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How to Build a Multi-Functional Storage Cabinet

Wasted Spaces host Karl Champley shows you how to make the most of a useless knee wall.

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building a multi functional storage cabinet Watch Video

Step 1: Remove the Knee Wall

Remove the base molding from the area where the unit will be located.

Mark the wall where the unit will be, ours is 80" wide by 39" tall. To cut out the drywall, use a razor knife to score the lines and then use a drywall saw to cut through.

There were 2x4 studs running down through the hole, so cut those out using a reciprocating saw.

Relocate the wiring. If you feel uncomfortable moving wiring, consult an electrician. The opening is now ready for a cabinet.

Tips:

  • When beginning demolition, it is a good idea to first create a small access hole in the wall to be able to look inside and check for wiring. Be gentle when hitting the wall though, so that any wiring behind it will remain in place.
  • Once the drywall has been removed, make sure the insulation is intact.

remove the knee wall

Step 2: Cut and Install the Skids

After removing the drywall, a 2x4 sill remained at the bottom of the wall. This means the plywood subfloor inside the cabinet area is a 1-1/2" (2x4 thickness) below the top of the 2x4 sill.

Cut the 2x4 skids and use 3" wood screws to screw them into the subfloor. This is done so that when the cabinet slides in the opening, it will be level with the baseboard. The skids will also make it easier to slide in the unit and will add support.

cut and install the skids

Step 3: Build the Cabinet

Because the rafters go back at a 30-degree angle, the cabinet was built to match the depth.

For the box, use triangular-shaped sides, one bottom piece, two back pieces and one top piece. Glue all of the pieces together, and then nail them with 2" trim nails and a nail gun.

Add 2" screws in the hidden areas in the back of the unit for additional support.

To finish off the storage cabinet, add the back piece using 1/4" plywood.

building the cabinet

Step 4: Build the Storage Bins

The bins are boxes and are made out of 3/4" birch plywood.

You can use a table saw to create the dado cuts in the side pieces of wood that will allow for heavier things to be stored in the bins.

Add a screen molding to cover the exposed plywood edges.

Tip: Be careful not to make the dado cuts too deep.

building the storage bins

Step 5: Assemble the Bins

Put together the cut wood pieces that make up the bins using glue, nails and screws. Put together the side pieces and the back piece.

A piece of 1/4" plywood will slide in the dado groove to create the bottom of the bins. The face of the drawer goes in the same way the sides did.

Tips:

  • Each of the five bins will sit in a cubby, and will be able to slide in and out without track hardware or drawer slides.
  • Put the finished side of the plywood on top because the top will be seen when the drawer is open.

Step 6: Paint the Cabinet

To paint the top of the drawers, use a flat sponge brush with a handle. It will keep the paint from dripping down the sides on the bins. It's best to do a couple of coats to avoid seeing brush strokes.

Tips:

  • A sponge brush with a tapered end is a good brush to use for the drawer face. It soaks up a lot of paint and allows you to paint for a longer time.
  • Paint the bins with alternating colors. The bin colors are spiced vinegar, red and tweed.

painting the cabinets

Step 7: Install the Cabinet

Make sure the unit is flush with the wall using a flat surface, and make sure the space between the unit and the wall is the same on both sides.

The unit needs to be screwed into the skids and to the studs on the sides of the cabinet opening using 2-1/2" screws.

Tips:

  • The area inside the opening is already insulated. The insulation will prevent cold air from seeping in around the shelves.
  • It is easier to prime and paint the cabinet before it is put into place.

      installing the cabinet

Step 8: Install the Shelves

Once the plywood is put together to form the main "box" using glue and nails, nail in the plywood shelves.

The hinges for the bookcase are made from 1/2" by 2-1/2" carriage bolts to create an upper and lower pivot point.

Insert 1/2" washers between the main frame and the top and bottom of the bookcase. These will allow the bookcases to turn.

Bolt in the unit through the washers and secure with nuts.

On the opposite side of the hinge, each bookcase needs a 1"x3" wing piece attached. This will make sure there is a tight fit when the bookcases are closed.

Tip: Adding a drop of oil between the washers will make rotating much easier.

installing the shelves

Step 9: Add the Trim and Hardware

Transfer the marks from the existing studs onto the wood to know where to place the trim.

Nail the casing trim in to cover the gap between the new cabinet unit and the existing drywall.

Add hardware, such as drawer pulls and handles, on the bookcases and place all the bins and drawers in the main unit.

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