Boxed In: An IKEA EXPEDIT Upgrade

November 12, 2012   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY, Living Room, Organized   //  By: Emily   //  6 responses

When it comes right down to it, we’ve hoarded a lot of scrap lumber in the last few years, and when I get an inkling to make something new, I try and use as much of that scrap as humanly possible to 1) save a few bucks, or in this case about $50, and 2) to keep the lumber storage situation under control so we can continue to store more scrap lumber without needing to build a barn on our tiny 1/10-acre lot.

And sometimes those scrap wood projects turn into something totally awesome, like custom IKEA EXPEDIT drawers:

DIY IKEA EXPEDIT drawers! Voila.

I had been wanting to make drawers for our IKEA shelving for awhile, especially in the last few months with the onslaught of art supplies and coloring books that comes with a 6-year old when they move in. The lowest row of the shelf had been cleared out at that time to accomodate her supplies, but even still, it lacked organization.

What you may or may not already know is that wood can be damn expensive. and for these boxes, I had scoped out a plan to build cubes that were 13″H x 13″W x 15″D, and lumber of those dimensions isn’t widely sold. Sure, you can look at some of the thicker plywoods options or heavy 2x boards but for a box that requires nearly 6.5 sq. ft. of lumber, be ready to pay up and have some heavy drawers. It was after I spent many months learning that I couldn’t do it for cheap that I was drawn to the idea of creating these boxes with scrap pieces of shiplap from my multitude of paneling projects (as seen here, here, and here). The shiplap, a form of 1x pine lumber, was thin and lightweight enough to be used functionally, and the rabbets in the wood were perfect for conjoining the 8″ wide pieces into larger panels. Chop, chop, chop with the chop saw, and I had this, enough cut lumber for my first two shiplap storage boxes.

Using scrap wood (especially shiplap) to make custom boxes for our IKEA shelves.

Me and the Kreg Jig ended up being BFF after this project, that’s one thing I can attest. Had I not bought this Kreg Jig several months ago, this project would have come together quite differently. Because I needed to build up each box wall to be 13″H, every single side of every single box needed to be jointed together, and pocket screws made it a very clean process. Clearly, as shown in this first piece that I set out to join, there wasn’t a lot of science behind how many screws I needed or where I placed them.

Cut boards to length and use the Kreg Jig to attach the boards together side by side.

In general, 2 screws were sufficient for creating a very sturdy panel.

If you’re curious, I have been slowly depleting our Kreg Self-Tapping Pocket Screw kit, between this project and a few others, but we’ve been really pleased with the selection of screws in the kit. For this project, I used 1″ coarse screws almost exclusively.

Boards attached to make 13" panels. Each side of each box was built to be 13" high to slide comfortably into the IKEA EXPEDIT boxes.

Once assembled, the 13″x13″ and 13″x15″ panels also needed to be predrilled for pocket screws because I planned to attach each box together solidly from the inside like I did in my Kreg Jig test project.

Using the Kreg Jig to create IKEA EXPEDIT boxes.

Voila. The assembled boxes look clean and neat from both the outside and the inside.

Assemble the boxes using Kreg Jig screws to attach the boards on the inside.

My stash of shiplap didn’t go on forever though. After it was cleared, I tapped into other non-shiplap 1x boards that were scattered through our storage. With the help of a 1/2″ rabbeting router bit you can essentially create your own shiplap by routing away one edge of each board, so that’s exactly what I did so that I could continue to construct the set of boxes identically.

Fact: The boards were from everywhere. Some of the boards I tapped into were from when we removed the wall around the basement toilet. Others were from when I made shelves, shelves, and more shelves. I used not only the router, but the chop saw and the circular saw to cut each board to the right dimensions for this project. I worked solo and efficiently, and apparently wore my ear protection even when nothing loud was going on.

This whole assembling boxes business went on for quite awhile.

After an afternoon of cutting and building, my stack of wooden boxes stood high. In the end, I didn’t have to buy a single piece of lumber, each box was completely constructed from scrap wood we had laying around the basement and garage.

Side note: Stacking DIY boxes must be my thaaang, because as I was editing photos I recalled another time I did this:

Finished boxes. And a curious dog.

Anyways, one of the main reasons that I continued to create rabbeted edges on the boards that weren’t originally shiplap was because I found that the base of my first few 100% shiplap boxes were perfectly designed with an inset area that could hold the base of each drawer. It’s literally just the bottom edge of the rabbeted shiplap, and it makes the perfect little shelf for a thin drawer base.

1/4" birch worked well as a base for these drawers.

The inset rabbeted edge allowed enough space for 1/4″ birch boards to sit within. These thin panels were also scrap wood also sourced from a previous project, how’s that for resourceful? I glued these panels in place, and then followed up by locking the board into place using our pancake compressor and nail gun loaded with 1″ brads.

The bases for the IKEA EXPEDIT drawers were glued and then nailed into place.

