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How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Get your media center organized with a custom-built storage unit

That's Entertainment Wood TV Cabinet
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Does your living room look like a warehouse for audio/visual equipment? An entertainment center will house your television set, VCR, stereo system and gaming console in one space-saving place. These custom wall units are specifically designed for this electronic gear. They also provide storage for videotapes, compact discs, cassettes, game cartridges and even your old LPs.

On the outside, entertainment centers closely resemble other wall units. Their deep base cabinets have doors or drawers, or both, and are topped with open shelving units. The middle cabinet typically houses a TV, so it's much wider and deeper than the shelving units that flank it.

Inside, however, you'll find a variety of specialized features. For example, rollout shelves provide easy access to individual electronic components, while adjustable drawer dividers neatly store tapes and CDs. Most also feature slide-back doors that allow an unobstructed view of the TV. Here's how to build your own custom unit using stock cabinets.


Steps // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center
1 ×

Install the toekick

 
Step One // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Install the toekick

Installing the toekick of a custom entertainment center with drill
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Remove the baseboard molding from the wall where the entertainment center will go. Then install a 3½-inch-high platform (also called a toekick) for the cabinets to sit on. Build the platform out of 2x4s; fasten the parts together with 3-inch drywall screws.

 
2 ×

Install main utility cabinet

 
Step Two // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Install main utility cabinet

Saw off toekick from main utility cabinet with circle saw
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Saw off the toekick from the bottom of the large utility cabinet. Flip the cabinet upside down so its larger compartment is on top for the TV, then set it onto the center of the platform.

 
3 ×

Build height

 
Step Three // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Build height

Build up the height of the main utlility cabinet with plywood
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Next, build up the height of the shelf so its inside surface is flush with
the face frame to make sliding in the TV easy: Cut four or five narrow
plywood strips and lay them equally spaced across the shelf. Then cut a
3/4-in. plywood panel to fit over the strips.

 
4 ×

Install prefinished skins

 
Step Four // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Install prefinished skins

Installing prefinished skins to custom entertainment center
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Once you've built up the shelf, cut prefinished plywood skins for the
interior surfaces of the compartment. Glue the skins in place with contact
cement starting with the one that covers the inside top of the cabinet. Then
install the skin along the back, followed by the left- and right-side pieces.

 
5 ×

Clamp and join units

 
Step Five // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Clamp and join units

Clamp and join the bookcase to the wall unit with drill
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Clamp a bookcase unit to a wall cabinet and join the two with a pair of 2½-inch screws driven through the face frames. Spread out a blanket or
moving pad and lay the assembled unit on its side.

 
6 ×

Apply skins to bookcases

 
Step Six // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Apply skins to bookcases

Apply skins to bookcases
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Cut a plywood skin to span across both cabinets and glue it down with
contact cement. Repeat this step for the other bookcase.

 
7 ×

Join all units

 
Step Seven // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Join all units

Join all units of the entertainment center with screwdriver
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Next, place the two assembled bookcase units onto the platform and screw
them to the middle TV cabinet. Again, drive the screws through the face
frames. Also screw down through the bottom of each base cabinet into the
platform below.

 
8 ×

Stabilize the units

 
Step Eight // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Stabilize the units

stabilize the entertainment center with a drill
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

For added stability, and to prevent the cabinets from tipping forward,
drive a 3-inch screw through the top-rear of each cabinet into a wall stud.
Be sure that each screw is driven into solid wood, not just wallboard or
plaster. If necessary, slip shims behind the cabinets to keep them plumb
(perfectly vertical).

 
9 ×

Install hardware

 
Step Nine // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Install hardware

Install entertainment center hardware with screwdriver
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Once all the cabinets are securely fastened, install the specialty
hardware and decorative trim. Start by screwing the metal tracks that
support the rollout shelves into the bottom half of the TV cabinet. Note
that the front end of each track is fastened to the edge of the cabinet face
frame.

 
10 ×

Conceal platform

 
Step Ten // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Conceal platform

Concealing the platform of the platform of the entertainment center with baseboard molding
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

Next, conceal the exposed platform around the bottom of the cabinets with
baseboard molding, available prefinished from the cabinet manufacturer to
match the cabinets.

 
11 ×

Finish unit with crown molding

 
Step Eleven // How to Build a Custom Entertainment Center

Finish unit with crown molding

Finish unit with crown molding
Photo by Donna Moser/Alderman Studio

To install the prefinished crown molding—also available from the
manufacturer— first nail 3/4 x 1-inch wood strips to the tops of the cabinets. Then nail the crown molding to the strips with 1½-inch (4d) finishing nails. Finish up by cutting the old baseboard molding to fit along the wall.

 
 
 

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