You’ll Never Believe This Reader DIY’ed These Cabinets for $500… And It Was Her First Custom Build DIY Ever

A few weeks ago, we asked you guys to send in rooms in your home that were inspired by past EHD projects, Lisa responded with an AWESOME version of the mountain house powder bathroom, then threw in that she recently did a wildly impressive DIY project in her home if we’d like to share it on the blog. “LIKE TO?? WE’D LOVE TO” – that was my initial reaction when she told me she DIY’ed these cabinets herself…for less than $500…in 10 days. And it was her first custom build DIY ever. You guys seriously will not believe it. How cool is that?? I had to get some more information on how this was humanly possible so I asked her a boatload of questions, and whether you’re a DIY newbie or expert, she has lots of great tips everyone needs to know for any DIY project (not just building cabinets).

First, let’s show you what she did!


We all know someone (or are the someone 🤚) that has this garage in their life. And for some reason it’s CONSTANTLY the project that’s sitting there, waiting to be organized but the actual doing of said garage org is quite difficult to find time for (because let’s admit, it’s VERY time consuming, laborious, and well, not the most fun thing to do with your Saturday probably). UNLESS you turn it into a full-fledged design project and make it look REALLY PRETTY (just wait for it). Lisa had been wanting to do something with this space because there was a major problem that needed to be solved in their everyday living.

The problem at hand: “Since we do not wear shoes in the house, and the stairs are right outside the main entry door to the house, we would try to wear our shoes as we were coming down the stairs from the inside of the house and it was like a death trap. I would cringe every day so we needed a landing area for our shoes and storage for household items.”

So basically, Lisa needed a “mudroom”… desperately… so she created one. DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!


stair sticker tiles | floor tiles

Can you even believe that’s the same space??? IT’S BEAUTIFUL. I’m still in shock it cost her $500 and took her 10 days… LIKE HOW. Well, I asked her how the heck she did it, don’t you worry. It’s time to get down and dirty with some Q&As with Lisa.

Q: What inspired you to start the project?

This was actually my first DIY where I built something with my own two hands back in December so there were lots of youtube videos involved! 😂 I built everything in the garage photos and I only started the DIY because Covid struck and my husband wouldn’t let anyone in the house so I decided to learn myself. I think my biggest tip for anyone wanting to start a project is: anyone can DIY – you just need to navigate all the bumps along the way.  I’m kind of the epitome of that since I make a TON of mistakes and am slower than your average human. I said I wanted to cry multiple times building these cabinets but you never know how capable you are unless you try and I’m so glad I did! 

Q: How long did this project take?

This project took me ten days to build. Since this was one of my first projects, I was so hooked and obsessed with DIYing once I got that first build under my belt. Power tools are incredibly empowering and it’s a feeling like no other when you build something with your own two hands. I was so excited that I worked in the garage uninterrupted the final weekend where I spent 12 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday finishing the project. 

stair sticker tiles | floor tiles

Q: What’s the cost breakdown?

I only spent around $500 on this entire project and my neighbor received a quote for $6,000 for a similar layout. Woohoo savings! 

Cost breakdown:

  • I bought 4 pieces of 4’x8’ MDF sheets and 8 pieces of 24″x48″ precut MDF for the shelves which totaled about $300. 
  • The bench I made out of a common board and spent around $80.  
  • The stair sticker tiles I had leftover from my first DIY project which was remodeling my powder bathroom. I also installed shiplap on the walls so I used leftover scraps from that project too so I consider those to be free – I’m repurposing. 
  • Floor tile on the garage floor was from Amazon and I bought 2 packs for $40.
  • Miscellaneous costs were paint, wood glue, screws, and nails 

So that’s the total for materials – since I had never done any building DIY projects in the past, I had to purchase all the power tools. The cost is a bit painful in the beginning since power tools are so expensive, but the money you save in the long run is so worth it. I purchased a finish nail gun – my first purchase – and it’s one of my favorite tools.  Funny story: I realized after I watched my IG highlights why I ended up making the bench for one of Santa’s helpers. I bought a miter saw that came with a 7-1/2” blade. I thought it was a great buy because it came with a laser so you get accurate cuts every time since you can see exactly where you’re cutting with the laser – great for someone beginning in DIY. However, I didn’t realize how limited I was since it could only make a 7” long cut. Due to the short blade, I could only buy around a 12” wide piece of wood or else the blade was too short to cut through the entire piece of wood. Had I known the disadvantages of buying that size, I would’ve stopped being cheap and bought the larger one that cuts 12” – so much more versatile. Once I decided to make the cabinets, I invested in a table saw and omg it’s a total game-changer. I can cut wood up to 32”, big difference from 7”. 😂  I also bought a Kreg jig pocket hole system which is really fun to use. This is the tool that makes the pocket holes that holds the wood frame of the cabinet together and the screws are hidden in these “pockets” so that is definitely a must buy.

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Q: That’s awesome you were able to reuse a lot of material from your bathroom project. Can you give us more info on the peel and stick tiles?

Sure! The tiles are actually two different kinds of peel and stick tiles and they’re water resistant – you can actually put the thinner one in a shower! The smaller print one is from Etsy and I like how I could waterfall the edges of the stairs since it was paper-thin. The other sticker flooring was thicker and not as pliable so I used that for the garage floor landing area. 

Q: Where there any big mistakes you made? What takeaways do you have?

The cabinets and bench I made from MDF. I struggled SO much with the bench. I was so excited to get rid of the clutter in my garage that I jumped into the project with literally no idea what I was really doing and just tried to learn as I go. Examples include: cutting wrong measurements and not making a cut list – there’s a reason why they say “measure twice, cut once”. When making the bench I didn’t realize how much the actual bench itself would shrink from adding the pieces of wood that would frame the front/back and the drawers – so in the end it was so shallow it could literally house shoes for an elf! I also didn’t make a wood cutting list and I was just winging it so there were a ton of mistakes.

