Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Building Cabinets up to the Ceiling

Wow!! I am so thrilled to get this part of the renovation done! I'll admit I was a little anxious on how I would get it built so I hesitated a bit. I thought it would be much more involved than it was. Thankfully it went really quickly and was a fairly simple build.

For YEARS I've been planning to build our cabinets up to the ceiling. We picked them out more than 11 years ago and went with the shorter versions rather than taller. I knew that tallest shelf would be too high to reach and I was trying not to spend any more money building this house. :)

We did have crown and if you have basic cabinets I think it makes a HUGE difference. You can see here where I had taken it down to build in the fridge -- it was still up on the left:
building up cabinets to the ceiling
That's a super effective way to make your cabinets look a little more high end. 

I still would have done this project even with the taller cabinets. I love the look of built ins and building them up to the ceiling just feels more custom to me. 

So here's the thing, I didn't use any fancy tools to build these boxes. They were so crazy basic -- no pocket hole jig even. If you will see the sides of a piece you definitely need to use that, but for these (and the box I built to extend the island), I just use screws: 
I didn't even use glue (I've learned adjustments may need to be made later). Those who build for a living are probably cringing. :) But these won't be touched much at all and the boxes are strong! My point is, you don't need a ton of tools or a workshop (your kitchen floor is fine) to do things like this. All you need is some wood, a drill and a dream. ;) 

The hard part of every project like this is figuring out the sizing of the boards to make the boxes. I spend most of my time perfecting that. I stand with a tape measure and notebook and draw pictures of what I want to do and end up scratching most of it out before I get to the final. It's how I work it all out in my head. About an hour later I'm ready to have wood cut. 

I have all my pieces cut down at Lowe's -- I didn't do them all at once this time because I was checking sizing as I went. That is SUCH a wonderful service and I don't mind at all that they've started charging for more than a few cuts. It's well worth it to me! 

I built one box at a time and placed them up on top of the cabinets: 
building cabinets above cabinets
Your cabinets are built to hold quite a bit of weight so don't worry about that -- I later screwed them into the studs above (and to each other) so that took most of the weight off. 

I built actual boxes -- if you are really good you could build the entire piece and then put it up there. You could build one big box with one piece of wood separating each section, but I knew I wanted to mimic the look of the bottom cabinets with trim so I wanted the sides of these to be thicker. I hope that makes sense!

I waited till I had the three installed before I started the cabinet above the fridge. It doesn't go all the way back but I wanted it to go back enough so that I could attach it to the one next to it. It's also screwed into the stud on the wall and into the cabinet below: 
adding cabinets above cabinets
I was already in love!! My husband and child were just humoring me at this point, nodding and saying, yeah it looks greaaaat. Trust!

We had about two feet of space above our cabinets and I made these 16 inches tall. I was adding a header above and didn't want it to be too thick. I also didn't want the cabinets to be too tall either, I thought that would look at little off since our uppers are a basic size. 

Next I had to prep for the header piece. I screwed some scrap wood into the beams in the ceiling for the header to attach to at the top. I didn't get a good pic of this but you can see a piece of that sticking out behind the header to the right in this pic: 
building kitchen cabinets to ceiling
As you can see, after that was secure in the ceiling I was able to attach my header to that and the cabinets. I used a 1x10 piece of wood for this part. 

Also, I didn't remove the crown to put these up -- I knew I could cope new pieces in so that saved me a ton of time. I just notched out a corner in the header so it would fit over the existing crown. 

Next were the finishing touches -- this is my favorite part because things start to come together! I added some trim along the bottom: 
building up kitchen cabinets
And then I added the vertical trim to mimic the look below: 
adding height to kitchen cabinets
I was getting really excited at this point! 

I made the header thick because I have crown and trim that I needed to continue around this part. That  takes up about five inches of it. Also, I will be adding lighting inside the cabinets and that will run along the back of the header. This gives me plenty of room to add that and have it hidden. 

Here's a shot I shared on Instagram because I was so excited:
building up kitchen cabinets
I was working on a deadline here -- I am a procrastinator through and through. I've had weeks to get this done but I work best when I HAVE to get it done. The counters are coming this week and I wanted to get everything up high done that I could. 

I finished up the fridge cabinet and started adding more trim to hide the rough stuff: 
building kitchen cabinets to ceiling
Here's a shot of how that's coming together: 
building cabinets to ceiling
You can see here we had to have the recessed light moved out a few inches -- it was right in the way of where the crown was going. Renovations are a constant dance of two steps forward and one step back. :)

It's hard to see there but if you look close you can see how I added the small trim along the top that goes around the rest of our great room. It's an easy way to make your crown look extra chunky.

Here's another shot before the crown was started:
adding cabinets to ceiling DIY
Excuse the mess! We had some drywall fixes to take care of as well. I clearly should just stop trying to clean. And a couple of you have asked about the cabinet on the end -- I won't be moving it because the the way the doors open would be awkward. :)

And here's how it's looking with the crown (that I had help with, I'm not great at coping yet):
I absolutely LOVE it. I'm so thrilled!!

