How to Build Built-In Cabinets or Cupboards

Built-in cabinets or cupboards are the best way to add storage or a decorative feature to a plain room, but how do you go about it?






The concept of built-in cupboards or cabinets is not a new one, but it is a great one. If you own your own home and need a way to add extra storage or have a place to display collectables or a collection of books, a built-in is the way to go. Not only can it be designed in such a way as to be not as deep as conventional cupboards or cabinets, but it can also be crafted and finished in such a way that it complements the style of a home or existing decor scheme.




There are advantages to built-in cupboards or cabinets but also a disadvantage, being that it is almost impossible to find what you want in a style or size that will fit a space. This is where do-it-yourself skills come in extremely handy though and it is not a difficult project to design and install custom built-ins on your own, using your own tools and bought materials to complete the project.



1. Getting ready

First things first, you need to prepare in advance and that includes taking exact measurements of the space where you want to install the built-in.


  • Measure the height at both ends and, in the centre, to ensure an exact measurement from one side to the other.
  • Measure the width at the top and bottom of the space, at the front and at the back to allow for any inconsistencies in walls, as is the case in many houses.
  • Determine the depth for the built-in. This is where you can design a unit that is custom to fit into the space and not intrude too much on floor space.
  • Finally, decide on the finished look of the built-in and the materials you will use for the construction.




2. Sketch a plan

Drawing a plan is not just about putting your idea down on paper but also about outlining the measurements so that you know the materials you need to complete the built-in. A great way to gather ideas is to go online and browse sites such as Pinterest, Houzz, and other design sites that will provide you with plenty of inspiration. A drawing program or something similar to the free version of SketchUp



Using this type of drawing program, you can sketch out the components to compile an accurate list of all the pieces required to assemble a built-in. The drawing process will also help to identify any problem areas in advance and save you a lot of time on the construction.







3. Tools you will need

While outlining the diagram for the built-in, you will also be able to assess what tools you will need to assemble everything, as well as any hardware or accessories to complete the installation. If you have the construction materials cut to size at Builders, you won't need the larger power tools needed to cut everything to size and it will also make transporting easier and cut down on the time spent doing the assembly.



If there are tools you need that you don't have, ask family and friends if they can help, or hire what you need as and when you need it. Talisman Tools operates out of Builders Warehouse stores, and they have a wide selection of tools available for hire.





4. Choose the materials

If you are going to an effort to make a custom built-in for your home this is an opportunity to add a functional and attractive element to a room. The materials you choose for this project will not only influence the total cost but also the ease of assembly and finished look of the built-in. Here are some of the materials to consider for a built-in:


BisonBord - Chipboard - Particleboard

This board product is commonly used in the construction of cabinets and cupboards, particularly for the framework or areas where pieces will not be seen. It is a cost-effective material that can be used to reduce the overall cost of any furniture-making task since it is the cheapest product to use yet still offers strength.



Unless you are prepared to go to the expense of using veneered plywood, commercial or pine plywood is not recommended for this type of project. The finishing is rough and the edges rip when cut or sanded.



SupaWood - MDF - Medium Density Fibreboard

SupaWood is manufactured locally according to regulations and standards for safety. It is a super-strong board product that is not as inexpensive as BisonBord but far less expensive than other options. It is an unfinished product onto which you can apply a veneer or laminate and one that can be painted easily.



BisonLam - SupaLam

Both of these board products have a thin melamine-impregnated decor paper finish in super white that is perfect for shelving and visible framing without the cost of melamine-coated board products. The cost is affordable making this the perfect solution if you are planning for white built-ins with shelves behind doors.



MelaWood - Melamine

MelaWood or board products with a hard laminated coating are perfect for finishing off built-ins. This product comes in a variety of laminate designs from wood-look, and stone-look, to solid colours that are available in matt or gloss finishes. MelaWood and related products are available in different thicknesses, making them ideal for a range of furniture projects.



What makes MelaWood such a great product for built-ins is the fact that you can select a choice of edging options to finish off doors, shelves and cladding and can also have holes pre-drilled for hinges. Most larger hardware stores and timber merchants offer this service at a reasonable cost and it saves you on having to buy or rent specialist tools to do the job. 









5. The quick and easy solution

Assembling built-ins with readymade cupboard carcasses makes the job even easier. There are plenty of suppliers nationwide that offer raw cupboard designs, usually intended for kitchens or closets, and you can pick and choose designs and sizes to fit in with the built-in you want to install.






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