Over the course of several days, I sanded the boxes and then stained them dark brown. Many of the boards were already stained brown from previous projects, but several pieces of lumber that I had chosen to use were painted white. For those panels, I applied liberal coats of leftover Java Gel Stain from our cabinet projects. Like with the finished oak cabinets, the gel stain looked really good after the third coat and with this insight, I might be eluding that gel stain could be worth testing on your painted cabinets without having to strip them. Just a thought, it’s probably worth a test if you’re in the market. In fact, I challenge you to it. Let me know how it goes.

I digress. Dark brown stain is a pretty expected finish in this house, but I wanted to keep these drawers kid-friendly too, and that’s why the picture you saw at the top of this post showed a bunch of radical gray drawers. Bring on the chalkboard paint, bring on the fun. This specific color was something I bought at Michael’s but never tested, a craft-sized bottle of a Martha Stewart product that had good coverage and only cost $6.99 before accessible coupon savings. I don’t have any pictures of the staining/painting processes, I’m not sure why, but you know how it rolls.

Originally, I planned on making cuts into the wood to serve as a place to pull the drawer from, but then another idea came to me and I ran out to buy two used belts from our local Salvation Army. These belts, both brown leather (not pleather, check quality labels carefully if you’re sourcing for yourself at home), were only $1.99 each and were long enough for me to cut into 8 identical pieces. Their coloring was close enough to match, and they were both worn in enough naturally to be very soft and maleable, mmmm, pre-loved belts.

Leather belts about to be upcycled into leather drawer pulls!

I cut those pieces to have rounded edges (just for looks) with basic utility shears.

Trimming the leather belt pieces to have rounded edges.

I also bought $8 worth of carriage bolts and nuts at the hardware store, a small price to pay to attach these handles in a very rugged way.

Attaching the belts to the drawers with carriage bolts.

But ooh, those bolts? They’re too shiny for this rustic wooden box. I toned them down with a spritz of some leftover brown spray paint from my outdoor furniture project.

Spray painting bolts to be a dark oil-rubbed brown shade.

Much better.

Lovely DIY IKEA EXPEDIT boxes.

Note: If you take this spray painted bolt approach and find that you need to tap the bolts into your project with a hammer, be sure to cushion the top of the bolt with an old towel so that the impact of the hammer doesn’t damage the paint finish.

I hand-tightened the nuts on the inside of the box, and yes, I installed the handles on both sides of the drawer so that I could flip the gray chalkboard finish out for a dark brown stained finish. Like this, BAM, how do you like them drawers:

Lovely DIY IKEA EXPEDIT boxes.

Because the base of each cabinet was still just solid wood, I’ve taken a precautionary measure and lined the bottom of each drawer with felt. In my first attempt I attached the felt to the entire bottom surface with wood glue, but in reality only the edges of the base of the drawer stood a chance at rubbing against the EXPEDIT finish so I limited the coverage to only those edges in drawers 2-4. They slide very smoothly!

I didn't want to damage the IKEA EXPEDIT shelf, so I lined the bottom of these drawers with felt.

The finished pieces are really great, and it’s not often that projects turn out even better than you could have wildly anticipated. I even prefer the chalkboard side of the drawers right now.

DIY IKEA EXPEDIT drawers! Voila.

From straight-on you can see the detail in some of the drawers. For instance, the second drawer on the left features a board that had once been glued over and has a line of several dried wood glue droplets. I didn’t bother to try and remove them (well, they didn’t come off with my fingernail so I decided I liked the charm of the recycled wood).

DIY IKEA EXPEDIT Drawers out of scrap wood!

Once I started filling the drawers, the chalkboard appeal picked up a little bit more. The gray is certainly lighter than your traditional black chalkboards, but lighter chalk colors still show up. I happen to like that whatever ends up being drawn and written on these drawers remains subtle in the overall picture:

I love the subtlety of this pink chalk on a light gray chalkboard.

And they’re plenty deep to store all kinds of crafts and toys.

Starting to store away art supplies in our our new DIY boxes.

Onward with more recycled wood projects! It feels good to have lightened our wood storage load.

Did anyone else wrap up any big projects over the weekend?

  • Michelle
    5 years ago - Reply

    They look great! What a fun project.

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      Thanks Michelle!

  • Staci @ My Friend Staci
    5 years ago - Reply

    OMG! The belt idea is pure GENIUS! I have some very space-age-y handles on a glossy black dresser and I have been planning on replacing them with rustic leather… I just haven’t been able to find leather anywhere! You have totally saved the day.

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      So glad to hear it! I’m so happy with how these handles turned out; GOOD LUCK with your project!

  • Ashley @ DesignBuildLove
    5 years ago - Reply

    those look absolutely AWESOME!!!!!! Makes me want to DIY some! We’ll see where my expedit ends up in our house and then I’ll decide! :)

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      Thanks Ashley!

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