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The ever-expanding closet project continues with the addition of an entire built-in cabinet system. My plan is to convert this space into an organized area that will sport 3 cubbies for shoes and six cabinet spaces that will contain linens, clothes and odds and ends — all for under $100. It’s a larger task than the rack system above it; however when I’m done I’ll have a sharp-looking closet with tons of great space.

This space has been cleared and cleaned in prep for the new assembly coming in. It measures 5.5’ long x 1’ deep x 6’ high and will need a bunch of work to get where I’m going.

First in is the base. Since I prefer not to rip up the carpet and trim work, I built a piece to fit over it. Blasphemy, I know, but in my view it’s in the closet and only I have to look at it. Plus, if I ever need to return it to stock for some strange reason I can. Also, I’m lazy.

I needed to remove the hanger bar and support bracket hook and stubs from the top of the space; a quick couple of cuts with the Bear saw and a shot of power from the portable band saw made short work of it. I still needed the vertical piece near the far side and the metal bracket, so both of those will stay.

I cut a piece of 1/4″ ply to form the base of a partition that will divide the unit. A few pieces of 3/4″ ply shored it up to make the partition more substantial.

A matching piece of 3/4″ ply went on the sidewall near the preexisting cubbies to box in the middle section. I created three cubbies by putting in two MDF dividers and an MDF top board that’ll act as the roof for the cubbies as well as the floor of the cabinets above them. I also attached two side supports to the sides to help locate and secure the shelf.

For the walled-off section to the right, I added two vertical supports against the wall and a small shelf near the top. It’s about 13” long and 12” deep and is supported by two support rails on either side.

I added a small piece to the partition to connect what will wind up being the front fascia trim pieces of the cabinet.

Next, I set into place the front trim for the cabinet face around the cubbies and the partition divider.

I glued and nailed in place a few supports made from scrap MDF for the shelves that will go in the middle cabinet section.

The shelves were cut from MDF and laid across their supports. The nearside trim piece went in place above the cubby trim.

The center support will serve two purposes: It will divide the cabinets and anchor the middle of the shelves, since it’s about a 36” span and MDF tends to sag.

Cross bracing went in to separate the upper and lower cabinets, and I put in the rest of the front trim to complete the cabinet framework. A little spackle and sanding got the seams and nail holes filled in a jiffy.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a great-looking project. Sure, it looks like a mess now, but after the addition of doors and a little paint, the final outcome will be just what I was looking for.

In part 2 we’ll go over building cabinet doors on the cheap.


3 Responses to Project: Built-In Cabinets Under $100 — Part 1

  1. Chris says:

    I’ve noticed you use a lot of MDF in your projects. Is that just ’cause it’s cheap, you have extra around, or for some other reason? I personally prefer plywood for this sort of thing — it stinks less, weighs less, and can be sanded smooth so it doesn’t catch on stuff.

    Just curious.


  2. Sean O'Hara says:

    Hey Chris,

    Actually I only started using MDF on these last two projects. I prefer 3/4 veneered ply most of the time. In this case however MDF is just flat cheaper and I’m painting/spackling over it anyway so I go with the cheap.

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