Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Kitchen Cabinet

I have pictures of the "mostly" completed kitchen cabinet to show you. Originally the post in this spot was going to be called "Around the Country in 80 Days" because that was how much time we had left... as of two days ago. But since I missed that deadline, thanks to feeling a need to write an addendum to my last post on my personal blog, due to unreasonable demands set upon me, I am now going to move on to trailer work again.

As you have seen before, if you have been following the last few posts on this blog, the face frame is always the first thing to be built on any cabinet. The face frame is what lays out everything else behind it. You have seen how I have been using pocket holes, screws and glue to bond it all together, so I won't repeat that. Instead, I am just going to show the face frame and what progresses on the back side of it.

The kitchen cabinet face frame on the saw table.
Above is the face frame, right side up, on the saw table. The openings are (from top left to bottom right):

-  - -top left, the drawer for the camp stove (fits end ways)...
- - - top middle, a dummy drawer front in front of the bar right, probably for office supplies, since the table/desk is closest to it (this drawer will also have a solid removable cover over it, to use as a counter extension)...
- - - left middle, towel drawer...
- - - right middle, wide drawer for utensils (and possibly other things with use of a divider)...
- - - bottom left, pots, pans and appliances, with a lift-out bottom, where the water pump and more storage will be located behind the toe kick...
- - - bottom row second space and far right space, two pull-out pantries...
- - - bottom third space, an open area with only a door on it, where an 8-gallon Reliance Hydroller for fresh water can be rolled in right under the sink. A ratchet strap will secure the tank and a dip tube for the water pump will be inserted into it.

After the face frame was finished, cleats were glued and stapled to the back of it everywhere that a divider wall needed to attach to it.

The kitchen cabinet face frame with the divider walls attached.
The divider walls were all made from 3/8-inch CD plywood (what I had on hand) and glued and stapled to the previously mounted cleats. The left side panel was held flush to the edge of the face frame, because that side will go against the wardrobe closet and never be seen. The right side panel was held in 1/8-inch from the edge of the face frame because it will have a finish sheet of blonde paneling on it. That side will be seen, even though it faces the front couch. It will eventually have a flip-up counter extension on it at 30-inches high, to serve as a work or eating table for the couch, as well as extra counter space.

In between these divider walls, 1 x 4 backing pieces were installed to serve as spacers between the sections and also to serve as the anchoring points to be drilled through to attach the cabinet to the trailer wall. These were installed at the top and bottom along the back side, as well as across the middle at a level even with the tops of the pantries. Additional vertical stiffeners were also added to the back edges of the divider walls to keep the plywood straight.

The kitchen cabinet and sidewalls standing upright.
Because we will be standing at this cabinet to work at the sink, it was necessary to provide a toe space at the bottom. This is a back-saving feature, to prevent having to lean forward too far while working at the sink.

Spacers were also added in this toe space between the dividers at the front, and then I used a solid piece of oak as the facing board to go across the first two compartments of the toe space, and another piece to cover the right hand side. 

Since we are using 100-pound-rated full-length ball bearing slides on all the drawers, backing pieces had to be installed to mount those to, which in turn, helped to strengthen and straighten each of the divider walls.

Cheap (and thin) plywood often has a tendency to bow. Thin plywood is also made up of fewer layers, usually only three. More expensive "furniture grade" plywood is often made up of seven or even nine layers, and generally remains straight and flat. Unfortunately, I didn't have any of the better plywood, and it is expensive to buy.

A cabinet may start out rather flimsy looking, but each piece that is added (if done properly) helps to strengthen and straighten the entire frame. If all cuts are square and it is assembled properly, it should end up perfectly square on all sides, and should be able to be picked up at any point without deforming the shape.

The kitchen cabinet set in place in the trailer, not anchored yet.
I only had three sets of drawer slides in stock, so to avoid standing on my head to install the ones that will arrive later, I chose to use what I had at the lowest locations. Above, you can see the cabinet frame set in place in the trailer, but not yet anchored. I installed the drawer slides on the two pantries (on opposite corners for stability), and on the wide drawer below the sink. Once the others arrive, I can install them from the top, before I attach the countertop to the cabinet frame.

