DIY: Custom Kitchen Pantry from Recycled and New Wood Materials

When I moved into my older mobile home from living in an apartment, I found that several so-called upgrades had been performed by the previous owner. I use the term ‘upgrade’, very loosely, as a I found new words in my vocabulary that I previously did not know I had.

Most glaringly of all, there was a room built in the middle of my dining room, making a three foot hallway from the front door into the kitchen. Not being of the smallest build, my wife and I could not keep this room, and keep any type of comfort in our new home, not to mention that when we finally moved in, there were several pieces of our furniture that would not have fit into this makeshift hallway. In other words, we had major demolition before we could even move in.

We took down the walls of the room, piece by piece, trying to recycle every bit of the material that we could. We ended up with 4 full sheets of drywall, all of the 2×4 studding that comprised the walls, the drywall screws were salvaged from the studding, as well as all of the insulation from the walls.

After this main demo project, we were able to move in with no hindrance from the old room. We then discovered that we did not have enough storage for the kitchen. This was also a concern for us, as we were going from a 900 sq. ft. apartment to a 672 sq. ft. mobile home.

Armed with the materials that we recovered from the room demo, I began to devise a plan to increase the storage space in my kitchen and dining room. The planning had to also include the washer and dryer being in the dining room, as the hookups, were here in the dining room. It may sound funny to have a laundry room in the middle of the dining room, but this is the life of living an older mobile home.

Making your own cabinets and storage has its advantages. Firstly and foremost is cost. With a little imagination, you can also make your new cabinets look like professionally made, for little extra cost.

Most of the time, when you design your own cabinets, you need to keep in mind the position of the wall studs. The standard for framing walls is having a stud every 16″ centered. Some single level construction, such as a single story garage, can have studs as far as 24″ apart. The stud often times is a wood 2×4, with the 2” edge being the face of the wall. This means that you have a two inch area where to brace your cabinets on. A good stud finder can be found inexpensively at your nearest home improvement store or hardware.

If you are building your cabinets separately and then hanging them, use the stud spacing to determine the length of your cabinets. If 16 inch studding, then make your cabinets at lengths of either 16, 32, or 48 inches. If the studs are 24″ apart, make your project 24, 48, or 72. If you plan to make the cabinet longer than one stud width, make sure you have something to brace the back of the project into the center stud, making it more stable.

My pantry was custom made at 36″ wide and 25″ deep. This measurement was made due to the space I needed to also fit the washer and dryer, and the depth was based on an existing broom closet, minus the depth of folding doors, when we finish the pantry. The shelves were also custom, compared to what was being stored on the shelf.

Now that I have explained how I designed the pantry, let us get to building it.

I started by taking four of the studs that were salvaged from the room demo, and cut them to fit in the four corners of the pantry. This was interesting, as the ceiling was a low angle vaulted ceiling so two of the 2x4s were longer than the other two. The two shorter studs were secured on the wall of the broom closet with screws salvaged from the earlier project. In fact, I did not have to purchase any fasteners for this project, as all were screws that I already had.

A longer of the studs was fastened to the wall with the 4″ face to the wall. I was able to skip the stud in this project, as the wall in this area of the dining room was covered with plywood. Again, thanks to the previous owners.

Now with three of the four corners of my pantry secured to the walls, I began framing for the shelves. The cross braces were 2×2 furring pieces, which I had in supply from other projects. I used these pieces between the back 2x4s and along the side of the broom closet.

The next task that I accomplished at this point, was the front corner of the pantry. Using a level and a tape measure, I centered the stud, so that all shelves would be of the same surface area. This stud was tacked to the ceiling to remain in place until I had the shelves built. This is not a great way to secure the corner as it was only tacked through the drywall between the studs. In this case though, after the shelves were built, the shelves gave the corner rigidity, making securing the stud to the ceiling at a joyce, unnecessary.

Next, came the front and opposite side cross braces. All braces were leveled to ensure that no slope occurred in any shelves.

Next came the building of the shelves themselves. This is the only part of the project where I had to break down and spend some money. I debated on whether to use plywood, MDF, or planking. I finally decided to go with the planking due to the natural wood that I had already used in the project to this point. The pantry has 5 shelves, so in order to have enough for the entire project, I needed to purchase nine,12 foot boards, cut into 36″ sections. The most difficult part of building the shelves, was making notches to fit around the studs. All other shelves fit perfectly as they were already cut at 36 inches. All boards were fastened with 1 1/4″ screws that I already had in my possession.

The final step was to finish the pantry face to make it flow with the rest of the room. This was done with more materials recycled from the previous project. The opposite face from the broom closet was covered with drywall. The front of the pantry was covered with two louvered doors that had previously been taken from a closet in my back bedroom.

Trim work was placed on the edges of the drywall, to finish the look of the pantry and to continue the flow of the trim of the rest of the dining room.

In summary, with some ingenuity and planning, any project can be performed inexpensively, and made to look custom and finished professionally.

TIP: When making shelves from plank wood, make sure you interchange the direction of the end grain. Usually the ends of a plank shows the rings of the tree it was cut from. As the plank ages or absorbs moisture, the plank will begin to curve, or warp, with the rings shown. In order to keep your shelves relatively flat, flip the plank so the the rings alternate.

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