How to Construct a Built-In Wall Unit with Kitchen Cabinets

When we were renovating my basement it was clear that we needed to add functional elements to the room in order to basically…store crap. The basement was a large space that was “L” shaped. The thought was to have one side as play area and make the other side a family room where we could watch endless hours of Curious George. The “TV” wall was 13 feet long. Plopping a TV on a stand and calling it a day – in my opinion would have looked ridiculous on a wall that size. So we added another task on the endless basement project…built-ins.

** side note – these built-ins were constructed before the blog was even a concept. So documenting it properly was not top of mind. Therefore, I will try to explain the process but this project might just have to be used as a sample or idea of what you can do. **

If you haven’t noticed by now…I’m cheap. Well, I don’t like saying that. I’m frugal? I just don’t like paying people to do things that I feel we (my mom and I) can do. So sue me. Do we know how to build built-ins? Hell no! Did we figure it out? Hell yes!

We wanted to have the bottom of the built-ins be an area to store toys, DVDs, puzzle, games, etc. Again, we’re not carpenters so we figured we could buy the “base” of the built-ins. We decided to use unfinished kitchen bases from Home Depot. We bought (2) of the large 36 inch bases and (4) of the smaller 18 inch bases.  Now – the height of these base cabinets is higher than traditional built-ins; 34 inches verses 30 inches – which we didn’t mind.


36 x 34 x 24 inch Unfinished Base Kitchen Cabinet and 18 x 34 x 24 inch Unfinished Base Kitchen Cabinet

Here is the mega 13 foot wall during the renovation. The top part at the ceiling is the heating and AC vent. We wanted to minimize the look of the vents by incorporating them into the built-in design. Actually, the “box” on the right side was built out to look like the vent box on the left side, which we would use later as part of the built-in shelves. I will note – we had the cable company come and run a new cord to this wall prior to putting up the drywall.

Built-In Wall Unit with Kitchen Cabinets

Endless hours of drywalling later…

Built-In Wall Unit with Kitchen Cabinets

We lined up the base kitchen cabinets to our liking…first a 36 inch cabinet, then the (4) 18 inch cabinets then the other 36 inch cabinet. Then added a few 1 inch and 3 inch common boards to fill in the gaps between the cabinets in order for it to look like one large piece across the 13 foot wall.  Then used wood filler to fill in the seams and sanded them so everything was flush.

We used 1 inch plywood as the top to the base cabinets. We had Home Depot cut the plywood into (1) 8 foot x 25 inch piece (since the depth of the bases are 24 inches). And with the same plywood had them cut a 5 foot by 25 inch piece. Before nailing them to the bases – we drilled (2) 4″ semi circle holes in the center of the “counter top” so we could run the TV cords down to the DVD player and cable box. We also didn’t want these electronics on the counter next to the TV, so we popped out the 2 center drawers (and unscrewed the drawer rails) in the (2) center 18 inch cabinets and installed a scrap piece of plywood to act as a shelf for the DVD and cable box. We also had to make a small hole in this wood so we could run the DVD and cable box cords plus the TV cords down to the electrical socket we installed on this wall.

Built-In Wall Unit with Kitchen Cabinets

For the built-in shelves we also used 1″ plywood and again had Home Depot cut the sides of the shelves as well as the actual shelves. We used 1″ Corner Braces to add more stability to each shelf. We then added 1 inch x 3 inch common board casing around the shelves for a more finished look.

The key with the built-ins is to make it look like they are built-in to the wall. So you have to caulk everything! You need to caulk where ever a wood seam meets the wall. That includes the shelves…over and under, the counter top, the vertical sides of the shelving units. Everything!

Lastly, kitchen base cabinets have a toe kick. Basically the bottom 3.5 inches of the cabinet are set back. In order to have a seamless, flush look we add baseboards to the bottom and you guessed it…caulked.

Built-In Wall Unit with Kitchen Cabinets

We then painted the built-ins with Behr’s Ultra Pure White in high gloss. We wanted these to stand out next to the Behr Swiss Coffee Matte color on the walls. Then we added the black knobs and cup pulls.

* Note: We changed the swing of some of the doors. The manufacture had them all swinging the same way. We wanted the built-ins to look symmetrical so we took (2) of the 18 inch doors off and screwed them to the other side so they would swing the other way.

Built-In Wall Unit with Kitchen Cabinets

The Before…Built-In Wall Unit with Kitchen Cabinets

The After…

Built-In Wall Unit with Kitchen Cabinets

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