When everything is painted it will look exactly like it did in my head all these years. Paint will come last though, so for now I'll just enjoy. :) As of right now I'm not planning to add doors but that may change. If I do they will have glass fronts. I may add one more piece of small trim where the old and new cabinets meet up -- I'm going to wait on that too.

I used some extra wood leftover from the fridge enclosure so that helped a ton with costs. I ended up spending maybe another $100 and that includes trim. I would have paid hundreds in labor if we had hired it out.

If you have a large space above your cabinets like us, I recommend making them additional upper or open cabinets. If you have less space you can just add the header and close the whole thing up. With a lot of space like we have that would be too big of a header.

Next up -- fill nail holes and caulk like mad. :) Then I'll get the cabinets prepped for the lights and the paint will happen next month. I'm doing that last because I don't want to chance messing it up during the renovation. Other than painting the cabinets this was the last big DIY project in the reno so I feel like I'm over a huge hump! Yay!!

If you have any questions or if I missed anything please let me know! Have you attempted this project in your home? I know many of you have been thinking about it!

42 comments:

  1. Looks awesome, I'm jealous of your woodworking skills!

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  2. It looks so awesome!!! I really like how you added the small trim on the header too. We just got done doing this to ours but it was not as easy for us, lol. And it took us 3 hours to figure out the crown since our ceiling is apparently not level and you could totally tell when we attached it to the cabinets. It totally makes such a big difference though and I am happy we did ours too. Cant wait to see what color you are going to paint them!

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    1. Yes the crown was the hardest part! I'm glad I had help with that -- my work is never perfect so I needed help making everything meet up. Caulk is your best friend!

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  3. I have exactly the kind of space above my cabinets as you do yours. When my ex and I built I thought the open space for display was the cat's meow - since I'd always had bulkheads over kitchen cabinets before.

    It only took a year or two before I started kicking myself for that decision and I've been itching to run the cabinets up to the ceiling ever since.

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    1. If you don't have a ton of space I love that look! But we had too much to do that.

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    2. Amazing. Totally transforms the space!

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    3. Amazing. Totally transforms the space!

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  4. Please oh please add glass doors to the top cabinets!!!It will look much more finished professionally. I love, love what you are doing but I do no like the open boxes on top of the doors. It looks like they were put on after the fact. I have built 13+ homes, owned 17 and remodeled many, many. Cabinetry I know and love, so just think about it and if you do add some glass cabinet doors, add lights to the interior cabinets. Thanks for listening. Great work, love your heart, ideas and it is the best blog!!

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    1. Thank you!! I don't think I'll add doors but I want to live with them for awhile. If we did it would be later down the road. I love them as they are now! :) And yes, I'm adding lighting up there -- we already got an outlet installed and connected to a switch.

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  5. Looks awesome! I've been wanting to do something like this also. What was the space measurement between the lower cabinets and the ceiling? What kind of wood did you use?

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    1. Thank you! We have about two feet between the top and the ceiling. I used plywood with an oak veneer for some of it, for the rest I used a cheaper butcher block kind of wood.

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  6. Girl, you have some mad carpentry skills! I'm impressed! Nothing makes my eyes glaze over than trying to figure out crown molding angles and cuts. I have to laugh at your procrastination tendencies, as I'm the exact same way. I work best under deadlines imposed by OTHERS, not my own. ;-)

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  7. What about putting a center, vertical strip down the middle of the large cabinet door (the cabinet you moved from the other wall) so it looks like two doors rather than one? Then it would match the other cabinets it is next to and look like it has two doors also rather than just one.

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    1. We'd have to get two new doors made. It does not bother us enough to pay for that. :)

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  8. I prefer the cabinets to the ceiling but with my wifey being 5ft she doesnt see the need and I surely don't want to be called everytime she wants something from the top shelf. Yours are coming along great I like them a lot better than the shorter ones. I got my wifey a step ladder but she never uses it. Are you going to add doors or leave them open?

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  9. This looks amazing, but the thing I find most inspiring is how you have done all of this over so many years. I sometimes get caught up in wanting my house to look great right now, but your blog has helped me see the work and effort it takes to create beauty over time. I love that you are unafraid and also that you make adjustments if something doesn't turn out right or costs too much or you just change your mind. Thanks so much for doing this for so long and keeping it real as well as beautiful!

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  10. Are you painting everything... or will you have painted cabinets on top of wood? How will they integrate?

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  11. That looks fabulous! Can't wait to see it finished!!!

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  12. That look so awesome already! It will be stunning once it's all painted!

