how to extend cabinets to ceiling

Hey, friends!  It has been a very interesting start to our FULL kitchen renovation.  We have certainly hit some road blocks (mostly with painting the cabinets – a little more on that later), but we are mostly, sort of, kind of, on schedule.  Basically, we just have to work our little tails off for the rest of this week and weekend in order to make up a bit of time!

If you are just joining me, we are participating in the One Room challenge over here at Casa del Ochoa!  The One Room Challenge, or ORC, is a bi-annual blogging/renovation challenge hosted by Calling It Home and House Beautiful – 20 featured designers and hundreds of guest participants all join together to renovate/redesign one room in their homes.  Each week you can follow our progress over at the One Room Challenge page! Don’t forget to check out Week 1 of our kitchen Reno, as well!

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In this post, I want to give y’all a mini overview of our progress, as well as a quick tutorial on how we EXTENDED OUR CABINETS TO THE CEILING!  (I got this “cabinet cubby” idea from my IG friend Dale Marie over at @bloomingdiyer, but her husband is way more construction savvy than I, so I took the “easy” way out!) 😛

#realtalk. Doing this COMPLETELY changed the entire look of our kitchen! The room looks taller and our builder grade, el cheapo cabinets look more custom.  I can’t wait to see it when they are all white!

So, how did we accomplish this?

What You’ll Need:

  • Plywood underlayment cut into shiplap strips (we used leftover boards we had from other projects that were 6″ wide – the space above our cabinets was about 12″, so this was perfect for two rows of “shiplap”
  • Plywood underlayment cut to fit the top of your cabinets (optional – we just wanted “floors,” per se, for our little cubbies)
  •  2″ by 12″ by 10′ board – Home Depot only has one option for this.  Now, this may not work for you; our cabinets were 12″ deep, so this was perfect.  I had Home Depot cut it several pieces to the measurement from the “floor” of the cabinet cubby to the ceiling, so they would slide right in as our cubby “walls.”
    • (Make sure you take into account the measurement on your shiplap back boards as well as your plywood “floor” when making your calculations!)
  • One 1″ by 2″ standard pine board (usually 8′ long) (optional depending on your cabinets; see below)
  • Nail gun and brad nails (or hammer and nails)
  • Wood filler
  • Sander with 120 grit sandpaper
  • Large and small L brackets with screws (pic below)
  • Hand saw, Miter saw, or Table saw
  • Stud finder
  • Drill
  • Level
  • Popsicle sticks

Step 1:

Measure and cut (with your saw of choice) your “shiplap” underlayment strips to the size you need so that they fit flush with your cabinets.

As you can see, the two boards line up right with the edge of our cabinets

Step 2:

Mark your wall studs with your stud finder, and nail the shiplap boards to your wall (in the studs) above the top of your cabinets. Use a popsicle stick as a spacer between the boards. When you’re done, it should look like this:

extending cabinets to ceiling

(You can see here we had already started removing the thermafilm from the cabinets!)

Step 3:

Measure the tops of your cabinets and cut your plywood underlayment to size so you create “floors” for your cubbies.  This step is optional, but the tops of our cabinets were one: gross (yes we cleaned them, but still!), and two: had weird holes in them – who knows why.  So we wanted a fresh, clean slate, if you will.

Again, make sure you cut these so they are flush with the cabinets in all directions!

Step 4:

Nail your floors to the tops of the cabinets – be SURE you are using nails that are short enough that they wont poke through the inside of the top of your cabinets – that would be no beuno! Here, I tried to nail on the edges, as to ensure the nails are going into a vertical piece of wood (the fronts and backs of your cabinets), rather then the top piece, to make EXTRA sure my nails wouldn’t poke through.  But, even had I nailed in the exact middle of the top of my cabinet, I still would have been safe, as I purchased 5/8″ brad nails specifically to ensure no pointy ends would wind up on the inside of my cabinets!

Step 5:

Use wood filler to fill your nail holes; once dry, sand so it is smooth to the touch.  We used 120 grit sandpaper for this step.  Also wood fill any irregularities on the cubby “walls” and sand.

Step 6:

Insert the cubby “walls” wherever you choose – we have 5 cubbies on our main cabinets, and one large one over the fridge (more on that below as we did that one a bit differently).

These were just slid into place here, not yet drilled – play around with where you want them, first!  Where I originally thought I wanted “walls” didn’t look as good as I had hoped when I actually got them up there!

Step 7:

Use your L brackets to secure the cubby “walls: to the cubby “floors” and the ceiling.  Again, be sure you are using screws that will not be too long so as to poke through the tops and to the inside of your cabinets.  We used 5/8″ screws and our Ryobi drill.

