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This hard-working, hard-wired bath tower adds style and plenty of storage to bathrooms.
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Most built-in woodworking projects have to be site-specific; that is, their dimensions and sometimes their detailing must be tailored to the requirements of the space where they will be installed. That's definitely the case for this bath storage tower. We designed ours to accommodate the size and layout of the bath shown, so the dimensions we used will almost certainly be different from what you will need to build for your home.
As you plan your project, refer to the construction and detail illustrations so you are familiar with how the project is assembled, but make sure you recalculate the overall dimensions and individual parts sizes to fit your site. Note especially that the cabinet consists of three sections: the main cabinet, a base platform, and a filler box that attaches to the top of the main cabinet and provides a nailing base for the crown molding. This allows the entire assembly to reach from floor to ceiling without causing installation problems (due to tight clearance) the way a single full-height cabinet would. Also, plan ahead for any electronic components you'd like to incorporate into your cabinet. Ours was just wide enough to fit a small flat screen television, and we added cutouts in the back panel for electrical outlet boxes.
For easy, pullout storage, consider installing a kitchen Rev-A-Shelf (directions included with shelf).
As with most projects involving sheet goods, your first task is to cut the full sheets into smaller parts, or at least manageable sections. Using a portable circular saw and straightedge guide, cut the two side panels (A) first. Then move on to the smaller parts such as the fixed and loose shelves (B,J); cut these to size on the table saw if you have one. If not, a portable circular saw will work fine but will require a little more time.
The joinery for this cabinet is simple, mostly 3/4-inch rabbets and dadoes that, along with glue and screws, will secure the sides to the fixed shelves (B). Two of these shelves serve as the top and bottom panels of the cabinet, while the other two help stabilize and strengthen the center portion. There's also a 1/4-inch groove where the back panel (C) nests into the sides. Use a router and straightedge guide to machine these joinery features (see illustration below for more detail).
You'll also want to drill rows of holes for shelf support pins so you can add loose shelves with adjustable positions. There are manufactured jigs for this or you can just mark the hole layout patterns manually. Traditional shelf pins require 1/4-inch holes (spaced at 1- or 1-1/2-inch intervals), while the newer European-style pins need 5-millimeter (mm) holes spaced at 35mm. Spacing and hole size can vary according to your personal preference in hardware.
Start the assembly stage by gluing and screwing the uppermost and bottom fixed shelves (B) in place at the ends of the side panels (A). The rabbets on the side panels not only add more surface area for gluing, they make it much easier to align the parts accurately as you put them together. Keep the front edges aligned and let the offset between the parts happen at the rear of the cabinet, where the back panel (C) will fit.
With those shelves installed, glue and screw the two remaining (B) shelves into the dadoes provided for them. Again, align everything at the front edges.
Now you can slide the back panel (C) into the 1/4- inch grooves milled for it. Put a few dabs of glue in the groove of each side panel, then insert the 1/4-inch plywood panel from either end and keep it moving until it is positioned flush with the cabinet ends. When the panel is seated, glue the back cleats (D) in place as shown, behind each shelf position, and drive 6d finishing nails through the side panels (A) to secure the cleats.
As mentioned earlier, keeping these two sub-assemblies separate from the main cabinet lets the storage tower reach from floor to ceiling without creating installation problems. One single assembly would be difficult or impossible to fit into the room after it was built.
Our base is made of solid wood, a better choice than MDF for floor contact because its edges won't absorb moisture as readily. The parts are simple, just sidewalls (E) and front and back rails (F) connected around one center brace (G). Simple butt joints secured with glue and 6d finishing nails as shown are more than adequate for this assembly.
The filler box for the top of the cabinet assembles the same way but does without the center brace, and its sidewalls (H) are 3/4 inch longer so the box will sit flush with the face frame when that is installed later.
At the installation stage, you'll discover what any seasoned trim carpenter knows too well: the irregularities of a home's structural framework have to be taken into account when installing precision built-ins. To start, locate and mark any wall studs or other structural framing that you'll use to anchor the cabinet. Then place the cabinet base on the floor and check it for level; adjust for any tilt by shimming low edges until the assembly sits level. Use screws to fasten the back rail to the wall framing; you may have to shim between the wall and the base to keep it aligned and level.
Next, set the main cabinet onto the base and align the front and side faces flush with each other. Again, check for plumb and level and, if necessary, shim any gaps between the wall and the cabinet that might create misalignment. Once you have the cabinet properly positioned and aligned, drive 2-1/2-inch screws through the back panel and cleats and into the wall studs, then use a few finishing nails to fasten the bottom shelf of the cabinet to the base.
Cut and assemble the parts (H,J) for a filler box to attach to the top of the cabinet. The height of this box should fill most of the gap to the ceiling but needn't close it entirely; its function is mostly to provide a nailing base forthe lower edges of the crown molding when it's installed later. This filler box is 3/4 inch longer than the base so it extends forward and will be flush with the face frame when completed.
Use glue and finishing nails to attach the face frame, either as separate parts or as a preassembled unit, to the frontedge of the cabinet as shown. Note that the two vertical stiles of the face frame will extend beyond the cabinet side panels on both sides; for our project we allowed a 5/16-inch extension on the inside and 7/16-inch on the outside.This offset resulted in the frame being flush with the tile surface after we added the cement backer board and the mosaic tile.
For any intermediate shelf requirements, cut loose shelves (K) and shelf trim pieces (L) and assemble as many as you need.
For the door over the lower storage bay, cut an MDF panel to the required size (1/8 inch smaller than the opening in each direction) and mount it with cabinet door hinges as shown. If you want to cut a shallow kerf in the door to suggest a drawer at the upper portion, align the kerf with the horizontal frame lines on the flanking vanities as shown here.
For paint, use a latex primer and at least two coats interior semi-gloss enamel.