So I have a confession to make. Mr PoP and I have been keeping a secret.
Hidden in the last few months of recent income statement posts are about $3,000 worth of expenses that we (okay, I – Mr PoP couldn’t have cared less) weren’t ready to share with the world. They were just lumped in with “Kitchen Renovation” without giving a whole lot of information on what on earth was costing so much those months. But now that we’ve got walls and our flooring is due to arrive soon, some readers (and Mama and Papa PoP!) have been starting to wonder what the heck we were planning on putting back into our kitchen. (As much as we love how big the kitchen feels without anything on the walls, it’s not really conducive to the long term functionality of the space as a kitchen.) So here goes.
I’m Building All Of Our Cabinetry
Now, I don’t mean that I’m assembling all of our cabinetry. There are lots of places that you can get RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinetry out there (IKEA, Cabinets-To-Go, etc) and every time we tell people that I’m building our cabinetry this is where their minds go.
But when I say I’m building our cabinetry, I mean that I started with 24 sheets of plywood, a bunch of poplar 1x2s and 1x3s, and am turning that into cabinetry.
When I originally suggested the idea to Mr PoP, he thought I was a little nuts. But the more I explained to him the reasons WHY I wanted to build our cabinetry (and convinced him that I wasn’t just adding something to HIS honey-do list, but really wanting to do it myself!), he bought in and encouraged me go for it – despite knowing that it would probably add a couple of months to our kitchen timeline.
And there’s really two essential parts to the why.
Why #1 – I Have Expensive Taste In Cabinetry
I didn’t start out thinking that I’d build our cabinetry. Instead, we did what everyone who’s renovating their kitchen does, and visited as many cabinet showplaces as we possibly could to see what was available and how much it would cost to get our “forever cabinets”. Those visits were disheartening. In short, we’d pay a crap-ton of money (ball park estimates of $15-$20K for semi-custom cabinets) and I probably still wouldn’t be thrilled with the sacrifices we’d need to make on our design vision. It’d be one thing if it was $15K and fulfilled my every hope and desire. But it wasn’t. =/
We I had a list of “wants” for the cabinetry that kept driving the price higher and higher everywhere we looked (if the “wants” could even be met at all).
- 33 Linear Feet of Cabinetry – This is a lot of cabinetry for a relatively small kitchen. This was one of the main drivers of cost as cabinets are generally ball-parked using a $/linear foot figure.
- Taller Upper Cabinetry – 30″ tall upper cabinetry is standard (and what we pulled out!), but with our new higher ceilings I wanted to take advantage of that (36″ uppers FTW!) and make our upper cabinets taller to have more not-daily use storage up there.
- Two Fairly Large Custom Units – Part of widening our kitchen involved taking out our pantry. While we’ve been making do with a cardboard pantry-box in the meantime, this is not a long term solution. Instead, we want custom units along both walls in the “dining room” part of our kitchen. One which will be bench seating cabinetry underneath our newly expanded window, and the other which will mirror it on the other wall, but be full height (but not full depth) pantry cabinet units that I have some very specific ideas on. Oh yes, and a custom between-the-studs in-wall spice cabinet, though this one wouldn’t have been too expensive it was just a matter that not all companies did it.
- Super Sturdy Boxes – Having recently pulled out cabinetry that was literally falling apart, Mr PoP was with me that the cabinetry we put in needed to be super sturdy. Not just to hold up the (likely heavy) butcher block countertop that we’ll be building (out of that heirloom cherry and walnut wood), but that we wanted it to outlast the kitchen and still be in good shape in 30 or 40 years. We wanted most of the cabinetry to be built out of 3/4″ plywood, an option that wasn’t even available with much of the cabinetry we looked at.
- Fancy Features – Lets be honest, I drooled over fancy cabinet and drawer features like some of these from Houzz and wanted them. Well, not all of them. But enough of them that I knew an order wouldn’t come out near the bottom end of those “ball park” figures that the cabinetry salespeople were giving us.
So yeah. I have expensive taste in cabinetry. And I could have decreased that list of wants a bit and maybe gotten the price a little closer to $12K. I would have had to decrease them a LOT to get the price in the range of $8K or less. And that’s still a lot of money to be paying for something that’s not everything I hoped and dreamed of.
But building your own cabinetry is a metric crap-ton (an actual measurement) of work, so the second part of my WHY? is incredibly important.