I will custom build the pantries to the exact dimensions needed to fit these spaces and attach to the slides. The left pantry will be attached to a slide at the lower left and upper right, while the right pantry will attach at the upper left and lower right. The reason for this is because pantries loaded with heavy canned goods only at the bottom, have a tendency to "rock" at the top. In sudden starts or rear collisions the inertia can break the drawer slides if mounted only at the bottom. By mounting on opposite corners (or top and bottom, as many pantries are made) it will hold the pantry more securely. Exact positions depend a lot on the hardware being used.

I couldn't resist the urge to at least set the countertop on the cabinet, just to get an idea of how the finished product will look. Although the paneling in the photo below shows a "greenish" tint in the picture, it really doesn't look that way in person. In fact, it goes very well with the tans and browns in the countertop. Besides, most of that wall will have a black refrigerator setting in front of it anyway. 

Countertop temporarily setting on the kitchen cabinet.  

Probably after we get on the road, the backsplash area behind the refrigerator and below the microwave will get tiled with ceramic tile. We will have to select a color for that later. Any other gaps between the plywood on the outer walls will get drywall taped and finished smooth before the whole interior of the trailer (including cabinet faces) gets painted. If we can do it before we leave, we will, but I'm not concerned about little stuff. We can always do little stuff after we get out of here. As long as it's functional enough to live in, we can get by.

One thing I have to do on the countertop yet is to remove most of the rear overhang on the backsplash. These overhangs are designed onto the countertops to provide an area where the backsplash can be scribed and belt-sanded to fit walls that are seldom straight. In this case, our countertop fits tight all across the length of it.

The problem lies in the front. The left corner hits the closet door when it's opened, and prevents it from swinging back as far as it could. By eliminating that 1/2-inch of overhang on the backsplash, we can push the countertop back farther, which will allow a few more degrees of opening on the closet door. It still won't be as much as we would like, and will still have to install some doorstops at the top and bottom of the closet door, to prevent the countertop from puncturing a hole in the door, but every little bit helps. That is also the door on which we want to mount a tall narrow dressing mirror, so we need to make sure it is protected.

There are several other things to be done (besides the drawer slides) before I can mount the countertop permanently. First, I have to install some triangular corner gussets in each compartment of the cabinet flush with the top. These will be used to screw through, to anchor yet another piece of 3/4-inch plywood to the top of the cabinet (after I install the last three sets of drawer slides), as extra strength and height under the finished countertop. 

The first 21 inches on the left side has to support the weight of a loaded refrigerator bouncing down the road, so I am using 3/4-inch plywood under that part, right up to the sink. (Not that the refrigerator will actually "bounce", as it will be anchored tightly to the countertop, but the inertia is still there.)

The cabinet has already been built so that the top of the finished counter will be at exactly 36-inches, which is the industry standard for kitchen countertop height. Where the refrigerator sets, the countertop will be 1-1/2-inches thick. The rest of the "sub-counter" will be simply 3/4-inch stock around the perimeter of the cabinet, more for a spacer than anything else.

I also have to align and anchor the right side of the wardrobe closet door jamb, and then screw that into the side of the kitchen cabinet face frame. But even before that can be done, I have some preliminary plumbing to do behind the kitchen cabinet. 

Although you can't see it in the pictures, the bottom spacer behind the left pantry was purposely held away from the back wall by 1-1/2-inches. This will be the space where both the fresh water "city supply" will come into the trailer, and also where the drain will exit. Both will be 3/4-inch (probably PVC) and 90 toward the outside just under the trailer frame, where they will be strapped to the bottom of the frame.

The fresh water will terminate in a female hose fitting, while the drain water will terminate in a male hose fitting. The fresh water side can be reduced to 1/2 or 3/8-inch after it enters the trailer. Those two "stubs" have to be drilled through the floor and installed before I permanently anchor the cabinet in front of them. I can always finish the rest of the plumbing later.

I also have to cut and install the finish paneling for the right hand side of the kitchen cabinet yet, but this is where the project remains today. We have already had two days of mostly rain, with maybe a break on Mother's Day, and then more rain predicted on Monday. We don't have a lot of grass in the back yard, so it turns into a muddy mess whenever it gets wet. 

Even if I were to work inside the trailer or on our covered rear deck (where my saw table is set up), I still have to tromp in and out of the trailer to get measurements, cut and test fit everything. That would just drag a lot of mud into the trailer, so I prefer to wait until Tuesday to work on it again, and hope the ground dries up by then.

