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How to Build a Sideboard from Stock Cabinets

This elegant storage piece comes together with off-the-shelf base kitchen cabinets and simple molding

Dishware, serving pieces, table linens—a sideboard packs a whole lot of storage space into a relatively small footprint, making it a handy addition to any household. A sturdy, high-quality one can leave a thousand-dollar dent in your finances, but as This Old House general contractor Tom Silva demonstrates, you can enhance a few stock kitchen base cabinets with molding, furniture feet, and knobs to produce a handcrafted piece for a fraction of the cost of buying one ready-made.

Opt for unfinished 15- or 18-inch cabinets fitted with doors and operable drawers (not the fake drawer fronts used for sink cabinets) and take a day to put all the pieces together. Your handsome creation will turn heads at dinner parties for years to come.

The design for this sideboard is based on one found in the book The Find, by Stan Williams.

Paint: Fabulous Red in semigloss; Valspar. Rub n 'Buff Metallic Finishes in Antique Gold; Amaco.

How to Turn Kitchen Cabinets into a Sideboard

Illustration by Jennifer Stimpson

Turned feet and moldings will lend your finished piece some decorative flair. You'll find all the materials you need at any large home center.

Cut List

(download plan here)

  • one sheet of ½-inch cabinet-grade birch plywood
  • three 18-inch base cabinets
  • ½x1 lattice strips
  • ¾ bed molding
  • 1x3 furring strips
  • ½x2 lattice strips
  • three push door latches
  • six knobs
  • four furniture feet
  • four corner foot plates

Shopping List

  1. ½-inch cabinet grade birch plywood. Get a 4x8 sheet.
  2. 18-inch base cabinets. Get three.
  3. 1x3 furring strips. Get two 10 foot boards.
  4. ½x2 lattice strips. Get two 8 foot boards.
  5. ½x1 lattice strips. Get two 6 footers.
  6. ¾ bed molding. Get one 8 footer.
  7. Push door catches. Get three.
  8. Drawer knobs. Get six.
  9. Furniture feet. Get four.
  10. Corner foot plates. Get four.
  11. Medium grit sandpaper.
  12. Wood putty.
  13. Latex primer and paint.
  14. Metallic gold antiquing wax.

Step 1: Remove the Toekick

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

To shorten each cabinet to accommodate feet, transfer a line that's flush with the bottom edge of the face frame to the toekick, sides, and back of each cabinet using a combination square. Remove the excess material using a hand saw.

Step 2: Fasten the Cabinets Together

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Sandwich two 1x3 furring strips between the cabinets vertically to act as spacers. Using a drill/driver and 1 5/8 inch deck screws, fasten the cabinets together along the length of the strips, sinking the screws from both sides for added strength.

Step 3: Cover the Ends

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Nail two 1x3 furring strips vertically to the unfinished ends of the joined cabinets, front and back. If the edge of the face frame extends beyond the side, set the front furring strip behind it, as shown here.

Using a circular saw, cut two pieces of cabinet-grade plywood to cover the full sides of the joined cabinets. Use finish nails to secure them to the strips. Together, the furring strips and the plywood on the sides build out the ends of the cabinets enough to match the space between them.

Step 4: Clad the Front

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Cut a ½x1 lattice strip 1 inch longer than the width of the joined cabinets. Attach it horizontally, on edge below the drawers, using finish nails.

To cover up the spacers and exposed plywood edges between the cabinets and at the ends, attach vertical ½x2 stiles cut to size above and below the strip you just attached.

Step 5: Attach Foot Plates

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Screw foot plates to the bottoms of the cabinet corners.

Step 6: Screw in Feet

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Thread the feet onto the plates until they sit snugly. Carefully flip the piece upright, standing it on its feet.

Step 7: Add the Knobs

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Drill two holes for the knobs in each drawer, making sure they're centered vertically and located about 4 inches in from each end. Hold each knob in place as you tighten the screw from the inside of the drawer.

Step 8: Mount the Door Latches

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Inside each cabinet, toward the top, nail a block against the back of the face frame where the push latch will go. Screw the latch into place so it's flush with the front of the frame, then screw the corresponding magnetic plate to the inside of the door.

Tip: To position the magnetic plate properly on the inside of the door, color the back of the plate with a chalk, lipstick, or a felt-tipped marker, then affix the plate to the latch, the marker side facing out. When you close the door, the inked plate will leave a slight mark on the inside of the door where the plate should be positioned.

Step 9: Make the Top

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Using a circular saw guided by a straightedge fence, cut a piece of plywood to the full width and depth of the piece, including the stiles on the front and the finished sides. Secure the top through the frame of each cabinet using a hammer and finish nails. Set the nails below the surface of the wood with a nail set.

Step 10: Trim the Top

Affix bed molding, mitered at the corners, to the side and front edges of the top of the sideboard, using finish nails. Fill any seams and fastener holes with wood putty using a putty knife.

Step 11: Sand and Paint the Piece

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Sand the surface of the sideboard smooth with medium-grit sandpaper. Apply two coats of paint or stain and let dry completely. Highlight details with a metallic wax finish, such as Rub 'N Buff.


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