Upon completing this section, you should be able to recognize the various types of millwork products and procedures.

As a general term, millwork usually embraces most wood products and components that require manufacturing. It not only includes the interior trim and doors, but also kitchen cabinets and similar units. Most of these units are produced in a millwork manufacturing plant and are ready to install. Figure 3-67 is an example of the dimensions you might be working with.

fig0267.jpg (35107 bytes)

Figure 3-67.-Typical dimensions for cabinetwork.


One of the most common ways of building cabinets, such as those shown in figure 3-68, is to cut the pieces (figure 3-69) and assemble them in place. Think of building in-place cabinets in four steps.

  1. Construct the base first. Use straight 2-by-4 lumber for the base. Nail the lumber to the floor and to a strip attached to the wall. If the floor is not level, place shims under the various members of the base. Later, you can face any exposed 2-by-4 surfaces with a finished material, or the front edge can be made of a finished piece, such as base molding.
  2. Next, cut and install the end panels. Attach a strip along the wall between the end panels and level with the top edge. Be sure the strip is level throughout its length. Nail it securely to the wall studs.
  3. Cut the bottom panels and nail them in place on the base. Follow this with the installation of the partitions, which are notched at the back corner of the top edge so they will fit over the wall strip.
  4. Finally, plumb the front edge of the partitions and end panels. Secure them with temporary strips nailed along the top.

fig0268.jpg (49540 bytes)
Figure 3-68.-Typical kitchen cabinets: wall (view A) and base (view B).


fig0269.jpg (38726 bytes)
Figure 3-69.-Typical frame construction of a cabinet.

Wall units are made using the same basic steps as the base units. You should make your layout lines directly on the ceiling and wall. Nail the mounting strips through the wall into the studs. At the inside corners, end panels can be attached directly to the wall.

Remember to make your measurements for both base and wall units carefully, especially for openings for built-in appliances. Refer frequently to your drawings and specifications to ensure accuracy.


Shelves are an integral part of cabinetmaking, especially for wall units. Cutting dadoes into cabinet walls to fit in shelves may actually strengthen the cabinet (figure 3-70.) When adding shelves, try to make them adjustable so the storage space can be altered as needed. Figure 3-71 shows two methods of installing adjustable shelves.

fig0270.jpg (22388 bytes)

Figure 3-70.-End panels of a wall cabinet in place (view A) and completed framing with facing partially applied (view B).


fig0271.jpg (13605 bytes)

Figure 3-71.-Two methods of supporting shelves.

Whatever method of shelf support you use, make sure that your measurements are accurate and the shelves are level. Most of the time, you will find it easier to do your cutting and drilling before you start assembling the cabinets. If the shelf standards are the type that are set in a groove, you must cut the groove before assembly. Some adjustable shelf supports can be mounted on the surface.

Shelving supports for 3/4-inch shelves should be placed no more than 42-inches apart. Shelves designed to hold heavy loads should have closer supports. To improve the appearance of plywood shelving, cover the laminated edge with a strip of wood that matches the stock used for the cabinet.

Cabinet Facing

After completing the frame construction and shelving, apply finished facing strips to the front of the cabinet frame. These strips are sometimes assembled into a framework (called a faceplate or face frame) by commercial sources before they are attached to the basic cabinet structure. The vertical members of the facing are called stiles, and the horizontal members are known as rails.

As previously mentioned for built-in-place cabinets, you cut each piece and install it separately. The size of each piece is laid out by positioning the facing stock on the cabinet and marking it. Then, the finished cuts are made, A cut piece can be used to lay out duplicate pieces.

Cabinet stiles are generally attached first, then the rails (figure 3-72). Sometimes a Builder will attach a plumb end stile first, and then attach rails to determine the position of the next stile.

fig0272.jpg (18705 bytes)

Figure 3-72.-Facing being placed on a cabinet.

Use finishing nails and glue to install facing, When nailing hardwoods, drill nail holes where you think splitting might occur.


The two general types of drawer faces are the lip and flush faces (shown in figure 3-74, view B), A flush drawer must be carefully fitted. A lip drawer must have a rabbet along the top and sides of the front. The lip style overlaps the opening and is much easier to construct.

Cabinet Doors

Carpenters use many methods of building drawers. The three most common are the multiple dovetail, lock-shouldered, and square-shouldered methods (figure 3-73).

fig0273.jpg (24939 bytes)

Figure 3-73.-Three common types of joints used in drawer construction.

There are several types of drawer guides available. The three most commonly used are the side guide, the corner guide, and the center guide (shown in figure 3-74, view A).

fig0274.jpg (56012 bytes)

Figure 3-74.-Types of drawer guides (view A) and faces (view B).

