How to Build Kitchen Improvements

How to Build a Pantry Behind a Door

Space shelves to store smaller items on top shelves, tall things on the bottom. Retaining strips keep supplies in place.

Kitchen storage space is always at a premium, but there is potential storage behind every closed door -- build this simple behind-the-door pantry to take advantage of it.

Tools: ­

  • Measuring rule
  • Pencil
  • Carpenters' square
  • Handsaw or power saw
  • Drill
  • Countersink
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Sanding block
  • Paintbrush


  • 1 x 4 and 1 x 2 pine stock
  • 1-inch flathead wood screws
  • Carpenters' glue
  • 7-penny finishing nails
  • Medium- and fine-grit sandpaper
  • Paint
  • 2-inch angle irons

Time: 4 to 6 hours, plus finishing time


The dimensions used here are for a pantry unit 211/2 inches wide and 60 inches high, with four inside shelves. You can adjust these figures for a unit to fit a wide or narrow door, for any height desired. Keep the outside width of the unit at least 7 inches narrower than the door, to allow for the doorknob and provide the necessary clearance when the door is opened and closed.

Building the Pantry Frame

Build the frame for the pantry of 1 x 4 pine stock. Measure and mark two pieces of 1 x 4 60 inches long and six pieces 20 inches long; use a carpenters' square to keep the ends even. Cut the pieces of 1 x 4 with a handsaw or a power saw.

Put together a rectangular box from the two 60-inch pieces and two of the 20-inch pieces, with the long sides butted over the ends of the short sides at the corners. At each corner, drill two holes for 1-inch flathead wood screws through the face of the long side piece; countersink the screw holes so that the screw heads will lie flush with the surface of the wood. Set the side piece into position over the edge of the cross piece, mark the screw holes, and drill holes into the edge of the cross piece. Apply a bead of carpenters' glue to the cut edge of the cross piece and to the end of the side piece, join the pieces, and secure the corner with two 1-inch flathead wood screws driven through the drilled holes.

Making the Shelves

Cut retaining strips and shelf supports from 1 x 2 pine stock. Measure, mark, and cut six pieces of 1 x 2 211/2 inches long to hold stored goods on the shelves; measure and cut eight pieces of 1 x 2 31/2 inches long for shelf supports. Plan the spacing for the pantry shelves, with tall things on the bottom and four shelves spaced as desired inside the frame. Measure the things you plan to store in the unit to determine the desired shelf spacing -- a good spacing might allow 10 inches between the top of the frame and the first shelf, 10 inches from first to second and second to third, 12 inches from third to fourth, and 18 inches from the fourth shelf to the bottom of the frame. Or, if you don't need such widely spaced shelves, add a shelf to this basic unit.

To make the shelves, measure down from the top of the frame along each side piece and mark the shelf positions -- make sure you measure exactly the same on each side. The marked shelf positions do not allow for the thickness of the wood; measure 3/8 inch down from each marked line to mark the tops of the shelf support pieces. Set a 31/2-inch 1 x 2 shelf support piece at each marked shelf point, on each 1 x 4 side piece. To secure the shelf supports, use 7-penny finishing nails and carpenters' glue. Apply a bead of carpenters' glue to the face of each shelf support and to the face of the side frame piece, as marked. Set the support flat against the frame, with its top edge exactly flush with the marked support line, and nail through the outside face of the side piece into the face of the 1 x 2 support bracket. Drive two 7-penny finishing nails into each shelf support.

Use the remaining pieces of 20-inch 1 x 4 to make the pantry's four shelves. For each shelf, apply a bead of carpenters' glue to the bottom edges of the board's cut ends, and to the top edge of the two shelf brackets that will support it. Set the shelf into place across the two brackets, and make sure it's straight and flush against the supports. Secure each end with two 7-penny finishing nails from the top of the shelf into the support and two nails from the outside of the frame into the shelf edge. Stagger the nails so they don't hit against each other.

Finishing the Pantry

To complete the shelf unit, nail 1 x 2 retaining strips across the front of the unit, one strip 2 inches above each shelf. Secure the retaining strips with two 7-penny finishing nails driven through each end. To keep tall things in place on the bottom of the unit, nail two retaining strips across the open area, placed as desired.

To complete the pantry, sand all rough spots and edges with medium-and then fine-grit sandpaper. Paint as desired.

Finally, hang the pantry unit on the door, centered on the door's width and set conveniently on its height. Use three 2-inch angle irons across the top of the unit and three across the bottom; mark the screw holes, and drill, and countersink. Fasten the irons to the door with 1-inch flathead wood screws. If the door is a hollow-core type, be careful to attach the unit to the solid blocking inside the door -- tap on the door to locate the blocking. Hollow-core doors are blocked around the edges, and sometimes also have other blocking. Mark and drill the mounting holes on the top and bottom pieces of the pantry unit, set the unit into place, and secure it with screws driven into the drilled holes.

We have more storage solutions for your kitchen. On the next page, you will learn how to make a roll-out storage shelf.

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