Author Topic: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?  (Read 26218 times)

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Offline BostonMike

  • Posts: 29
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #30 on: April 07, 2015, 03:51 PM »
I had the same question as the OP...interesting answers

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Offline Bob Wolfe

  • Posts: 95
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #31 on: May 10, 2015, 11:19 PM »
last two kitchens I built the sides and backs are 16 mm (5/8) prefinished birch, back is screwed on, sides 4 domino and 5 screws. One or two extra sheets of material don't mean much in a whole kitchen. Cabinets very solid, I like them better for heavy granite tops.

BW

Offline leakyroof

  • Posts: 2280
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #32 on: May 15, 2015, 03:45 PM »
last two kitchens I built the sides and backs are 16 mm (5/8) prefinished birch, back is screwed on, sides 4 domino and 5 screws. One or two extra sheets of material don't mean much in a whole kitchen. Cabinets very solid, I like them better for heavy granite tops.

BW
  I was wondering when someone might bring up the weight of a countertop as an issue.....  Good call   [smile]
Not as many Sanders as PA Floor guy.....

Offline demographic

  • Posts: 552
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #33 on: May 15, 2015, 04:20 PM »
Cos the unpainted plastered wall behind it looks junk, plus nothing falls off the back of the shelf if there's a backboard.

Oh and more importantly, because if I see that someone has missed that simple detail out I might be less inclined to pay them the full amount. I would expect (and won't complain at) the same type of work inspection in return.

Sheesh, do the job properly.

Offline Greg M

  • Posts: 285
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #34 on: May 15, 2015, 11:47 PM »
Cos the unpainted plastered wall behind it looks junk, plus nothing falls off the back of the shelf if there's a backboard.

Oh and more importantly, because if I see that someone has missed that simple detail out I might be less inclined to pay them the full amount. I would expect (and won't complain at) the same type of work inspection in return.

Sheesh, do the job properly.

Who's to say what is proper and what isn't?

Doing the job properly is following the guidelines set forth at the time the contract is set and any codes that pertain to the job.  Beyond that, "properly" is somewhat subjective as long as whatever is built is structurally safe.

A base cabinet does not need a full back to be structurally sound and it is an acceptable practice.

Offline Jimmy FineCut

  • Posts: 274
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #35 on: May 16, 2015, 03:03 AM »
Sheesh, do the job properly.


Agreed!

I would never consider making kitchen cabinets with out backs.





Offline Greg M

  • Posts: 285
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #36 on: May 16, 2015, 09:28 AM »
Instead of talking down to people like one way of approaching a job is right and another way is wrong less just qualify the differences here.  The client, budget and environment will dictate what is built, how it's built and with what materials it's built out of.  Saving $100 or more will mean much more to some people than others.  Now some contractors choose not to work under certain constraints but other do.  That doesn't make one contractor right and the other one wrong as long as what is built is safe and follows any codes that might apply.

Offline Locks14

  • Posts: 291
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #37 on: May 16, 2015, 10:10 AM »
My  [2cents] is that putting a back panel in a new kitchen install is absolute bog standard basic good practice. To leave it out and steal a few bucks is cutting your nose off to spite your face.

1) It adds some rigidity, especially if stone countertops are used.

2) It helps reduce (didn't say stop, but reduce) the critters getting in the cupboard, such as spiders, beetles, insects, etc.

3) It will keep more dust out as even the cleanest homes get dust bunnies under cabinets.

4) It just improves the look and fit/finish.

5) It will stop small objects falling out the back.

If I came across someone not installing backs in base cabinets I would just think them a complete cowboy.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2015, 10:13 AM by Locks14 »

Offline WastedP

  • Posts: 352
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #38 on: May 16, 2015, 10:43 AM »
That doesn't make one contractor right and the other one wrong as long as what is built is safe and follows any codes that might apply.

Simply meeting code means doing the minimum necessary to avoid jail time and fines.

I spent two and a half excruciating years working for a small woodshop in a large institution.  I was the youngest person there by ten years, and the only one on staff that had professionally built cabinets and countertops prior to working for the corporation.  Everyone else had a history of building decks or fences or pouring concrete or being related to an administrator, but no woodworking experience.  Everyone built cabinets according to folklore based on the work of people who made it up as they went along.

