Making Base Cabinets

Making Base Cabinets

The standard base cabinet, as shown, differs from the standard upper cabinet in two areas. The main differences are the lack of a carcass top board and the addition of adjustable legs.

There are two sides measuring 31″ high, the same as the upper cabinet sides. However, the depth of these pieces is greater, as the normal overall base cabinet depth. The finished cut size of the sides. Adding the thickness of the vs” back and the face frame gives a total cabinet. Installed standard doors.

There is no top board, as the kitchen counter-top covers the base cabinet. The counter top is secured to the base cabinet by means of screws and right-angle clips. This method, along with the face frame, gives the installed base cabinet its strength and rigidity. We use metal right-angle clips: two per side, two on the back board and one in the center of the top face frame rail. The countertop is secured with two vs” screws through each right-angle clip.

Metal right-angle clips have many uses and advantages. Primarily, the clip will not allow the vs” screw to drive through the counter top material. If you’ve ever driven a screw through your new counter top during installation, you’ll appreciate this safety feature.

The adjustable cabinet legs are very popular and can be purchased at a kitchen hardware supply store. The total cost of the legs for each cabinet is greater than the cost of the material for a wood base. However, the building time for the base when added to the difficulty of cabinet installation justifies the extra few dollars. Cabinet legs are, in my opinion, one of the positive features that the North American industry has adopted from European cabinetry. The ease of installation, even in the most difficult situations, is remarkable. In effect, the kitchen floor would have to be out of level by more than 1″ before the legs required shims. Some of the additional benefits of plastic cabinet legs.

The bottom board determines the inside carcass width and must be cut accurately and squarely. The back board serves the same function as the upper cabinet back board, allowing screws to be placed where necessary to secure the cabinet to the wall. It also ensures that the cabinet carcass is square.

The face frame, as in the upper cabinet, consists of two stiles and two rails. The stiles are long and the rails are high by the interior cabinet dimension width. The standard base door is mounted with European-type hinges in the same fashion as the upper doors.

The base units are a box design, like the uppers, with a couple of minor changes. However, the side heights are identical, as are the face frame and door dimensions. As you will see, this uniformity in design is a real benefit when cutting cabinet pieces, calculating door requirements and planning the cutting lists.

Base cabinets are multi-function units. They are equipped with adjustable shelves, pull-out shelf assemblies, drawers or other special features such as trash and recycling containers. Holes for the adjustable shelves are drilled in the carcass sides by the same method and with the same jig assembly as the standard upper cabinets. Drawers and pull-outs are easily installed using the European bottom-mount drawer glide hardware.

Accessories for kitchen cabinet base units are very popular items in most building supply centers. Each year seems to bring more and more optional equipment that can be installed, such as pull-out wire baskets, towel racks, laundry hampers and double, triple and quadruple recycling bin systems, as well as flip-out ironing boards and work center platforms. You wont be at a loss when looking for interesting accessories for your new kitchen cabinets.

Once again, the most critical area is the accurate cutting of the cabinet parts. The sides must be cut square and to a correct uniform dimension. The bottom board’s width must be accurate, as it determines the inside width of the cabinet. As in the case of the upper cabinets, the bottom board is wider than the face frame rail to ensure complete coverage of the carcass edges.

Cutting Base Cabinet Parts

A table of sizes for the MDF pieces required to assemble the standard base cabinets is shown.

If your design requires adjustable shelves, you’ll need to calculate that material into your plan. Shelves for the base unit. As discussed earlier, added width measurement of the bottom is to ensure that the inside dimension of the cabinet is just slightly larger than the inside dimension of the face frame so that the carcass edges will be fully covered by the face frame. With respect to the standard base cabinets, a top board is not required, as the kitchen counter top will cover this area.

It should be noted at this point that prior to cutting the MDF material, you should verify. I have seen variances in this product, even from the same manufacturer, that could cause you some trouble. Take the variances, if any, into account when creating your cut list.

Making The Standard Base Cabinet

Base cabinet assembly uses the same basic procedures as were used in building the upper cabinets; however, there are a few minor differences that will be detailed.

