How To Build DIY Pantry Cabinets: Part 1

8 Materials
3 Hours

Build Easy DIY Pantry Cabinets Cheap With This Simple Method

Welcome back y’all to week 2 of the pantry renovation chaos!

This week is demo week for our small kitchen pantry & boy did it need it.

If you are new here, we are taking part in this seasons One Room Challenge. This challenge is one of my favorites, a bunch of amazing DIY-ers take on renovating an entire room in just 6 weeks!

During week 1 I shared all my design plans & some of my favorite pantry inspiration photos!

Let’s take a look at what we are starting with:

So it’s not super pretty yet, but I have big plans!

Removing Wire Shelving

Start by removing the wire shelving.

I got a little sweaty ripping them all down but I could hear the Rocky theme song playing in my head & just kept pressing on! After they were down I filled all the holes with spackling.

Building The Cabinet Base

The first step to actually building wall pantry cabinets is to build a base for the cabinets to sit on.

I used 2×4’s to build the base the length of the back wall & the width of the future cabinets (13″). However if you want a toe kick then you will need to build the base 2-3″ smaller than the planned cabinet width.

How To Build DIY Pantry Cabinets

There are lots of ways to build wall pantry cabinets, but if you have been hanging around this little blog for anytime at all you know I will always try & do things the easy & budget savvy way!

That’s why I chose to use MDF to build my cabinets, just like I did for the built in bookcases & the nursery closet shelving.


  • 3/4″ MDF Sheet
  • Nails
  • Wood Screws
  • Wood Glue


  • Circular Saw or Table Saw
  • Circular Saw Guide
  • Nail Gun
  • Level
  • Clamps

Start by ripping a piece of MDF the length & width of your base. Secure it to the base with wood screws or nails.

After the base is covered it’s time to move onto assembling the actual cabinets.

My DIY pantry cabinet plans are really more like shelving units that will be framed in later to look like built-in cabinets.

Start by ripping the MDF the depth of cabinet walls. Mine are 13″ deep & 28″ tall.

If you have help you can rip your pieces using a table saw, but if you are solo the best way is to use a circular saw & guide.

Sadly I don’t have a fancy guide yet but it is on my Christmas list, so I had to clamp a scrap piece of wood to the MDF to guide my circular saw.

If you can cut straight lines without a guide you posses a super power I am jealous of!

After the depth strip is cut, mark & cut the MDF the height of the pantry cabinets.

Assembling Pantry Cabinet

To attach the cabinet walls together I used 2″ scrap strip of MDF, but you could also use 1x2s.

The strips need to be cut to match you cabinet width dimension minus 1-1/2″. The total width of my pantry cabinets is 23″ so I cut my strips to 21 1/2″ to account for the thickness of the MDF.

Attach the strips to the top of the cabinets & where you want your shelf to be. I used wood glue & 1 1/2″ nails.

If you are doing is project solo clamps will be your best friend!

I am thinking of moving mine into the house with me & maybe giving them their own room 😉

This is how your cabinet will look once both of your strips are attached.

Next, its time to rip, level & attach the shelf.

The shelf is a little easier to maneuver & attach because it will sit on the back strip. Nail it into place from the sides & also into the strip for extra security.

My bottom wall pantry cabinets will be three separate units attached together & trimmed out to look like built in pantry cabinets.

I won’t be attaching them to the wall studs yet because I plan on painting them with my new paint sprayer outside, but I did want to do a dry fit test first.

How To Build DIY Pantry Cabinets

I do have a special idea for the third unit that I cant wait to show y’all! But this wasn’t able to finish it in time for week 2 so I will have to save it for next week!

Do y’all like how I mapped out my DIY pantry cabinet plans using tape, I swear it helps with the design process.

You can check out the complete layout plan on our Instagram stories!

Pantry Renovation To-Do List:

  • Base Pantry Cabinets
  • Build Floor to Ceiling Shelving Unit
  • Build Upper Pantry Shelves
  • Paint Cabinets/Shelving
  • Build Spice Rack
  • Backsplash
  • Install Countertop
  • Paint Pantry
  • Pantry Food Storage Containers/Labels

Should I be worried I don’t have anything actually crossed off yet? Oh well there is always next week!

Don’t forget to check out all the other room renovations taking place for the One Room Challenge!

Update the renovation is finished! See the entire space here

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Lia with Southern Yankee DIY
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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3 of 4 questions
  • Jani Jani on Feb 07, 2021

    I clicked on the one room challenge and didnt anywhere. I even tried on here nothing. What are the other wks called. The reason I want to look for the others so I can see if I could something along that idea. We're remoldin our kitchen and I have no pantry I just alot of book shelves and 2chine hutches and a gal cabinet. And I need some ideas so can figure out what todo.

    And is MFD very steady or is plywood better? I thought MFD is crap what I was told. Is really good for makin a pantry will it last

  • RG RG on Feb 08, 2021

    MDF shelves held by glue and air nails?

  • Kelly Kelly on Feb 08, 2021

    what exactly makes it better than the wire shelving?

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