Overview of Our Built-In Project

Posted by John on February 14th, 2013

Happy belated Valentine’s Day to everyone in blog land.  For the two special ladies in my life, I made lobster rolls for dinner.  Lisa handled the dessert and baked a flour-less cake on Wednesday.  Needless to say, we ate too much.  I ended up going with the lobster tails instead of the whole lobster.  I was trying to be economical (PC for cheap).  The tails were $12 for 6 oz and the whole live lobsters were $10/lb.  That’s about $30 for two live 1.5lb lobsters before tax.  The tails weren’t bad, but they were frozen, so we lost out on some freshness.  Still beats paying $40 for a night in.

Today, I thought I’d formally kick off our built-in series with an overview of the project. Here’s how this is going to breakdown.  Most carpentry projects can be worked on in phases and this one is no different.

Step 1:  Design, Plan, Estimate
Step 2:  Build Face Frames
Step 3:  Build Doors
Step 4:  Build Boxes
Step 6:  Prime and Paint
Step 7:  Install and Trim
Step 8:  Finish

So we’re working on Step 1 at the moment.  We’ve already discussed the general look of the built-ins we want by looking at a ton of varieties on Pinterest.  Lisa and I then spent a few minutes sizing up the space where it will be located to get a feel for how large the piece should be.  We made a couple judgement calls on rough dimensions for the height, width and depth of the built-in.

It’s also really important to take functionality into consideration.  To that end, Lisa has requested a sizable bottom portion to the piece with the aim of keeping our daughter’s toys out of the way.  This is one of the huge advantages of custom building.  You can design something specifically for your needs.

With our rough dimensions in mind, we took a few minutes and did some sharpie drawings.

built-in front view

Drawing your ideas can be hugely helpful.  You don’t need to be an engineer or have a CAD system.  I just used a black marker and a ruler.  Putting the design down on paper gives me something to work from.  Now I can start figuring out what the dimensions of each piece of wood need to be.  The down side to doing a rough drawing, however is the scale.   I’m guessing on how the proportions will look.  When I actually build it, the bottom may end up being too wide for two doors.  It may look better with three.  I can make that determination when I build the face frames though and it won’t be a big deal.

The most crucial info to come out of sizing up the space and drawing it is the dimensions.  Lisa told me she wants at least 2″ between the top of the crown molding and the ceiling.  We also agreed on making the height of the bottom portion 35″.  So with those two measurements and the width, I can start calculating the dimensions of the lumber I’ll need.

We also made a side view drawing.

built-in side view

The side view is helpful in sizing up the amount of plywood I’ll need for the boxes that get attached to the face frames.  If you’re not familiar with any of these terms btw, like face frame, don’t worry, I’ll explain it more when we get to that section.  I’ll also keep referring back to these drawings as I go.  I’m not going to explain how to get every single measurement for all the lumber in this post.  It could be confusing if you’re not a regular wood worker and wouldn’t be very helpful at this point.  I will make an effort though at each step of the game to make that sort of thing clear.

The important thing to take away from this step is to have a rough drawing with some OVERALL dimensions that you want to stick to.  That’s really the hardest part.  The rest is just deciding whether or not you want 1.5″ rails and stiles or 2″, poplar or cherry, stuff like that.  If you plan well, the woodworking isn’t terrible challenging.  You’ll see.  I may end up making a couple videos too.

So, I’m going to try to build the face frames for the top and the bottom over the weekend.

Any questions so far?

Hope you have a great weekend!

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