Affordable kitchen cabinet upgrade: a homeowner's experience extending kitchen cabinets
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If you are considering whether or not to extend your kitchen cabinets to the ceiling but not sure whether or not you can diy this project—I’m here to tell you, you can. With that being said I also what to be honest. This did not take less than an hour, I found it challenging, and my husband did have to step in to figure out the angles for the crown moulding. Looking at the end results, though, I would do this again. Extending the builder grade kitchen cabinets made a big impact.
Rather than this post being a tutorial, it’s more about what I learned in hopes you avoid my mistakes. I also include some helpful resources so that you don’t have to scour the Internet looking for a good tutorial.
I’m pretty fearless when it comes to taking on home improvement projects. Sometimes they bomb like the time I ripped out the carpet and painted the sub-floor and other times they rock like when I gave our kitchen nook an upgrade for less than a hundred bucks. My point is I have some diy know-how. Where I struggle is the math. This is where Hubby comes in to save the day.
Kitchen budget makeover phase 3: Extend Cabinets to Ceiling
Our extreme budget kitchen makeover has been a long time coming. It has been on our Yearly Project Goals list for two years. Phase one was to add trim to the kitchen peninsula which we were able to do for less than $100. Phase two we repainted the cabinets and added new hardware which was our only expense ($91). In case you missed the first two series, be sure to check them out by clicking the links below.
Next on the list was to extend the cabinets above our stove to the ceiling. For this project I wanted to save money and use as much scrap wood materials as possible. Let’s get started.
Here’s the before…
The cabinets we are focusing on is the one above the stove.
The first thing I discovered was the fact that the space was going to make it difficult to maneuver around. Not a lot of head room. It was near impossible to angle the nail gun when attaching the frame and I don’t even want to tell you how difficult it was to get an accurate measurement.
The second thing I realized was I was going to have to puzzle how to work with a sloped ceiling. A lot of the sites I went to showed how to extend kitchen cabinets but never discussed what to do if you have a pitched ceiling.
Below you get an idea of what I am talking about.
What to know when framing your kitchen cabinet extension
So the front was 8 in. while the back was six. With the measurements I knew the side panels would be angled with the ceiling. But I couldn’t quite figure out how to make the frame work in the same way. Originally I had thought to approach this as you would a floating shelf. It went horribly wrong.
Remember the head space issue? Well I really struggled with getting accurate measurements so the boards didn’t work. At. All.
Not to mention it was a disaster trying to level and attach this to the back wall with only two hands.
So I went to the Internet and began to dive into as many tutorials as I could find. When I came across “Extend Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling” from Wonderfully Made I was pretty excited. Finally— tips I felt confident I could apply! They used cleats in strategic places to attach the panels to.
Here’s another detailed tutorial where they scraped ceiling before adding the frame:
Leslie’s post from Wonderfully Made suggested using cleats. We have a ton of scrap wood so I cut some 1 x 2s in different lengths. With the nail gun I attached the cleats to the frame of the cabinet as well as to the wall with our nail gun. You can see the one attached to the wall and the arrow indicates where the other cleat is attached.
I left just enough room for the front plate to fit behind the cabinet trim.
Then I measured the distance from the top front to the back (right to left) and again the bottom. With these measurements I went out and found some more cedar paneling and cut accordingly.
Of course it didn’t fit the first time nor the second time. So back out I kept going. Trimming just enough to hopefully fit.
There’s a bit of a gap in the back but I wasn’t too worried because I knew the crown moulding would hide this.
Priming was next and then paint.
Feeling pretty good at this point. Was patting myself on the back for problem solving and not giving up.
Then it was time to add the crown moulding which is when I discovered the next mistake.
Why the crown moulding didn’t fit right
Remember when I told you I’m a bit math challenged…quite a bit actually. It didn’t really seem to be that big of a deal until it was time to cut the angle for the crown moulding.
Up until now, I’ve been the lone diyer. Humming and doing my thing.
Now, though, I had to figure out an angle cut. No square edges for this job.
I don’t know what it is. For me numbers is like trying to translate a foreign language. The hub’s began to walk me through it. But one look at my face and he knew it just wasn’t registering. Thank goodness he is the kind of guy who will stop what he is doing—staining boards for his interior boat makeover—and saved the day.
He measured and made the cuts but guess what? It didn’t fit right. Can you guess why? Yep, me raising my hand.
I didn’t use a level when I attached the cleats. Nor did I measure the same distance for each of the back wall cleats. The frame wasn’t square! After some MacGyvering, we—cough, he— made the angles work.
Attached the moulding using the nail gun then used the caulk to fill in the gaps.
Not perfect. Still an upgrade that I am happy with. Our manufactured home’s kitchen cabinets look more high-end with this affordable upgrade.
Materials & tools used for this project:
nail gun w/1 1/2 in nails
scrap wood (1x2s)
cedar paneling scrap wood
crown moulding ($11.16 @ Home Depot)
2 paint brushes
white silicone caulk & caulk gun
bucket for water and a sponge
It’s a doable diy project for sure. Make sure you pin to your DIY Kitchen Pinterest board for when you are ready to DIY your house into a home. Hope you found some useful tips.
Need a project planner checklist? I just so happen to have one that will break down your project into phases and includes a space to add costs. Great for helping you stay within your budget! Click here to get your project checklist freebie.