By Danny Proulx
Looking at some of the issues
Cabinet Door Size
Calculating door sizes for cabinets
Considerations when adding cabinets
Floor tiles and sink cutouts
A kitchen costing under $1,550
What's the best way to build the carcass (cabinet box) for
kitchen cabinets? And, which material is ideally suited for
kitchen cabinet construction? Those are two questions that
make-up a good portion of my e-mail each month. Do I have
the definitive answer? Unfortunately, there isn't one product
Many cabinetmakers, including myself, have opted for 5/8"
melamine coated particle board (MPCB) as the material of choice.
That's not to say there aren't a few drawbacks with this material,
however, in almost all situations MPCB is very acceptable.
Base cabinet boxes are built with two sides (gable ends),
a bottom, and a back. The upper cabinets have two gable ends,
a bottom, top, and back board. Base cabinets don't need the
top board as the countertop covers that opening. Normally,
with carcass construction using the Euro cabinet leg, bottom
and top boards are attached to the gable ends. In effect,
the width of the bottom and top boards determine the carcass
interior width because the gable ends are attached to these
boards using simple butt joints. The back board then covers
all the edges of the bottom, top, and gable end components.
The back board is often an issue when constructing cabinet
boxes. Should we use simple mounting strips, a 1/4" backboard,
or full width material? I've opted for full 5/8" back boards
on my cabinets because it stiffens the box and the cabinet
can be mounted to the wall very easily. Additionally, the
cabinet is very resistant to "racking" or twisting that can
sometimes occur when mounting to a less than perfect wall.
MPCB cabinet boxes built with butt joinery and fastened with
two inch particle core board screws are very strong, particularly
if you use 5/8" material for all the parts. I don't believe
it's worth the money to try and save a few dollars using ½"
MPCB, 1/4" back boards or mounting strips. Over the cost of
a total renovation it may mean saving two hundred dollars.
In my opinion, the carcasses are the heart of your cabinet
system and they should be well built.
You have two options after building the carcass. First, tape
can be applied to the exposed front edges which is the basic
Euro cabinet. Second, you can build a 3/4" solid wood face
frame to cover the exposed edges which will give you a hybrid
North American traditional style cabinet. Both systems are
very popular and it's simply a matter of personal choice.
Do you want a frameless Euro cabinet or a North American face
Cabinet Door Size
After you've built the cabinet box,
you'll need to calculate the door size. Although that's a
relatively simple matter, a couple of issues must be considered.
First, what kind of door hinge do you plan on using? Second,
is the cabinet style European frameless or North American
face frame? If Euro frameless, then the Euro hidden hinge
will be used. If the cabinet is a face frame style, you can
use either the Euro hidden hinge or one of the many traditional
exposed hinges. All calculations are based on using a full
overlay Euro hinge as described in issue #4.
Calculating door size for the Euro frameless cabinet with
hidden hinges is a simple matter. On single door cabinets
the door size equals the outside dimensions of the cabinet
box, in width and height, less 1/16" on all edges. Therefore,
a cabinet box with outside dimensions of 12" wide by 31" high
will require a door 11 7/8" wide by 30 7/8" high. On two door
cabinets, reduce the door widths by an additional 1/32" to
account for the required center gap between the two doors.
For face frame cabinets with the Euro hinge measure the inside
width and add one inch to the combined width for double door
cabinets and ½" for single door cabinets. A 24" cabinet that's
22" inside will require two 11 ½" wide doors. The height of
the door is dependent on the look you want to end up with
but I usually measure the total height of the cabinet and
subtract 1 1/4" for the door height. That's assuming you are
mounting the door flush with the face frame bottom rail. It
also assumes that the face frame is built with 1 ½" high rails
and 1" wide stiles.
Calculating door widths for traditional surface mounted hinges
depends on the hinge style. You'll have to take into account
the inside cabinet width, to make sure the overlay door covers
the opening, as well as the required mounting surface for
the hinge. Often, I add ½" to the inside width to find the
door width and subtract 1 1/4" from the overall cabinet height
for the door height.
All of the above calculations depend a lot on the cabinet
style. But, in many cases, these general calculations can
be applied. As with all woodworking projects, construct a
sample door to test fit before building all the doors.
An inquiry from one reader prompted me to think
about one of the most difficult tasks in kitchen cabinetry
- adding cabinets to an existing kitchen. If you're happy
with the style of cabinets but not too pleased about the quantity,
it's natural to add a few extra cabinets. Or, redesign a few
of the existing cabinets to better suit your needs.
