We have a bonus room on the top story of our house. The room is built inside the attic; on the other side of every wall is open attic space. I want to use this space to recess our AV equipment in a custom built cabinet; the spot is not load bearing.

The cabinet is 36" x 20" x 20" (HxWxD). I realized the normal width between stud is 16" so I have to accommodate that. I plan to use 1/2" or 3/4" birch plywood from big box, pocket hold jig, and a shelf jig.

Here is where I'm stuck. Do I need to frame out the shelf with 2x4's and lay down dry wall? Or can I build the shelf the width of the stud and join it to the studs? The ladder I would support the back with 2x4 from the floor to roof in the attic. Either way I will need ample insulation around the unit.

  • I'm confused by your mention of joists. Why would you get into the floor framing for this project?
    – isherwood
    Nov 30, 2016 at 15:54
  • The only reason to frame into the floor is to support the rear of the cabinet with a vertical 2x4 as the unit will be 'floating.' Every other mention of joist is for the wall. Nov 30, 2016 at 16:20
  • 1
    Walls don't have joists. They have studs and other components.
    – isherwood
    Nov 30, 2016 at 16:21
  • I see @isherwood, hence the name 'stud finder.' Thanks for the correction. Nov 30, 2016 at 16:23

2 Answers 2


Here's what I'd do:

  1. Cut an opening in the drywall appropriate for your cabinet. Allow for the thickness of your cabinet walls. Cut off the one or two studs that are likely to interfere with the opening, from the back side, 1-1/2" above the opening in the drywall. Cut out the bottom wall plate flush with the sides of the rough opening.

  2. From behind, frame the sides and head with single 2x4s. If desired, add a flat 2x4 on the back side of the wall, spanning the head of the opening, to stiffen the head area. It should extend at least to the adjacent studs and be flush on the bottom with the opening.

  3. Add any floor sheathing needed to support your cabinet. This can be roughly fit and somewhat oversized.

  4. Set your cabinet and trim it out to the drywall as desired.

  5. From the back side, apply vapor barrier and insulation in accordance with your home's existing situation. This could be batts simply suspended from above and tacked at the bottom by nails or whatever.

There's no need to frame up walls around your cabinet unless 1) they'll form the cabinet walls, as in a drywall compartment, or 2) you need them to support insulation.

  • This is great! I need 3 more recesses for speakers and was planning on framing it out and dry walling, but this plan sounds simpler. I've never dry walled but I can build simple items. This will stretch my skills. Nov 30, 2016 at 16:43

Since you say this is a bonus room, it's likely that the joists you are talking about are not load-bearing. Therefore, I would recommend you do just as you suggest - build the shelf between the studs, and tie all the framing together. I would also suggest at the top and bottom where you have a stud (the one that was cut) to run a 2x4 to the adjoining upright studs (the ones that from the walls of this new shelf. Once it's all framed out, lay down the drywall. You may want to use plywood on the bottom (either by itself or under the drywall) to add additional support.

  • So I should frame it out with 2x4s, then lay down dry wall on all sides first? Nov 30, 2016 at 16:21

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