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Custom Ikea Kitchen : Intro and Bulkheads


This is our kitchen. This fall our big house project is going to be the replacing of all the kitchen cabinets. The house dates from 1984, and we've owned it since 1998. My best guess is that these cabinets are original to when the house was built.

It's a typical older style of kitchen were there are doors on the top and doors on the bottom cabinets. We'll be replacing it with cabinets that have drawers on all the bottom cabinets -- except for the sink cabinet.

It's a compact galley kitchen. It is about 8-1/2' wide, and 9-1/2' feet long. (The long direction is where the cabinets go) I used a wide angle lens while filming, in order to be able to fit the entire kitchen into the shot, so it may appear to be larger than it is.

There are bearing walls on either side of the kitchen behind the cabinets, and they are full of utilities, as there are two bathrooms directly above the kitchen. We're not moving walls, just replacing cabinets.

I think that building my own cabinets would be a fun and interesting challenge. I'm quite sure that I could do it, but I also know that it would take far longer than we can stand. You see, I still have a day job. My woodworking (and youtube video making) needs gto fit inbetween my day job, and other family responsibilities.

Therefore, our plan is to purchase and install Ikea cabinets. I think that they have a pretty good modular cabinet system. However, we do not really like their door options. So the plan is to buy Ikea cabinets, but then I will make custom doors and drawer fronts and end gables to go on these cabinets.

Here at the other end of the kitchen is the hallway to the front door, as well as the stairs to the basement on the left, and the opening to the Family room on the right. This blue cabinet used to hold a large fishtank.

The fishtank is long gone and the blue cabinet is also leaving. In it's place we are going to install an 80" tall shallow pantry. Our kitchen is not large, and we need the space!

This will also serve as my practise piece for the kitchen project.

We will order this piece separately from the kitchen, and install it, and I will then make doors and drawer fronts for it. If that goes well, then we'll proceed with our plan.

Here is a rough view of our planned kitchen. This is a screenshot from the online kitchen planner tool from the Ikea website. This is the sink and dishwasher side of the kitchen, also showing the pantry in the background. There is no sink shown, and for some reason they don't draw in the counter top over the dishwasher

And here is the other side of the room, showing the fridge and stove wall. I did not draw in the cabinet over the fridge, as that will be a special custom piece that I make, much later in the process.

These are just plane flat doors from the Ikea software. Our doors will be cherry and cherry plywood.

Like many houses of this vintage, bulkheads were installed above the kitchen cabinets. And like many other people, we want to rip these out so that we can install larger 40" tall cabinets instead of standard 30" tall cabinets.

If you are very fortunate, your bulkheads are completely empty. Our were not empty. Again, like in many other houses, the builders made use of this space when routing utilites. Here above the dishwasher are two heating ducts intruding on the space. On the other side of the room is some plumbing.

We decided to proceed with removal, and I will be later boxing in the protrusions. There will just be some boxed-in areas in the top reaches of two or three of our cabinets.

Fortunately, kitchen cabinets are hung on the wall, and not on the ceiling. So they are not really attached to the bulkheads. This is great, as we want to remove the bulkheads first and get them cleaned and patched while NOT removing the cabinets. This is going to be a slow kitchen renovation for us, so we need to keep the current cabinets as long as possible in the process.

I started by using a utility knife to cut along the top corner of the bulkheads where it meets the ceiling.

I then used a reciprocating saw to cut through the vertical members. once those were ripped out, I could push up on the lower parts, and use a pry bar to pull down the top parts. I really did not film a whole lot, as we were focussed on the removing.

But I can report that the removal went very quickly. I had both bulkheads ripped out by noon on a Saturday, so about 3+ hours of work. I was very happy at how easy it was to remove them without (yet) destroying the cabinets. In this photo you can see a closeup of the heating ducts that I will have to box around in one cabinet.

Here on the other side of the room you can see some copper plumbing that intrudes into the bulkhead space. This is a much smaller intrusion, so it should be easy to box up.

Also important is that I had a nice clean line where the bulkhead met the ceiling. The new Ikea cabinets are a bit deeper than the old cabinets, so they will actually cover this seam, which is great since I won't have to really try and patch the join between the ceiling and the patched area as it will be covered up. (I'm not that skilled at drywall mud and patching, so that is a relief)

On this side I did temporarily remove one cabinet, so that I could cut open the wall. I had to do this so that I could discnnect the wire that was running through the bulkhead space, and need to remove the clips where it was fastened to the stud inside the wall. Fortunately, I could then pull back the wire and drill some holes through the ceiling joists...

... and then reroute the wire through the ceiling and back down the wall. I had a similar wire on the other side, which was also rerouted out of the bulkhead space and back into the ceiling.

Afterwards, I fitted in some drywall into the gap created by ripping out the bulkheads.

As mentioned, the Ikea cabinets will cover over this, so I only needed to clean up and mud/patch the for ends where the new drywall would be visible at the ends of the cabinets.

And as a small teaser, here is a view of the finished pantry. It turned out amazingly well, and so we have proceeded with ordering the Ikea cabinets. More details in later articles!


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See Also:

Simple Cabinet Doors

Custom Ikea Kitchen: Cabinet Fronts

Custom Ikea Kitchen: Side Panels