Why #2? I Enjoy Woodworking
Though I haven’t done a lot of it (well, before this project), I really enjoy woodworking. It was something I always wanted to do (appealing to my exacting and geometric nature when it comes to measurement and design), and Papa PoP taught me how by helping me build a desk ten years ago before we moved to Florida. I enjoyed that so much that I designed a matching coffee table to go with the desk and built that in my tiny studio apartment (after Papa PoP kindly cut my wood to size in his garage shop up north from my specs and delivered it to me) when I first moved to Florida. But I never had a project that was worth buying all the right tools for until this one.
And once I got the idea in my head that I could build our cabinetry, I knew it was the right decision. I just wanted to build some of it and have plenty of “proof of concept” before telling anyone because I hate listening to naysayers.
So How Am I Doing It?
Well, first I read as many “how to build cabinetry” books as I could get from our local library and picked one that I wanted to use as my guide. For me, this is Building Kitchen Cabinets (Taunton’s Build Like a Pro), which I eventually bought when someone else requested the library’s copy and I couldn’t keep renewing it indefinitely. =)
Then I started by buying some of the starter tools and starter wood to make a mini proof of concept and get full buy-in from Mr PoP (and to prove to myself that I could do it!). For me, this was buying a Kreg pocket hole jig and some poplar 1x2s to make face frames. (Proof of concept outlay ~$120.) Once Mr PoP saw how strong and square the face frame joints were, he bought in and gave me his full support in this cabinetry making endeavor.
After that, I ordered the plywood when we ordered our windows back in April since I knew it might take a while to arrive. For the plywood we went with Purebond birch plywood (veneer core and formaldehyde free) and since we couldn’t find it locally, Home Depot helped us source it from a lumber company in South Carolina. The wood took almost a month to arrive, but is just gorgeous and looks so good. (They charged us for C2 grade plywood, but this stuff is gorgeous I might melt at what an AA-grade face would look like!)
Only then did I started ordering tools (after researching which ones would be easy for a short, not particularly strong, girl to use on her own). Here’s a list of the tools I have bought so far.
- Bosch 4100-09 10-Inch Worksite Table Saw with Gravity-Rise Stand + accessories and a NICE 80-tooth blade
- Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System and also some Kreg clamps
- Kreg Shelf Pin Drilling Jig
- Dewalt Plate (Biscuit) Joiner
- Mikita Random Orbit Sander
And most recently, I gave myself time to screw up and learn. I took last week off of work, and starting on July 3rd commenced my cabintry-cation. Well, technically Mr PoP helped me cut some of the big pieces (I cannot handle a 3/4″ thick 4×8 piece of plywood on my own) down on the evening of July 2nd, and then I sent him off on a well-deserved SCUBA day trip the next morning. Then when he left, I started making my very first piece. Though I started with what I knew would be one of the most straightforward pieces, I made mistakes, had to pull it apart and start over almost from scratch at one point. But by the time Mr PoP was getting dropped off from his SCUBA trip that evening, I was in the driveway with my first cabinet. (Mr PoP says all the SCUBA guys in the car were very impressed!)
My cabinetry-cation lasted from July 3rd – 11th and it was invaluable to be able to spend time learning immediately from my mistakes and each subsequent cabinet that I made has gone better and better. In those nine days I made eight cabinet boxes (about a third of what we’ll have total), and got a good head start varnishing the interiors. And most importantly, I had an absolute blast doing it. Mr PoP would come home from work and I’d be almost giddy ready to show off what I had worked on all day.
Cabinets similar to what we wanted would have cost in the neighborhood of $15-$20K. So what are we going to spend?
All told, I’ve spent about $1,000 on tools and about $2,000 on wood and miscellany (screws, wood filler, varnish, etc.) so far. I expect to spend another $2K or so on these cabinets before I’m through. (High quality drawer slides aren’t cheap, yo!)
Despite the fact that my efforts are decreasing our cabinetry spend by somewhere around $10-$15K, given the number of hours I expect it to take before I’m through, my actual hourly wage on this isn’t all that high. Luckily I’m having so much fun doing it that I don’t care.
So that’s my cabinetry confession.
What would you have done in my shoes? Decrease the list of wants? Pay the insanely high prices? Or dive into the gigantic DIY cabinetry adventure?