How I Closed the Space Above My Cabinets
I've mentioned a couple times before how crazy my walls are, like when I opened a wall or tiled my backsplash. In summary, sometimes they're drywall, sometimes they're plaster, sometimes they're drywall on plaster- you never know. As a result, my walls look funny. They're wavy, joint compound is visible in weird spots, they change width randomly, things like that. Because of this, I was super excited about the idea of extending my cabinets to the ceiling. Less visible wall = prettier house.
I was also super nervous about this project. It seems simple: cut up MDF and attach it above the cabinets. Done. But then there was the trim, and the caulk, and the paint, and it just seemed like so much work. So I procrastinated. For over a month, if you were wondering.
But then it all worked out, because guess who appeared? My dad! I'd put a cape on him if I could, because he's kind of a hero in that I'm not sure this blog would exist without his long-distance DIY consultations. But for this project, I had him in person! The best part about this: he said if I closed up the area above the sink in this project, he could bring down electricity from the attic and add a recessed light! Win!
And so with that, we got started!
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The Cabinet Extension Project
- Two 4' x 8' pieces of MDF
- Eight pieces of 7 foot trim, two different types
- Six 1" x 2" furring strips
- Construction Adhesive
- Brad Nails
- Paint and Primer
Step 1: Add Furring Strips Above Cabinets
The MDF pieces need to be secured to something. Since that something won't be seen, I used furring strips, AKA, the cheapest wood on the market. I attached the strips to the tops of the cabinets and the ceiling using construction adhesive and brad nails. Since the pieces were so light, I didn't worry about attaching them to the ceiling joists; the construction adhesive alone was more than enough to hold them up.
I used a scrap piece of MDF to determine how far back to place the furring strips, and ensure the ceiling furring strips were aligned with the lower ones.
Step 2: (Optional) Configure Any Lighting
As mentioned above, my dad brought down electricity from the attic to power a recessed light over the sink. I'm not going to go into detail about how he did that, but if you have someone with the electrical skills to add lights for you, it's an awesome improvement!
The Romex wiring got hidden behind the MDF when I closed up the space, hence why the light had to be installed first!
Step 3: Cut and Attach MDF
I had Lowes cut my MDF pieces to be 12 1/2" x 8' long. While the distance between my cabinets and ceiling was 12 1/2" in some places, it was shorter in others, so in addition to cutting the MDF to the correct length using my miter saw, I also had to cut the pieces lengthwise so they fit between the cabinets and ceiling perfectly.
I used my circular saw to make the longer cuts. In order to make the cuts as accurate and straight as possible, I used this nifty jig developed by Kreg that helps keep my circular saw going in a perfectly straight line. I love it; if you don't have a table saw and regularly need to make long, accurate cuts with your circular saw, I highly recommend getting one.
I attached the MDF to the furring strips with brad nails and construction adhesive. The weight of the MDF pieces was mostly held by the cabinets, so I didn't feel I needed to use screws to keep the pieces in place.
For the space over the corner cabinets, I installed the MDF on either side first. I did not bevel those cuts, instead cutting them as normal.
Then I cut a piece to fit the space left. This piece had a 45 degree bevel on each end.
Step 4: Add Trim
I added trim on both the top and bottom of the MDF pieces in order to hide any gaps resulting from the fact my ceiling wasn't perfectly level. I secured the pieces with construction adhesive and brad nails.
If your corners aren't perfect, don't fret. You'll add caulk on the next step, which hides any gaps, and does a great job of making work look professional.
Step 5: Caulk All Gaps
Caulk is like my secret super power. Suddenly projects that were looking a little wonky look 100% better after caulk is added to any gaps. On this project, I went through and added caulk to all corners, the space in between the trim and MDF, and anywhere else I could see a gap. It makes everything so much better, so if you were thinking of skipping this step, don't!
I also added wood filler to any holes created by the brad nails so that they wouldn't be visible after painting.
Step 6: Prime and Paint
Something to know about MDF: it is thirsty! I think this is some snazzy slang term used by high schoolers, but what I actually mean by it is that the MDF will quickly soak up any paint you add. If you paint the MDF without priming first, you will need 4-5 coats. Because of this, I highly recommend priming before you add any paint. I did two coats of Zinsser Primer before painting.