How to Construct a Semi-Built-in Closet

Fill an alcove with a custom cabinet with these step-by-step instructions.

Related To:

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frame 1

Make the most of storage space that may be lurking in a corner with this cabinet project.

Note: It's best to assemble the cabinet in the room where it will be used, as it may not fit up stairs or through doorways. Also, building it slightly smaller than the opening and using the face frame to hide the gap not only eases installation in a crooked house but also saves material by making the cabinet fit the 48-inch width of standard plywood. And always use wood glue when working with cabinetry because it will make it more secure and keep it from squeaking if the pieces shift.

Materials and Tools:

1 sheet ¾-inch oak plywood
1 sheet ¼-inch oak plywood
1-by-3-inch oak boards, 8 feet long
1-by-4-inch oak boards, 8 feet long
1-by-6-inch oak boards, 8 feet long
25-foot roll of oak edging
6 recessed Euro-mount hinges
1 handle
three 18-inch closet poles
3 sets closet pole cups
wood glue
table saw with plywood and dado blades
miter saw
brad gun
tape measure
cordless drill
drill bits


frame 1


frame 1

1. Measure dimensions for the closet and make all cuts. To make the outer face frame, use the oak 1-by-3s. Cut stiles (verticals) and rails (horizontals) to fit the opening, being sure to make it square. Cuts can be straight or mitered depending on the style desired.

2. Use the ¾-inch plywood to make the entire outer shell and all the shelves. Cut the sides to desired depth. The length of the sides needs to be ½-inch shorter than the opening. The top, bottom and shelves should be cut 2 inches smaller than the opening. The back needs to be cut ½-inch shorter than the height of the opening and ½-inch shorter than the width of the opening.

3. Glue the top and bottom pieces between the two side pieces, and then nail them in place. Glue and nail (from the outside) shelves into place where desired.

4. After the shelves are secure, glue and nail the back onto the box, lining up one long edge and one short edge of the box on the plywood back and making sure everything is square.

frame 1


frame 1

5. Install box in the opening and attach it to the wall. Screw into the studs if possible. If not, use toggle bolts or hollow wall anchors. The weight of the cabinet is on the floor – attaching it to the wall is just for safety.

6. Attach the face frame to the box by gluing and nailing through the front. To make the building of the doors easier, be sure to keep all the openings square.

7. Cut the 1-by-6 for the toe-kick trim to the width of the cabinet and attach it by nailing down through the bottom of the cabinet.

8. To build the doors, use the 1-by-4s to construct a mitered frame 1¼ inches bigger than the opening. Most hinges use a 5/8-inch offset to mount the door, so making the door 1¼ inches bigger will keep it centered over the opening.

9. Run the inside edge of the frame over a dado blade to create a ¼-inch slot. This will create the groove for the door panel to ride in.

10. Cut a ¼-inch plywood panel to fit the groove.

frame 1


frame 1

11. Nail the frame around the plywood panel. Note: Do not glue the plywood panel into the frame. Plywood is very stable and oak is not, so they will expand and contract at different rates. They need to be able to move separately.

12. Sand the entire piece and remove dust. Stain the cabinet and doors as desired.

frame 1


frame 1

13. Mount the doors using recessed Euro-mount hinges according to the manufacturer's instructions. These hinges are available in a variety of styles and provide foolproof installation and six-way adjustment to make sure everything lines up. Attach handles if desired.

14. Iron on oak edging where desired.

15. Install closet poles where needed or desired. Screw the brackets to the walls of the cabinet, and cut the pole to rest in the brackets.

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