Fixing A Cabinet

I’m not really sure why I wrote this up, other than the fact that I like to work on stuff and I like to write about it.  It’s just a little project I did recently.  It’s nothing super fancy.  I didn’t take a cabinet and turn it into a magic wardrobe or anything but I did take a crapped out piece of furniture and make it usable.

While dropping off my friend David at his house, I saw a shelf sitting in the garbage.  I’d been thinking about how I could use some more shelving in the garage, and I’d just recently purchased a truck so I had plenty of room to haul it home.  I asked David if he would help me load it up.  When we got over there, it turned out to be a cabinet, not a shelf.  We had been looking at the back side of it.


It wasn’t in particularly good shape when I got it.  The shelves were sitting at the bottom of the cabinet because they’d been held up by shelf brackets that were falling off.  The hardboard back was in pretty sad shape too.  The shell and doors were in decent shape though.  I changed my mind about using it in the garage when I found out it was a cabinet.  The bathroom in our basement, where our bedroom is, had no shelves and there wasn’t really any closet space down there at all.  We needed a place to keep towels and bedding and this seemed like it might just do the job.


The first thing was those shelf brackets needed to come out.  They’d been screwed to the back of the cabinet which was mostly dilapidated hardboard.  The upper screws went all the way into the braces on the back, but the bottoms were pretty much swinging free.  Most of the screws easily turned out by hand.


Next I had to do something about that hardboard on the back.  It was warped, water stained, and had holes poked through it.  I took off the door handles, which I wanted to replace anyway, and laid the cabinet face down in the driveway.  I used a pry bar to remove the braces on the back side, then pulled the nails so I could reuse them.  Next the actual hardboard came off.  I just tipped the cabinet on its side and pushed off the hardboard from the inside. It was in such sad shape that most of the nails just popped right through and I ended up going back and having to remove them all with a little nail puller. Then I had to turn it face down again and trim away the paint along the edges with a utility knife.


Once it was off, I was trying to find a piece of plywood or something that I could put on the back. I wasn’t really having much luck finding anything in garage.  Then I noticed the fake wood paneling I had sitting around.  It’s kind of embarrassing really.  When I bought a house with my ex-wife about 10 years ago, I put up a wall in the basement to separate the laundry/utility room from the rest of the basement.  Since I was going to hang cupboards anyway, I just used paneling.  Well, these were scraps I’d been saving for 10 years!  I have used quite a few of those scraps and think I’m actually reaching the end of my stockpile, but it’s pretty silly that I’ve held onto it for that long! I asked Jodi if she was okay with the wood paneling, and of course she didn’t care.  I had two panels and they were somehow nearly a perfect fit.  I think I trimmed the end off one piece.


Jodi had bought me a finishing nailer shortly before I started this project, so when it came time to nail those pieces on, I plugged it in and just kept pulling the trigger. That made super quick work of putting the back on.  I could have done it with the nails that I saved, but this helped me get things done before the sun went down.  Next I put the braces back on, using the nails that I saved when I pulled them off.



When I originally thought about using this cabinet for our bathroom, I thought about a spot in the actual bathroom where I thought it would fit.  Then I looked and realized that cabinet was way too wide for it. Then I thought of the space in front of the ‘closet’ I’d just made.  (Really just an open space between the bathroom and bedroom walls where I’d added some shelves.)  If I put wheels on the cabinet, we could put it there and it would hide the shelves and be right outside the bathroom door.  In order to add wheels to it, I had to add something to the bottom to screw them too.  A couple little pieces of scrap 2×4 were cut to length, nailed together and screwed to the base on either side.  Then I screwed on some industrial metal rollers I’d saved from this weird contraption I found in the alley one day.  Yes, yet another thing I’d held onto for way too long.  Well as it turned out, after doing all that, the shelf didn’t quite fit the way I’d hoped so I ended up taking the wheels off and putting it some place more permanent.


At this point, it was getting dark and I was ready to call it a night, so I had Jodi help me carry it downstairs.  That turned out to be a really silly thing to do, because downstairs away from my tools it took me weeks to get around to finishing it up.  Today I finally got around to installing the shelves.  It consisted of cutting a piece of scrap wood into 11 inch lengths, sanding them and painting them white.  I didn’t HAVE to paint them white, but most of the cabinet was, so I figured I might as well since I had a can of white spray paint handy.  Waiting for the paint to dry was probably the longest part of this part.  I predrilled them and then some quick work with a tape measure, a square and an electric driver had the supports attached to the sides of the shelf.


I threw in the shelves that came with it, and it was good to go.  I looked for something to replace the handles with, but I didn’t want to just throw on some cupboard handles or drawer pulls or something.  I want to make something custom, so the handles will wait until I get that figured out.


Until then, here it is holding the towels and blankets that used to be strewn around our bedroom.

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