I was inspired by another hack to build my own variant of their deluxe cat litter box furniture solution …
In addition to the goals of that project, namely:
1. Being attractive enough to be in the living space,
2. Having top entry to allow gravity to work to keep litter inside, and
3. Having horizontal elements to allow cat litter mats to trap litter as they walk across them,
I had the additional requirements of:
1. Needing space for 2 litter boxes with lids (to contain litter and pee inside the boxes),
2. Both the cabinet interior and the boxes themselves needed to be easy to clean.
The elaborate design I came up with has 2 “floors” made of fully extendable MAXIMERA drawers, and a lift top. This makes it much easier to reach the litter boxes, remove their lids, and scoop, and makes the cabinet interior more accessible for vacuuming.
IKEA items used:
- 24″ SEKTION base cabinets x 2
- 24×24″ MAXIMERA low drawers x 2
- 24″ UTRUSTA low drawer fronts x 2
- 24×24″ UTRUSTA shelf (2-pack, but only needed one) x 1
- 12×30″ BODBYN off-white doors x 4
- 153° UTRUSTA hinge 2-packs x 4
- ENERYDA handle 2-packs x 2
- 24″x30″ HÄGGEBY doors, white x 2
- SEKTION assembly kits for Kitchen Island x 2
- EKET adjustable metal foot 4-packs x 2
Non-IKEA items used:
- 8oz can pre-stain x 1
- 8oz can natural pecan stain x 1
- 4×8′ sheet of 3/4″ carpentry-grade red oak plywood x 1
- 1 roll of 13/16″ red oak iron-on edge banding
- 8oz jar of stainable wood filler x 1
- 1 package 1 1/4″ countersink wood screws
- 1 package 1″ round top wood screws
- 8oz can polyurethane x 1
- 1 qt paint thinner
- Rockler torsion hinges x 4
- 35×24″ cat litter-trapping mats x 2
- Cordless drill, with both Phillips and regular drill bits
- Hand-held jigsaw
- Dremel tool
- Utility knife
(Purchased for project:)
- 3.5″ mouth x 18″ clutch-style bar clamps x 2
- 1 Forstner drill bit set, (including 1 3/8″ and 3/4″ Forstner bits)
- Small veneer roller
- 1 pkg assorted grit sandpaper pads with velcro mounting block
- Tack cloth
- Natural bristle brush
- 1 package of painters’ tripods
IKEA materials: ~$650
Non-IKEA materials: ~$250
(Additional) tools investment: ~$100
Total cost: ~$1000
Steps for DIY cat litter box furniture
1) Assembling the first SEKTION base cabinets
My litter boxes (including lids) were 22″d x 16.5″w x 18.5″h, and 19″d x 14.5″w x 17″h, respectively.
I couldn’t find any other IKEA cabinets which would be deep enough to hold either of them. So I decided to use SEKTION 24″ base cabinets and create a two-floor system within them.
I measured to ensure everything would fit, and figured out where I needed to install the drawers and the shelf to provide the cats’ interior access. (The smaller box would go on the “upper floor,” and the larger one at the bottom.)
Making the interior cuts
I traced out and made my first set of cuts on the interior wall of the first cabinet using a hand-held jigsaw. I also traced out and cut a hole in the back of the first drawer bottom to allow access to the lower level of the cabinet system.
After this, I assembled the first cabinet mostly as per IKEA instructions although without any worktop or wall mounting. I didn’t bother with nailing the thin back panels in place, and this turned out to be a good decision.
That was because I was adding an exterior back anyway. And, because I later realized I had incorrectly installed the panels white-side out, which would have been impossible to fix had I nailed them in. I then installed the “upper floor” drawer with the cut-out in its bottom.
