When building a tiny house its easy to initially look at all the space you have and marvel at how much room you have. As you build though you start to realize that the space…it is a shrinking. As I started designing my kitchen cabinets I quickly realized that the space would be shrinking into a hallway after these were placed on one side and my stairs, fridge, and mini closet were placed on the other. I knew this all along, but seeing it come to fruition is another thing entirely. To help make it feel more open we opted to only build out lower cabinets and use open shelving for the upper cabinets. We know this will make the upper cabinets look a bit more cluttered, but it’ll also make it feel more open.
The design of the cabinets required that I first learn how to build said cabinets. This article is by far the best I found on learning to build kitchen cabinets. It walks you through designing and building a frameless kitchen cabinet. First up is deciding on the kitchen cabinet base. I initially thought I’d go with legs rather than a kicker as it would keep weight down and allow for storage under the cabinets but in the end I went with a standard base design. I opted for this because for the legs I wanted the cost would have been more than just using a wood base. Next up is choosing how I wanted the back to look. I’ve never once noticed the back of a kitchen cabinet….so opted to go the easy route and create a couple of nailer boards on the back rather than a full back piece of wood.
After that it was just a matter of figuring out the dimensions. This cabinet would need to fit in between my couch and my bathroom door. I measured, remeasured, and measured again the entire width I had to work with. Then I calculated the width of each cabinet I’d need within that width. That came up to 115″ so I opted to short it to 113″ just in case. I have two major items that will go in the cabinets that I know the dimensions of, a stove and a sink. My stove needs 20.5″ of clearance side to side. Since I’m using 3/4″ thick plywood that meant I’d need a 22″ cabinet for my stove. The box my sink came in says it needs to be installed in a 24″ cabinet (but after pulling dimensions it only needed 22″) but I put it in a 24″ cabinet to be safe. So far that is 113″ total space minus a 24″ sink cabinet and a 22″ stove cabinet. Leaves me with 67″. I decided to break that up into one large 36″ cabinet, one medium sized 20″ cabinet, and one small 11″ cabinet.
Since the depth of a typical kitchen cabinet from back to front is 24″ and this cabinet will go all the way up to the bathroom door I needed to be sure that my bathroom entrance wasn’t blocked. I opted to put the small 11″ wide cabinet there and just make it a shorter depth cabinet of 15″ total (with the countertop). I sketched out what I wanted to do and then transferred it to SketchUp to come up with the below:
The only bit that wasn’t shown in the above sketches was the rear cuts I’d need to plan for to wrap this cabinet around my Wheel Wells. It was a rectangular notch in each rear cabinet of around 8″x11″. The above idea gives me 4 drawers (three upper ones and one below my stove).
With the measurements fully in hand it was now on to the building portion. With my trusty portable table saw, measuring devices (speed square, measuring tape, square), and pencil it was time to start the cuts. This was fairly fast work and made all the more so with all the prep I had done. I’d suggest getting some of your initial cuts done at Home Depot/Lowes so you aren’t workign with huge 4×8 sheets. As I started the assembly of the lower cabinets I decided to turn to the same cabinet joinery method that served me so well in the Tiny House Stairs build….The Kreg Jig System. It allows for joining of cabinets by a newbie with limited carpentry skills while being stronger than most other methods and is extremely quick. There are tons of tutorials on building using a Kreg Jig so I won’t go into that here but if you can use a drill and a clamp…you can use this method. Note the holes below and the corner clamp…super easy.
After constructing the cabinets I slid them into position and went about the arduous task of using wedges underneath areas of the individual cabs to level them to one another. See, even though they are built to be square, when put on a floor they will inevitably need some additional squaring up. If this step isn’t done you’ll be left with a set of cabinets that are ill fitted to one another and the countertop. If you are doing this…take your time and slide wedges under the right areas (front and back) until the front and top of all the cabinets are aligned. After I finished up this I screwed the rear nailer plates into the wall studs and in some spots nailed in the wedges under the cabs to be sure they didn’t move. The cabinet is now ready for a countertop.
I went back and forth the countertop. I wanted something simple to install while being inexpensiveness, light weight and sturdy. That cut out laminate and butcher block countertops. However, I still liked the wood idea. I thought about plywood but that didn’t have the look I was going for. Then I stumbled on some 24″ wide 4 foot long edge glued panels that look something like below:
The down side is that I’d have perferred they were 25″ but I could work with them not overhanging the drawers. I picked up two of these for the low low price of $35 total. Now that is a cheap tiny house kitchen cabinet! I trimmed it up, cut around the areas that needed it for the stove and sink and screwed and glued it down and viola, a countertop! I finished up by staining the sides and fronts of the cabinets and putting multiple coats of poly on the countertop and interiors of the cabs that would have water in them. Viola, kitchen cabinets almost done!