One more day on this part of the project, and the kitchen cabinet should be complete, except for the sink. I still have to order the high-rise faucet for it yet, and also buy the water pump. When I get the major components, I will be ready to start the plumbing.

In the wardrobe closet I also have to build the divider walls around the porta-potty and batteries, and whatever lids will go over them. 

With the kitchen cabinet in place, I also will have my reference point for the upper cabinets on that side...for the microwave and the computer printer, as well as the regulated power filter for the computers. Then I just have the couch to build and the upper cabinets on the door side of the trailer.

The electrical stuff and plumbing, since it will all be surface mounted, will be done after I get all the cabinets done. By that time, we will likely have started filling up the cabinets and figuring out where all the "miscellaneous" stuff is going to go.

As added incentive to get out of here, my wife just received an invitation to her class reunion yesterday, and it's scheduled for August 15th. So even if we don't get out of here in time to make her family reunion on the 1st of August, we now have a secondary deadline.

We are finally getting some of the big items sold in our household inventory. The PVC tubing style patio set with umbrella that we bought back in 1985 in Mishawaka finally sold this week. Next up is a Lane cedar chest, and then an 1800s-era antique sideboard buffet. After that will likely be the 1982 model Lowery MX-1 console organ that some of you saw her playing in the "Ed and the Aberts" video on YouTube. That's also in a post about three behind this one, if you want to watch it there.

We may not do any garage sales this year, as it's too much hassle for the number of people that we have been getting. Our efforts now are going to be to dispose of the larger items that aren't essential to our living here, while still selling stuff that can be shipped on eBay, and then have one big "moving sale" around the first week of July. Whatever doesn't sell by then will likely go to a second hand dealer, whom we will instruct to literally empty the house out. That way we can get it all cleaned up and ready to hand the keys over to a realtor by the time we have to go.

In the meantime, we anticipate being "mostly" moved into the trailer by the first week of July, so we can get a feel for it before we leave, and make sure we aren't forgetting anything before we hit the road. Anything that doesn't fit, and isn't essential to immediate travel will go to temporary storage until we can come around this way sometime next year. By then, we can only "hope" that we have room to absorb the rest of it!

Sounds like a plan to me. How about you?


Anonymous said...

We've enjoyed your ideas, designs and details of your build. We're considering doing the same thing.

About your backsplash--have you hear of Smart Tiles? They're silicone peel-and-stick tiles that have a very good reputation. They look like ceramic tiles, but much lighter weight, easy clean up, and don't crack! (They offer samples too.)
I've seen them in home and RV/trailer remodels. Do a web search for ideas and installations if you want to see how they've been used. ~Jillian

John Abert said...

Thank you for the information, Jillian! I looked at their site and the installation videos, but I see problems that non-professionals don't think about. Countertops and floors are seldom level, especially in older houses. They don't tell you to start at the lowest point of the countertop. If you don't, you are going to end up with a gap between the tile and countertop, and then what do you do about that? With no grout to use for filing in such gaps, it creates a big problem.

I am not a big fan of peel and stick products for many reasons. First, you don''t know what kind of adhesive is on it, or how waterproof that adhesive is. Secondly, even though it may seem to butt together tight, there is always that little crack that can allow water through it, and destroy the adhesive, and suddenly you have edges starting to peel up. As far as tools, I use no more tools to install ceramic tile than they say is needed for their product.

I agree that their product would be lighter, but for no more than we need to use, that is not an issue. Back in the early 60's my dad remodeled the bathroom at our home and used a rigid plastic tile, which still looks great even today. It was installed with regular tile paste, but there were no grout lines between the tile. I haven't seen those in many years, but I know there are stainless and copper tiles on the market, too. I still like grout lines, because you can always seal irregularities so that no moisture gets through. It doesn't matter if edges aren't straight or level. and as far as cracking, I have never had a wall tile crack. On a solid wall, with no joints behind it that aren't bonded together by backing, that should never happen.

Cost-wise, at $6 - $9 per square foot, the silicon tile is quite expensive. A DIYer might save the difference in labor charges, but I have places I can buy ceramic tile for a fourth of that cost, including the paste, and I can still install it myself. For our trailer project, it doesn't have to be a "Taj Mahal", but we do want it to be functional for the (possibly) short time we have it, and yet be built to last as long as we need it to.

I do appreciate your input, though, and I'm glad you have an interest. If I can answer any questions for you at any time, please let us know.