(Note: Even though I measured, it turned out I was able to raise the drawer rails here one inch higher, allowing me to eventually enlarge the lower level entry hole. This proved necessary to provide sufficient access to the box on the other side of the cabinet for my bigger cat. YMMV…)
2) Making the second cabinet
I used the cut side panel to template and make the cuts on the second interior panel. I then assembled the second cabinet, screwed the two cabinets together using 1 1/4″ countersink screws, and installed the “entry” shelf.
TIP (lesson learned): Use clamps when screwing the cabinets together, and pay special attention to ensuring the cabinets are aligned on both the front and back. This is important for getting both flush front doors and a flush cabinet back, which, in turn, was especially important later for hinge alignment when mounting the lid.
3) Installing the MAXIMERA low drawer
Next, I assembled and installed the other MAXIMERA low drawer at the very bottom of the second cabinet, and then moved on to the doors. I assembled and hung the first set of doors as per IKEA instructions.
4) Installing the doors
Installing the second pair of doors proved to be one of the trickier parts of the hack. The lower drawer needed to be at the very bottom of its cabinet in order to provide enough clearance below the entry shelf for the lower litter box’s lid.
But IKEA doors are mortised to place the hinges in the same holes in the SEKTION cabinet as the drawer rails use when installed in that lowest position. So I had to cut new hinge mortises in the bottoms of the doors to raise where the lower hinges would be mounted.
UTRUSTA hinges use a 35mm primary mortise hole, and 9mm holes for the two smaller hinge pins. I used a 1 3/8″ (~35mm) Forstner bit for the main mortise, but since 9mm drill bits are not common in the U.S., I used a 5/16″ (~7.9mm) drill bit for the smaller holes and then my Dremel tool to widen those holes to ~9mm.
I measured from the door edge to the center of the mortise to match next mounting point in the SEKTION cabinet at 6.25″, and the depth from the edge of the door at 7/8″. Then I used some of the very thin paper that came with some of the IKEA packaging to trace out and align the smaller holes to the larger mortise.
After remortising and mounting the doors on the repositioned hinges, I attached the ENERYDA handles as per package instructions. (In the pics below, my unfinished plywood top is just resting on the cabinet.)
5) Installing the EKET adjustable feet
Next, I temporarily removed the shelf, tipped the cabinet on its side, and installed the EKET adjustable feet on the bottom, to allow the cabinet to be leveled, and provide clearance for the doors to swing open without scraping the floor.
Note: This step probably can be done earlier, and in fact, I had to do it before I could properly finish adjusting/aligning all the doors, as my floors proved uneven and were warping the cabinet frame until I leveled it. (Also note: the shot below was taken after I had properly attached the outer back, using the feet as clamping points.)
6) Reinforcing the back for the lift top
Because I wanted a lift top, I had to add a more substantial back to the cabinet which could support the hinges and the lid. For this, I used two inexpensive 24″ white HÄGGEBY door panels.
I aligned their exterior edges to be flush with the edges of the cabinet. This left a small gap between them in the middle (shown in pix below), but I didn’t mind that, as the unit would still be against a wall.
To attach the panels to the cabinet, I used 2 SEKTION Kitchen Island assembly kits to get solid mounting points and brackets for securing the doors to the cabinet from the inside.
I cut and installed the presswood planks from the kit as instructed, placing one plank at the top and bottom of the back of each cabinet. Although one kit would have provided all the plank material necessary, I needed two kits to provide me with enough brackets to attach at both the top and bottom of each door on each side (8 in total).
I put 3 additional screws through the top plank into each door panel to ensure good connection to the back below the hinges. And I used longer (1″) screws to attach the bottom of the doors through the brackets to the frame. (As there are no cutouts in the interior back at the bottom, and the combined material was too thick to get enough get a good bite into the doors with the provided screws.)
As mentioned earlier, I also ended up clamping the door panel bottoms to the back using the feet installed above before screwing the panels into place, to force good contact and ensure a secure connection. (The shot below was taken after I attached the hinges, but before I had taken this extra step, and you can see the gap along the side that I needed to fix.)