For the end “walls,” we secured two large L brackets on one side. For middle “walls,” we secured one L bracket on either side. This one wasn’t drilled yet, but as I said above we used 5/8″ screws.

TIP: THIS IS A TWO PERSON JOB!  It is not as easy as it sounds, as you need to be sure your cubby “wall” board is standing straight up and down (a level helps), and is perpendicular to the back wall.  It is tricky, but after you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad.  We also drilled the L brackets into the cubby “walls” down on the counter (only because we are redo-ing our counters – I would suggest a utility table if you don’t want to risk your countertops) before we moved them into place, adjusted, and drilled them into the cabinets and ceiling.

We used a smaller L bracket on top and drilled it very close to the front of the “wall”. We will be installing crown moulding at the top of these cubbies, so that should hide the small L bracket from view. The larger L brackets we secured towards the back. They may be sort of visible (I plan to paint them, though), but once I put baskets and other items up there, I don’t think they’ll be seen much.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

Step 8:

Now, the cabinet above our fridge is very deep (fridge depth, obviously), so finding wood to make “walls” like the other cabinets proved a bit more difficult.  So, instead I put shiplap boards on the sides, and then cut 2 pieces of our 1″x 2″ board to use as the “walls.”  But, they are really a wall illusion, since they are only at the very front.  You can see what I mean below – basically, the 1″x 2″ just makes it look like there is a frame, and it seems a bit more finished.  Again, we will be adding crown moulding, so it will look like a finished cubby once that’s up.

Here we used the smaller L brackets to secure the boards – we used 2 per board, and one is secured to the wall, and the other to the top of the cabinet.

Step 9:

Use paintable caulk to seal the tops and bottoms of the cubby walls – this will make them sturdier and also provide a seamless transition to the ceiling and bases of the cubbies (aka the tops of your cabinets).

Step 10:

Add crown moulding to finish it off (we plan to attach with our nail gun and brad nails)! That is on our to do list for next week – hopefully we get that far!

And that’s it!  I’m just loving how its looking so far; I mean, check this out!  Did our room just get 2 feet taller?! I think so!

All the heart eyes!!

Now, for a progress update:

Here were our tasks for Week 2 and Week 3 (adding Week 3 because we accomplished things from this list too), and how we did:


Week 2: Remove all moulding and trim from cabinets; Build cabinets up to ceiling; Remove thermafilm from uppers; Sand, prime, and paint uppers

Week 3: Remove thermafilm from lowers; Sand, Prime, and Paint lowers; Install shiplap wallpaper on peninsula; score countertop and backsplash to prep for concrete and tile installation


Now, the sand, priming, and painting is a bit different than we had planned – all of the doors and drawers are nearly done – sanded, primed, and one coat of paint DONE.  I am hoping that all we need is one last coat of paint, but we shall see.  I am waiting on a product called Penetrol before I do my last coat – it is an additive for oil based paint to extend the drying time, thus helping the paint to level out more and eliminate texture in your project.

BUT, the cabinet bases are NOT even close to being done.  Why, you ask?  Well, when removing the thermafilm, a nearly indestructible (okay, minor exageration) layer of glue was left behind. It is taking us A TON of time to get the glue off, so I can’t yet prime or paint.  Next weeks post will detail a bit more about this!

We also lost a ton of time with a paint spray gun saga. Long story short, spent about 5 hours learning how to use spray gun, attempting to use spray gun, and attempting to trouble shoot spray gun when it wasn’t working properly.  After all that, we decided to just roll the primer and paint on.  While it obviously took longer, we did save about $150 since Home Depot so kindly took back the spray gun (I swear it was defective!) – If you want to know the full story (the live action as it was happening version), feel free to check out my Highlighted Instagram stories on the One Room Challenge! (Warning: It involves a lot of frustration, and a beer, or two)!

So, yes we are a wee bit behind (maybe more than a wee bit); but, my husband and I always love a good challenge, so bring it on!  I’ll of course get a tutorial up at a later date with my tips and tricks for cabinet painting, as well as thermafilm (and GLUE) removal! But seeing as that’s still a work in progress, I wanted to give y’all the cubby/cabinet extension tutorial first! 🙂

That’s all for now on our Week 2 update – you can go check out the other amazingly talented guest bloggers participating in the One Room Challenge HERE, and of course the featured designers HERE!

I hope you’ll join me next week (don’t forget to subscribe to email updates to follow along!) – send ALL the good vibes my way until then!  Now, back to work for me!



P.S.  Man hours worked so far (includes time both my husband and I have worked: 77 hours! Wowza!


one room challenge