The problem of matching a cabinet style is a common occurrence
in some renovation projects. It's tough to build to someone's
style especially after you've developed a style of your own.
There's no easy solution. You've got to study every joint
and technique before you attempt to duplicate the cabinets.
Try building to modern standards, while maintaining the exterior
Often it's a difficult task with older style face frame cabinets.
Other issues arise such as material type, hardware duplication,
to say nothing of the problems associated with matching the
original finish. >From my perspective, the existing cabinets
have to be of superior quality before I'd consider a matching
project. In many cases, you'll spend more time and money attempting
to duplicate the style rather than building all new cabinets.
If you are building one additional cabinet, such as a pantry,
it may very well be worth the effort. On occasion, the existing
doors are of good quality and it makes economic sense to build
new cabinet carcasses. Whatever the case, if you're considering
matching an existing cabinet style be very sure all the techniques,
hardware, and finishes are available. It's not very nice to
build a cabinet that looks like it was added.
I came across a couple of real interesting
little ideas the other day. Most of you, myself included,
have the odds and ends from floor tile projects around our
homes. I know because I've counted three different bunch of
tiles in the basement that I've been carrying around each
time I've moved.
Just recently, one customer showed me a great idea for these
tiles. Make them into trivets for the kitchen. Simply add
rubber kitchen cabinet door bumpers to the underside of these
8 inch by 8 inch floor tiles and you'll have a great place
to put hot pots. I now have two beside my stove. With the
amount of floor tiles I've got hanging around in the basement,
I'm going to make a million dollars at the next neighborhood
garage sale. By attaching four bumpers on the bottom of each
tile I can call them "hand crafted" trivets. What a great
way to finally clean the basement!
Do you need a custom cheese board for your next party? How
about one that matches your new countertop. All you have to
do is save the cut-out from the sink installation, square
the edges on your table saw, and add 1" x 2" wood to the edges.
Use a round over bit on the upper and lower hardwood edge,
finish it with a nontoxic coating, and you've got a terrific
custom tray. Maybe I should have called this a recycling article.
Nevertheless, both ideas make use of two things that nobody
likes to throw away. Now they've been given a useful life
Cottage time is almost upon us and for those
that are looking for a kitchen cabinet face lift at the
cottage, or new cabinets for that summer home you're going
to build this year, here's a simple and elegant solution.
Euro cabinets, in their most basic form, are an ideal alternative
for cottage, laundry room, or the workshop. Construction
techniques are simple and the material is very reasonably
Melamine coated particle core board (MPCB) is used for all
parts, including the doors. Exposed edges are covered with
edge tape and butt joints are secured with particle core
The standard upper cabinet consists of two sides, bottom,
top, and back board, plus the door. Base cabinets do not
need a top board because the countertop covers the opening.
I'll describe a standard 24" cabinet - all other sizes are
calculated in the same manner. All MPCB board used is 5/8"
Two 31" by 11 3/8" sides are needed for the upper cabinet.
The bottom and top boards are 11 3/8" by 22 3/4". The back
board is 24" by 31". The sides are joined to the bottom
and top board giving us a cabinet width of 24" and a height
of 31". Install a 31" by 24" wide back covering all edges.
Two doors 31" by 11 7/8" are required.
The 24" base cabinets are assembled in the same manner but
without a top board. As well, base cabinet doors should
be 30" high so that they'll clear the countertop overhang.
Simply add a 1-1/2" piece of MPCB at the top of the base cabinet
opening so that the space between the top of the door and
the countertop edge is hidden.
Doors are installed with full overlay European hinges. The
total door width on a 24" wide cabinet is 23 3/4" which
allows for a 1/16" gap between the doors and about 3/32"
on each outside edge. Tape all exposed edges on the cabinet
box and doors. Additionally, there are small cover caps
available that will hide the particle board screws on any
exposed cabinet sides. You can easily install either fixed
or adjustable shelves in these cabinets. The final product
will be a very nice looking, plain but inexpensive cabinet.
If you want too add a little style, use a colored MPCB instead
of white or a wood veneer covered particle board. Some of
the new plastic trim that's now available at the home stores
can also be used to enhance the look of your budget cabinets.
P.O. Box 331
Russell, Ontario. Canada K4R 1E1