Friday, July 25, 2014


On Tuesday, I showed you the inspiration for the living room built ins, and today I want to share the first steps in the process.

Here are the dimensions we were working with for the built ins. There were some tricky things going on with this funky little space, the biggest of which is a slanted ceiling. This space was originally the front porch, and former owners bumped it out to create a larger living space. They laid the flooring directly on the porch slab and replaced the original window in the new location.

Some of the choices the owners made just baffle me, and leave me wondering if fifty years from now, future owners of 231 will be wondering just why on earth we decided to do what we've done.

We decided to go with pre-fab cabinets, and after some research online we found this one at Lowes. It's a sink base cabinet that is 30" wide, 35" tall and 24" deep... almost perfect for the space.

We lugged the cabinets home, along with some other materials and got to work.

Step one was removing the baseboards, which was a bittersweet process because it feels like just yesterday that we were painstakingly putting the baseboards in, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

To remove the baseboards we used a razor blade to cut the caulk line, then sliced the baseboard with a vibe blade on a Dremel tool. Finally, we cautiously removed the boards with a pry bar and set them aside, hoping to reuse them later in the finishing process.

Once the baseboards were removed we created a couple 2x4 bases for the cabinets. We could have just placed the cabinets directly on the floor, but our baseboards are five and a half inches high and the toe kick on the cabinet was only four inches.

This meant that in order to eventually trim the built ins with baseboard, we had to raise the cabinet height a little. A few 2x4s cut to size did just the trick.

The next step in the process was electrical.

While in the conceptual process, we decided it would be awesome to have electrical outlets in the cabinets. Our hope is that some day these built ins can be a drop zone for future kiddos backpacks and school things, and we all know that  school books are going the way of the dinosaur, so a place to charge iPads and phones seemed like a great idea.

Ryan has some basic knowledge of electrical. He's replaced all the outlets in the house and wired up all the new fixtures, but neither of us had ever tackled rerouting of electrical, especially when the future outlet isn't even going to be in the wall.

The original idea called for moving the outlets from their current location and installing them within the base cabinet, but after we cut the sheet rock Ryan had the great idea that we could just run the cable inside from the window box to the cabinet. After a little bit of trial and error (hence those holes you ignored in the picture above of the cabinet base) we decided to use 14/2 aluminum armored cable conduit that would run from a junction box just below the original outlet, through the base cabinet, and in to a junction box in the top of the cabinet.

Because of our inexperience we made a little bit of a mess with the sheet rock, but we didn't worry that much about it since the electrical will be hidden by the window seat.

With the electrical handled, we put the cabinets in place. The cabinets aren't finished on the exterior sides, so there was a quarter inch gap along the inside edges of the cabinet.

We measured the space and cut 1/4 inch ply wood to place into the gap.

Ryan glued and gunned it in place, using clamps at the top to hold it up while he secured it.

Next we created the inside wall of the window bench. We wanted something the size of the actual window bench that we could attach the stringers to. While the cabinet is 24 inches deep, the window bench is a little shallower and the bench is only 18 inches deep.

The last step in this part involved us running the conduit inside the cabinet base. Ryan used a spade bit and drilled a 1 inch hole through the window bench wall and cabinet wall. This allowed us to run the conduit into the base cabinet so it would be ready to install the outlets in the counter top when we got to that point.

Then, we used the same bit to drill a hole in the shelf inside the cabinet to pull the conduit through. It was easier to do before we placed the top on the cabinet.

So, that was the first step of the project. In the next post, I'll discuss how we created the window bench and put the wooden tops on the cabinets.


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