One of the key features of any kitchen is a range. In most kitchens, this means a combination stovetop and oven, built together into a single, stand-alone unit. But as people upgrade their kitchen, the very idea of a free-standing range doesn’t really fit in. While there are things that can be done, such as buying a fancier range and installing a stylish range hood to replace the standard one, that tends to make the range stand out more, rather than making it blend in and match the rest of the kitchen. It takes a different approach if one wants their stovetop and oven to fit in with the style of the rest of the kitchen.
That different approach is to install the stovetop into the countertop and the oven into a cabinet. While they are still visible as being there, having cabinetry around them that matches the rest of the kitchen serves the purpose of making them blend in considerably better.
Obviously, the stovetop is built into the counter, either along the wall or on an island. The oven is another story. There are two different ways of building in an oven; one is to build it into a full-height wall unit, so that the oven is at an easy height to see into and the other is to build it into a base cabinet, located below the counter. Which location is chosen depends on the homeowner’s preference for style, as well as how much they bake. People who do a lot of baking like a full-height oven cabinet, not only for the convenience of having it at an easy height to work with, but also the possibility of building in a dual oven. But those who don’t use their oven all that often are usually better off with building the oven into a base cabinet, beneath countertop height.
This requires a special base cabinet, which is specially made for installing an oven in. While it would be theoretically possible to modify a standard base cabinet for installing an oven into, there would be problems with doing so in a way which blended in smoothly with the rest of the cabinetry. Depending on the size of the oven and cabinet, there might be a need for filler pieces, which would be hard to match with the existing cabinetry. Fortunately, most cabinet manufacturers provide oven base cabinets in a variety of sizes as part of their line. It’s even possible to find oven cabinets from Ikea.
Sizing the base cabinet is critical however. ovens need proper vent to work. Many have interlocks in them, which will cause the oven to shut down when it gets too hot. Without that ventilation, the oven is likely to overheat on the outside, causing those interlocks to actuate and shut down the oven. To prevent that, the oven base cabinet typically needs to be three inches wider than the oven. Depth usually isn’t an issue, as all ovens are designed to fit into the standard kitchen base cabinet depth of 24”.
On the front side of that oven 36” of space is needed before running into an island. In kitchens which are being designed for two people to work in at once, that distance should be increased to 47” in order to allow them to pass (sideways) while the oven is open. Don’t put the oven cabinet up against the wall either, as 12” of counter space is required to allow for someplace to put whatever is removed from the oven.
Built-in ovens come in four basic configurations:
- Full-height single oven
- Full-height double oven
- Full-height oven with microwave oven
- Low-height double oven
Both the full-height single oven and the low-height double oven can be installed in a base cabinet. Likewise, built-in microwaves can be, although those are usually installed in the wall cabinets, often above the oven, incorporating a range hood as well. But the full-height double oven and the oven-microwave combinations require more vertical height than is available under the countertop. Therefore, they must be mounted in a full-height cabinet.
Powering that Oven
Ovens can also come in either electric or gas models. Most people just replace the existing oven with one that uses the same fuel for heating. But it is possible to switch from one to another. While modifying gas lines may not be common in most remodeling projects, modifying wiring is. Nevertheless, gas can be put in for an oven, assuming there’s a way to get under the flooring, such as with a home that has a basement or crawl space.
While the homeowner or do-it-yourselfer can easily connect the new oven to either the electrical or gas connection, it’s recommended to have a licensed plumber put in the gas line or a licensed electrician put in the electrical power line. Putting in either is somewhat dangerous, unless the individual really knows what they are doing.
There are a couple of important things we should note here. First, gas leaks are extremely dangerous. Should there be a leak and it explodes, it will most likely level the home. That’s why a plumber should always be contracted for installing new gas lines. On the electric side, most ovens require 220 volts AC, not the standard house current that’s found in the outlets. That isn’t a problem, as there are other things in the home that use 220, like air conditioners, the hot water heater and clothes dryers. Here’s the problem though; the 220 volt power is only available at the top breaker locations in the panel, so adding a 220 volt line may require rewiring most of the panel. That’s something the average homeowner shouldn’t try on their own.
Building an Oven Base Cabinet
Building an oven base cabinet is much like building any other base cabinet, with the exception that there are no shelves, other than the bottom shelf and there are no doors. The exception to that is in the case where a short oven is being installed, which might need a shelf to sit on. In either case there won’t be a stile going vertically between the doors as part of the face frame.
Most kitchen cabinets are built primarily of ¾” hardwood plywood, with the possible exception of the back panel, which can be made of ¼” plywood. The ¾” plywood can also be ripped to make the various structural strips needed throughout the cabinet. A hardwood face frame is attached to the front of the cabinet, but this is more decorative than structural. As the plywood used for the sides and back isn’t going to be visible, baltic birch can easily be substituted for the hardwood plywood, saving some money.
This means that the cabinet is basically four sided, as there is no need for a top or a front. However, even though there isn’t a front, a face frame needs to be installed. Since there is no top, strips of wood at the front and back of the cabinet need to be installed so that the countertop can be attached to the cabinet. If the back of the cabinet is made of ¼” plywood, then a strip of wood or 3/4’” plywood should be installed at the top of the back as well, so that the cabinet can be attached to the wall.
The oven actually sits on what would normally be the bottom shelf of the base cabinet, which must be able to support its weight. This means that it isn’t sufficient to have the bottom shelf attached with screws going through the sides of the cabinet. Support will be required for that shelf, so that it can hold the weight of the oven, without sagging over time.
