A Simple Guide to Building Your Own Kitchen Cabinets

Plan and Create Custom Kitchen Cabinets

For some DIYers, the thought of remodeling a kitchen can seem overwhelming. Trust me, there is a lot of work involved but it is so worth it! A couple of years ago, I completely gutted my kitchen to the drywall. I tossed the old cabinets (which were very cheap and horrible) and built brand new cabinets myself. I used oak plywood and couldn’t be happier with the results. In fact, I still walk into the kitchen and am amazed at the fact that I did it myself!

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At the time I started the kitchen, I was in the final semester of college earning my degree in drafting. As part of the program, I had to take classes on residential drafting. The information I learned in the classes is actually what prompted me to take on the kitchen project. In fact, I kept the book because there was a lot of helpful information.

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I watch a lot of DIY shows on remodeling kitchens and I am amazed at the amount of money spent. One show had a budget of $50,000 for the kitchen! Wow, I can buy a fixer-upper house in my area for that amount! I did look at cabinets in some of the big-box home improvement stores for ideas. There was no way I was going to spend a ton of money on mine when I knew I could build custom cabinets myself, out of oak, for a fraction of the cost. I spend less than $2000 including a new dishwasher and a new smooth cooktop.

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Planning of the cabinets is a very simple task but there are a few “standards” used in cabinet building…

  • 1. The height of a base cabinet with a countertop is 36″ from the floor.
  • 2. The depth for a countertop is 24″.
  • 3. The “toe-kick” (lower indentation part of a cabinet) is 4″ high by 3″ deep.
  • 4. The distance between a countertop and the underside of the upper cabinet is 18″ – 24″, depending on the height of the ceiling.
  • 5. The upper cabinets are generally 24″ long and 12″ deep.

When I started building my cabinets, I built them one at a time. In other words, I started with the cabinet for the sink, built it, then installed it. To me, it was the best way to get an accurate measurement of the remaining cabinets to be built. Next, I moved on to the corner base cabinet which measures 36″ long (each way from the corner) and 22″ deep. Then, I created a space for the dishwasher. After that, I “filled in” the remaining areas with cabinets. I did the same thing with the upper cabinets. I built open cabinets on either side of the window, then built the corner cabinet.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that the cabinets should not rest directly on the floor. Just like no corner is ever square, no floor is ever totally flat. I used adjustable cabinet legs (<– affiliate link!) that I purchased. This way, the cabinets and countertop would be level. If I ever had a water leak, I would not want my cabinets to be ruined and I adjusted these legs  so the cabinets sit 4″ off of the floor.

I used Purebond plywood for the cabinets. Purebond is formaldehyde-free plywood with a fantastic grain pattern in the veneer. I did not use stain, I applied a coat of satin polyurethane in order to let that beautiful grain show through!

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There are numerous ways to assemble the cabinets. I used the Kreg pocket hole jig. It was easy, quick, and buying the screws in bulk is very economical! There are plenty of kitchen cabinet drawings and kitchen cabinet DIY plans on the site, as well.

See? Planning and building kitchen cabinets is very easy but there is one extremely important tip to remember – make sure the cabinet will fit through the door before it is assembled!! Don’t ask me how I know this!!

If you have any questions, leave a comment below! I’m here to help!