Author Topic: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?  (Read 26198 times)

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Offline Richard/RMW

  • Posts: 1924
Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« on: April 05, 2015, 09:07 AM »
Aside from the urge to make an enclosed box, what other purpose does the back panel serve? I don't think I ever see the rear of a base cabinet, 90% of ours have drawers or pull-outs anyway. To see the rear panel I have to be on my knees.

I don't see any structural reason to have the rear panel since the cabinets are fastened to the wall anyway. I guess they may prevent/reduce accumulation of inside the cabinet.

Am I missing something?

RMW
As of 10/17 I am out of the Dog business and pursuing other distractions. Thanks for a fun ride!

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Offline erock

  • Posts: 1254
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2015, 09:19 AM »
I did not install back panels on the base cabinets I build for my house.

I felt it was a waist of material.  I used stretchers on the top and bottoms to keep the box square. 

It's a personal preference.   

I've built cabinets for paying friends and family.   I installed back panels in those cabinets.    I felt it gave the cabinet the finish look.

Eric 


Offline tjbnwi

  • Posts: 6132
  • Cedar Tucky Indiana
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2015, 09:27 AM »
To create and enclosed space. The back panel is also more durable than drywall.

Tom

Offline Richard/RMW

  • Posts: 1924
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2015, 09:29 AM »
I did not install back panels on the base cabinets I build for my house.

I felt it was a waist of material.  I used stretchers on the top and bottoms to keep the box square. 

It's a personal preference.   

I've built cabinets for paying friends and family.   I installed back panels in those cabinets.    I felt it gave the cabinet the finish look.

Eric

I feel pretty much the same way, but was struggling with wanting everything to be "the best".

BTW - I have been watching your cabinet video series recently, partly to help decide if I want to take the plunge and build or be lazy (as my wife advocates) and have someone else do them. It's a 19 cabinet utility area visible from the kitchen/entertaining area so we want them to be nice but a step below the cabinets in the kitchen, i.e. frameless with flat panel doors/drawer fronts.

I can also justify plywood drawer boxes, so I am considering using the exposed domino method.

Your use of screws to hold the boxes together helped me overcome the feeling that I needed to pocket screw them (and buy the foreman) or use Confirmat.

Thanks for making the videos, I know they are a lot of work in themselves.

RMW 
As of 10/17 I am out of the Dog business and pursuing other distractions. Thanks for a fun ride!

Offline erock

  • Posts: 1254
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2015, 10:00 AM »
I have a hard time paying someone for something I could do.  That's why I built my cabinets.

I paid a company to install my fence, concrete drive way and re-side the house.....because they are equipped to do the work.

I'm equipped to cut wood and make things.   [wink]


Here is a pic of the domidrawers I made for my kitchen....





I used under mount drawer guides.  And I also used pocket screws in the front and back of the drawer box.  So I didn't have to use a bunch of clamps.  Plus, I think having the dominos and pocket screws together makes for a very strong joint.
The drawer boxes have 1/2" plywood sides and 3/4" plywood fronts and backs.  With 1/2" plywood bottoms. 

Each guy on here will have his own method to build a cabinet.  Each guy will be correct.  It comes down to what you feel comfortable with and what you want your cabinets to look like for your house.

Eric


Offline Paul G

  • Posts: 1986
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2015, 10:21 AM »
To create and enclosed space. The back panel is also more durable than drywall.

Tom

Agreed. With our ant problems here it would be even worse if they had easy access via the back of the cabinets.
+1

Offline wow

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Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2015, 10:48 AM »
I always assumed it was a quick and easy way to keep the cabinet from racking, i.e. keep it square? I realize that you can use the stretchers for that to some degree, but you're talking about dealing with two pieces instead of one.

« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 12:25 PM by wow »
Trying to be one of the most helpful members on the FOG.

Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 6639
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2015, 11:30 AM »
About a year ago I pulled the original site-built oak ply cabinets out of the kitchen. The house was built in 1952 so the cabinets had seen over 60 years of constant use. Neither the uppers nor the base cabinets had backs. They all had 6" stretchers on the top of the cabinets only, to keep them from racking and also for mounting.

Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 6639
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2015, 11:38 AM »
@erock
Like the Domi-drawer. What wood is the drawer front made of?

Just curious, why you chose to use the spacing of the dominoes that you did?

Offline Alex

  • Posts: 6198
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2015, 11:51 AM »
Generally a nicely laminated or painted back panel looks a lot better than the wall behind it. The previous owner of my house built some fixed cabinets against the wall without a back panel. The walls are bricks, plastered and covered with wallpaper. Now, 30 years later, the originally white wallpaper has turned almost orange and looks very ugly. If I want to make this better I have some serious remodeling to do. 

« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 06:09 PM by Alex »

Offline Doug S

  • Posts: 450
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2015, 12:24 PM »
If the cabinets don't have backs and walls are not straight you will have some nice little gaps inside to lose things down.

