Back That Built-in Up

Sometimes you (I) get something stuck in my head and it’s just not going anywhere until that baby is up and running. Since we moved into our little abode last October, I’ve been wanting to install a built-in along the back wall of the basement. Ya know, something like this. O.M.G. Love at first pin, right there. Can we all just take a second to drool over that. Well a year later (almost exactly) after moving in, we are finally making good on our word.

It started when we were perusing the shelves at the depot and much to my surprise I spotted this little sign telling all DIY fa-reaks (like me) that there was a sale. Any time I see a neon sign splashed with a clearance sticker, my deal seeking radar starts to beep. Actually, it’s more like a 1920’s car – AAAROOOOGGAH AAAROOOGGAAHH. Let’s just say once I’ve got my eye on the prize, watch out person/child/grandma, I’mma coming through with some pep in dat step.

Home Depot Cabinet Sale

I turned on my highly persuasive Bill Compton vampire voice (True Blood, anyone?) … just do what I say, husband… you’ve forgotten the last DIY project, and how you swore you’d never pick up a hammer again, just load the cabinets into the cart and I won’t have to suck your blood. I must be part vampire, because into the cart those babies went. Hurtle #1, jumped. Look, he’s even smiling!

Home Cabinets Home Depot

So confession. The picture above was taken in May. Actually late April. It’s now October. Ohhh the shame, what bad DIY’ers we are. Every time we would schlep our booties down to the basement these cabinets would taunt us. So finally, one weekend when things were finally starting to slow down around here we decided to put on our big kid pants and tackle this project already. And I’m so, so glad we did. After a weekend of working away, we had this. Not done (by any means) but sweet mother of pearl, can you see the potential?!


Pre-demo or reno stage, I drew up a little sketch of what (more or less) I was hoping this little built-in would look like after. Symmetry and structure. The perfect way to balance out our back end basement wall and add some class to this joint. Holla.

Built-in Around TV

For reference, before we started this reno the wall of the basement was looking like this. Lacking something, no? Although I like the cabinet that the TV is above, it was just a super weird space. I think every person that has come through our basement stops to open the mystery door in the middle of the room. It’s actually rather comical to see their faces when they realize it’s just a set of pipes. Our water closet, if you will. No, it’s not the world’s smallest loo, it’s a closet to store our water line and meter. A bit much, if ya ask me 😉

Basement TV Area

Before we knew it, we had this. Hmm. I don’t think that’s an improvement. Hole in wall, check. Exposed water line, double check.

How to remove closet

After we took some time to clean things up, we started mounting all the cabinets we purchased up on the wall. After lots of hemming and hawing, we decided to just mount the cabinets directly to the wall, vs putting a support structure under them. Since we were able to find studs for every 36″ cabinet, it made the most sense structurally, and also allowed us to deal with a fairly sizeable dip in our floor (herumph). Level floors, ha! Nothing level in this house that’s for sure. 😉

Jay got his handy dandy level out and just made sure that each cabinet was perfectly straight across.

How to mount cabinets to wall

The two cabinets on the end were easy peasy. All we had to do is pop the level on and screw them into the studs on the wall. The middle two, had a few more complications. Like that big old water meter, for instance. And our electrical cords, for another instance. Not the end of the world, but it slowed down our cheetah like pace to that of, a tortoise, if you will.

How to drill holes in cabinets

So after Jay installed the first two holes for the power cord and the ethernet, it seemed like everything was pretty much under control, so I decided to go for a quick run. When I came back, I opened the cabinet door under the water meter to find this gaping hole where a wood base used to be. Not sure if Jay just got all cut-this-up-with-a-power-tool happy, or if it was actually “necessary”, like he claimed.

How to install cabinet around water line

Good news, the doors shut on the front. He, he. Jay said he’ll put down some type of wood panel after it’s all said and done to help cover the hole, but for now, we’ve got a rather large hole where the water meter goes. Not ideal. Still better than that closet. Can you tell I didn’t like that closet?

After we had all the cabinets installed along the base of the built-in, it was time to move on to building some shelving. When we were shopping around at Home Depot for our supplies, we noticed that the 4×8 pieces of wood were going to; 1) be the easiest for us to transport home and 2) be the most economical option. We purchased compressed plywood that was $9.98 a sheet. Since our room is 148″ across, we figured (5) pieces of wood would be sufficient to build the counter for the bookshelf, and the shelves.

How to rip wood

To get the right depth for the shelving (our cabinet base is 12″), we took each piece of wood and ripped it down the middle. After using a measuring tape and chalk line to get the right location, Jay just came through with his handy dandy reciprocal saw to do the deed.

After that, it was pretty straightforward to build each cabinet. The two long pieces on the left are the side panels, and the three smaller pieces on the right are for each of the shelves. One little, two little, three little shelves.

How to Build a Builtin

From there, we just aligned everything down on the floor and started building this baby! To give the cabinet more stability, we actually decided to use the counter as the bottom base of the shelves. Since nothing will be exposed from the bottom side of the counter, we decided to screw for this part for some extra strength.

How to construct a built in

To attach the shelves, we used a piece of bracket trim (which we glued, and nailed into place), and then just set the shelf right on top of that.

Now if you were going to store bowling balls on this cabinet, I’d advise using a more robust bracket system. We will just be putting chotskies and a few books along these shelves, so we deemed this support sufficient. Use the good judgement that God gave you to determine what would work best for you, though. 😉

Installing Supportive Brackets on Bookcase

From start to finish, this part of the project took about 4-hours of dedicated working time. Things that sped it up? Our nail gun, and having cabinets pre-assembled. Things that slowed us down? Cutting all the holes for the plumbing, electrical, etc. It definitely feels like progress down here now that the bookcase is up, but this project is long from done. Still to do:

  • Adding backing behind shelves and TV area
  • Painting (We’ll do Simply White by Benjamin Moore, like the rest of our trim)
  • Adding Crown
  • Drywalling the hole in our ceiling post cabinet removal

For now, I’m PUMPED to have some swanky cabinets adorning our TV. 😉