How to Build a Custom Built-In Using Stock Shelving


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This Old House general contractor Tom Silva transforms stock shelving into a custom built-in. (See below for a shopping list, tools, and steps.)

Shopping List for Building a Custom Built-In Using Stock Shelving:
– Freestanding shelving units
– 1 1/4-inch decking screws, to fasten cabinets together
– 3-inch drywall screws,”] to attach 2×4 nailer
– Wood shims,”] to plumb the cabinets
– Wood glue
– Construction adhesive
– 1x8s and 1x6s,”] to cut face frame, fascia, and other trim
– 2x4s, to make nailer
– Crown molding
– Acrylic latex paint (semigloss)

Tools List for Building a Custom Built-In Using Stock Shelving:
– Utility knife, to cut through old paint and caulk
– Two flat bars, to pry molding from wall
– Oscillating multitool with plunge-cut wood blade, to cut through baseboard
– Spring clamps
– Impact driver
– Screwdriver
– 4-foot level
– Stud finder, to locate the wall studs
– Pin nailer and 3/4-inch pins, to attach trim
– Finishing nailer and 1 3/4-inch nails, to attach face frame and trim
– Air compressor, to power pin and finishing nailers
– Scriber tool, to scribe the face frame to fit against wall
– Circular saw, to trim scribed face frame parts
– Caulking gun, for construction adhesive, to adhere shelves
– Sash brush

Steps or Building a Custom Built-In Using Stock Shelving:
1. Use a utility knife to slice through the existing paint and caulk along the top and bottom edges of the baseboard.
2. Carefully pry the baseboard from the wall with two flat pry bars.
3. Saw through the baseboard with the oscillating multitool fitted with a plunge-cut wood blade.
4. Clamp and screw together two cabinets using the impact driver and 1 1/4-inch decking screws.
5. Set the extension-shelf units on top of the two cabinets, and secure them with the provided cam-screw fasteners.
6. Measure and mark the stud locations on the wall, then set the cabinet assembly against the wall.
7. Insert wood shims under the front of the cabinet and check for plumb with the 4-foot level.
8. Fasten the cabinet bydriving screws through the cabinet back and into the wall studs. Repeat to install the other cabinet.
9. Glue and nail 1/8-inch-thick pine filler strips (ripped from your 1x stock) to the upper edge of the cabinet. Secure the strips with glue and the pin nailer equipped with 3/4-inch pins.
10. Screw a 2×4 nailer to the ceiling directly above the cabinets.
11. Cut a fascia from pine 1x8s to fit along the top of the cabinet. Nail the fascia to the cabinet and to the 2×4 nailer attached to the ceiling.
12. Install crown molding along the ceiling and across the newly installed cabinets.
13. Nail the new baseboard across the base of the cabinets.
14. Build a pine-frame toekick to fill the space between two cabinets. Then cut a shelf to fit on top of the toekick. Adhere the shelf with construction adhesive only.
15. Build and install a second pine frame and shelf to create a storage nook between the two cabinets.
16. Scribe the 1×6 pine face frame to fit between the wall and cabinet. Bevel-cut the board along the scribed line with a circular saw.
17. Nail the scribed face frame to the cabinets.
18. Cut and install the remaining face frames to the cabinets.
19. Finish the cabinets with a coat of semigloss acrylic latex paint.

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