Offline SMJoinery

  • Posts: 530
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2015, 03:45 PM »
Rigidity of the carcass.
Aesthetically it's nicer to look at matching cabinet interiors.
Some kitchens here have services face fixed to walls and it's ugly to open a cabinet to see the runs of pipes etc.
Vermin, mice etc getting into base cabinets.
Every manufactured kitchen I've ever fitted came with a back. Some covered all of the above but some cheaper ranges made from hardboard couldn't possible help with rigidity!
I always put bases in my drawers even if there is a shelf underneath! [tongue]

Offline John Beauchamp

  • Posts: 107
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2015, 05:03 PM »
All the reasons given are valid.  Sometimes it's just perception on your customers part. If they think it's necessary then it is.  I have always put backs on but I have had several customers comment on it as being very necessary to keep the mice out. I don't think it works but it may slow them down a little. 
TS55REQ, MFT/3, RO90, CT36, DF500

Offline T. Ernsberger

  • Posts: 874
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2015, 05:44 PM »
As said by others it keeps the boxes square,  adds rigidity and looks better.   I would never build a cabinet with out a back panel.  Even if a clinet requested it, i would tell them im not the right person for the job if thats the quality of cabinet they want.   

Offline gkaiseril

  • Posts: 329
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2015, 07:36 PM »
A cabinet back adds rigidity to the cabinet during transportation and make instillation easier. It might even keep stray dust, dirt, etc form entering the cabinet in large amounts. It probably adds the cleanliness of the inside of the cabinet. One could use a much thinner material than what is used for the bottom and sides.
George Kaiser

TS 55 REQ, RO 90, RO 150, CT 26, PSB 420, MFT/3

Offline erock

  • Posts: 1254
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2015, 07:56 PM »
@erock
Like the Domi-drawer. What wood is the drawer front made of?

Just curious, why you chose to use the spacing of the dominoes that you did?


Cheese,
The drawer fronts are made of 3/4" maple plywood.  Edge band all 4 sides. 

The spacing was based off the under mount drawer guides,  and the  location of the pocket screws. 
A pocket screw located above the top domino and between the two dominos is a pocket screw. 

Eric


Offline Wooden Skye

  • Posts: 1151
  • My little girl was called home 12-28-15
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2015, 08:19 PM »
In my opinion, if it is shop furniture a full back is optional, in the kitchen or other situations, I would put a back.
Bryan

TS 55, (2) 1400 Guide Rails, 1900 Guide Rail, MFT/3, Domino DF 500, 2 domino systainers, ETS 150/3, RO 90, CT 26, (2) OF1400, RO 150. RTS 400, LR 32 set, PS300 jigsaw, 3 abrasive systainers, (2) sys toolbox, (2) sys mini, clamps and other accesories

Offline tjbnwi

  • Posts: 6132
  • Cedar Tucky Indiana
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2015, 08:42 PM »
I believe a cabinet must have a back to be AIA and NKBA compliant.

Tom

Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 6639
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2015, 11:30 PM »
@erock
Cheese,
The drawer fronts are made of 3/4" maple plywood.  Edge band all 4 sides. 

The spacing was based off the under mount drawer guides, and the location of the pocket screws. 
A pocket screw located above the top domino and between the two dominos is a pocket screw. 

Eric

Thanks, gotcha...the top domino is lower because of the pocket screw and the lower domino is higher because of the under mount slides, that answers my question.
Never would have known the drawer front was ply & edge banded. Looks like solid stock. Very nice.

Offline socaljohn

  • Posts: 59
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2015, 11:48 PM »
Hey Eric,

Is the drawer front painted black or is that an Ebony stain?
Are the sides solid wood or ply?
If ply, was the top edge banded or just polyed?

On another front, how bout them Buckeyes?

Offline Scorpion

  • Posts: 586
Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #20 on: April 06, 2015, 02:46 AM »
I was taught to add a nailer outside the 1/4-inch back to serve two purposes - makes the 1/4-inch become structural and gives meat to attach the cabinet to the walls.  I do this on all lower and uppers and usually behind fixed shelves as well.  On vanities I use only a nailer and skip the back primarily for ease of install. Sometimes I don't add a back panel to drawer bases in built-ins if the wall behind is finished.

Slot for the quartet inch panel is 1/2-inch in, I always use 1/2 nailers. 



Since walls aren't straight, having a back keeps junk from falling in the crack...basically containment.

Matt
« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 07:51 AM by Scorpion »

Offline T. Ernsberger

  • Posts: 874
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #21 on: April 06, 2015, 07:37 AM »
I was taught to add a nailer outside the 1/4-inch back to serve two purposes - makes the 1/4-inch become structural and gives meet to attach the cabinet to the walls.  I do this on all lower and uppers and usually behind fixed shelves as well.  On vanities I use only a nailer and skip the back primarily for ease of install. Sometimes I don't add a back panel to drawer bases in built-ins if the wall behind is finished.

Slot for the quartet inch panel is 1/2-inch in, I always use 1/2 nailers. 



Since walls aren't straight, having a back keeps junk from falling in the crack...basically containment.

