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In my rented apartment, there is a cabinet above the stove which cannot be used for storage - the stove exhaust fan is sitting there. The first photo shows the doors closed with an 18" ruler for scale.

Cabinet above stove - doors closed - 18"ruler

Cabinet above stove - doors open

Closeup - inside cabinet

Despite the exhaust system, there is a lot of empty space in there. I'd like to put in a shelf to store some less frequently used kitchen equipment. What would be the best method to build such a shelf? The cabinet walls seem to be 3/4" thick.

My first plan is this:

  1. Start with two pieces of plywood, a "left half" shelf and a "right half" shelf
  2. Cut a rectangular hole in each piece so that the exhaust duct can pass through the shelf
  3. Mount each half-shelf with right-angle brackets to the side wall of the cabinet
  4. Put a full-width edging strip of plywood at the front of the shelf, joining the two half-shelves

My woodworking tools and experience are limited - I'm at the cordless drill and hand saw level.

Is this a good plan? Are there other approaches I should consider? My main worry is whether I can anchor those wall brackets into 3/4" cabinet walls securely.

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You might want to check the building codes in your area. In my area, only smooth walled rigid ducting can be used to exhaust a gas range (IRC 2012 M1503.1 General. Range hoods shall discharge to the outdoors through a single-wall duct. The duct serving the hood shall have a smooth interior surface, shall be air tight, shall be equipped with a back-draft damper, and shall be independent of all other exhaust systems. Ducts serving range hoods shall not terminate in an attic or crawl space or areas inside the building.). –  Tester101 Feb 3 at 12:10

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A 2 piece shelf is a good plan, but my scheme differs from yours from there. Yours would work, but mine's better (IMO). Instead of plywood, I would use MDF. It's dimensionally stable, easy to work, and paints up very nicely with a very smooth surface.

I would cut a circular hole to fit the duct closely so small things don't fall into the void below. Consider buying a small electric jig saw for sawing. It doesn't have to be very expensive, you will likely find other uses for it once you have one. And it'll save a ton of manual labor! Sell it on flea-bay when you're done if you really don't want it. This all can be done manually if you're a glutton for punishment.

You don't need angle brackets, though they could work. Gluing and screwing MDF cleats to the walls will be much stronger and probably more accurately assembled. You don't really need to attach to the cabinet sides at all. A cleat along the back wall and a front filler panel would be adequate support. If it's not too much trouble, the extra support would not hurt though. I would use construction adhesive for glue.

You will need to pre-drill all fastener holes in MDF. It's too dense to drive anything through it without doing so. You should not use glue to hold the actual shelves, screws alone will allow removal to access the range hood or retrieve items that fell through near the duct. You normally should never run fasteners into the edge of MDF, but in this case it's non-structural just to keep the shelves from moving. Be sure to pre-drill the full screw depth into the cleats because fasteners in the edge of MDF cause it to spall very easily if not pre-drilled.

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One suggestion: to get the location and shape of the cutout for the duct right, make a cardboard template (manila folders work well) first, then trace onto MDF. You can make your mistakes with cardboard and scissors - then cut the MDF once. –  Steve Fallows Feb 1 at 22:45
    
I built a shelf! The key idea here was "cleats". For anyone (like me) who doesn't even know what a cleat is: newtowoodworking.com/cleat . The cardboard template idea was also useful. A jigsaw was the right tool to cut out the semi-circle holes for the duct. –  andrewtinka Feb 9 at 20:50

Another way would be to frame up a 1"x 2" perimeter inside the cabinet to support the shelf, kind of like the 1" x 4" board that's inside the top. I would start with the back inside wall, measure, cut a strip, drill pilot holes for four screws. Then I'd draw a level line on the wall where the top of the 1"x 2" goes and screw it to the wall. Then, I'd repeat this for the sides. For the front piece, which should be the same length as the back piece, I would screw it to the three front stiles. Then I would lay cardboard on top of the 1" x 2"s and make a cutting template for the shelf. The shelf material I would use is 3/4 pine plywood (for support after cutting it down middle). I'd cut the plywood using the pattern, then I would try putting it in the cabinet. It probably won't go, so I would cut it straight down the middle (so the cut will be hidden by the center stile). Then I'd paint the two pieces white, as well as the supporting 1" x 2"s. I would just set the two shelf pieces on top of the supporting rails without attaching them. Not attaching them will also make it easier to service/replace the fan in there.

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