Install a Recessed Cabinet

Storage Ideas

Install a Recessed Cabinet

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 186 Projects

If you’ve got a recessed wall area that you’re not sure how to use, then a built-in cabinet might be a perfect fit. For example, the set-back space created on one or both sides of a bumped-out fireplace is a perfect spot to install a built-in bookshelf or cabinet.

Building a recessed cabinet is very similar to building a freestanding cabinet. The key difference is that a recessed cabinet must fit perfectly between the side walls. The easiest way to make a cabinet that will fit is to make a basic interior cabinet case that’s slightly smaller than the available space and then build a face frame and top cover that will cover the edges of the cabinet and fit snuggly against the walls. The secret to achieving a perfect fit is to make the face frame and top slightly oversized and then scribe them to fit against the walls.

You can build a recessed cabinet with or without doors. in the version seen here, glass panel doors were built, but you can also use solid, natural wood veneer or painted plywood panels to conceal the cabinet interior. it is important to purchase tempered glass when you are building glass panel doors. Tempered glass is treated with heat so that if it is broken, it will shatter into small pieces that are less likely to cause serious cuts. it’s also stronger. You can’t cut it yourself, so be sure to get the size  correct when you order it cut-to-fit.

Building this cabinet requires intermediate woodworking skills and a few woodworking power tools, including a table saw, miter saw, and router table.

Recessed Cabinet Diagram

Recessed Cabinet Cutting List

How to Build a Recessed Cabinet

  1. Recessed Cabinet 01

    Measure the width of the space where the cabinet will be installed. Measure at several heights above the floor and at the front and back of the space. Record and use the smallest measurement.

  2. Recessed Cabinet 02

    Cut the base frame parts to length and assemble the base with 2½" wood screws. Center the base between the side walls and against the back wall. Level the base with shims and then secure it to the back wall.

  3. Recessed Cabinet 03

    Attach the divider panels to the top and bottom with 2" screws. Use a square to make sure the divider is perpendicular to the top and bottom. Bore a pilot hole and countersink hole for each screw. Drive the screws through the top and bottom.

  4. Recessed Cabinet 04

    Attach the back panel with glue and 1" brads or 1" narrow crown staples. Keep the cabinet sides, top, and bottom perpendicular as you attach the back panel.

  5. Recessed Cabinet 05

    Bore a pilot and countersink hole through the back cleat and side panels at each stud location. Place scrap blocks or shims behind each screw hole to fill the gap between the wall and cabinet. Secure the cabinet with 3" drywall screws.

  6. Recessed Cabinet 06

    Then, scribe the stiles to follow the profile of the wall. Hold the stile perpendicular to the rails and against the side wall. Set a compass opening to match the distance that the stile overlaps the ends of the rails.

  7. Recessed Cabinet 07

    Hold the metal point of the compass against the wall and pull the compass down along the wall to trace the profile of the wall onto the face of the stile. The stile must remain perpendicular to the rails as you draw the scribe line.

  8. Recessed Cabinet 08

    Assemble the cabinet face frame with pocket screws. Clamp the parts to a large work surface to keep them perpendicular as they are connected.

  9. Recessed Cabinet 09

    Tape together pieces of paper or cardboard to make a template for the top. Leave a 1⁄8" space between the template and the walls. Then, trace the template on the top panel stock and cut out the top.

  10. Recessed Cabinet 10

    Attach the top to the cabinet with 1¼" screws. Drive the screws through the underside of the cabinet top panel and into the finished top. Use one screw in each corner and two screws evenly spaced near the front and back of the cabinet.

  11. Recessed Cabinet 11

    This router bit set cuts a 3⁄8"–long stub tenon. The extra ¾" necessary for the two stub tenons must be added to the length of the rails. Rout the stub tenons on the ends of the rails. Set the router bit height so the top cutter will mill a 1⁄8"-deep rabbet above the stub tenon.

  12. Recessed Cabinet 12

    Set the router bit height to align the groove with the stub tenon. Make test cuts in a scrap piece to adjust the bit height for a perfect fit before cutting the actual parts.

  13. Recessed Cabinet 13

    Measure diagonally across the corners to check the frame for square (or, just use a carpenter’s square). If the diagonal measurements are equal, then the frame is square.

  14. Recessed Cabinet 14

    Use a bottom-bearing rabbet bit to remove the back lip of the groove. Set the bit depth so that the bearing rides on the front edge or “stick” profile of the door

  15. Recessed Cabinet 15

    Fasten the hinge to the door using the slotted screw holes first. These holes allow you to adjust the door position slightly. Drive screws in the fixed screw holes after the door is positioned correctly in the cabinet. Drill pilot holes for each screw to prevent stripping the screw head, breaking the screws or splitting the door stile.

  16. Recessed Cabinet 16

    Attach the tack strips to hold the glass in the doors. Use a brad push tool to drive the brads or gently tap the brads with a small hammer. Cover the glass with a piece of cardboard to protect it.