Upper Cabinets for Kitchens without Soffits

cabinet 1

This is a great project for kitchens that have a lot of extra space above the cabinets, which seems to be a wasted void.  It is also a great way to use up any extra lumber you may have in your shop or garage wood pile.

As with any project, the dimensions we use in the show on the project we build may not always be suitable for your own home projects and certainly this one fits that bill.  You will need to measure your cabinets for width and length as well as the distance between the cabinet top and the kitchen ceiling.  Then modify your measurements for constructing your own cabinets.  The following steps will give you a guideline on how to build your own upper cabinets.

Materials List:

  • Circular saw or table saw
  • Nail gun/or cordless screw driver
  • Wood glue
  • ¾ inch plywood
  • 1 x 2 inch pine lumber
  • Luann plywood (1/8 inch plywood)
  • Door trim
  • 220 grit Sandpaper
  • Paint/latex satin


cabinet 2

1. After measuring the cabinets the first step is to construct the outer box.  The box is a simple rectangular box with top and bottom and 2 sides.  The photo shows how the box should look (this photo also has the center support – but it will give you the idea).

cabinet 3

2. Using ¾ inch plywood cut the top,


bottom and two sides to length and width.


3. To assemble the cabinet you have two choices, by nailing using a nail gun(hammer and nails) or by using wood screws, either way is OK, just remember the smaller the hole the less wood putty and sanding.  Use a little wood glue to give the cabinet a little more strength.
cabinet 2

4. Referring back to photo 2, add a center support to the box, find center of the box and cut the support to size.  Attach by nailing or screwing from the top and bottom.

I always use a square to make sure that the center support is lined up plum.


5. To cover the edges of the plywood which are always rough, I cut ¾ inch strips from a 1 x 2 inch piece of pine to cover the outer edge of the rectangular box.  Attach using a nail gun or hammer and nails.

I use my table saw to cut these pieces, ¾ inch width lumber can also be purchased at a big box store or a lumber store or hardware store.

6. For the back of the cabinet, I measured the outer box and cut a piece of Luann plywood to size and attached from the back using small cabinet nails.


7. To finish off the top of the cabinet I added door trim molding around the entire upper edge of the box.  I cut the corners a 45 degree angle using my miter saw and attached using my nail gun.


8. Notice in this photo that the door trim was above the top of the cabinet, this is so that any items placed on top of the cabinet will not slide off.


9. And finally along the bottom front edge and the side of the cabinet that is not against a wall, I attached a small piece of decorative trim.  The trim rest slightly below the bottom of the cabinet.  This will allow the cabinet to rest on top of the existing kitchen cabinet and hide the gap between the existing and the new top cabinet.

This will also allow the cabinet to be shimmed to adjust for level and hide any gaps between old and new.

The final step is the paint the cabinet to the color of your choice.  I always use a latex satin paint.  It may take several coats of paint, just remember to sand between coats, the paint will raise the grain of the paint, so for a smooth finish sand with 220 grit sandpaper.


Then with the help of a friend to hand you the cabinet, install in place and add your own personal touches.


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