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How to Build a Valet Cabinet

Wasted Spaces host Karl Champley shows you how to make the most of an ineffective alcove by building a valet cabinet/pantry.

More in Remodeling

building a valet cabinet or pantry

Step 1: Plan the Project

Including the hallway, the entire space measures 6-1/2' deep x 47" wide x 9' tall ceilings; however, due to an existing doorway and switches on one wall of the hall, the team only built within the rear 27" of depth in the alcove.

To achieve similar results, you will need to take some things into consideration before planning your project, such as:

  • What niches or alcove in your home might this work? Consider the flow of traffic in your home and make this a very convenient access point while keeping it out of the way.
  • Exactly what sorts of things might need to go into this space? Your decisions about the design will be determined using measurements of just these sorts of items.
  • Remove all items from the area where you will be building your pantry.

Step 2: Remove the Crown Molding

Using a utility blade, gently score around the top of the crown molding where it connects to the ceiling. Lightly dig the blade back between the ceiling and the piece of molding.

Score along the caulking. The caulking is the safest material on which to cut because it is the protective barrier between the molding and the ceiling. You need a clear separation from the drywall and the molding. Be very delicate to protect the molding.

Tips:

  • The more delicate you are now, the less work you will have to do later.
  • When removing the molding, it is good to have something on hand like a paint stirrer, or a small wood shim to place between the chisel and the molding to minimize the negative effects of using metal on wood. Score the top, score the bottom then wedge the chisel, using your shim to continue to chisel and pry off the molding.

removing the crown molding

Step 3: Design the Pantry

If you want to incorporate special areas to consolidate electrical charge items (such as cell phones), you might want to consider rerouting electrical plugs. This is essentially lengthening the wire of the original outlet and threading it around/up through the wall to a new opening you create. Make sure to cut off the flow of electricity to that outlet before making any changes to the wiring. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, find a professional.

When building with plywood, keep in mind using any measurement of 4' (or a multiple thereof) comes in quite handy because a standard sheet of plywood is 4' wide. Being able to create something using a standard measurement minimizes the amount of cuts you have to make, which lessens the amount of wasted wood.

Once you know the size of your unit, measure out and mark your cuts on the plywood and use a table saw to cut out the pieces. The pantry in this project measures approximately 24" deep x 45" wide x 9' tall. At this point, decide whether you're going to want external cabinet doors; if so, you will need to plan for them and cut them.

Tips:

  • If you rerouted any electrical, make sure you include those measurements when cutting the plywood for the base of your unit. You will need to make a corresponding cut through your plywood back in order to make use of that electrical source.
  • If you don't want to cut the wood you can take the measurements to a hardware store and have the lumber cut there.

designing the pantry

Step 4: Create the Roll-Top Door Track

The track system for the roll-top door will be created and built right into the inside of the pantry (as opposed to being built outside and then mounted inside).

On the inside of the plywood sides (the part that will be the side frames of the pantry), draw out a template for the roll-top door track. This is going to create the archway over which the door will fold. When the wood is standing vertically, this should be a symmetrical arch going from one edge of the plywood (to be where the door pulls from) to the other edge (this will be the back, where the door sits when it is open). Do this on each of the two side frame parts of your pantry and measure to make sure that both arches are symmetrical and identical. They need to match in order for the roll-top door to work properly.

Tips:

  • The PVC strip is the kind that is used as an end cap for Masonite siding.
  • You will want to use staples, not nails, for securing the PVC. Nails are too big and bulky for these tracks.

create the roll top door track

Step 5: Install the Shelves

Consider and plan how each component will fit into the pantry. Remember with plywood, one side is generally "better" than the other, so remember to attach the "nicer" side facing out on the area that will be viewed the most.

Fasten the other vertical side of the frame to the open side of that first shelf, then add the other shelves below. Put the bottom on, but leave the top off (Image 1).

Before fastening the large backing onto the unit (Image 2), check the diagonals to make sure everything is square and even. Measure the entire unit twice, diagonally from corner to corner on each side.

Tip: Even though it has been glued, nailed and screwed, a unit this big will still be wobbly and be able to shift around some without a back. If your diagonal measurements are off at all, then you can "shimmy" the unit around a bit to get it balanced before attaching those two final components.

Step 6: Build the Door

The strong, horizontal element on the roll-top door is built with "half-round," which is actually a style of trim that is half of a round dowel. You can buy it standard from the store.

Coat the front with painter's cloth and the back of the half round with spray contact cement.

Starting at the top, carefully and precisely line up each half round dowel horizontally on the roll-top door, making sure each one is in place before lining up the next one. Once the glue has made a tight connection, it will be very difficult to realign the part.

Continue lining up each half round dowel flush against the one above it. Line them all the way down your painter's cloth to form the door.

Cut off any excess painter's cloth with a utility blade.

Tip: You can lightly mark measurements or draw out a grid on your painter's cloth to serve as a guide for placing the half round dowels.

Step 7: Install the Pantry

The base is a simple plywood rectangle measured and built to fit flush with the bottom of the pantry.

Place the base where you want the pantry installed (Image 1). Find the studs in the wall and screw the base into the studs of the wall. Remember to get screws long enough to go through everything (plywood base, drywall and studs).

Bring the pantry in to fit it into the alcove. This will likely require helping hands. Center the unit on the base and make sure the space between the unit and the wall on each side are the same (Image 2).

If you rerouted electrical, now would be a good time to mount your outlet plate onto your new outlet.

Paint the pantry.

Step 8: Finish the Pantry

Install a toe kick along the base. Reinstall the baseboard along the front of the base; it should be flush with the floor.

Install a face plate along the top of the pantry to provide a flat surface against which to reinstall the crown molding.

Before reinstalling the crown molding, it will need to be cut to reflect the change in length; it is now going to be roughly 2 feet shorter on each side due to the size of the pantry. Be very careful to cut these moldings at the right angles.
Install the face trim on the cabinets and doors (if applicable). It helps if you pre-paint these components before installing. Install using glue, nails and screws.

To install the roll-top door, thread the door in from the back through the track. Thread it through pulling from the front first. Fasten two screws, one on each of the interior sides, where you want the door to stop. This will also prevent the door from sliding all the way back, off the track and out of reach.

reinstalling the crown molding

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