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Family Room Built-in - The Countertop and Base Cabinet Trim

This post is sponsored by The Home Depot.
how to build base cabinets for a wall of built-in s with wooden counter

Hey guys,

I've been working really hard trying to finish this whole wall of shelves in our family room. During the weekend I did good progress, but I couldn't reach my goal of finishing the building part to start the painting.

As you probably have noticed, I haven't been good at keeping you posted. The thing is, at the end of the day I'm exhausted and the last thing I want to do is grab my computer and start uploading pictures. However it was about time, and here I am with the second part of this building project.

The first part that you can check right HERE ended with the picture below. When the carcasses for the base cabinets were done and placed inside the room.

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base cabinets in place in family room

Well, I was ready to secure these carcasses to the wall and to each other, but after measuring how high they were and then, comparing those numbers to the other built-ins I had in the dining room, this new wall was a bit too short. So, I decided to install a couple of strips of 1" material to bring that countertop line a bit higher. My cordless DeWalt Cordless Framing Nailer was perfect for this job.

Whenever you build something, more than likely you're going to run into mistakes or things that don't go the way you wished for, but there is always a way to fix things. I'm so glad I had an easy way to fix this.
adding height - problem solving
DeWalt 20-Volt MAX Lithium-Ion 21-Degree Cordless Framing Nailer
Now, to ensure the entire setup is level, this is the moment to set those level lines. A laser level is by far the easiest way to set those lines.

I used my Bosch 30 ft. self-leveling laser level to mark the line where the top of carcasses should go. The bases were lined along the wall and the laser line was placed at its highest point. The cabinets that didn't reach that line were shimmed up.
how to built-in shelves
Bosch 30 ft. self-leveling laser level
The next step was to set how deep those columns or boxes in between the cabinets should go. For me, it was determined by the thickness of the door plus the small lattice piece I still needed to add to the boxes.

Oh, and here you can see I trimmed the rough plywood edges with a 1/2" parting bead. These cabinets are not going to have a face frame, they are frameless cabinets. The doors are going to be a full overlay, which means the doors are going to cover all the front of the cabinet. But, at the same time, I'm building them to have the look of inset doors.
base cabinets with towers in between them

Finding the studs on the wall is a task you can do even before bringing the cabinets in. Use a stud finder to locate those studs. I had to make some holes in the Sheetrock to be sure what was behind there. My biggest fear was hitting a water pipe that I thought was running up there.

Those base cabinets were secured to the studs with 2-1/2" wooden screws.
base cabinets installed

Then, the cabinets were clamped to the boxes, making sure they were level and the boxes were at the right depth. They were secured to each other using 1-1/2" wooden screws.
family room built-in - installing base cabinets
DeWalt Cordless Drill/Driver

For the counter, I used one sheet of 3/4" MDF and one of 3/4" plywood. At Home Depot I asked them to cut them in half, lengthwise.  The MDF was the first one to be laid on top of the cabinets.

Underneath, I traced the profile to be cut. Here, I traced that line thinking I had to leave an overhang, but before cutting it I remember that I was going to add 1 x 2 material to finish those rough edges and that material was going to be the overhang.
By the way that MDF is SO heavy! I had to ask my boy to help me bring those boards inside to mark them, then outside to cut them, and then inside again to install them!

This first layer of the counter was run continuously and an extra piece of plywood was added at the end.
Then, the plywood or top layer was brought in, again from underneath I marked the cutting line. The plywood was laid in three pieces. One piece covers the center cabinet and two more plywood pieces cover each of the sides.

Since my cabinets were of different depths, I had to use my Ryobi Jig Saw to cut around those lines. And let me ask you when was the last time you used a jigsaw?? Well, maybe it's time for you to upgrade to the latest because jigsaws have come a long way and you're going to love the improvements they have given to this basic tool. 
Ryobi jig saw cordless brushless
RYOBI Cordless Brushless Jig Saw

The next step was to secure both boards to the cabinets. I clamped them and put weights on them to bring them down. A few brad nails were driven from the top down and then, from underneath the cabinet I drove 2" wooden screws to secure them both.

I gave the rough edges a good sanding and applied wood glue before installing the 1 x 2 material all along the edge.

The corners were mitered.


That open part at the bottom of the cabinets was beefed up with 1x2 and 1x3 material. That's in part because of the inset look I want to give to the cabinet doors and also I had a good surface where to attach the baseboard to.

1/4" pieces of lattice were added to the boxes to even up the baseboard line.

Then the 1 x 6 material was cut to size and mitered to create the baseboard.

If there is a tool I really LOVE is my RYOBI cordless Airstrike brad nailer. I use it all the time. That's my go-to tool for installing this kind of molding.
RYOBI Cordless Airstrike brad nailer
Finally, 1-1/3" pieces of lattice were added to the boxes to give them a little more detail. Wood glue and 3/4" brad nails were used to secure them in place.

I was starting to install the base cap molding at the top of the baseboard.
plywood base cabinets for built-ins

Here is how they looked with me on top of those bases and Louie, my assistant, trying to join in the fun! :)
how to install the base cabinets for a built-in wall - Cristina Garay

Well, that's it for now. Building and installing the shelves is the next part, stay tuned!

Here are the links to all the work done for this project:

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  1. Wow, girl! These built-ins are going to be super fab! Please come to my house! I am a good 'ole Southern cook and have a comfy guest room.... your work would be a joy. LOL... ~~ Susie from The Chelsea Project

  2. Oh wow, this is looking soooooooo good. I can't wait to see it all done. So much detail. I am still totally amazed and in awe.

  3. Looks great! Thanks for all the detailed “how to’s.” Can’t wait until your next post!

  4. You are amazing! I know I said it all the time, but you are talented.

  5. Hi, Fabulous job and thank you, I have learned so much. I know it's been a while since all this was posted but can you tell me if you used 1/2" plywood for the carcass or 3/4"? Thank you, Kate

    1. Hi Kat, thanks! I used 3/4" ply for almost everything.

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