The horror.  I saw cabinets built without backs, drawers with particleboard bottoms stapled to the sides from underneath, and white latex primer used instead of edgeband.  When edgeband was used, it was cut from sheets of laminate on a table saw, applied to assembled cabinets with contact cement, then flush-trimmed and filed in place.  It was not uncommon for work orders for office cabinetry to take six months or more to be completed.  In some cases the person that ordered cabinets didn't even work for the corporation anymore.  After spending two days building cabinets for an office only to find out the office no longer existed, it became my policy to meet with the person that submitted the work order, just to be sure they still needed what they ordered.

When I would build cabinets the way I was taught, the shop manager would get angry.  I shifted my schedule so I would be working after he left, lest he see me utilizing 20th century methods in his woodshop.  He chewed me out for dadoing drawer sides and using edgeband.  I'd have to do it in secret when he was gone.  I learned workarounds for purchasing so I could order the correct materials.  It was more like Kelly's Heroes than New Yankee Workshop.

There really aren't certifications or licenses for cabinetmakers here.  Any hack that builds a box can call themselves a cabinetmaker, unlike a plumber or electrician.  Standards and codes are minimal, where they exist.  All you have to stand on is your reputation.  So while it might be subjective to say that one way of building a cabinet is wrong, that judgement is probably based on experience and best practices, not a codified definition of what is minimally acceptable.

Offline Greg M

  • Posts: 285
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #39 on: May 16, 2015, 12:33 PM »
I'll tell you fanboy sites are impossible sometimes (stress sometimes).  Other fanboy sites are the same way. However, fanboy sites are still very useful but usually end up costing you a LOT of money [eek]

What kind of places are you guys installing these cabinets?

My  [2cents] is that putting a back panel in a new kitchen install is absolute bog standard basic good practice. To leave it out and steal a few bucks is cutting your nose off to spite your face.

1) It adds some rigidity, especially if stone countertops are used.

2) It helps reduce (didn't say stop, but reduce) the critters getting in the cupboard, such as spiders, beetles, insects, etc.

3) It will keep more dust out as even the cleanest homes get dust bunnies under cabinets.

4) It just improves the look and fit/finish.

5) It will stop small objects falling out the back.  If there is a gap between a cabinet and the wall just seal the gap.

If I came across someone not installing backs in base cabinets I would just think them a complete cowboy.

1 - Cabinets secured to other cabinets and to the wall are very rigid without full backs
2 - Do you not fix walls with holes or that aren't sealed before installing the cabinets?  You do know it's code.  All penetrations are to be sealed for both rodent control and fire.  You're actually breaking code if you simply cover up openings that aren't sealed.  It's not just the plumber's and electrician's responsibility because that's also in the building code.  That code applies to everyone wether you work under a permit or not.
3 - How in the world is this going to happen if you've got a cabinet flush up against a proper wall?  Simply seal the inside of the cabinet at the wall.
4 - Fit and finish?  We're talking about the back of base cabinets against a finished wall.  Really, most homeowners rarely even see the wall in the back of the base cabinets, never mind care about it.  However, this is where you need to know your client, does he or she care.
5 - I would never install a cabinet up against a wall that was that far out or damaged without insuring that things couldn't fall behind the cabinet.

That doesn't make one contractor right and the other one wrong as long as what is built is safe and follows any codes that might apply.

Simply meeting code means doing the minimum necessary to avoid jail time and fines.

I spent two and a half excruciating years working for a small woodshop in a large institution.  I was the youngest person there by ten years, and the only one on staff that had professionally built cabinets and countertops prior to working for the corporation.  Everyone else had a history of building decks or fences or pouring concrete or being related to an administrator, but no woodworking experience.  Everyone built cabinets according to folklore based on the work of people who made it up as they went along.

The horror.  I saw cabinets built without backs, drawers with particleboard bottoms stapled to the sides from underneath, and white latex primer used instead of edgeband.  When edgeband was used, it was cut from sheets of laminate on a table saw, applied to assembled cabinets with contact cement, then flush-trimmed and filed in place.  It was not uncommon for work orders for office cabinetry to take six months or more to be completed.  In some cases the person that ordered cabinets didn't even work for the corporation anymore.  After spending two days building cabinets for an office only to find out the office no longer existed, it became my policy to meet with the person that submitted the work order, just to be sure they still needed what they ordered.

When I would build cabinets the way I was taught, the shop manager would get angry.  I shifted my schedule so I would be working after he left, lest he see me utilizing 20th century methods in his woodshop.  He chewed me out for dadoing drawer sides and using edgeband.  I'd have to do it in secret when he was gone.  I learned workarounds for purchasing so I could order the correct materials.  It was more like Kelly's Heroes than New Yankee Workshop.