7) Lift top construction
Making the lift top turned out to be the hardest part of the project. I wanted a wooden top, but unfortunately EKBY natural finish shelves are no longer sold in the U.S. And the various butcher block solutions available through IKEA were all too thick, heavy, and expensive for my purposes.
So I had a 25×50″ piece cut from a sheet of carpentry-grade red oak plywood. Then I cut the entry hole in the top using my new 3/4″ Forstner bit to get rounded corners, and the handheld jigsaw to connect these “pilot holes.”
I cut from the top side of the board so that any plywood damage wouldn’t be too visible. But I learned: when drilling through plywood, clamp another piece of scrap plywood below the work piece. This way you won’t get “chip out” as you punch through. (I had to use wood filler and glue to repair some damaged plywood veneer on the bottom of the lid because I failed to do this.)
To finish the top, I sanded the entry hole cuts to make the edges clean and smooth. I used wood filler to repair any remaining surface defects along the plywood edges. Then, I applied 13/16″ red oak pre-glued, iron-on edge banding to the outer and entry-hole plywood edges to make it look like a solid wood panel.
I ironed in ~1′ sections as I worked my way around the piece, using a veneer roller on each section after ironing it to ensure good even glue contact. Then, I carefully trimmed the excess material with a utility knife, placing each edge on a scrap piece of plywood to provide backing support as I cut.
Next, I sanded, pre-stained, stained, and polyurethaned the piece as per the manufacturer’s instructions for each finishing step. With all the steps and drying time, it took several days to complete the work.
8) Mounting the lid
To mount the lid, I went “all out” and installed 4 rather expensive Rockler torsion hinges. I’m sure other solutions might have worked. But the beauty of torsion hinges is that they keep the lid at whatever angle you let go of it. They require no separate props to hold it open.
They also effectively provide a “soft close” and there are no side mounts to deal with. So, to me, it just seemed like the best way to go. (Rockler sells these hinges in various strengths to support different size lids. They also provide a calculator to help you get the ones you need.)
However, it turned out that the hinges were meant for a panel slightly wider than the HÄGGEBY doors. To solve this problem, I made 4 small shims of “plywood” from the iron-on edge banding I had purchased for the top. I cut 5 “plywood layers” of banding to size for each hinge. Stacked three layers facing one way and two facing the other, so that all the glue would be inside the resulting piece.
I then ironed them together. Rolling each with the veneer roller to ensure thorough glue contact and a resulting strong, flat piece of very thin plywood. These were a snap to make. And they proved to be perfect for ensuring that the hinges were mounted squarely to the door panels without any gap. I placed them between the inside of the panels and the bottom of the hinges. Marked and drilled the pilot holes, and then screwed the hinges into place with the provided screws.
Once the cabinet back and hinges were properly attached, I laid the unit on its side. I raised it up with leftover plywood to slide the lid under the hinges. Then, marked and carefully drilled shallow pilot holes on the lid, before attaching the lid to the hinges using the provided screws. (Having the back panels be flush with each other at this point was essential.)
The extravagant litter box is done
Although more expensive than I had hoped, the finished cabinet works really well. It saves my back and knees when cleaning it, and my cats are happy with it so far. (I didn’t add stairs to the side, as they can easily jump up onto the cabinet. These can be added later, as necessary, when they get too old to make the leap.)
Lessons from this cat litter box furniture
I completed the project over roughly 3 weekends. If I had it to do over again, I would make the top 26″ or even 27″ deep. This would allow for the (unaccounted-for) added width of the HÄGGEBY back panels, and allow for more of an overhang over both the doors and the hinges.
Also, I might choose 30″ cabinets and drawers vs. 24″. The extra space would allow me to put the cat litter refill box inside the cabinet itself as well, and allow more horizontal space for trapping litter.
On the other hand, a larger cabinet would require a larger spot along the wall and a longer top. The latter would then likely exceeded the maximum weight limit for the torsion hinges, so I would then have to sacrifice the lift top.
~ by Will Sadkin