Matt
.rh

This is the right way to build cabinets.  If I have a bigger cabinet I will use 1/2 on the back panel.   Thanks Matt for the pictures!

Offline JD2720

  • Posts: 1106
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2015, 08:21 AM »
Aside from the urge to make an enclosed box, what other purpose does the back panel serve? I don't think I ever see the rear of a base cabinet, 90% of ours have drawers or pull-outs anyway. To see the rear panel I have to be on my knees.

I don't see any structural reason to have the rear panel since the cabinets are fastened to the wall anyway. I guess they may prevent/reduce accumulation of inside the cabinet.

Am I missing something?

RMW

I have been woodworking for close to 50 years For the last 24 years I have been making a living at it. I learned a long time ago that woodworking is a lot more fun if I build things the way I want to, instead of worrying about why others do things a certain way.

Most all woodworkers today do almost everything the same way, because all of the how to books, magazines & seminars say that is the way to do things.  I learned woodworking in a time when there were very few  if any how to books, magazines or seminars. Trial & error is an amazing learning tool & was considered a good thing years ago. 

Offline jmbfestool

  • Posts: 6628
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2015, 08:54 AM »
Spiders?
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Offline Greg M

  • Posts: 285
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #24 on: April 06, 2015, 09:21 AM »
Base cabinets don't need a back under most circumstances.  A nail board and a secured squared bottom will keep the cabinet square and sturdy.  Seal any openings between the cabinet and wall.  No need to waste material or add more weight.  Note, I tongue and grove 3/4" plywood so my base is sturdy with only a nail board needed.  If I used smaller ply then I might switch to a full back.


Offline Scorpion

  • Posts: 586
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #25 on: April 06, 2015, 01:14 PM »


...is a lot more fun if I build things the way I want to, instead of worrying about why others do things a certain way.

...Trial & error is an amazing learning tool & was considered a good thing years ago.

Completely agree!!  A creative side is what brings us new ideas and artistic creations to enjoy.  All of us should encourage those within the craft to use it when possible.  I believe we should also encourage research and/or training to make sure we build creatively and safely.  The structure of a vanity that's going to support a solid surface slab must be strong enough to support it and the wife who decides to stand on it to change a light bulb.  I can build another vanity.

Trial and error has been a cornerstone of my learning over the years.  Understanding the acceptable amount of risk in the trial, and understanding the consequences of the potential error are important. 

Offline pugilato

  • Posts: 579
  • Pugilato is not really my name... Andy
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #26 on: April 06, 2015, 05:01 PM »
I build all bases and cabinets with a back panel except for the one that will house the sink. The main reason for the back panel is to keep the area clean and free of vermin (this is, after all, where you will store food and all the implements to prep and serve it). It also happens to help the case square and prevent racking. The sink base could have a back panel, but there is the inconvenience factor of drilling holes for the sink drain and water supply in exactly the right spot.

But most importantly, I build cabinets with back panels because they look better and more professional with it on, and this is what clients expect.

Offline erock

  • Posts: 1254
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #27 on: April 06, 2015, 06:56 PM »
Hey Eric,

Is the drawer front painted black or is that an Ebony stain?
Are the sides solid wood or ply?
If ply, was the top edge banded or just polyed?

On another front, how bout them Buckeyes?

@socaljohn

The drawer fronts are stained with Rust-Oleum Ultimate Wood Stain, the color is Kona. 
The sides are 1/2" maple plywood with Fastcap Fastedge unfinished real wood maple edge banding.

O-H-I-O BABY !!!    [wink]

Eric

Offline socaljohn

  • Posts: 59
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #28 on: April 06, 2015, 07:24 PM »
Thanks Eric and I agree!

Offline Richard/RMW

  • Posts: 1924
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #29 on: April 06, 2015, 08:46 PM »
Thanks for the responses to my original question. I have to admit a mild surprise in seeing 20+ responses in one day. Great feedback and several take-aways:

I get that professionals would use backs because it appears more professional/finished. That was why I was initially leery of omitting them, it just does not look like I expect a first class product to look. Some of this is probably just my preconceptions, since nearly all cabinets have backs.

I also get the cleanliness argument, although in our case these are utility cabinets in the laundry area so food is not an issue. We also have zero interior pest issues, probably because (1) we have a quarterly pest service (2) the house has spray foam insulation (sealed up tight as a drum) and (3) we are persnickety about keeping it clean. In other circumstances I can see this being more of an issue.

I see less need for backs to preventing racking, since ultimately the cabinet will be screwed to the wall, and shimmed true if needed. Backs certainly would limit racking, but it's probably not the main reason they are widely used.

After considering all the comments and pondering it a bit more, I plan to omit backs in the base cabinets, save a few bucks on material and cut out a couple operations. I will not omit the backs in upper cabinets, simply because I would see that every time I open them.

Thanks again, as always great feedback from fellow FOGer's!

RMW
As of 10/17 I am out of the Dog business and pursuing other distractions. Thanks for a fun ride!