How to Make an in Wall Drawer
Installing in-wall drawers is a creative way to utilize the hidden storage space in your home. Consider the space under staircases, along attic walls, and in knee walls -- the space that is created when a roof-line cuts through a room on an upper floor of a home. Ready-made drawers and drawer glides are available for purchase online and at home improvement stores. Some drawers can be purchased with painted or stained finishes that are ready to use. Other options include fully assembled raw wood drawers that can be finished to match the decor in your home.
Cut the Wood to Make a Cabinet for In-wall drawers
Slide drawer glides into place one drawer. Calculate the width, height, and depth of the cabinet. Width: measure from drawer glide to drawer glide on the outside edge and add 1 1/2-inches. Height: measure the height of each drawer face and add 1 1/2-inches, plus 1/4-inch for space between each drawer. Depth: measure from the outside front to the outside back of a drawer and add 1 3/4-inches.
Measure and cut two pieces of 3/4-inch plywood for the sides the cabinet. Label these pieces “A.” The dimensions of “A” are the depth of your cabinet, minus 3/4-inch; and the height of the cabinet, minus 1 1/2-inches; see Step 1.
Measure and cut two pieces of plywood for the top and bottom of the cabinet. Label these pieces “B.” The dimensions of “B” are the length and width of the cabinet; see Step 1.
Cut one piece of plywood for the back of your cabinet. Label this piece “C.” The width of piece “C” is the width and length of your cabinet; see Step 1.
Cut pieces of 1-by-2s that will be placed between the drawers. Label these pieces “D.” The length of piece “D” is the width of the cabinet, minus 1 1/2-inches; see Step 2.
Assemble the Cabinet
Use a finish nailer to attach the sides "A" to the top and bottom "B" of the cabinet. Run a thin bead of wood glue along the cut edge (depth) of "A". Place the finished edge of "B" on top of the cut edge of "A." Start nailing 3/8-inch in from the edges of the plywood, then nail every four inches. Repeat for each corner of the cabinet.
Tip the cabinet on a level floor so the back of the cabinet is on top. Run a thin bead of wood glue along the cut edges. Place the finished edge of cabinet back “C” on top of "A" and "B", lining up all of the corners and edges exactly. Nail piece “C” to pieces “A” and “B.” Start nailing 3/8-inch in from the edges of the plywood, then nail every 4 inches.
Cut two pieces of 3/4-inch square dowel that are the width of the cabinet, and two pieces that are the length of the cabinet; see Section 1, Step 1. Tip the cabinet so that the front of the cabinet is facing up. Apply a thin bead of wood glue to the cut edges of the cabinet face. Nail the pieces of 3/4-inch square dowel to the front of the cabinet.
Place the bottom drawer and drawer glide inside the cabinet.Mark the locations where the bottom drawer glide screws should be inserted. Insert screws in drawer glide and test drawer to ensure that it opens and closes easily. Repeat this process until all drawers have been installed, leaving a 1/4-inch space between the tops and bottoms of the drawer fronts.
Use a pencil to mark the tops and bottoms of the 1/4-inch spaces between the drawer fronts. Remove the drawers. Center the narrow side of the 1-by-2s "D" across each 1/4-inch gap, with the front of the 1-by-2 flush with the 3/4-inch dowel side pieces. Place a thin bead of wood glue on the ends of each piece "D" and nail into place.
Install and Finish In-wall Drawers
Use a pencil and yard stick to measure and mark the length and width of your cabinet on the wall where your drawers will be installed. Use a level to ensure that the top line is level. Use a drywall saw to cut along the lines you have drawn where your drawer cabinet will be installed. Cut the studs behind the drywall using a wood hand saw or a reciprocating saw.
Determine the height of the back supports for your drawer cabinet by measuring from the floor to the bottom of the hole that you sawed in the wall. Cut two pieces of 2-by-4s this length. Use L-angles and screws to attach the 2-by-4s to the floor, 4 nches in from the sides of the hole that you sawed and 2 inches less than the depth of your cabinet; see Section 1, Step 1.
Slide your cabinet into the hole in the wall, resting the cabinet on the back supports and in far enough so that you can mark the location of the studs that are above and below the front of the cabinet. Shift the cabinet forward so that it is flush with the room-side of the drywall. Use a 7/64 drill bit to drill two pilot holes through the plywood part of the cabinet and each stud above and below the cabinet. Secure the cabinet by installing two #8 screws in each stud above and below the cabinet.
Use a putty knife to apply wood filler to nail holes, construction imperfections and the space between the cabinet and the drywall. Allow to dry. Sand cabinet and the wall until smooth. Place drawers in drawer guides. Measure and cut the window molding for installation around the in-wall drawers. Use a finish nailer to attach the molding. Apply painter’s tape around the molding. Prime and paint (or stain) cabinet molding and ready-made drawers if they were not purchased with a finish. Let dry. Insert drawers in drawer glides.
- "Built-Ins: Designs to Inspire, Projects to Build"; Sunset; 2u009
- "Popular Mechanics"; How to Build a Cabinet Behind Your Wall; October 2009
Based in New York City, Mark Koltko-Rivera has been writing psychology-related articles since 1987. His articles have appeared in such journals as “Psychotherapy” and “Journal of Humanistic Psychology.” Koltko-Rivera is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in counseling psychology from New York University.
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