DIY Built-In Lower Cabinets: A Step By Step Guide on How To Create DIY Built-In Cabinets Using Upper Stock Cabinets

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Do you dream of having stylish and functional built-in cabinets but cringe at the thought of the cost? Fear not, as I am about to unveil a secret for creating stunning, DIY custom built-in cabinets. That secret you ask? It is to use upper stock cabinets as your lower cabinet. Yes, that’s right, you can use the upper cabinets for the bottom, and overall it will give you that clean custom look, along with saving space and money. Get ready to transform your room while staying within budget!

Why Use Upper Cabinets for the Bottom

If your area is smaller, using the upper cabinets is a great option as they are only 12 inches deep and will take up less floor space. Additionally, they are higher than typical lower cabinets so the increased height of these cabinets offers ample storage capacity for organizing and storing items. This utilization of storage ensures functionality while adding a visually appealing element to your room. The exact ones I used for my project are pictured below and linked here. They are fully assembled shaker cabinets that are 24-in W x 30-in H x12-in D.

Stcok Kitchen Cabinets used for DIY built in cabinets

Planning Your DIY Built-In Cabinets

front room before custom diy built ins

A DIY built-in cabinet project begins with careful planning. To create beautiful custom storage built-ins that complement your home’s aesthetic, you’ll need to assess your room, choose a purpose, and select a style.

Start by measuring your room and considering any obstacles, like vents or outlets, that may need attention. If you want to access outlets behind your cabinets, simply cut pieces out of the cabinet’s back.

For my project, it was a smaller area, so the upper cabinets served as a great solution to save some floor space. Additionally, I knew I did not want to add any uppers, so the taller height also worked out great.

Upper Stock Cabinets

The stock cabinets can be found at home improvement stores or online retailers. Upper stock cabinets, also known as cabinet box options, are a cost-effective choice to consider, as they provide a solid foundation for your DIY built-ins, and they do not have the drawers that most bottom cabinets have, which can give a kitchen vibe or more traditional look. As mentioned above, they don’t take up as much space as the regular cabinets and are slightly higher giving you plenty of storage.

Stock kitchen cabinets used for DIY built in cabinets

Upper kitchen cabinets are an ideal choice for this project, as they provide a sleek, streamlined appearance with ample storage. By opting for upper cabinets, you can maximize your storage options and create a functional, stylish addition to any room.

Gathering Materials and Tools

Before diving into the assembly process, gather the essential materials and tools for your project. Take the time to measure where the cabinets will be installed. This will help you determine how to proceed.

Crafting beautiful built-in cabinets requires certain tools so having the right tools at your disposal not only speeds up the process but also ensures your finished product is of the highest quality. Here is a list of tools and materials you will need:

Must Haves

Nice To Haves

  • Circular Saw and/or Miter Saw – you can have your local hardware store cut the materials if needed, but this will come in handy when building your base for the cabinets. Assembling and Installing the Cabinet Base

  • Oscillating Tool– This will come in handy if you need to cut around the existing baseboard so that you do not need to remove the entire baseboard that meets the cabinet base on the adjacent wall

  • Trim Puller

  • Cabinet Hardware Jig – You will want to ensure your hardware is drilled in evenly

  • Laser Level

First Step, Remove The Baseboards

You will first want to remove any baseboards that will be behind the cabinets. I will get to the side baseboards shortly below. You can either remove those completely, or use an oscillating tool to remove the portion where the cabinets will go.

Use a utility knife to get the baseboard loose all the way across and then use a baseboard pulling tool to free the baseboard from the wall. You may need to bring in the Oscillating tool here to cut some of the nails behind if it gets tricky to get out.

Building the Base Frame

Once you’ve removed your back baseboard and gathered your materials and tools, it’s time to assemble and install the cabinet base. Building a strong base frame and securing the base cabinets are crucial steps in creating your built-in masterpiece.

Start by measuring the area where the cabinet will be installed. Make sure to account for any obstructions.

Construct the base frame using 2x4s or 2x5s wood to ensure maximum strength. I went with 2×5 as seen below, to make it a tad bit higher to match the height of the baseboards that were already there.

