Tired of the ugly, dust-collecting space above cabinets? Learn how to easily extend your cabinets to the ceiling with wood and molding.
For years my laundry room has been more about function than anything else.
It’s a place to wash dirty clothes.
And store cleaning supplies.
Oh, and the cat’s litter box hangs out there too.
I like having cabinets over my washer and dryer instead of the wire shelf the builder installed.
We purchased inexpensive laminate cabinets from our local hardware store fairly soon after moving in.
The cabinets hide all the cleaning supplies, and keep the stuff inside relatively dust-free.
Did I mention the litter box that’s in the laundry room?
Because that litter creates a lot of dust!
Even the kind that claims to be “dust-free.”
I stored the contraption that you put shoes on inside your dryer on top of the cabinets.
And some buckets.
It looked really pretty.
Nah, it looked really junky.
I decided it was time to turn this space into somewhere I’d actually enjoy doing laundry.
You can see the vision board I created for this project here.
One of the first projects we tackled in our laundry room makeover was enclosing the space above the cabinets.
Because everything that stored up there got too dirty to actually use!
I’ve moved the buckets to the garage.
And that dryer contraption?
I’m not sure why we even have it.
Sure, we wash our shoes sometimes, but they never go in the dryer.
I’m considering sending it to the dump.
This project was pretty easy to do, and you won’t believe how it turned out!
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Supplies to Enclose Space Over Your Cabinets
I love that you can do this project with just a few tools and supplies.
You can follow these instructions to fill in the gap above kitchen cabinets too!
You’ll need these tools:
- stud finder
- tape measure
- wood glue
- impact drill/driver with screwdriver bits and drill bits
- miter saw
- putty knife
- caulk gun
- sandpaper (80 grit, 120 grit, & 220 grit)
- tack cloth
You’ll need these supplies:
- 3/4″ plywood board (see notes below)
- 1/4″ plywood sheet (see notes below)
- scrap wood or 1×3 boards
- crown molding
- base cap molding
- mullion molding
- wood screws
- toggle bolts (if studs aren’t available)
- wood putty
How to Fill the Gap Above Cabinets
To fill in the space over your cabinets, you basically build a frame and then attach plywood sheeting to the frame.
We chose to add crown molding so we needed the frame to also have somewhere to nail the molding.
A few other decisions we made ahead of time affected our measurements and the supplies we needed to purchase.
We have a lot of scrap wood around here, even after using a lot of it for our garage drop zone project!
In that scrap wood, we had some 3/4-inch plywood. It was enough to make one end of the cabinet extender, but not enough to cover the front.
To save money, we opted to use 1/4-inch plywood on the front of the faux soffit.
If you need to buy a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood, you can skip the step below where you build I-supports and just attach the thicker plywood along the front side too. You’ll be able to nail molding to the 3/4-inch plywood without any additional supports added.
On the other hand, if you prefer, you can also use the 1/4-inch plywood on both sides of the box you build above the cabinets. You’ll just need to add a support like the ones shown below at both corners on that end.
Locate the studs and beams around the cabinets
The first thing you’ll need to do is determine whether you have a stud in the ceiling above the cabinets.
In our laundry room, the beams in the ceiling run long ways in the room.
Unfortunately, there was no beam in the ceiling directly above the outer edge of the cabinets.
Not to worry!
You can use special hardware to securely attach the box to the ceiling.
Create an end cap
I don’t know if that’s what it’s officially called, but that’s what it looks like to me.
Measure the depth of your cabinet (from the front to the wall).
Subtract 1/4 of an inch from that measurement to allow for the 1/4-inch plywood that will be attached to the front of the box.
Next, measure the distance from the top of the cabinets to the ceiling.
Cut a piece of 3/4-inch plywood to that size.
You’ll need to cut some additional pieces of wood to create some inner supports. These give you something to securely nail that end cap in to.
We used scrap wood for the inner supports for the box.
The piece of wood used as a nailer at the bottom is the same depth as the end piece. It’s nailed directly into the top of the cabinets.
The block of wood at the ceiling is attached to a stud in the wall.
Typically cabinets are hung on studs so you should have a stud at the end of your cabinets too. If not, then locate a stud on the back wall and screw in a piece of wood long enough to reach from the stud to the end piece.
Make sure your end piece is level, and then use a nail gun to nail it along the bottom edge to the lower strip of wood, and then at the top corner by the wall.
Add a header
Now you’re going to add a 2×4 header rail along the ceiling.
It should be flush to the edge of the end cap you just installed (see the images below).
Before measuring the length of the header rail, screw a block of wood to the far wall. Be sure to position it so it’s parallel with the end cap and in a stud.
If you have studs in the right place in your ceiling, just go ahead and screw the 2×4 directly into the studs.
We didn’t have a stud available so we used toggle bolts.
First, drill a hole in the drywall to insert each toggle bolt.
Attach the bolts to the 2×4.
Then, insert the bolts into the drywall and open the prongs.
Once you’ve inserted all the bolts into the ceiling, tighten the bolts until the 2×4 is flush with the ceiling.
Once the header is attached to the ceiling, go ahead and screw the end cap into the header.
We used scrap wood along the top of the cabinet as the bottom part of the frame.
If you don’t have scrap wood lying around, you can use another 2×4.
Simply attach these pieces of wood into the top frame of the cabinet.
Be sure to use the right length of nail so it doesn’t come through the top of the cabinet!
Add vertical support frames
Now it’s time to make the box frame more secure and give yourself somewhere to attach molding.
Cut strips of 3/4-inch plywood to create I-frames for the height of your opening.
Attach the I-frames at 18-24 inch intervals along the frame.
You can use scrap wood for these supports as well!
Be sure to also add a vertical support at the far end of the cabinets next to the wall.
Attach plywood and molding to the frame
Now it’s time to cover up the frame with plywood.
We used lightweight 1/4-inch plywood sheeting to cover the frame.
Be sure to measure carefully!
In fact, measure twice.
Otherwise you may find yourself having to do a lot of fill work with wood putty…
Ask me how I know this!
We attached crown molding along the top edge to create the look of a piece of furniture.
Along the bottom edge, where the box connected to the cabinet, we used a wide mullion molding.
After seeing it finished, we decided to add “neck” molding 4-inches below the crown molding using base cap molding.
It helps to break up the box so it doesn’t look quite as wide.
Fill nail holes and sand smooth
This is where I get to work on our projects.
I filled all the nail holes and did some additional putty work at the end.
Once the putty is dry, give it all a good sanding.
I like to start with 80 grit sandpaper, then 120 grit, and then finish with 220 grit for a smooth finish.
Sanding blocks are great for this because you can easily get into all the curves.
If you have an orbital sander, that’s great for the flat parts!
Prime, then paint!
Check the primer that you’re using to see whether it recommends priming first or caulking first.
If it doesn’t mention it, you should be safe to caulk all the edges before priming.
Don’t skip the caulk!
Caulk along every line, even if you don’t see a gap yet.
Next, prime the entire box you built to enclose the space above the cabinets.
Let it cure, and then paint it the same color you’re painting your cabinets.
No more empty space over your cabinets!
Now you have something that looks like a custom built-in cupboard.
If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!
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