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
Cabinet Box Construction
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 that's flawless.
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 frame cabinet?
Determining 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.
Matching Exiting Cabinetry
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 visual appearance.
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.
Tips and Ideas
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 once again.
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 priced.
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 board screws.
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" thick.
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