  1. Drill Shelf Holes
    Drill holes in each side for the adjustable shelf pins if the cabinet is to be so equipped. If adjustable shelves are to be installed, ensure that the top-to-top relationship of the sides is maintained.
  2. Install Legs
    Install the adjustable legs on the cabinet base board using the screws and installation techniques suggested by the manufacturer of the legs you are using. Generally, the legs are attached by means of holes drilled through the base board. The screw is then threaded into the leg, with the base board sandwiched between the screw and the leg. Set the legs back from the front edge of the base board to allow setback for the toe kick space. Drill the holes so that the leg will extend beyond the back and both side edges by Ys”. This will allow the sides and the back board to rest on the leg flanges, providing additional support for the cabinet. Part of the loads placed on the cabinet will be transferred through the legs to the floor.
  3. Assemble the Box
    Fasten the sides and back to the base board as detailed in the upper cabinet assembly instructions
  4. Install the Face Frame
    Install the face frame in the same manner as detailed in the upper cabinet assembly instructions. The difference in this step is that the base carcass does not have a top board; therefore, the side tops can move easily. Make sure the top edge of the face frame is flush with the top corner edge of the side, and that the inside edge of the face frame is slightly past the inside edge of the side. Secure that corner with glue and a nail and then secure the other top corner. Fasten the bottom corners, maintaining the inside face frame overhang; then secure the face frame to the carcass with finishing nails. The face frame should extend past the bottom of the carcass base board, and the face frame sides should be past the outside of each side.
  5. Attach Countertop Clips
    At this point, countertop clips are installed flush with the top and back edges of the carcass. Two per side, spaced equally around the top perimeter, are required. Clips are secured with ‘is” screws and will be used to fasten the countertop in place.
  6. Finish Details
    Set the face frame nails and fill the holes, trim the back board overhang and verify the cabinet is square. The cabinet is now ready for doors, drawers and/or shelves.

Corner Base Cabinets

One of the most popular and effective storage options for kitchens is the corner base cabinet equipped with a pie-cut, two-shelf lazy susan assembly. This cabinet eliminates the lower dead zone in base cabinets where two cabinets meet in the corner. That four square feet of space is often ignored. Unless you have a kitchen the size of a tennis court, that space is very valuable real estate.

A two-shelf rotating lazy susan assembly can be purchased at most major kitchen hardware stores. Installation is a very simple matter with the supplied instructions. Major manufacturers such as Rev-A-Shelf Inc. produce a very high-quality assembly that will last many years.

The following is a cut list for the standard corner base unit normally equipped with a pie-cut, two-shelf lazy susan assembly.

Making The Corner Cabinet

The following steps describe the assembly process.

  1. Cut the Parts
    There are six MDF pieces, as indicated and in the cut list table. Accurately cut the pieces as detailed. Do not cut the angles on the back board at this time. I recommend that you cut it with straight cuts to the stated size.
  2. Install the Legs
    Install the cabinet legs in the positions as indicated. Maintain the setback from the front edges of the cabinet. Remember that this setback is required for toe kick spacing on all the base cabinets. Position the other legs so that they will extend out Ys” from the edge of the base board to aid in supporting the cabinet sides.
  3. Assemble the Parts
    Assemble the cabinet boards as shown, leaving the back board until all others are secured.
  4. Fit the Angled Back
    Measure the opening for the back board and fit the back by cutting 45° angles on each side.
  5. Install the Face Frame
    Cut and assemble the face frame as indicated and install so that the inside faces of the sides are flush with the inside surface of the face frame stiles.
  6. Install Angle Clips
    Install the angle clips, two per side, so that the countertop can be secured.
  7. Install the Lazy Susan Support
    A board must be installed across the center of the cabinet, as shown in Figure 6-8, to support the lazy susan bearing assembly. This cabinet is now ready for the pie-cut lazy susan and doors.


It may be helpful the first time you build one of these cabinets to angle-cut the back board so that it’s a little larger and trial fit the back. Continue cutting the back board slightly smaller after each trial fit until it’s perfect.

Drawer Over Door Base Cabinets

One popular base cabinet is the drawer-over-door unit. The large drawer, particularly in a cabinet such as the 30″ base unit, is a very useful addition to most kitchens. This cabinet style is also used when a counter cooktop is installed. In that circumstance, a false drawer front is permanently attached to hide the cooktop mechanism when the doors are opened.

The interior of the cabinet, behind the doors, can be fitted with either a pull-out or an adjustable shelf. Construction procedures for this cabinet are identical to the standard base cabinet, with an added rail piece to cover the space between the door and drawer. The general design rule that applies is maintaining the overall height so that we have the reveal at the top of the face frame. As previously discussed, our standard door height for full-door cabinets. When we construct a drawer-over-door cabinet, or any other combination cabinet, we want to maintain that height so that all doors and drawers are at the same level. Maintaining this uniform line is visually pleasing, especially with base cabinets. The combination of a door and a drawer face plus the space between them gives us the required.

