Refacing Kitchen Cabinets: Adding End Shelves, Part 6 of 6
by Jim Mallery
Face Your Kitchen Columnist
Parts 1 through 5 of this series on adding end shelves to your kitchen cabinets took you from tools and supplies, through constructing and finishing the shelves, as well as considering whether to mount them as individual shelves or as part of an integrated unit. Finally, your shelves are ready to mount.
Mounting Your End Shelves: The Final Step
Follow these seven solid tips for mounting your shelves:
- Screws or dowels? You have a couple of choices to attach the shelves. You can screw them or you can glue them with dowels. Dowels are a little more difficult, but are stronger. If you have built a stand-alone shelf unit because you want strength, you may want to use the dowel-and-glue method. Fluted dowels hold glue better than smooth-sided and are less likely to spill glue from the hole. They can be purchased at any woodworking store or big-box store.
- How many? Two screws or dowels per shelf are enough. If you are building a shelf unit, use two each on the side and the back.
- Size. For screws, go with #8 or #10 all-purpose screws, 2½ inches to 3 inches long. It's best to get square-drive heads on your screws rather than Philips; they don't strip out as easily. Dowels should be 3/16 inch to ¼ inch in diameter and 2 inch to 2 ½ inches long.
- Drill. Whether you use screws or dowels, your drilling must be precise, perpendicular holes perfectly matched. A 90-degree platform that attaches to your drill chuck will serve your purpose here. (The 90-degree attachment may not let you drill your hole deep enough--drill as deep as you can, then drill the rest of the way with the attachment off. A brad bit will keep the bit from moving (walking) as it starts to bite the wood. Drilling a smaller pilot hole, then enlarging it, also will ensure accuracy. For dowels, don't drill too deep into the shelf. Use a depth gauge on your drill, if you have one, or wrap tape around the bit at the point you want to stop. This will keep the dowel from sinking too far into the shelf, not leaving enough to go into the cabinet.
- Uppers. The middle and top shelves are easier to mount than the bottom. With clamps or with a helper (or both, if possible), position your shelf, using a level to get it absolutely horizontal. With the shelf firmly in position, drill your holes from the inside of the cabinet into the shelf. If using screws, smaller pilot holes, 3/32 inch smaller than the screw, will do. If using dowels, match the size of the dowel. It's a good idea to drill practice holes in scrap wood to test for dowel snugness--the dowel should insert into the hole with light taps or even firm finger pressure.
- Bottom. The lower shelf is more challenging because there probably isn't enough room under the cabinet to get the drill perpendicular to the side of the cabinet. In this case, you need to drill the cabinet from the outside, then put the shelf in position and punch dimples into the shelf edge through the holes to mark the spots to drill the shelf. An alternative method would be to make a jig out of heavy paper to mark the holes on both surfaces.
- Do it. Now you are ready to hang the end shelves--just screw them on. If using dowels, put a drop of glue in both holes; put the dowels in the shelf first, then push the shelf into the holes on the cabinet. Hint: you can use a screw to hold the doweled shelf snug to the cabinet while the glue dries. That also gives you an extra level of strength.
There you have it! You've made and mounted decorative end shelves for your display items. Now your cabinets have the look of top-end custom work!
About the Author
Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.
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