1x5 wood used for base for stock kitchen cabinets

Using your circular saw, you will want to cut the boards to size. Make sure when measuring your wall you are measuring the length without the side baseboards being there, as those will be removed before you lay your base down and the boards will touch the wall, not the baseboards. One board wasn’t long enough for my space, so I had to cut an additional board to size.

Next up you will want to measure the width of the base and cut smaller pieces that will go between the two vertical wood pieces. These are going to serve as a support system for your cabinets. You will want to put these smaller pieces evenly along the base (measure your cabinets so you know exactly where to place them) so that you can screw your cabinet from the bottom to the base it once it’s placed on top.

stock kitchen cabinets sitting on wood base

You can always place your cabinet directly on the boards so you can make sure the vertical boards line up exactly where you need them before you screw the vertical pieces to the two horizontal pieces of wood.

wood used for base

Once you know where your smaller vertical pieces will go, make sure they are straight and use a wood screw and screw them in to start securing your base frame.

measuring to remove baseboard so stock kitchen cabintes can be secure correctly

You will then want to use your oscillating tool to cut the side baseboard. I did not want to remove this whole piece, so I chose to do it this way. Using a laser level line the base up so you can get the exact measurement to cut. I drew a line directly on the baseboard where the level light was and used the oscillating tool and cut right on the line to remove the small portion needed.

base where stock kitchen cabinets will go

In the picture above, you can see the part of the baseboard I removed to the right.

base completed for the stock kitchen cabinets built ins to sit

Once you have built your frame, ensure the frame is level and properly secured to the wall and floor, as this will be the foundation for your cabinets. A solid base frame supports the weight of your cabinets and keeps them stable.

To secure, use a wood screw and screw directly into the wall studs.

Securing the Base Cabinets Using 30 Inch Upper Stock Cabinets

To secure the base cabinets, use cabinet screws to attach them to the base frame, ensuring they are level and flush with the wall. Shim the base of the first cabinet, if necessary, for a perfectly level installation.

stock kitchen cabinets up agains walls and on base, four cabinets

I wanted my cabinets to be evenly placed, so I separated them with a pre-primed 1×3 wood piece between each. I found these at Lowes and just cut to the length.. Once I measured and secured the cabinets into the base, I then added the wood piece between each cabinet and secured it with wood glue. Make sure you let the wood glue dry completely before moving to the next step. You may need to clamp the top to prevent it from moving as well, but the wood glue will be strong enough to hold. You may not need to do this step, but it was essential for me to make it all even.

glue to secure front piece of wood

Painting and Securing The Countertop

Next up, I worked on the wood countertop. I went with these poplar boards from lowes as they were the width I needed.

I had to get two of them as they were not long enough and cut down to size. You can see below that two boards were a tad bit too long.

Once I cut the countertop to size, I then glued the two boards together, clamped, and allowed them to dry before moving to the next step.

Painting, Adding The Top, and Final Steps

I worked on painting next. I removed all the doors, gave it a light sanding all over, and then did the first coat of paint.

Painting your cabinets not only enhances their appearance but also protects the wood from wear and tear. To achieve a professional finish, follow these steps:

  1. Use high-quality paint and primer.

  2. Sand the surfaces to create a smooth base for the paint.

  3. Apply multiple coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next.

Adding The Top

Once dry, I added the wood top using glue and a nail gun to secure it.

I used painter’s tape to hold it down while the glue was drying. Clamping is an option here too.

Final Steps

While the glue was drying, I worked on cutting the final two pieces I needed for the side of the cabinets that touched the wall. These were slightly wider than the 1×3’s I used between each cabinet, so I had to cut them to size. I used a hand saw to cut them.

I secured these with wood glue, and let dry completely.

secured to side

Here you can see the side wood board I cut to size that connected the cabinet to the wall.

cabinets sit flush and secure

Once the glue was dried, I went over all the nail holes and areas where the boards met with wood filler. I also Caulked all around the edges.

Once the wood filler was dry, I sanded down and did another coat of paint. You may need up to three coats of paint, depending on your cabinets and paint choice.