There really aren't certifications or licenses for cabinetmakers here.  Any hack that builds a box can call themselves a cabinetmaker, unlike a plumber or electrician.  Standards and codes are minimal, where they exist.  All you have to stand on is your reputation.  So while it might be subjective to say that one way of building a cabinet is wrong, that judgement is probably based on experience and best practices, not a codified definition of what is minimally acceptable.

Actually the codes require a minimum standard that must be followed to ensure safety.

While I understand what you're talking about the way they put together cabinets is hardly the same as not installing a full back to a base cabinet.  You're trying to compare an overall very poor cabinet to one that simply doesn't have a full back on it.

You guys (meaning in general) seem to be making a federal case out of probably the least important detail in making base cabinets!!!  Not paying someone, calling people hacks or cowboys in a derogatory way for simply stating that full backs aren't always needed does not promote logical reasonable discussion.

Of coarse if the walls aren't in decent shape and at least close to square then that needs to be addressed.  That sometimes means that putting full backs on the base cabinets would be the easiest way to address the problem.  However, that isn't always the case.  Full backs simply are not always needed.

I haven't put a full back in any sink base or vanity that I've made yet.  It's far easier to fix the wall instead of dealing with a full back.  Of coarse I'm also the one doing the electrical and plumbing so I'm looking out for the other trades while I'm building and installing the cabinets.

Now if the customer states they want all cabinets to have wood backs in them then that's what they'll get.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2015, 12:43 PM by Greg M »

Offline roblg3

  • Posts: 751
  • Transforming into a whole new machine
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #40 on: May 16, 2015, 01:10 PM »
The definition of a cabinet is a box.  a box has 6 sides.  granted lower cabinets usually are open on the top (temporarily) until the counter is placed.  I would assert that if the cabinet is firmly attached to the wall WITHOUT gaps, one could say a backless BOX is a cabinet once installed.  It's really a best practice issue.  I have always scoffed at the guys who tell me we do it this way because that's how it's done....if you can't give me a reason WHY we do this, I'll find out for myself...and often I find a BETTER way to do it than "Just Because".  IF the OP can build and sell his backless cabinets and they are sturdy once installed it IS PROPER for HIS style of cabinetry.  I would pay less for it though.  There are books that describe ways of building.  Many offer different techniques.  There might occassionaly be only 1 way to "skin the cat" but usually there are at least several.  I'm usually doing work that other guys won't do and that means I'm doing things in ways people laugh at...but when it comes out sturdy and attractive I am happy and they are impressed...or not.  I don't care as long as I KNOW i've followed basic building practices and the customer is happy their opinion isn't important.  I started out out as "shut up and hold this because you don't even know enough to ask the right questions"  within a few years those same guys were answering to me.  Telling me I've done it this way a thousand times....and I iwould have to tell themm I want it THIS way.  just because you've done it 1000 times doesn't mean it's the only or even the BEST way of doing it.  Creativity is how progress is made.  I mean does any one of us want to HAVE to build using knives and hatchets?????
Rob Gardner
Operator
RL3 Enterprises

Offline Richard/RMW

  • Posts: 1924
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #41 on: May 16, 2015, 05:25 PM »
The definition of a cabinet is a box.  a box has 6 sides.  granted lower cabinets usually are open on the top (temporarily) until the counter is placed.  I would assert that if the cabinet is firmly attached to the wall WITHOUT gaps, one could say a backless BOX is a cabinet once installed.  It's really a best practice issue.  I have always scoffed at the guys who tell me we do it this way because that's how it's done....if you can't give me a reason WHY we do this, I'll find out for myself...and often I find a BETTER way to do it than "Just Because".  IF the OP can build and sell his backless cabinets and they are sturdy once installed it IS PROPER for HIS style of cabinetry.  I would pay less for it though.  There are books that describe ways of building.  Many offer different techniques.  There might occassionaly be only 1 way to "skin the cat" but usually there are at least several.  I'm usually doing work that other guys won't do and that means I'm doing things in ways people laugh at...but when it comes out sturdy and attractive I am happy and they are impressed...or not.  I don't care as long as I KNOW i've followed basic building practices and the customer is happy their opinion isn't important.  I started out out as "shut up and hold this because you don't even know enough to ask the right questions"  within a few years those same guys were answering to me.  Telling me I've done it this way a thousand times....and I iwould have to tell themm I want it THIS way.  just because you've done it 1000 times doesn't mean it's the only or even the BEST way of doing it.  Creativity is how progress is made.  I mean does any one of us want to HAVE to build using knives and hatchets?????