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  13. That's going to be AMAZING when painted, bravo girl!
    xo
    Kate

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  14. Looking forward to seeing the finished product :)

    xo

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  15. Woman, you just did great! Now I'm jealous. Your kitchen now looked better. I mean, with the spaces filled in. Bet that I'll be doing this too. It's just that, there are too many upper spaces in our kitchen. I hope I can do it. Wish me luck. :)

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  16. Nice post!
    Thank you for sharing such a informative post. It is really a nice and useful piece of information. I glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

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  17. I would love a tutorial on the caulking process. That is what holds me back from tackling something like this. I would want it to look great once painted and I'm always trying to figure out how to get a good looking caulk line. It sounds simple, and maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but it intimidates me. Your projects always look so great when finished and painted.

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  18. Oh Sarah, that turned out beautifully! This is going to be amazing!

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  19. I love the look of tall cabinets. This is a great idea for a low-cost redo. love it!

    Sarah
    Midwest Darling

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  20. Looks great. I did something similar at our house we just sold. I got my idea from Remodelando la Casa blog. We already had white cabinets so it was much easier to paint the finished uppers. Now in our new house we have cabinets similar to yours with a shiny finish. I want to enclose the top section but am scared of painting my cabinets. I can't wait until you are all done! I'm looking forward to your painting tips so I can proceed with how to paint mine. Love your blog and appreciate all of your how to projects!

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  21. We did the same thing a few years ago. Left them open, no doors or glass, and still love the look. Gives the look of open shelving and adds tons of space for those items you want to display because they're "pretty" or just for those items you don't use daily. It helps having a husband tall enough to reach everything. We actually didn't even build boxes--GREAT idea, BTW--we built one big box and then added wood dividers, spaced to mimic our cabinet-spacing. LOVE the look and can't imagine not having it look like this. We ended up painting everything a rich khaki. What color are you going with? Most people go with white, I just had to do something opposite of what everyone else does--hahaha!! Can't wait to see the finished product!

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  22. Very impressive. I do not have as much head room above cabinets but since I am in desperate need of storage space it may be worth considering. You made it look so simple.

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  23. You are amazing! This is going to be so pretty! Feeling jealous over here.

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  24. Every blog post I've seen when you've spiffied up your home leaves me feeling very inadequate, lol. Who says women can't do what men do and better sometimes? You have proven it can be done. Love anything/everything you have done, you're one awesome lady. Happy weekend

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  25. You have made a really great job of this kitchen improvement. I like he very practical way to approach and described the project. Personally, I never rely on rule or tape for final measurements, I always measure directly onto the piece I'm just about to fit, rooms are never square, and wood isn't a uniform material. Kudos.

    Me, I would have used glue.

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  26. I don't think I could ever have a blog... so many opinions on what you should do, what you need to do, how horrible it will look if you don't do something, ect! And you're so sweet about it in your responses ♡

    Personally, I love what you have done. I've wanted to add smaller upper cabinets to the top of ours for a while, but we have two corner cabinets I haven't been able to find a 12" cabinet to match them so I gave up on that dream slightly.

    However, seeing how you framed in the area above yours gives me hope. I love that they're open, also. And that corner cabinet by the wall everyone comments on... I think it looks fine! It's over your counters, which are similar in width to the size of the door, so it looks good to me.

    Anyways, have you ever thought of doing a post about how to use the tools you use for projects like this? Like the saws, nail guns, ect? Sometimes I swear my husband's eyes are going to get stuck in the back of his head one day when he rolls them around after I ask him to cut things for me with his saw (s). I'm a pretty visual person and all those tool manuals with their little black and white "pictures" lose me a few words in so it's not something I've pursued. You seem very knowledgeable and a how-to post on the basics of the tools you use from your point of view could be really beneficial to a lot of your readers!

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  27. I have been dreaming of doing precisely this for a couple of years now as well, so I'm glad you're blazing the trail for me!! ;) One question: Do you think it would look weird to do this with staggered upper cabinets? The cab above our fridge and above the stove go up about 6 inches higher than the others. That's the only thing that's holding me back from jumping in.

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  28. These look great! I'm hoping to do something similar in my kitchen next month :)

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  29. It looks amazing! It's exactly what I would have done, too. I can't wait to see it finished.

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  30. Looking good! How exciting! About how long did this whole project take you? And what's the plan for the backsplash?

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  31. Awesome possum!! Question. Did you predrill your screw holes? Or maybe you didn't have any problems with the wood splitting.... And did you use a nail gun for the small trim? I'm in the middle of redoing a fireplace mantle and was wondering. I can't wait to see the finished space with counters and paint. Woohoo!!

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  32. wow that looks amazing. I like how you went to such detail on the extra chunky crown, looks great!

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  33. Holy Cow! I had now idea you could add more cabinets above the existing cabinets like this. What you did looks great and I may attempt to do the same this winter. Thanks for sharing.

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  34. Love it!! Wow does it ever look great and once you put that trim on..youza ;) I cant wait to hear what color you decided and see that countertop!

    Lauren Baxter | Lovely Decor
    xx

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  35. Love the black wall sconces next to your window. Do you mind sharing the source? Love everything. Thanks!

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THANKS so much for reading!