My DIY built-in cabinets are almost complete, but a few finishing touches were needed. I added back the cabinet doors and made sure all areas were painted perfectly to give the cabinets a polished, custom look.

adding doors back on to the diy cabinets

Installing Trim and Cabinet Hardware

Trim and crown molding add an elegant touch to your built-in cabinets, giving them a seamless, professional appearance. If you choose, you can attach trim and crown molding using wood glue and nails or brad nails, and fill any nail holes with wood filler. I, however, decided it was not needed in the space as the base flowed great with the current baseboards.

The final step for me was adding the hardware which I found on Amazon here. I measured and drilled holes next to the cabinet doors to secure the hardware.

I highly recommend purchasing a cabinet hardware jig. This will ensure you drill your holes evenly each time. The one I used is under $10 from Amazon and is linked here and seen below.

jig used to drill holes

Once you finish this step, your cabinets are done and you have successfully installed beautiful built-in cabinets using kitchen upper cabinets!

And I promise – if I can do this, so can you!!

Finshed look at DIY built in cabinets

DIY Built-In Cabinets

Built-in cabinets can be used in various spaces, such as home offices, living rooms, and playrooms. Their versatility and customization options make them an ideal solution for organizing and enhancing any room in your home. Another popular option for built-in cabinets is IKEA cabinets, which offer a wide range of styles and designs to suit your needs.

They can be designed to fit any space, from a small corner to a large wall.

Home Office Storage

Built-in cabinets in a home office provide functional storage while maintaining a stylish workspace. Incorporate shelves, drawers, and custom hidden storage solutions to create your ideal office setup.

Use kitchen or bathroom cabinets as a starting point for your project, and you’ll have a functional, organized home office in no time.

Living Room Entertainment Center

A family room entertainment center can be created using built-in cabinets, providing a sleek and organized solution for electronics and media storage. Measure your TV and other electronics to ensure they fit perfectly in the cabinets, and add shelves or cutouts for cords to keep your space looking neat and tidy.

For a truly custom look, consider adding a DIY custom built-in entertainment center to your living room.

Playroom Organization

Improve playroom organization with built-in cabinets, keeping toys and games neatly stored and easily accessible. Customized storage solutions tailored to your playroom’s needs will help you create a more organized and visually appealing space. Perfect for fostering creativity and fun, this organized playroom will be a great place for your children to explore and grow.


In conclusion, DIY built-in cabinets are a versatile, stylish, and functional solution for any space in your home. By carefully planning, gathering materials and tools, assembling and installing the cabinet base, and adding finishing touches, you can create stunning custom storage that complements your home’s aesthetic. As you embark on your DIY built-in cabinet journey, remember that the possibilities are endless, and the result will be a beautiful and functional addition to your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to build your own kitchen cabinets?

Yes, it is possible to build your own kitchen cabinets. With basic woodworking skills, some tools, and the right expertise, you can create custom cabinets for your home or shop.

The trickiest part of the process is making the doors and matching drawer fronts, so this should be done with care and attention.

How do you make cabinets look like built-in cabinets?

To make your cabinets look like built-in furniture, fill all nail holes and use caulk to cover up any joints between pieces of wood as well as where the cabinets meet the walls, ceiling or floor. Caulk is key for achieving that polished, built-in cabinetry look.

Is it cost-effective to build your own cabinets?

Building your own cabinets may save money in the long run. You will need to invest in quality tools however to make sure this DIY project is completely correct.

Time and money are valuable resources, and it is important to consider the cost-benefit of any project before beginning. DIY projects can be rewarding, but it is important to weigh the cost of materials, tools, and time against the potential savings.

What materials and tools do I need for my DIY built-in cabinet project?

You’ll need cabinet boxes, wood and hardware, and essential tools like a saw, drill, and level to make your DIY built-in cabinet project a success.

These items are necessary to ensure that your project is completed correctly and safely. You’ll also need to measure the space you’re working with and plan out the design of your cabinet. Once you have all the materials and tools, you can begin building your house.

How do I ensure my built-in cabinets are level and secure?

Secure your built-in cabinets with wood shims, screws, and a level for reliable and level installation. This will ensure that your cabinets are securely installed and leveled.


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  1. Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
    Extremely useful information specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information much.
    I was looking for this particular info for a long time. Thank you and
    best of luck.

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