Project: making an upper wall cabinet taller (kitchen)

July 3, 2012 § 3 Comments

When we had the house built we opted for a tall cabinet option. These original cabinets are 42″ high, leaving a 13″ gap between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling. Not only is this gap irritating (wasted space, dust collector) but nowadays, the trend in high-end kitchens is to have the cabinets go all the way to the ceiling.

In a previous cabinet remodel we had extended the height to the ceiling to make it larger. I’ve been asked how we did that and since having tall, upper cabinets, wrapped in crown molding is a big trend in higher end kitchens, I thought I would show how we did it for the kitchen.

Here is the area we’ll be working with: the upper cabinets on the stove wall. The cabinet doors over the stove hood have been removed. There is a 13″ gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling (vintage kitchen items are there now) which we will be filling in to make a visually taller cabinet.

Intalling the Cabinet’s Face Frame

First the original trim is removed and trashed. Next a frame with scrap wood is nailed in. Make sure you recess this so the new facing will sit flush with the old cabinetry.

Because these cabinets will be painted, we don’t have to concern ourselves with putting up wood that would match a pre-existing stain. It’s easier to do this sort of project if you are going to refinish the entire cabinet to a new color.

The flat face boards are installed by nailing onto the wood framework. In this first photo, left is the new facing board, while right is still exposed.  BTW a nail gun with compressor is a must have on this type of job. If you don’t own one, you can rent them.

Because the gap between cabinets and ceiling is 13″, we went with 12″ boards (standard size) which keeps the costs down and the 1″ remaining gap will be covered with crown molding.

Making Open Storage from a Cabinet with Doors

The cabinet over the stove will remain open for storage. In order to cover the cut outs made for the old hinges (when this cabinet had doors), we nailed a new framework directly on top. This will bump out the cabinet from the others, and make a more interesting face profile. It also will give more depth to the crown molding. Brackets and more trim is added to provide even more interest.

Bump outs on cabinetry, vs. a flat profile, is found in higher end, expensive cabinets. If I had more time and money, I would probably have made this bump out a bit more dramatic but for a house going on the market in a year, this gave it some umph.

Painting and Glazing Detailed Molding

It’s much easier to paint trim before it is installed; this is especially true of molding that has a lot of detail. This project will use a combination of base and crown molding as well as some brackets. Note: the entire cabinet will be touched up with a final coat of Old White to blend old with new and detailed in a later post.

One coat of Anne Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) in Old White is applied with a bristle brush over bare wood

For a glaze, I returned to Walnut oil stain (this can size is about $5 and I used about 1/3rd the can). The first application is applied heavily using a foam paint applicator brush. I use foam because afterwards I’m throwing it away and I also like how foam really crunches down into the recessed areas.

It’s wiped away with a rag. At this point if you think the glaze is too light, put on more. If too heavy, wipe off more. Being an oil stain you have plenty of working time.

When working with stain the areas of previous work vs. new area worked…

…can leave a mark. Be on the lookout for these blemishes and always correct by rubbing it out with your cloth before it has a chance to set and dry.

When the trim is finished, compare it and make sure the glazing is even throughout. Flat areas such as the baseboard will naturally appear lighter then heavily carved and detailed areas:

Installing Base and Crown Molding Trim on Upper Cabinetry

First, the base molding is installed. You need to measure and make sure that you continue to align it straight across. For this we used a board as a temporary spacer which is quicker then trying to measure the spacing with a tape.

Note: if you have an older house that is not level, you will need to make a decision on how you will align the molding – off the ceiling or slicing some off of the molding to give the illusion it is straight.

At this point of the project, all of the base molding is installed and the small gap you see between the ceiling and the facing will be covered once the crown is installed.

We opted for a speciality block at each end of the cabinets as a visual stop to the cabinet molding. The top part of the block must be big enough for crown and base to butt against it. In our situation the rectangular block on top had to be increased in height by re-building the box with thin pieces of Aspen boards.

In this next photo you can see how the base molding trim already installed, works with the crown molding.

Crown molding is cut on the table saw and it does take a bit of practice to know how to manage the cut. I recommend having someone help you the first time or watch a Youtube video (it’s rather complex to go into in this blog).

The edge cut of the crown molding can be lightly rasped to remove any fuzz left from the cut; this allows for a cleaner fit when the next piece is installed. A small wedge of crown is cut so it wraps completely around with a nice tight fit.

Another piece of base molding and some egg and dart trim are added to the bottom. This covers the joined area of old and new, as well as giving the entire unit more appeal.

Nail holes are filled with wood putty. After it dries, blemishes are sanded smooth. Painting the entire cabinet will be covered in a future post. I will also be putting some decorative trim on the shelf front and the backing of the open cabinet will become beadboard.

This is a three day project: one day to paint and the other two to put in the molding. Molding was finished by us in one 1.5 days but I would plan for two.

At this point of the kitchen remodel project the ceiling has been re-wired for drop pendants (4) and for future cabinet lighting; the ceiling was re-plastered and painted; and the upper cabinet (stove) wall refinished with carpentry. I’ve planned to do this in stages to decrease the time the kitchen will be out of use, and to fit within my budget.

Next up will be the fridge wall of cabinets with matching ceiling trim of the crown to tie the two together and finishing off the two open shelf cabinets. From there I’ll paint these two sections before moving on to the lower cabinets and island.  Unfortunately, due to finances this is a long project with here and there, so bear with me and I’ll update photos as we move along.

However, I think it’s looking great!

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