Nooks for Built-Ins: Stud Cavities


Transcript of Video:

This is Nathan Harrison for If you love built-in cabinets but live in a house that is rather plain, especially a 1-story house, it can be very frustrating trying to find appropriates places for built-ins. You might look through your house and conclude you have no suitable nooks — that you have no nooks at all. But the truth is that your house is actually full of them…very small ones….or rather, I should say narrow. And this is because your wall are mostly hollow. The regular 16″ spacing of studs, creates regular nooks all throughout the house.

Now you like many people may be aware of this, but you may have discounted this as too small to be really useful. Let me begin by pointing out that on high quality housing (custom homes and some high quality spec homes), the stud walls can be 2″x6″ or even 2″x8″, which means a pretty large cavity. A 2″x8″ cavity would be roughly 7.25″ deep in the framing. And, of course 14.5″ wide between studs since studs are 1.5″ thick and spaced on 16″ centers.

More typical, though is the 3.5″ deep by 14.5″ space of a typical wall and of all internal walls on any standard housing. What can go in this space? Well, for starters, we have the ol’ familiar medicine cabinet, and typically these are built into the wall in a space such as this.

Then, of course, there’s those clever fold-out-of-the-wall laundry boards. (Thanks to Dan McCull for the great picture.)

But what else could we use a between-the-studs built-in for? Well, anything that would fit in that space. So…electronics, folders, magazines, catalogs, dry erase board, guns, Cd’s, pool sticks and balls, wine bottles, etc.

The real key is simply to realize the space is there and is at your disposal within certain limits.

I built this between-the-stud access hole on the side of a fireplace (a gas fireplace) to give access to the cut-off.

Now, obviously, this space between the studs is not always going to be empty and available to us. You need to consider insulation issues if you are going to use an exterior wall you might want to use a 1/2″ or 1″ very high quality insulation in sealing behind the cabinet.

And even on interior walls, there’s going to be potential issues with wiring, plumbing, possibly blocking in the wall. And so, one of the big challenges is to find out what is inside the wall with the least amount of damage to the wall that you may have to repair if it turns out there is something in there that can’t be moved. You may want to hire a professional for that. You may feel up to doing that for yourself, but you definitely want to do that investigation first before you assume that you can put this type of thin cabinet inside a stud cavity.