Photo Friday: How to Build a Custom Kitchen

Happy Friday! I am neck-deep in building a new kitchen for Dawn. I’m making progress but have a long way to go. If you’ve never tackled a big project like this you may wonder how it’s done. The easiest explanation is that you follow these nine high-level steps:

  1. Design: Take your time. Do it over and over and over until your client and you are satisfied. I think I went through 15+ iterations before my client (Dawn ;) said “Yes! That’s what I want!” (My status: Done, but always tweaking.)
  2. Carcasses: You have a lot of cabinet boxes (carcasses) to build out of plywood. Remember to finish the inside with a clear finish. I used Minwax Polycrylic. (My status: Done finally, though I took October-January off to recuperate from back surgery.)
  3. Face Frames: If you are building traditional cabinets, face frames come next. These are made out of the hardwood of your choice. Your material decision depends on how you plan to finish your cabinets: paint or stain. We are using Ambrosia Maple and plan to use a chemical treatment to make them look gray and weathered. See the photos below. (My status: Done.)

    Cabinet Face frames & Carcasses

    Here, some face frames are resting against cabinet carcasses in my basement

  4. Doors & Drawers: This is where you build and carefully fit doors and drawers. This requires math, accurate measurements, and some skill with hand planes. (My status: Starts tomorrow.)
  5. Miscellaneous Internal Parts: This step is where you build all of your sliding trays, knife drawer inserts, spice racks, etc.
  6. Finish: No, you’re not finished ;). This is the step where you can start applying paint or stain and top coats to the face frames, doors, and drawers. Depending on your finish, you may want to do this after the Assembly step. (My status: decisions made, but not started.)
    Untreated Ambrosia Maple Scraps

    These ambrosia maple scraps show the natural color of the wood.

    Chemically treated Ambrosia Maple Scraps

    Here are the same scraps treated with a vineger/steel wool solution that ages them to a silvery gray. (the image makes them look a bit more green than real life). The milk painted red square will be used on our new island. Picture these with dark stone countertops.

  7. Assembly: This is the fun part. Now you get to attach all those face frames, doors and drawers and see your design become reality.
  8. Install: Hooray, now you can do the tedious work of temporarily removing the doors and drawers, and installing your cabinets so they are perfectly level, straight, square and plumb. Be prepared for a little frustration since your home’s walls are NEVER straight, plumb and square. Take your time. A poor installation will haunt your dreams forever.
  9. Countertops: Buy them or make something fancy out of wood, stone, or concrete. But for goodness sake, don’t top off your beautiful, custom work with laminate countertops!

You may be wondering how much a custom DIY kitchen costs? So far, I have spent about $3,500, including $2,500 for stainless steel appliances. Once the countertops and fancy apron sink are in, I expect to be around $6,000-$7,000. Compare this to paying a contractor $25,000-$30,000 for a kitchen like this. I expect the new kitchen will add ~$20,000 to our home’s market value.

I hope this post inspired your own dreams. If so, please leave a comment or question below.

Happy Friday, and don’t forget to stop for worship this Palm Sunday.

2 thoughts on “Photo Friday: How to Build a Custom Kitchen

  1. I can’t help myself. I have to ask. Are you having fun? Wish I lived next door so I could play apprentice and learn a few things.

    • Woodworking is a creative, productive endeavor that is forgiving of a newbie’s mistakes and rewarding for anyone at any skill level. And you get to use power tools and hand tools. Yes, I’m having lots of fun. (I would NOT have as much fun if I had to make a living at it.)

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