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Operation: Built-Ins

Let's upgrade a room they said...  It will be fun they said...

Built-In features:
Combination of Oak and Pine wood
Indirect lighting of shelves, cabinet area, crawlspace
Electical outlets in each opening
Fun window connecting to garage (cookie window)

Come along as we descend though time and space as we look towards the front room of our home.  On this epic journey we will witness its evolution into having the best built-in bookshelves known to man.
As projects often are, this one remains a work in progress.  To say I overbooked myself may be unnecessary, but I did need something to do during the cold months of winter.  This time I had experience on my side and what an ally that proved to be time and time again.
We wanted something nice, something usable, but also unique.  Why have just storage when you could have fun storage?  As you will see, these built-ins give a few extras to the kids, and help remind you of why being a kid is fun.
We started like we did in the past and bought the only portion of the entire assembly that was pre-made.  That is the wall cabinet assembly that you would find for kitchen cabinets.  We will use these for the door fronts, and and as base cabinets.  This project quickly evolved into something much more though.
We are the proud owners of a little one, and with them being little for such a short time, why not also turn this into a play area for him?  Besides, once he is too big it just becomes storage again anyway.
The idea:  Use just the cabinet door fronts and make the entire closed off section one open area that can easily be navigated by a toddler.  That was the start of it at least, then came more changes.  "How fun would it be if we put a little window in that connected to the garage?" "What if we had a hidden space in the floor boards?"

Since this isn't my day-to-day profession, I have to make baby steps.  I know what we want the end result to be, I just need to figure out how to get there.  We already know that the entire inside will  be one open area, so we will need some flooring.  For cost considerations, we choose pine boards.

I made use of a new hand planer to help get these to line up.  I've learned once how much sanding is involved if you manage to join the boards with any inconsistency.


Here we have the boards aligned and clamped.  The perpendicular lines represent where I will cut to join these boards using biscuits.  I also got another new toy for this, a DeWalt plate joiner.  Numbering the boards is also crucial, or not if you like sanding.

Another view, including bump out for the center of the built-ins.  At this stage I'm getting ready to cut in so I can add biscuits and glue it all together.  When glue time comes, I use my clamps better by reversing each one.  This process helps eliminate pulling that can be created by the offset weight of the clamp itself.

Here we are before staining.  I took the liberty of putting a small bevel on each board to help reduce the possibility of any splintering.  When the boards were finally joined and glued, the combined beveled edges gave a nice look and feel.  I've also ripped the entire length of it to match up with measurements.

Let's head inside to see what sort of disaster I've created for myself...

First things first, the hidden area.  This would have been impossible to do if the built-ins were in place already as you will see.  Thankfully they weren't there and I got to be the lucky guy to take a circular saw to the hardwood floor.  I hope I know what I'm doing...

There we have it, a hole in the floor. Finally we can close the books on this one and take a nap:

One mistake throughout this build was the lack of photos.  I have some of the supports built out for the floorboard already, and I've built a cripple to compensate for my work area in under the flooring.

From the basement up.  As pictured, I'm using the empty space created by the supports to house this hidden area.  When the basement is finished there will be no evidence of this.  I am using smooth white paneling for the sides and roof.  Glued into place and held there with clamps and screws until it cures.  Side note, if you stick your head in liquid nails, it stays in your hair for a little while...

Ends made, paneling glued.  The overall length of this is 8'.  Note the rope light hanging in the end.  This will be used as an indirect lighting.

Subfloor now installed, but I still have a hole in the floor.

Lighting going into place, a view from inside.  This really isn't large enough for an adult, but it sure is cool.

It's starting to come together now.  These thee boards are only there to show how it will look.  They aren't ready to become part of it yet.  At this point I've already spent entirely too much time on this.  All the while it feels like I haven't even done anything.  At least now I can actually get to the built ins...

I need to build these from the ground up, so an opening was made into the flooring.  Talk about a nerve-wracking experience.  I would really only be out time if I botched this, sure the boards and materials have a cost to them as well.  It's just that this would take a few more days to redo.
We picked a simple natural stain to apply to the flooring, first treated with a pre-stain to help eliminate blotch marks from the natural tendency of the wood absorbing the stain at different rates.
After staining we used a polyurethane to protect this.  We put numerous coats on it as it may have foot traffic from little ones.

Access door.  Thankfully it lined up.
Another challenge with this is that I took one wood structure and made it two separate pieces.  This becomes troublesome at times when you don't get the same level of stain applied to it.  We should have it match, but if it doesn't at least it's in a cabinet.


Set in place, checking progress.  So far, so good.

