Building Kitchen Cabinets

Learn how you can build kitchen cabinets from scratch and find out whether building your own cabinets is right for you.


Hang the upper cabinets first so the lower ones won’t be in the way during installation.

Making your own kitchen cabinets can be rewarding and can save you a lot of money in your kitchen renovation. Many homeowners have begun building kitchen cabinets as a way of achieving a custom look without a huge price tag.

Crave-Worthy Kitchen Cabinets

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Form and Function

This kitchen was designed to accommodate an enthusiastic cook and entertainer who wanted a contemporary feel that would not be at odds with her colonial townhouse. To create this look, NVS Remodeling & Design used frameless Dura Supreme Cabinetry in maple, painting the perimeter units in a creamy white and the island in a surprising splash of yellow (Sherwin Williams Butterfield with Espresso glaze). "To maximize storage, we stacked the cabinets to the ceiling, and specified deep drawers and tall pantries," say the designers. "The open corner and ribbed glass doors prevent that wall-to-wall cabinetry look."

Young At Heart

"Creating a hip, young kitchen while respecting the architectural heritage of an old house can be a challenge," says designer Jason Ball. To meet the twin needs of this particular project, Ball chose cabinets in a traditional raised-panel style, but gave them a fresh look with a trendy color: Behr's Dark Granite, in a rich semi-gloss finish. Hidden storage features complete the clever design. Deep drawers under the range keep pots and pans handy; cabinets extend to the ceiling for maximum stow-away space; and a pullout on one side of the kitchen keeps dog food easily accessible.

Real Steel

For a client who owns a company that manufacturers steel scales, Hufft Projects designed cabinetry that would reflect his business and his life. "We used metal panels throughout the house," says the designer. "The kitchen cabinets are one example. The gunmetal cabinets are made from galvanized hot-rolled steel with a clear-coat finish over an MDF substrate. They have integrated edge pulls to maintain a clean, seamless appearance."

Classic Cottage Charm

For a homeowner with a deep love of gardening and a fondness for English cottage style, Wright-Ryan Millwork created custom cabinets of white pine finished with a specially mixed stain of brown and yellow hues. "Concealed storage was important in this highly functional space," say the cabinetmakers. "Flat panel cabinets have adjustable, roll-out shelving inside, and concealed European hinges and soft-close drawers." Decorative feet beneath the sink adds cottage flavor.

Light Effects

In this open-plan kitchen, a combination of glistening white lacquered upper units and a striated wood style below creates a tailored, contemporary look. "Storage and functionality were both key to the design, so we optimized storage space by continuing cabinets along the bottom and into the adjacent dining room," says the designer. Design by DKOR Interiors.

Summerhouse Sophistication

In this luxurious Hamptons-style kitchen, designer Jamie Herzlinger created an updated traditional look that's long on luxury. Acres of white marble top the dual islands, complementing the custom millwork's graphic interlocking diamonds, a motif repeated on the upper cabinets that line the long walls. Panels cover the built-in refrigerators, for a sleek, integrated look.

Contemporary Cabin Style

Set on a wooded waterfront property on Lake Superior, this contemporary cabin shows a close connection to its natural setting. Architect Nils Finne used eco-friendly materials throughout the design, including in the kitchen. "We used PLYBOO, an FSC-certified bamboo product, for the cabinets," he says. "The end panels are mahogany, as is the dining table."

European Elegance

Inspired by the homeowner's love of Old World design, Ron and Martha Wolford created a rich, traditional look with frameless, raised-panel cabinets painted steel blue and accented with a creamy glaze. Important extras include in-cabinet puck lighting, under-cabinet lighting, mirrored glass mullioned doors (not pictured), and marble countertops. For a cohesive look, "the kitchen's cream, gold, and blue palette flows into the family room and covered porch," say the builders.

Bright Idea

In this long, narrow house, Kariouk Associates Architects used walls of glass to usher in light and designed sleek custom cabinets in bold yellow to help to capture and reflect the sunshine. Walnut paneling and accent cabinets offer a warm contrast to the splash of color, keeping the kitchen grounded within the open plan.

Fresh Outlook

For the heart-of-the home kitchen in this traditional Massachussetts home, designer Maqued Barsoum created custom cabinets with rich detailing: inset doors and drawers; deep, stepped crown moldings and a custom range hood canopy. The soft, sage finish lends softness to the look, and helps to highlight the island's dramatic Via Lattea granite.

Kitchen Cabinets

Learn more about beautiful, efficient kitchen cabinets.

While building kitchen cabinets is not overly difficult, it can be a big job–even for an experienced carpenter. Before you take on this DIY project in your own home, you should understand that it does require some basic woodworking knowledge, precise measurements, and certain tools of the trade.

In theory, cabinetmaking is not complicated as it's basically building simple box shapes over and over. The project gets a little tricky when making the cabinet doors and matching drawer fronts that finish the job and complete the look. If you are building kitchen cabinets for the first time, you may want to consider calling in a professional to assist in this demanding part of the job. Also consider using pre-existing cabinet drawers and doors—or even reworking old kitchen cabinets into new ones if time and basic carpentry skills are something you lack.

If you are planning on building kitchen cabinets from scratch, here are some basic steps for doing so. First, you'll want to measure out the wall space for your cabinets. You'll then want to sketch out a plan for your cabinets based on these measurements. This is perhaps the most critical step in the entire process as it requires a precision that will save you time and money in the end. If you don't know how to start this planning and measuring step, there are design templates available at many home improvement and design centers that can help you get started.

Next you'll want to research, choose and purchase the lumber needed to build your cabinets. This step can take time as there are many different woods available for building custom kitchen cabinets at many different price points. This is the point where you may want to consider purchasing ready-made cabinet doors and/or drawers if you are a novice and feeling overwhelmed by the carpentry skills required for this project.

Once you have chosen your wood and other materials, you'll want to take stock of your various parts and wood pieces. You'll want to label them according to where they will go in order to avoid confusion once the cabinet construction begins. You will then begin to assemble the cabinet base (all sides but the front) with heavy wood glue and/or screws. You can add shelving inside your cabinet base using wood glue and finishing nails. Vertical shelving dividers would also be nailed in next if used in your cabinet design.

When the base is put together, resembling the aforementioned simple box, you will then lay the base on its back, place your cabinet door on top and measure and mark where the hinges will be attached. The hinges can then be screwed into place and the cabinet door can be attached. You'll want to check to make sure that the cabinet door opens effortlessly and that it rests evenly on the base before moving to the next step.

At this point you can install the decorative cabinet components, including handles and drawer pulls. You may need a drill and screwdriver for this step. Finally, you can bring the cabinet upright and install it onto your wall using a drill and screws. You will need a second person at this step to help lift and secure the cabinet in place and to ensure that he cabinets are installed evenly.

While building kitchen cabinets is not a job for the weak at heart, it is a home improvement job that can give you great satisfaction, save you enormous labor costs, and provide a custom kitchen design unique to your style and home.

Distressed and Antiqued Kitchen Cabinets

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