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Quick Guide: What You Need to Know About Building Custom Cabinets

More and more homeowners are considering how they can upgrade their living spaces, particularly in improving the function of important rooms. According to the 2024 U.S. Houzz & Home Study, kitchens are the most commonly renovated interior room at 29%, followed by guest and primary bathrooms at 27% and 25%, respectively. In addition, that same report found that homeowners spend about twice as much time on average in the planning phase of a renovation project as opposed to the construction phase. For many homeowners, the planning phase is becoming increasingly important. 

At Raleigh Woodworks, we’re well aware of that fact, as we spend a great deal of time with our clients strategizing how we can bring their vision to life. Custom cabinets are one of the more popular projects we’ve been working on with our clients. Wherever our customers need them in the house, more efficient storage is always on the menu. That’s why we work closely with them to get storage solutions matching their vision and decor. 

However, if you’re still in the planning phase, it’s crucial to determine the ins and outs of a custom cabinetry project before you get started. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to go over our process of designing custom cabinets so you know what the project looks like — before you request a quote or start your DIY project.

Read on to learn the basics of building custom cabinets and what you need to know before you get started.

Determining the Style and Design 

Whether you decide to start the project yourself or contact an expert, it’s crucial to determine what you want your new cabinets to look like. At Raleigh Woodworks, we always start a project by focusing on the style and design. That’s because you should design your custom cabinets to fit the needs of your specific space and your aesthetic. By thinking about the design, you can maximize storage and organization while being happy with the look of your space. 

To determine how you want your custom cabinets to look and function, it’s a good idea to ask yourself questions like: 

  • Are there any particular color schemes or textures that you’re interested in? 

  • What type of storage do you need for this specific room? How do you want it to work in your space? 

  • How would you describe the style of your decor in this room? Are you looking for something more rustic or contemporary? 

  • Do you want to be able to see into the cabinet through a window? If so, should it be completely transparent or opaque?

Once you answer some of these questions, you can get an idea of the design that you’re looking for. From here, you can start researching and grabbing reference photos so you’re ready to start planning. 

In addition, if you’re interested in collaborating with a custom carpentry team, Raleigh Woodworks offers Sketchup 3D design services priced at $150 per hour. This includes two rounds of edits, and any additional edits will be billed hourly. Once the drawing is completed, it's yours to keep, regardless of whether you choose us for the project. However, if you decide to proceed with the project as rendered, you'll receive a credit on the rendering cost, which will be applied to your final invoice.

Whether you make your DIY design or partner with a team like Raleigh Woodworks, finalizing that design is crucial to getting started creating your custom cabinets. 

Getting the Desired Dimensions and Building

Once you’ve finalized your design, you can cut materials to the correct dimensions and start building your cabinets. In the following sections, we break down how to get started with cutting and assembly, building countertops, and adding cabinet facing: 

Cutting and Assembly

First, you need to select plywood that is up to standard. Then, you can rip the sheet to the desired width using the table saw. After that, use the chop saw to reach the correct length. Repeat until you have all the pieces you need with your design. 

You can start working on the assembly once you’re finished with the cuts. First, attach the sides to the back piece using glue and the nails of the correct size. Then, you can attach a support rail on the upper side of the front of the cabinet to ensure stability while moving it around. Once you have that rail set up, apply the base support pieces on the interior bottom of the cabinet. For example, 4 1⁄4 strips and a base would make a 5-inch toe kick. For any shelving you need, drill holes using the Kreg jigs and correct drill bit.

Building Countertops

At Raleigh Woodworks, many of our custom cabinetry projects require a countertop in addition to cabinetry. To make a 1 ½ inch countertop, first, you’ll need to cut one piece of ply to the correct dimensions, then border the less presentable side with a 5-inch ply to give the illusion of a solid countertop. You can also edgeband if needed to get the look and feel you want. 

Then, you’ll have a functional countertop for your cabinet that you can use for your kitchen, bathroom, living room, or office space. Depending on the type of custom cabinet, you can add more indents or design features to the countertop. 

Adding Cabinet Facing

Finally, it’s time to start on the facing, if the project requires it. You can build a face for the cabinet by ripping poplar to the correct sizes with a 5-inch bottom face. You’ll want to use the jig to drill pocket holes in the inner connecting pieces of the face. 

In addition, if you’re adding windows to the facing, this is when you would cut out the windows and add those in. You need to start by cutting and measuring the correct dimensions for the window. If there is no glass, make panels out of ply to enter the cabinet door using the single reveal bit on the router table for all four sides of the panel.

Painting and Finishing 

Finally, once you're done building your custom cabinetry, you can fill and sand any seams or holes in the face or box. It’s important to fill and sand everything so it doesn’t hurt anyone and so that it can be painted to complement your room. 

Depending on the design of the cabinetry, you may want to sand it to the level that there’s still a little texture, especially if it’s a more rustic design. If you seal the wood afterward, you may also want to sand it again to ensure it’s completely smooth. After you finish sanding and filling and ensuring any hardware is attached, you can start fitting. 

In this step, you can make inside shelves and edge bands if necessary. Once that’s done, you can apply finish or paint to get that completely polished look. In the case of paint, using two coats of paint is always a good idea. 

Ready to Add Custom Cabinetry to Your Home?

Whether you partner with a carpentry company or try a DIY approach, we hope this guide helps give you an overview of the project and what you need to consider. Of course, this was just a brief rundown of the steps of the project. If you need help with custom cabinetry or any other home improvement project, we’re prepared to help. Serving both Wake and Johnston County in North Carolina, we transform ordinary houses into extraordinary homes with stylish and functional carpentry. From custom barn doors to whole home renovations to storage and cabinetry— our multi-talented team is dedicated to adding style and functionality to any space.

With over two decades of experience in the commercial industry, our team handles project management, cabinetry, custom furniture installation, and more. No matter the type or size of the project, we are your one-stop connection for all your carpentry and woodworking needs. Contact us today to get started!

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