The four types of doors commonly used on cabinets are the flush, lipped, overlay, and sliding doors. A flush door, like the flush drawer, is the most difficult to construct. For a finished look, each type of door must be fitted in the cabinet opening within 1/16-inch clearance around all four edges. A lipped door is simpler to install than a flush door since the lip, or overlap, feature allows you a certain amount of adjustment and greater tolerances. The lip is formed by cutting a rabbet along the edge.

Overlay doors are designed to cover the edges of the face frame. There are several types of sliding doors used on cabinets. One type of sliding door is rabbeted to fit into grooves at the top and bottom of the cabinet. The top groove is always made to allow the door to be removed by lifting it up and pulling the bottom out.


To install premade cabinets, you can begin with either the wall or base cabinets. The general procedures for each are similar.

Installing the Wall Cabinets First

When layouts are made and wall studs located, the wall units are lifted into position. They are held with a padded T-brace that allows the worker to stand close to the wall while making the installation. After the wall cabinets are securely attached and checked, the base cabinets are moved into place, leveled, and secured.

Installing the Base Cabinets First

When base cabinets are installed first, the tops of the base cabinets can be used to support braces that hold the wall units in place while they are fastened to the wall.


The following procedures are a simple way of installing premade cabinets:

  1. First, locate and mark the location of all wall studs where the cabinets are to be hung. Find and mark the highest point in the floor. This will ensure the base cabinet is level on uneven floor surfaces. (Shims should be used to maintain the cabinet at its designated leveled height.)
  2. Start the installation of a base cabinet with a corner or end unit. After all base cabinets are in position, fasten the cabinets together. To get maximum holding power from screws, place one hole close to the top and one close to the bottom.
  3. Starting at the highest point in the floor, level the leading edges of the cabinets. After leveling all the leading edges, fasten them to the wall at the studs to obtain maximum holding power.
  4. Next, install the countertop on the base cabinets making sure to drill or screw through the top.
  5. Then, make a brace to help support the wall cabinets while they are being fastened. Start the wall cabinet installation with a corner or end cabinet. Make sure you check for plumb and level as you install these cabinets.
  6. After installing the cabinets and checking for plumb and level, join the wall cabinets through the sides as you did with the base cabinets.
  7. Finally, after they are plumb and level, secure the cabinets to the wall at the studs for maximum holding power.

Here are some helpful hints for the general construction of cabinets:

Cabinet parts are fastened together with screws or nails. They are set below the surface, and the holes are filled with putty. Glue is used at all joints. Clamps should be used to produce better fitting, glued joints.

A better quality cabinet is rabbeted where the top, bottom, back, and side pieces come together. However, butt joints are also used. If panels are less than 3/4-inch thick, a reinforcing block should be used with the butt joint. Fixed shelves are dadoed into the sides.

Screws should go through the hanging strips and into the stud framing. Never use nails. Toggle bolts are required when studs are inaccessible. Join units by first clamping them together and then, while aligned, install bolts and T-nuts.


In cabinetwork, the counters and tops are covered with a 1/16-inch layer of high-pressure plastic laminate. Although this material is very hard, it does not possess great strength and is serviceable only when it is bonded to plywood, particle board, or wafer wood. This base, or core material, must be smooth and is usually 3/4-inch thick.

Working Laminates

Plastic laminates can be cut to rough size with a table saw, portable saw, or saber saw. Use a fine-tooth blade, and support the material close to the cut. If no electrical power is available, you can use a finish handsaw or a hacksaw. When cutting laminates with a saw, place masking tape over the cutting area to help prevent chipping the laminate. Make cut markings on the masking tape.

Measure and cut a piece of laminate to the desired size. Allow at least 1/4-inch extra to project past the edge of the countertop surface. Next, mix and apply the contact bond cement to the underside of the laminate and to the topside of the countertop surface. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended directions for application.

Adhering Laminates

Allow the contact bond cement to set or dry. To check for bonding, press a piece of waxed brown paper on the cement-coated surface. When no adhesive residue shows, it is ready to be bonded. Be sure to lay a full sheet of waxed brown paper across the countertop. This allows you to adjust the laminate into the desired position without permanent bonding. Now, you can gradually slide the paper out from under the laminate, and the laminate becomes bonded to the countertop surface.

Be sure to roll the laminate flat by hand, removing any air bubbles and getting a good firm bond. After sealing the laminate to the countertop surface, trim the edges by using either a router with a special guide or a small block plane. If you want to bevel the countertop edge, use a mill file.