See the notches along the bump out?  That is to house the front door panels.  When we started it was going to be wall cabinets as a base, then I thought I could do so much more if I cut off the fronts of those to create my own cabinet.  While this is still a good idea, the better idea would have been to not buy the cabinets at all and just make my own.  Oh well, maybe next time?

Speaking of the cabinet fronts, here we are with that.  We have two 30" fronts, and two 36" fronts.  The 36" cabinets will be for the center and needed to be joined together.  The additional board along the bottom makes up for lost height, the end goal result will have this covered with baseboard.

Sometimes when you do a large project like this you have a need to put a hole in the wall.  Well, at least I did.  I could think of no other way to pass cookies into it from the garage otherwise.

Who would want this in their garage?  No one, that's who.

That's better, even if some weirdo is staring at you.  This was finished out with some 1/2" pine boards and trim.  Mitered to fit on 45 angles and put together with an entire bucket of luck.  I also routed the corners off the outside.  I don't know how exactly, but somehow this would cause me to bleed in the future if I didn't.

A view from inside.  This is a marine window we found on amazon.  It came with a 2" flange attached that needed to go.  Miraculously I was able to cut this away with my miter saw.  It wasn't even dangerous, not even a bit.

More progress is made.  I needed  a way to support the top of the door fronts, and I needed it to not take up too much room.  2x4's were used on their side to create this support.  I then needed to build a housing for lights.  This was done by gluing two different types of trim together to give room for lighting while also finishing the edges.  The picture above is a bit out of order, but it does display how the lighting is ran.
I've also used more smooth white paneling for the walls inside the cabinet.  I used more trim pieces to help conceal the edges of the paneling.  Baseboard has also been restored and the first coat of paint applied.

Speaking of lighting, have you ever wired up a 4-way switch?  My gosh that is hard.  I had never done it before and that is probably why that part took me hours.

The white wire connects to the white wire, The red wire connects to the black wire?  Okay... Wait, what?
I feel like I should also mention that this isn't the finished product.  No bare wires exist, they are all locked away in their junction boxes.

How much lighting can that really provide?  I guess not that much, it's enough to play in though.

I suppose we should start on the oak counter top.  More planing, joining, sanding.  Now to get prepared to put a finished edge on the front of it.

Much nicer.  Please note that sometimes a router can get away from you.  I won't tell you where, but it's not a bug - it's a feature!

Staintastic!  Now for too much poly!


Our home was finished using the stain color Jacobean.  That is also our color of choice for this work.

I forgot to pay the dog tax.  It's Penny the puppy!  She isn't sure what's happening, only that it smells different.  The dog was not present during staining / poly.  I mean she may as well been, so much hair...

Counter top installed, previous Ikea wall cabinets removed.  Still no where close to done.

Another inside view.  Note the underneath of the counter top is painted white to attempt to reflect as much light as possible.  There is so much caulking needed here.

A rare look at a disgruntled cookie eater.  No cookies were harmed in the making of this photo, which did not go over very well.

Pick a number!  Any number!  At least that what it felt like.  I don't really get the appeal, I had almost no fun at all writing on the walls.
These pictures exist only because I can't remember that stuff, and the bead board I was putting up was out in the garage.  The garage is where dust must go.  Dust in house bad, wife angry.

There it is!  That's the reason why my sharpie quit working.  Well, now you know what is supposed to happen, I think?  Well, the little squares in the big squares are where the outlets are going.  Yeah, all clear now.
That other one was from the Ikea cabinets, I had power there for a TV that was hidden away.

The bead board, with pictures of squares drawn on it.  Also pictured is the proud drill that put all those starter holes.  This is not the drill that I lost in the ceiling for a whole year.  That one is somewhere else at this point, like in the ceiling.

I didn't take enough pictures.  Regardless, here it is with all the boards up with outlets that did somehow line up.  Obviously I also have the shelf units in, along with rope lighting for more of my favorite type of lighting - indirect.
It's unfortunate that I didn't take more photos.  All of the center shelves were too deep to use standard boards from the big box stores.  I had to join 6" boards together to get the depth required.  So much extra work...

I'm pretty sure I only had one shoe on when I took this one.  It's easier to see with the front boards on, the camera didn't know how to focus otherwise.

Still not enough sense to turn on more lights.

Crown molding is much harder than it should be.  If you know someone who does it well make sure to compliment them.  It's hard, really.  We used the pre-made corner pieces.  I was afraid they wouldn't look good at first, now however I'm quite pleased with them.

We were playing with seating options, built-ins are mostly done, just need some touch ups.


These were much more time consuming than first thought.  I can say that we often fall victim to what-ifs while we are in a project.  The finished result is quite often a lot different than what our goal was when we started.  It's okay, we can do it.  We might not do it again, but at least we did it that one time.


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