Hey, this thread has become fun...   [big grin] [poke]

Just to clarify, as the OP, I don't make/sell cabinets, I am a DIY homeowner. With that stated, I am the son of an old time carpenter who did everything from renting a backhoe to dig out our basement & laying the block (apparently code-approved filler for CMU included bi-metal Budweiser cans...) on thru framing and finish work. I followed in Dad's footsteps @ home, having done most everything from installing cabinets, electrical/plumbing/framing/drywall, etc., but I don't try to make a living at it. Jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

In any case, it's interesting to see the mini fire-storm created by a fairly simple question.  [dead horse] 

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

Offline jobsworth

  • Posts: 5933
  • Festool Baby.....
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #42 on: May 16, 2015, 05:56 PM »
In the older Ca homes that I've worked on, by older in Ca its 50s-70s. Most do not have backs on them. The old track 1950s track homes appear to have been made from kits and assembled on site. Basically nailed together.

With that being said for me it depends whether to put a back on. If it does require or I desire to put a back on, I screw it to the back of the cab I order to square it up and take a router with a flush cut bit to trim off the access. Sometimes I rabbit the back and fit the rear panel in the rabbit. Sometimes I router a groove in the bottom and sides and slide the panel in.

Basically it's all personal preference and what the customer wants and willing to pay for.

Offline roblg3

  • Posts: 751
  • Transforming into a whole new machine
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #43 on: May 16, 2015, 10:09 PM »
Well gee...i guess I did sound kind of wound up??  LOL
Rob Gardner
Operator
RL3 Enterprises

Offline Linbro

  • Posts: 203
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #44 on: May 16, 2015, 10:57 PM »
Down here (Australia) it's 'industry standard' to have backs on built in cabinets.
 
95% of our work is restaurant/café fitouts, and the architectural drawings we receive, from the Architect or Designer, always specify backs in cabinets, usually a minimum of 16mm thick.

Offline Scorpion

  • Posts: 586
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #45 on: May 16, 2015, 11:04 PM »

Down here (Australia) it's 'industry standard' to have backs on built in cabinets..... usually a minimum of 16mm thick.

Dang, that's almost 5/8-inch.  Why so thick?

Offline JD2720

  • Posts: 1106
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #46 on: May 17, 2015, 08:55 AM »
I have been building & installing cabinets for over 40 years. I know that fact means very little to today's woodworker, but it is a fact.

Backs that are solidly attached to the cabinet do add a lot to the strength to the structure of a cabinet. A cabinet that has a solidly attached back does not rack or twist like a cabinet without a back does. That makes installation much simpler because the installer does not have to be as concerned about twisting the cabinet when screwing it to the wall. This is a huge concern when the cabinets have inset doors with a 1/16" gap around the doors. It is not much of a concern with overlay doors.

Installing counter tops on backless cabinets can also cause problems if the top is bowed or warped. Bowed & warped is kind of a standard for particle board based laminate tops. I have never had an issue with bowed & warped tops on cabinets with backs. I have had lots of problems on cabinets without backs, because the cabinets do not have enough strength to pull the tops down.     

Offline Holmz

  • Posts: 4010
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #47 on: May 17, 2015, 06:45 PM »

Down here (Australia) it's 'industry standard' to have backs on built in cabinets..... usually a minimum of 16mm thick.

Dang, that's almost 5/8-inch.  Why so thick?

To keep the spiders and mice out.

Offline jacko9

  • Posts: 2381
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #48 on: May 17, 2015, 08:25 PM »

Down here (Australia) it's 'industry standard' to have backs on built in cabinets..... usually a minimum of 16mm thick.

Dang, that's almost 5/8-inch.  Why so thick?

To keep the spiders and mice out.

Spiders, rats and mice out and too add strength to the box structure.

Offline Linbro

  • Posts: 203
Re: Why do we put back panels in base cabinets anyway?
« Reply #49 on: May 17, 2015, 09:56 PM »

Down here (Australia) it's 'industry standard' to have backs on built in cabinets..... usually a minimum of 16mm thick.

Dang, that's almost 5/8-inch.  Why so thick?

To keep the spiders and mice out.

Spiders, rats and mice out and too add strength to the box structure.

Yeah, adds heaps of strength. Almost impossible to pull it out of square/put a twist in it. Much easier to fix off power/data points etc. as well.
I've used 12mm sometimes, and it's fine, it's just more convenient using the same thickness board for the whole carcass.