Drawer construction using the vs” melamine MDF box method mounted on European bottom-mount drawer glides will be detailed in chapter nine. Door installation is the same as with all other doors, except we are using a industry-standard-size door. If we use the 30″ base cabinet as an example, we would require two doors. The drawer face width is a combination of the widths of the two doors plus a gap allowance between the two doors.

In the many of my kitchen projects, drawer faces are made from solid hardwood. I decided on this method for a number of reasons, primarily because lumber is dressed so you wont have to be concerned with edge-joining boards. This reduces the time and cost required to manufacture the cabinets. Cabinet door style will determine the amount of work necessary to produce a compatible drawer face. In most cases, I use a router to apply a round-over or cove detail to the drawer edge. This method will produce a very good-looking drawer face for almost all of your applications.

There may be an occasion when you want a very fancy and intricate drawer face. In those instances you can order faces to match your door style from the door supplier. However, the cost per drawer face increases and you may want to compare the costs, particularly if you have quite a few drawers to build.

Four Drawer Base Cabinets

Just about every kitchen has at least one of the four-drawer base cabinets. They are primarily used as a cutlery center and are often located near the sink and dishwasher; The cabinet is nothing more than a standard base unit fitted with extra rails to hide the gaps between the drawers. There are some special spacing and rail-size considerations so that the overall door, drawer/door or multiple-drawer height is maintained.

Construct the face frame using the dimensions. There are a total of five rails which, when installed, will divide the face frame so that there are four drawer openings. Rails are cut than the outside face frame dimension. Fasten each rail with glue and two screws. Counterbore the screw holes so that they can be filled with wood plugs if this cabinet is to be used as an open end-run cabinet.

Using a four-drawer base cabinet as an example, and standard thick wood, this face frame would require two stiles.

We don’t have to be concerned about industry-standard door sizes with this cabinet, so it can be any width. You can use this cabinet to fill odd-size spaces in many situations. Apply the basic system design rule that inside face frame width should equal inside carcass width, and make the cabinet any size you require. For example, if we had to fill a space, I would construct a face frame with wide stiles and rail. The carcass bottom board equaling the inside face frame width. Remember, you don’t have to be concerned with standard door sizes because you can make the drawer faces any width, as long as they are shorter than the outside face frame width. All other carcass boards follow the standard rules: sides are the back board width is the total of the base board width and the two side thicknesses.

Reduced Depth Base Cabinets

You may on occasion require base cabinets that are not as deep as the standard unit. One situation may be where you want a cabinet base run for storage against a wall in a passageway. The easiest solution is to convert the standard upper cabinets into base cabinets by attaching adjustable legs. As you may have already noticed, the overall cabinet height and door height are the same for the upper and base cabinets; only the depth is changed. You can purchase or build reduced-depth counter tops to accommodate these special base cabinets.

The only special consideration with sink bases is the issue of particle core board being used where there is a possibility of water damage. Particle core board material and water do not go well together. Also, this cabinet is often used to store liquids for cleaning. For these reasons, I construct the sink base cabinet as a standard base cabinet, using water-resistant plywood painted with a good oil-base paint on the interior of the cabinet.

I have, on many occasions, used reduced-depth cabinets in a kitchen island situation. Space is sometimes a problem when designing islands, so I’ve often reduced the base units to a maximum of deep and installed a island counter top. This allows the counter top to overhang the base cabinets by approximately, taking into account the door width and door side overhang. Stools can be used to provide a casual eating area or as a place to sit while you’re preparing food.

Sink Base Cabinets

Sink bases are a standard drawer-over-doors base cabinet, usually a base, with a false drawer face or drawer face flip-out-over-doors arrangement. The drawer face covers the bottom of the sink when the doors are open. Install six legs on this cabinet, one at each corner and one at the front and back in the middle of the base, to give it added support. This cabinet usually takes quite a bit of abuse because the supply and drain plumbing pipes must be installed. Its not uncommon to have someone crawling inside the cabinet to install and connect the service. It is also possible that you may have to relocate a cabinet leg if it ends up in the path of a plumbing pipe. You may also have to modify a shelf, if you want one installed, after you determine the location of the pipes inside the cabinet. Leave it until the installation is complete to determine where you will be able to install the shelf. In many cases, shelf installation is not possible because of the plumbing.

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