Upper Kitchen Cabinet Question

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Forum topic by sarahss posted 07-12-2012 12:52 PM 2297 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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258 posts in 2847 days

07-12-2012 12:52 PM

I have a question—or maybe several questions about an upper cabinet design I’m considering. This pertains only to upper cabs. I’m considering building one large box from 3/4 plywood—one top, bottom, back and 2 ends—no dividers in between—and just making one large face frame to attach to it. I thinik it will be about 8 feet long. I like the taller 30 inch uppers and mabye 18 inches deep instead of the standard 12 inches. Inset doors. Lumber species yet to be determined. So…here goes with the questions.

1. Pros/cons to this? I realize that this will mean working with larger pieces of 3/4 ply, and will be heavy, but aside from that.

2. is this strong enough

3. is there reason to worry about sagging—if so what to do to prevent it (maybe bowing is a better term—will the plywood bow over the lenght over time?

4. Would i be better to wait and install the doors once the cabinet is installed so as to be able to scribe them to a really good fit—I guess i’m worried that if i have them pre installed, it will be heavier, but also if for some reason installation causes some distortion in the openings for the doors, they won’t work properly.

5. any cons to the 18×30 design? should I worry about banging my head every time i get near them? i’m not the most graceful of God’s critters!

6. should I install a french cleat to hang it? if not what would be the best way? It will have one end against a wall and won’t show, and the other end will have a decorative end panel.

Basically, I like the idea of opening the cabinet and being able to see from one end to the other, but I really do want a sound design that will be strong and hold up over time. Sorry for the long post, but I really value the advice available here, and look forward to hearing what others think.

16 replies so far

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3266 days

#1 posted 07-12-2012 01:29 PM

How will you install and support shelves? Do you really want 8’ shelves?

I did something similar on my first kitchen (mine) and wouldn’t do that again. I made one long (10’) upper separated like “normal” uppers. It was very heavy, hard to handle, and a cast iron SOB to install. Never again! – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View sarahss's profile


258 posts in 2847 days

#2 posted 07-12-2012 01:48 PM

good question sawkerf—had thought about a cleat under the shelf at the back and ends—but you’re right—i hadn’t given it much thought—glad you asked though, to get me thinking about it

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5121 posts in 4158 days

#3 posted 07-12-2012 01:55 PM

Are ya gonna have shelves? How would you attach them (the shelves). How many doors?
Too many questions to give ya an answer withoput more info. Got a sketch you could post?


View MNgary's profile


303 posts in 2614 days

#4 posted 07-12-2012 02:10 PM

To help minimize sagging of the shelves, you could cut a half inch kerf legthwise and inset a one-half by one inch piece of angle iron a few inches from the front in addition to a cleat at the rear. But even so, I would consider two five foot shelves.

For deep uppers, you may want to install under-cabinet lighting so the countertop below isn’t in the shadows.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View jmos's profile


902 posts in 2567 days

#5 posted 07-12-2012 02:31 PM

Lots of questions. Are your counters extra deep? If they are standard, and you make the uppers 6” deeper than usual, you will be banging you head into the uppers when you work on the counter. I do all the cooking at our place, and I would hate that arrangement. If your counters are extra deep, not a problem, or if you have an island or peninsula where you do all your prep that doesn’t have the cabinets, it could work. It would also be something a future buyer might not like; may or may not be a concern for you.

I would be concerned about the strength of a single 8’ box. Even if the shelves are supported, you load that puppy down with dishes and the like, it will be heavy. All that stress will be on the two side to back joints. I think you would have sagging and possibly a failure of the side/back joint.

The largest upper in my kitchen is 2’-9” wide, I could see going to 3’, but I don’t think I would go longer.

French cleat works fine. Mine are just screwed through the back into studs.

-- John

View sarahss's profile


258 posts in 2847 days

#6 posted 07-12-2012 02:39 PM

Bill—no SU drawing—just in the idea phase right now

MNGary—good idea about angle iron—hadn’t considered that

jmos—the head bopping that you mentioned is just what i’m worried about—lowers will be standard depth, so maybe best to just go 12 inches deep to avoid a lheadache!! the strength concerns me too—our previous house had uppers like this, and we loaded them down pretty well with no problems, but we weren’t in that house very long, so I don’t know what would happen long term

View jmos's profile


902 posts in 2567 days

#7 posted 07-12-2012 02:47 PM

Was the old 8’ cabinet supported from the ceiling on some way (if you had soffits they could have been)? I could see putting some extra support (screws) through the front side of the case, just behind the face frame where the doors are, essentially hanging the front plane from the ceiling. Just hanging it off the back wall makes me nervous.

