the counter back in place and placed heavy object on top of the cabinet end of the counter to ensure the liquid nails could set and secure the counter to the cabinet. Using Kreg Jig screws we attached the other side of the counter to the supporting pieces we had previously installed.
The cabinet and support pieces are now ready to be painted and primed. We did two coats of primer and two coats of paint.
Note: We kept the left side underneath the counter open for storing our step stool and dog food container. You could easily add open shelving here using the support piece/countertop method used to install the counter top. Instead of using another piece of counter top for the shelf you could use a piece of MDF and paint it to match the cabinet.
Now that we have finished this project we kept asking ourselves why we didn’t do it sooner! It’s so incredibly nice to have extra storage space and an almost butler-esque pantry!
Stay tuned for posts on the open shelving and how we installed the laundry room portion of the built-ins.
Let me know if you try this project out… I would love to see!