After struggling with the bench I learned that DIY projects take a LOT of planning so you don’t make so many mistakes and waste material. When I started building the cabinets, I watched so many youtube videos so many times I felt like I could build it in my head before I even started. That alone gave me more confidence going in. Granted I still made some mistakes…but I just felt much more prepared. By the time I got to making the final bookshelf, I kept doubting myself that I was doing something wrong because it was so much easier and I actually built it without any mistakes! I vividly remember jumping up and down when I completed that one! The bookshelf was actually one of my favorite parts of the design. We turned it 90 degrees from the cabinets so it would be facing us. That way when we took our shoes off we would still be walking on the tiles and not on the dirty garage floor. Also aesthetically it was more pleasing since you see the side profile of the cabinet from the front view as opposed to our stinky shoes.

When I started building the cabinets, I was having difficulty aligning the right angle of the cabinets. Regardless of how hard I tried to hold the pieces together, every time I drilled a screw the pieces would move. Using multiple clamps of different sizes helped with this process and now I’ve become a clamp hoarder. In my search for more clamps, I found this tool which locks the wood in a ninety-degree angle and your corners always end up perfectly flush – you’ll feel like a professional carpenter. Now any time I build a cabinet I always use this tool! 

Also, I always seem to struggle with painting. I believe I painted the shiplap wall four times. I used a satin finish and you could see brushstrokes on so many pieces of wood. I tend to stretch out my paint – meaning, I try to get as much paint off my roller before I add more paint. I learned that is clearly not the correct way to do it. With the pressure of pushing the roller into the wood trying to stretch out the paint, combined with the inconsistent amount of paint on the roller, I ended up with a horrible paint job. After a lot of sanding and changing to a flat sheen (which hides more brush strokes), I was finally able to achieve my desired results. Also, I have now discovered this product called Floetrel. It’s a liquid you mix with your paint and it extends the drying time and eliminates brush strokes. Now, I use this EVERY time I paint anything a dark color. 

Lastly, I had no idea how to install drawer slides and I wanted to cry about five times I was so frustrated. I religiously watched this video and even now, every time I install any type of drawers to this day, I watch it.

Q: WOW it seems like you learned a lot from this process. Would you mind sharing your wisdom and sharing some more of your resources for new DIYers?

Yes! Here we go:

Resources for New DIY-ers:

Tip: Now if I build anything I use this website called arc site (total game-changer) and it has saved me a ton of time and I’ll actually catch any cutting mistakes as I’m diagraming it out as opposed to wasting wood and having to recut my pieces – since wood is like the cost of gold lately. I also never used MDF before and I just bought it because it was the cheapest option and didn’t realize how heavy it was, so it was a massive struggle trying to move these cabinets once they were fully built so next time I would just buy regular plywood to make these. Building the outer box of the cabinet then adding the shelves in that order helps tremendously. The first video I saw did not recommend that so the first cabinet was a struggle. Also since this was my first DIY project cutting anything, I neglected to realize how much sawdust there would be. It literally covered every inch of my garage and it took me a full two days to wipe down every. single. thing I had in there…that was fun. 😂  So the biggest tip: be mindful of how much sawdust is created and cover EVERYTHING before you start. 

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Additionally, here are some other resources I’ve found helpful:

  • Since board and batten walls seem to be on-trend currently, here’s a website that will calculate how wide the panels should be so they can be evenly spaced on the wall. It’s great because those calculations can be tricky and frustrating and all you have to do is enter the number of panels you want and your wall width and it does all the math for you! 
  • I also like to use Planner5d. It’s a free website where you can make 3D renderings of your space. Really helpful when you’re trying to pick tiles for rooms or to visualize a layout as well. Here are some photos of renderings I’ve made with ArcSite and Planner 5d (below)
  • When building cabinets, use European hinges – they’re the best. They adjust the cabinets up, down, left, and right so you get a perfect gap between the cabinet doors.
  • This video helped immensely just watching her build it too

Q: Is there anything you would’ve done differently for next time?

Next time I would make overlay drawer fronts for the bench. I made the drawer fronts inset. I prefer the look of inset drawers and cabinets, but they are a thousand times more difficult to make because the gap around the drawer needs to be perfectly equal. When you make an overlay drawer or cabinet, you’re literally just slapping the wood on top of the cabinet frame so it is much more forgiving and labor-intensive – hence why I chose to do overlay on my cabinet doors. I now understand why having custom-made cabinets is SO expensive! The labor involved is extremely difficult and time-consuming.  

I mentioned in my previous email the initial video I watched to build the cabinet had horrible instructions and it ended up causing me a lot of time wasted and frustration. There’s a lot of “free” building plans on the internet and you never really know how knowledgeable the source is. I would just exercise caution where you get your building plans and education from, especially if it comes from the University of Youtube like mine. The next project I built after this was a desk I found on a website and although it looked pretty, the legs were way too thin and unstable almost making the desk unusable so I would just check your resources when you’re building anything. 

My husband found a solution to the sawdust problem I mentioned earlier and he bought me lots of drop cloths to cover all our items and a wet vac. We hook the vacuum up to the table saw and the majority of the sawdust gets sucked into the hose. However, it pulls a lot of electricity and we shorted the circuit breaker multiple times. I remember the first time, I shut the power off for about half an hour because I couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on and my kids got kicked off their Zoom class and they were ecstatic. So if you use one, just make sure you’re not running multiple things on the same circuit.  

Thanks everyone for reading and be sure to follow Lisa on Instagram here!

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