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Featured Project: Installing the Mantle and Cabinets

In the last article Feature Project – Bookcases Part 1, we described how to design a winter project – in this case, a set of cabinets and a center mantle and faux chimney on the end wall in a family room. Your contractor will probably want to double-check your measurements and check out the wall ahead of time to confirm where the supports, electrical outlets, and heating/cooling elements are located. Then they’ll start building the cabinet units in their shop. This article will describe how to get ready for and make the best of the installation.


Here’s the centerpiece fireplace and faux chimney right after installation. Note that tarps and dust cloths have been removed and the area vacuumed at the end of the work day.


Dealing with Dust and Fumes

We’ve covered this topic is detail in our earlier article, “How We Deal with Dust & Fumes in the Winter” . Here’s a summary:

  1. Clear out the furniture, paintings, drapes, etc. on and near the end wall so there will be plenty of room for the carpenters and electrician to maneuver.
  2. Put down floor tarps to protect both wood and carpet. You can carefully fold these up and set them aside after they leave each evening – just be sure to shake them off outdoors.
  3. Put dust cloths (sheets, tarps, plastic – whatever you have or they supply) over whatever furniture you leave in the room. Again, you can roll them up each evening.
  1. If there will be cutting and sanding, have the contractor hang dust curtains between the work area and the rest of the room. If there will only be drilling, planing, and a little bit of hand sawing of moldings, dust curtains probably won’t be necessary.
  1. Plan to vacuum right after the workers leave each day. (The contractor’s crew should vacuum the immediate work area.)

Monitor the Installation

It’s very difficult to plan for every eventuality. During this project, we discovered that the gas fireplace unit needed more space behind it for an exterior vent. We found out early enough to alter the design before the unit was built, but it could have been made deeper at any time by joining a vertical piece along the edge of each side.

We also had a change in mind about the finish to use on the central unit, but we’ll cover that and other finish and paint issues in the next article.

See how the Design Comes Out Right

It’s very satisfying to watch each piece fit in as designed, and to see how well the details you planned for are working.


The right-hand lower cabinet unit in place.


Here is the lower right-hand cabinet. Note how the hole for the electrical outlet fits perfectly and how the unit sits immediately above the baseboard radiators. Note also that the stretch of baseboard along the center stretch of wall has been carefully removed. This will be re-trimmed when all of the units are in place.


The right-hand upper shelf units in place. Note that the units do not come all the way up the side wall to the ceiling. This gap will be closed with decorative molding.


Here is the upper right-hand unit, actually two pieces that will hold shelves. (The shelves will be adjustable, supported by readily-available hardward that fit into holes pre-drilled at 4-inch intervals up the inside faces of each unit.) If you look closely into the space between the two halves, you’ll see the electrical box for the original wall sconce. The electrician will tap into this box to get power for the new sconces.


The right side window seat in place, with cabinet doors and some of the trim and molding installed.


Finally, all of the right-hand units are in place and the trim work is underway. (The left-hand side is simply a mirror image of this.) The cabinet doors are installed, in this case with hidden hinges, and the top of the window seat is also in place. It lifts up so the box can be used for storage.

Note the upper molding, which raises the top of the cabinets to the top of the wall, and the center trim board between the two shelf units. The sconce will be mounted here, its wire running through a single hole to the existing electrical box in the wall.

You can also see how the dust cloths and tarps have been rolled up and put out of the way until the next phase. Throughout the entire installation, the rest of the room was available for use in the evenings.

In the next article, we’ll discuss stains, paints, drapes, cushions, and other design elements that bring the project to completion.

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