The overall dimensions of the cabinet are: 34 ½” high, 24” deep, and must be 3” wider than the oven to be installed. A 3 ½” high, 3” deep toe kick is taken out of the front of this at floor level and a face frame of hardwood 1”x 2” is installed all the way around. The shelf must be installed so that the top of it is flush with the top of the lower face frame rail. However, if the oven has a shallow depth, the bottom rail of the face frame needs to be higher to accommodate it. In that case, the shelf has to be raised up to match.
The main components of the base cabinet are the two sides, which mirror each other. They both need to be 34 ½” high and 23 1/4” deep, made from ¾” hardwood plywood or applewood. The lower front corner of them needs to be notched for the toe kick. Since there will be a piece of ¾” plywood nailed in to make the back of the toe kick, the notches will actually have to be cut 3 ¾” deep to result in a 3” deep toe kick.
Cut a back for the cabinet out of ¼” thick plywood. It should be 34 ½” high and as wide as the cabinet. Also cut a 3 ½” tall strip of ¾” hardwood, as long as the cabinet is wide, to act as the toe kick. Attaching these two pieces, gluing and nailing them to the two sides will give the cabinet its basic shape.
While the cabinet will have its basic shape at this point, there is still a need for three strips of ¾” plywood to allow attachment of the finished cabinet to the wall and countertop. These should be at least 3” wide and 1 ½” shorter than the width of the countertop. Glue and nail two of them, laying flat (horizontal), between the two sides, going across the top corners. Glue and nail the third one up against the back panel, just below the horizontal strip.
Other than the bottom shelf and the face frame, the cabinet is now done. It’s a good idea to make the face frame and install it, before installing the shelf. It’s easier to ensure that the top of the shelf is flush with the top of the bottom rail of the face frame that way.
Making the Face Frame
The face frame for the cabinet is nothing more than four pieces of 1”x 2” hardwood, cut and assembled to make them into a simple frame. There is no need for mitering the corners to hide the end grain. Rather, the two vertical stiles overlap the horizontal rails. Since the top and bottom of the stiles will be hidden by the countertop and the floor, there will be no end grain visible. The overall outside dimensions of the frame need to be 31” high by as wide as the cabinet.
Please note that this is the dimensions for a standard oven base cabinet, with a standard oven designed to mount into a cabinet. There is always a possibility that the oven being used is shorter, necessitating the bottom rail being made of a wider board to make up for the difference. Be sure to check the actual opening requirements in the installation instructions of the oven, before making the face frame.
These four pieces can be connected together in a variety of ways. The method chosen is entirely up to the preferences of the woodworker and what tools they have available.
- Blind mortise & tenon
- Pocket screw
Once the glue has dried on the face frame, it can be installed on the front of the cabinet, gluing and nailing it to the sides and the front stringer attached to the cabinet for attaching the countertop. Avoid using excessive nails, as the hole will need to be filled. Judicial placement of the nails, so that the wood grain will hide them better is advised.
Installing the Shelf
With the face frame installed, the shelf for the oven to sit on can be installed. This should be made of the same ¾” thick plywood that is used for the rest of the cabinet. However, this part is not visible, so some woodworkers choose to use a lower-grade plywood, OSB or MDF.
Measure the actual thickness of the material being used for the shelf and measure the height of the top of the face frame’s bottom rail above the floor or bench top. Subtract the thickness of the shelf material from the height of the rail to know how high the support blocks need to be. Cut those support blocks to go on the inside of both sides and the back. They don’t necessarily need to go all the way into the corner, but should cover the majority of the space available. glue and nail these to the sides and back of the cabinet.
Cut the shelf to fit inside the cabinet. It will probably need to be cut just a shade undersized; otherwise, it might get stuck when trying to set it in place. Place it on top of the supports and nail it in place. The base cabinet is now ready for installation.
Installing the Base Cabinet and Oven
The oven base cabinet installs just like any other base cabinet in the kitchen and should be installed at the same time they are being installed. Before installing, find the location of the studs in the wall and mark them in a way where the markings will be visible when the cabinets are in place.
Set all the cabinets in place, snugly against each other, verifying the dimensions and placement. Then attach each cabinet to the wall with 2 1/2” drywall screw going through the strip installed at the top of the back for that purpose. Drill clearance holes for the screws through that strip, but allow the screws to self-tap through the drywall and into the studs behind it. Use 1 ¼” drywall screws or brads to attach the cabinets to each other at the top in the back and front.
The countertop should be installed before the oven is, as it will be impossible to attach the base cabinet to the bottom of the countertop once the oven is installed.
Before installing the oven, be sure to turn off the breaker that provides power to the oven.
Use some of the packing material from the oven’s box as a rest for the oven, so that it can be set in front of the base cabinet. Slide it into the opening just far enough to verify fit and then remove it, setting it on the packing material. Attach the wires from the oven to the wires that the electrician installed in the electrical box on the wall, inside the cabinet, following the instructions provided with the oven. Please note that it is critical that the instructions be followed fully, so as to avoid creating a fire hazard. Insurance companies do not pay claims for fire, when homeowners make improper installations.
With the oven connected, the breaker can be turned on and the operation of the oven checked. Then pick the oven up and slide it into the opening, pushing it all the way back. Open the oven’s door and center the oven in the face frame. Then install the screw provided with the oven, through the hole in the oven’s trim frame and into the cabinet’s face frame.
Please note that installation of an oven or double oven into a full-height cabinet made for ovens is exactly the same as this procedure, with the exception that the oven is higher off the ground.