-- John

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3266 days

#8 posted 07-12-2012 02:51 PM

Unless you do some really serious front edge support, cleats on the ends and back won’t keep an 8” shelf from sagging.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2574 days

#9 posted 07-12-2012 03:07 PM

I too would definitely support the front of the cabinet to the ceiling. Talking a lot of leverage to pull that off the wall. Maybe split the difference and only go 15” deep and for the shelving i’d put a front support at 4ft at least, better would be in thirds. Got any book cases? go look at those shelves. I’ve got plenty of 4’ wide sagging book shelves. under cabinet lighting would definitely be a good idea.

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 3006 days

#10 posted 07-12-2012 09:14 PM

Are you going to the ceiling, furdown or what ? 30 inch high upper is not for butting to an 8 ft. ceiling. Industry standard for depth is 12 inches, I build mine 13 as a standard. French cleat is ok but why ? If your ramming it to the ceiling are you allowing for crown,etc.? You wont need 3/4 on the back (1/2 max is more than adequate) . If your doing inset doors youll be needing stiles to hang them on. I would break that one into at least two compartmints,maybe three. Partitions will be hidden behind the stiles. Its doable without partitions if you have nailing available through styles on the faceframe, thus going with six doors in leau of four. Would give you more nailing. You mentioned you want to see the entire length of the cabinet without visual interuption of vertical partitions, why ? Need more info my friend ! Installing shoudnt pose a problem, just get someone on the other end.

View DS's profile


3030 posts in 2618 days

#11 posted 07-12-2012 09:25 PM

Definately would need internal partitions to break up the 8 foot interior and provide anti-sag support for the top, bottom and shelves. I typically would prefer no more than 36” width between partitions.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3744 days

#12 posted 07-13-2012 12:22 AM

I think you already have good advice. I would not build the 8’ length without partitions. I would do the cabinet 8’ long as that would be my preferred method to eliminate having to join cabinets together when installed. I would however utilize 2 interior partitions that I would trim over with the face frame giving me adequate strength and also an adequate stile that I could mount my 6 doors to. If preferred by the customer I would utilize just one partition in the middle while utilizing 4 large doors. But everything we build is assembled completely with dado / groove joints with sufficient wood glue and fasteners. So in my building technique, the interior partition would be set into a dado inside the bottom and top board with wood glue and fasteners. The partition, a 1/4” back piece and the face frame (also dado onto our cabinets) all glued and fastaned together, would be sufficient to make a strong box. We make our uppers 12 1/2” deep. Our side parts are 12” wide, the side parts set inside a 1/4” dado on the 3/4” face frame, and the neat thing we do is we place our 1/4” cabinet back inside a 1/4” groove that is cut into the 2 sides, bottom and top parts. The groove for the back is set in 3/4” so that we can place our 3/4” nailer behind the 1/4” back.

-- .

View sarahss's profile


258 posts in 2847 days

#13 posted 07-13-2012 01:03 PM

I don’t plan to butt them against the ceiling as it would be too tall to access without a step ladder. Just don’t want the bother of that.

I like the idea of under cab lighting—gonna look at the wiring soon.

Jerry I really like the way you suggest doing it—had actually thought of something similar for another future project, but for some reason the light bulb didn’t go off for this one…

View RogerM's profile


799 posts in 2596 days

#14 posted 07-13-2012 03:18 PM

I think you already have some good advice as noted above. I too have built an 8’ upper cabinet but would never do it again. Two 4’ cabinets offer a lot more flexibility and strength and would be a lot easier to install.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3272 days

#15 posted 07-13-2012 03:29 PM

I’ll answer this question from a different perspective. I think I have reasonably good woodworking skills and a good set of tools. Despite that, on two occasions when I needed new kitchen cabinets, I bought pre-make cabinets.

For our own home, which is quite upscale, I bought some relatively expensive cabinets and installed them. For a rental property I own, I bought some more modestly priced cabinets.

In both cases, I could not have built better cabinets myself without investing a lot of time and effort. I’ve not really done the math, but I estimate that to make my own cabinets for the same price would require me to work for less than the minimum wage. The factories have the equipment to make these cabinets very nicely for not much money.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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