Written by Melissa Arndt, Principal Broker for Simplicity Real Estate Solutions.
To see what our library bookcases will look like when finished, see Planning For Our Library Project.
The first step of our project was to install the cabinets for the bottoms of the bookcases. In order to get the cabinets and bases to fit to the walls we had to cut the existing baseboards. We were able to save the trim that we will use to finish off the bottoms of the cabinets by removing those pieces carefully. The remainder of the baseboards on our walls ended up being strips of drywall held in with screws that had to be removed. It was a little odd seeing the strange material, but it was easy to remove since we didn’t have to worry about keeping those strips of drywall intact. We bought stock upper cabinets from the local home improvement store and 2×4’s for the base. Once we got the cabinets home we did a dry fit to ensure I measured correctly and the fit was perfect. However, I would caution you to give 1-2 inches extra if you have a window or doorway close to the end of your cabinets and don’t try to butt right up to it. I did not take a photo of the cabinet next to the window when we did the dry fit but it butted up against the window trim and further down in this blog post you will see how that became an issue.
Since wall cabinets do not have a base on them, we built bases for the cabinets using 2×4’s and I was excited to learn how to make an angle cut with my miter saw for the base of the corner cabinet. One thing I learned doing the angle cuts is that my next saw will have a laser on it that shows the cut line, it is difficult to line up the angle cuts to ensure the board remains at the correct length! We built a separate base for each cabinet in the size of the cabinet, but the base could also be built as one large piece for all the cabinets to sit on top of. Once the bases were all built, we did another dry fit to ensure the sizing was correct (it was!), check that the high point for the base was in the corner (it was), and secured the bases to the wall.
The fun really got started when we installed the cabinets. If you have never installed cabinets before (we had not) I would recommend you watch numerous YouTube videos and read instructions on the process because it is tricky. We started with the corner cabinet, which is why we wanted the high point to be in the corner since the base was not perfectly level. It we had built the base in one piece we could have leveled the base instead of each individual cabinet and that is likely what I would do if we were to do another similar project. The leveling of the corner cabinet was hard, bad words were said, and at one point my husband and our friend, Josh, stopped attempting to help me and sat back to enjoy the show. I was FINALLY able to get the corner cabinet perfectly level using the shims and attached it to the wall (we had located and marked the studs prior to installing the cabinets to ensure the attachments were made into the studs) with screws. Then I worked my way down the long length of cabinets over the next few days installing the cabinets by clamping them together, leveling, and then attaching them to the walls and each other.
When we got to a point where there were only 2 cabinets left to install my husband and I realized we would be covering up the outlets on the walls with those last 2 cabinets, 1 that is next to the doorway and 1 that is next to the window. This may be something you should consider before doing a similar project, and I was so glad we realized the issue before those last 2 cabinets were installed! We decided to move the outlets higher on the wall so the outlets sat above the countertop and we would be able to use them. We have swapped out outlets in our previous house with no problem so we felt confident to do it ourselves. We did get lucky that by putting the new outlet directly above the old one we were able to use the existing wire by undoing the wire from the old outlets, pulling it up through the hole for the new outlet, and trimming the wire for use in the new outlet. It we had to run new wires would definitely have had an electrician do the work! We did learn something very interesting about the room when making the hole for the new outlets: behind the drywall in the room were plywood sheets, which explained why we had such a hard time when we were locating studs!
Our biggest learning lesson happened when I went to install the last cabinet, which is the one that is on the wall with the window. It no longer fit flush against the window trim! In the leveling of the corner cabinet we had to shim it about ¾ of an inch away from the wall to get everything level so that perfect length between the wall and window trim was now ¾ of an inch too long. Since we had already build the base to size for the cabinet we have and cut the baseboard to that length we thought it would be easier to cut part of the window trim away to fit the cabinet and shelves than buy a smaller cabinet and have to patch the baseboards. We will cross our fingers and see at the end if it turns out like we hope!
It took us a week to build the bases and install the cabinets since we are only able to fit in a few hours at a time to work on the project between work and kiddos. I am not sure how people are able to complete whole projects over a weekend, but that will likely never be me! The whole process is taking a little longer than I thought it would, so luckily we are not in a rush.
The next step is the countertop, which we are still in the middle of working on. I will give you an update on that part once it is installed and let you know what boo boos we made in that process!