Pantry Doors with Storage

Cabinetmakers brainstorm kitchen storage ideas, and discuss how much shelf space a door can support. May 15, 2012

I've got a four foot wide by three foot deep space that I'm converting into a pantry. Because of the depth, I don't want to use shelves, as I can never find anything at the back.

My thought is to use the doors as storage also. Put 12" shelf adjustable shelf bracket tracks on the back side of each door. Fix shelves with rims to the brackets. Of course the shelf has to have a curved end on side the doors meet so they clear. I was going to make my own doors using a double layer of maple veneer 3/4" plywood, and use 8" black iron gate hinges (three on each side) with bolts instead of screws.

It occurs to me however that the door will have a couple hundred pounds stuff on it, and this will apply a torque on the door trying to bend the top in and the bottom out. I don't have a good feel for how much torque a door can handle this way. Does anyone have any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor C:
How about pull out units with heavy duty slides/hardware?

From the original questioner:
I've given that a thought. Three foot full extension slides are pricey little puppies, and to not have the units too heavy or too deep, I figure it would take two tiers of them, four across. So that's eight sets of slides.

It also means I have to have support for eight sets of slides, which with the weight and width of them, I figure means 2x4 supports and if the slides are the typical 9/16 thick, I lose about 10" of width for support stuff. That's almost 1/5 of the total storage volume.

On a door shelf one foot deep, on a two foot wide door I lose about 2.5 inches on the rounded end, so call it 1.25 inches average space lost - out of 24 inches that's about 4%.

My overall plan is to have swinging door storage on the front, then behind that, another set of shelves hinged with piano hinges to a center column. This allows each one to be folded flat back to the unit on the other side of the support column. And the back wall has a set of fixed shelves sized to one gallon jars. I haven't calculated the clearances for this set yet. My goal is to store a year's supply of staples.

From contributor R:
Those are going to be really heavy doors once they get loaded with canned goods. They also need to be opened completely to get to the shelves in the cabinets (I may not be reading your description correctly, but I assume you want to use the back 24 inches of the cabinet for shelves, which still isn't a practical shelf depth). You also need to take three inches of the width of the shelf to get it to open when the other door is closed, although it sounds like you plan to use curved shelves to do this.

I wouldn't try to put anything on the doors - you'll be fighting alignment problems forever and they will weigh a ton. I would go with beefed up pull out drawers. If you build them out of 1/2 sides and bottoms with good slides you can avoid racking issues and I think it is more practical to use. Good luck with whatever you decide.

From contributor G:
Build U-shaped shelves, with door activated lights. This is a good way to make this awkward space usable. Make your side wings deeper than I did.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor B:
Another option is to make two units that each roll out for access from either side.

From the original questioner:
This illustrates the concept of what I'm considering: three layers of storage. But I'm working with a larger space, and I want to cut the clearances closer than that. In the drawings below the photos make it more clear.

I've looked at the U-shaped storage shelves and Ive used them too. Stuff in the corners vanishes and I think the corners connect to the same place that mismatched socks go. A foot is the deepest I want any shelf, and even that is problematic with small items.

A four foot wide by three foot deep U shelf with 12" shelves has a 2x2 area in the middle. That's 1/3 of the space. It would be better just to use two foot slides and make pull out units. I like the idea of adjustable shelf height soup cans are not as tall as cereal boxes.

From contributor Y:
I had a similar pantry problem/space issue to you (a bit over 36" deep up to 7.5' high). I solved it with a combination of shelves on the door - only 3" deep and full extension drawer slides. As others have mentioned I wouldn't trust more weight on the doors. I divided the space in half vertically - essentially four boxes with drawers and doors and a face frame. There's no issue with strength. For esthetics there are also four drawers in the middle.

Yes slides are expensive, but compared to the labor involved and the number of years to be used I think worth it. Although not a trivial adjustment, the drawers can be varied in height because I drilled holes every 32mm.

I don't like the U-shape shelves because there is so much wasted space, even though things are readily visible. Our pantry holds a ton (well maybe more like 1/2 ton) of stuff and we never fill it. Previously this space was a broom closet that barely held the broom and mop.

The only thing I would change is to make the shelves, especially the upper ones out of a see-through material for better locating things.

From the original questioner:
What determines safe loading for a door? I was planning on two layers of 3/4" plywood (1.5" total) for the doors, and either use gate hardware (8" T hinges) or heavy duty ball bearing butt hinges.

Basically I'm thinking that the forces on this are similar to those on a book case with tracks at the back supported shelves, except (and it's a big except) that the bottom corner on the strike side is floating in the air. This may mean that the steady weight on the shelves will twist the door, pushing the bottom corner out and the top corner in.

From contributor Y:
An easy solution for the steady weight problem is to insert a dowel or slip on that bottom corner of the cabinet. I use either a matching piece or a decorative piece. Bevel the front and file or plane the back part to provide just the right amount of friction.

From contributor R:
A 1 1/2 inch door with strap hinges isn't very formal. I'm assuming this is country or casual architecture. I still think a 1 1/2 inch door with 12 inch shelves loaded down with can goods won't stay aligned and will be extremely heavy when opening and closing, but it is your call. Pull out shelves or drawers seem much more practical. Even with the 12 inch shelves on the doors the 20 plus inch shelves are pretty deep for fixed shelves.

From the original questioner:
It is pretty casual. I was planning on the face that shows being maple veneer, and using Stanley black ornamental gate hinges, three per side. The back face of the door would be GIS 3/4 fir. The two panels would be fastened together with screws with construction panel adhesive between them. The edges would be in 1.5" x 3/8" maple stained dark to match the maple handles used in the main kitchen adjoining.

To hedge my bet: Shelf supports would be dual track supports. This gives me the option to change shelf widths easily. It also makes sense for these doors to be used for low density storage - recycle bins, paper towels, potato chips. I think what I may do is build a prototype door in the garage out of 3/4" OSB, overload it seriously, and see if it deflects.