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Frameless Built-Ins, All in One Method

In this template, you'll learn the basics of building a Frameless Built-in using the All-In-One method.  This is how professional craftspeople would build your custom cabinetry for you.

  • By Frameless, we mean the front edges of the plywood don't need to be trimmed out with a 1x2. With Shelf Help, all kits come with a finished front edge, so a face frame is not required.  This saves time and money.
  • By All-In-One, we mean the base cabinets share sides, instead of building three separate base cabinets.  The same is true for the upper cabinets.  This saves time and money.

Dimensions

This method of building cabinetry can be used to build just about any size built-in.  If oversized, you may wish to build in the room.

If an alclove installation, avoid going too tight, as walls might not be square - instead, build a little smaller (1/2" or so) and then trim any gaps on the sides.

If using as a desk system, desk height cabinets are 28-1/2".  Otherwise, standard counterheight cabinets are 34-1/2". This leaves 1-1/2" for a countertop.

For the wall shelves, a good height between shelves is 10"-14" to fit most standard books, bins and baskets.

Configuring

Figuring out all the math involved in creating built-ins used to be a challenge.  But NOT anymore!  Simply use our free Shelf Configurator to design the case of your built-ins

Configure the base and the hutch separately, but DO take note of the measurements to make sure the bays and overall widths match.

This makes it SO easy! 

Use the Shelf Configurator to design, with a few tips:

  • Avoid shelf spans greater than 36", as shelves may start to sag
  • Base height can be any height, but 34-1/2" is standard for counter height and 28-1/2" is standard for desk height.  The 1-1/2" difference is for the countertop.
  • Consider the thickness of your countertop material and crown moulding height when figuring the hutch height

You can cut your own plywood based off the configurator measurements, or order directly through Shelf Help and we will ship the pieces to you with the front edge finished.

Assembling the Carcass

If you are going the full DIY route, rip your plywood and cross cut.  Then apply edge banding to the front edges of your plywood pieces.

Build the carcass with 3/4" pocket holes and 1-1/4" pocket hole screws on undersides of shelves OR with 2" finish nails and glue.

Bay Supports

You'll need some extra framing to help give the project side to side structure, and also a means of attaching to the wall.  Bay supports can be 1x3 or 1x4s, most commonly whitewood furrning strips.  Cut to match bay widths or shelf lengths.  Attach with pocket holes on back sides.

Countertop

Since plywood has a max length of 8', and isn't the best material for a desktop or countertop, we recommend countertops made from solid wood or a composite or solid stone material.  As shown, 1x6 are Kreg Jigged together to create a countertop.  If you need to adjust the width of the countertop, cut the back edge with a circular saw - it will be hidden by the hutch bay supports.

Once the countertop is installed on the base unit, you can set the hutch on top and secure everything to the wall.

Blocking for Trim

If you want to add crown moulding or base trim, you'll need some blocking to support it.  

For the crown, I recommend 2x2s screwed on from the bottom.  Make sure you do the sides if your crown is wrapping.

For the base, you'll want to bring the base moulding out 3/4" past the doors and drawer faces.  a 1x3 or 1x4 works well here.  You only need this on the front.

 

Drawers

Adding drawers is easy because the project is so precise and square. 

  • I recommend a drawer box built from 1x3s or 1x4s with 1/4" plywood on the bottom. 
  • Drawer slides should be shorter than your plywood rip - for example the 23-1/4" rip would use a 22" drawer slide.
  • Drawer sides are the length of the drawer slide.
  • Drawer fronts and backs are the inside measurement of the bay MINUS 2-1/2"
  • Attach with 3/4" pocket holes on the outsides - it will be hidden by the drawer face in later steps.

 

Drawer Faces and Doors

The final step is adding the drawer faces and doors. 

  • The drawer faces can be 1x6 hardwood boards, purchased at a home improvement store and cut to size.
  • We recommend ordering doors, there are many affordable options online that are quick and will give you a professional product.
  • The hinges needed for this type of shared side is called a "Half Overlay Concealed Frameless Hinge".  I order mine from D.Lawless. 
  • In the below diagram, the reveals between the cabinet doors are shown.  I recommend penciling out your door layout on your project before ordering.

Finishing with Paint

For a professional finish, sand the project as needed with 120 grit sandpaper.  There shouldn't be much to sand, as the plywood comes pre-sanded.

Use a light primer, rolled on with a cabinet roller.  Use an angle brush to apply in inside corners and on mouldings.

Repeat with a light paint like Sherwinn Williams Pro-Classic, three coats is expected.

I personally do not add a clear coat over top.  Instead, I keep paint on hand and touch up my cabinets once a year - if you add a clear coat, you can't do this.