DIY TV Lift Cabinet: A Step-by-Step Guide with Pros and Cons
Follow this simple guide to design and build your own DIY TV Lift Cabinet! But first, learn what you are getting into and why it might not make as much sense as you think.
- There are several drawbacks to consider when building a DIY TV lift cabinet including: cost, time, and quality.
- In order to understand the alternative options, it’s important to know the difference between retail and wholesale.
- Step-by-step guide to building your own TV lift cabinet
- View our customizable TV lift cabinet styles
So you’ve decided you would like a TV Lift Cabinet in your home, now comes the question: should you DIY or buy? With a simple search online, you’ll find a plethora of DIY TV Lift Cabinet tutorials and guides to walk you through building your own TV lift cabinet. After you do 10 seconds of research, you’ll find that all of these guides were written by TV lift mechanism manufacturers trying to rope you into buying their mechanism over their competitors’.
You may find these guides are helpful and building a DIY TV lift cabinet is well within your skillset. If you are the king or queen of DIY, the truth is that a very basic TV lift cabinet is not tremendously difficult. It might surprise you to learn that the benefits of building your own still might not add up. We’re talking DIY, so obviously cost is a big factor but time, and quality should also be considered when looking to build vs. buy a TV lift cabinet. First we can discuss the drawbacks to building your own TV lift cabinet. Then, for those of you who are unwavering, we’ll outline the steps to do it.
DIY TV Lift Cabinet Drawbacks
First things first, let’s discuss what you’re getting yourself into and what some of the potential downsides might be.
Drawback #1: Cost
Trust me, as a serial DIYer, I know the math that is running through your head. You’re likely thinking if you skip the TV lift cabinet manufacturer and just buy the mechanism and build it yourself, you’ll save big. You are banking on the principle of “sweat equity” where you save money by providing your own labor. After all, when you buy retail you are mainly just paying a markup, right? Yes and no. Sometimes it’s a little more complicated than that. Let’s take this hypothetical situation for example.
If you were to call a good TV lift mechanism manufacturer and ask to purchase one mechanism, they would charge you somewhere between $700 and $2,500. That range is for a decent-to-great mechanism that will hold the average 55-inch TV at full retail. And, for the sake of our story, let’s say you go with a mechanism that costs $1,000. After the manufacturer processes your measly little order, the next job in their queue is for their biggest customer, “ACME TV Lift Cabinet”, who placed an order for 3 full pallets of mechanisms . Want to guess how much ACME is paying per mechanism? Probably somewhere in the ballpark of $200-$500. Yikes. Your sweat equity just became a little less valuable. But, you’re still on top! You’re only out $1,000, 1/3 the cost of the average TV lift cabinet, so you are well on your way to saving big. Right?
Before you start celebrating, remember that you still have lumber, finishing materials, and electronics to consider. There goes another $1,000 for the most basic TV lift cabinet. Assuming everything goes according to plan and you don’t have to rebuild any pieces or purchase any new equipment. Best case scenario: you save around $700-$1,000.
Drawback #2: Time
How long does it take to build a TV lift cabinet? Lucky for you, we have built hundreds of TV beds and TV lift cabinets and we can tell you exactly how long it takes. If you know your way around a wood shop but this is your first TV lift cabinet, expect it to take you 15-20 man hours to build. If you are fairly new to both, expect 20-25 hours. Even for experienced cabinet builders, the first time you integrate with new mechanisms there is a steep learning curve. Especially when planning for the nuances of various TV mounting patterns and positions. When you’re planning on your DIY TV lift cabinet, don’t forget to consider the investment in your time.
Drawback #3: Quality
You don’t have to do DIY projects for long before you realize that professionals oftentimes do a better job. It’s not your fault! While you’re at work as an accountant, salesperson, teacher, etc. TV lift manufacturers have been honing their craft, learning to build the perfect TV lift cabinets. Because of where you spend your time, you are at a disadvantage. For example, at Wildwood TV Lift Furniture, we have reiterated our products at least a dozen times each. You will be starting with TV Lift Cabinet version 1.0. While it’s not terribly important for it to be perfect, you don’t want an eyesore in your home. Nothing is worse than a project you have made with glaring imperfections you have to look at every day.
If you dabble in the fine art of woodworking, you know that quality from manufacturers varies wildly. Most these days use subpar building techniques with inferior construction materials. If you buy from a manufacturer do your due diligence! Make sure they are using good materials and good techniques. For example, at Wildwood, we won’t go near particleboard with a 10-foot pole. If you use a good manufacturer, who has a good warranty, you can trust the quality. If the prices seem too good to be true, do a little more digging and find out what corners are getting cut to reduce cost.
Retail vs. Wholesale
One final note before getting into the steps to build a DIY TV lift cabinet, if you decide to do some shopping for cabinets, be sure to go with a wholesale manufacturer and not a retailer. As we mentioned before, wholesalers can give much better prices than retailers. So, a great way to cut cost without sacrificing quality or signing up for an enormous DIY project is to buy direct from the manufacturer. This way, you cut out the middle man and cut out the retail mark-up.
Steps to Build a DIY TV Lift Cabinet
Step One: Find a TV Lift Mechanism
It’s obvious, but the first step to building a TV lift cabinet is sourcing the mechanism. The mechanism is the heart and soul of the cabinet and a good mechanism can make or break your project. Here are a few things to watch out for with mechanisms:
Depth requirement: Some TV lift mechanisms require enormous amounts of space inside the cabinet just for the mechanism. Bear in mind that every extra inch is going to make your cabinet deeper and, therefore, more conspicuous.
Accepted TV sizes: Where are you planning on putting your cabinet? What size TV does that space need? Shop for a mechanism accordingly. All mechanism manufacturers will rate their various mechanisms for the size of TV they will accept. Make sure you find a mechanism that will work with your TV and your space.
Warranty: Check that the manufacturer is reputable. Warranties, customer service plans, and reviews are a great place to start. These are expensive pieces, be sure you are not getting hung out to dry.
How it operates: TV lift mechanisms operate in various ways. Some require a wired remote, some have switches, some are wireless. We feel it’s important to have both a remote and a manual switch. That way, if the remote goes missing, you have a backup. You should also know that most TV lift mechanisms are electric, but some use other lifting methods like pistons or muscle power, so be sure you get the right one for your needs.
Step Two: Find construction plans or design your own
Some construction plans can be found online. Some can be provided by the mechanism manufacturer. Find plans for a cabinet or start from scratch, designing a one-of-a-kind piece for your home. Now is when you need to dive into the nitty gritty of the mechanism’s requirements; each mechanism has height and depth requirements as well as certain tolerances. Read up and be sure you are informed! Remember that you will need to install the mechanism after your cabinet has been totally finished, so you will need access to the inside of the cabinet after it is built and finished.
Here are a few things to consider in the plans:
- How will your joints work? Butt joints? Miters? Rabbets or dados?
- How much clearance does your top require? (see step three for more)
- Where will wires be routed in and out of the cabinet?
- Plan your cuts: much material can be wasted with haphazard cutting.
Step Three: Plan out your top
How will the top of your DIY TV lift cabinet open? Will it hinge open like a door or rest on top of the TV like a hat? Most mechanism manufacturers have both option available, so decide if you like the hinge or hat look better and ensure it is accounted for in your plans. Note that the hinging top can be one of the trickier parts of the TV lift cabinet as most hinges are not designed to function quite like they will in a TV lift cabinet top. They should allow the top to lie flat when closed, present no resistance when the mechanism pushes the top open, and have no springs to keep the top open. If your hinges do have springs, the top will flip all the way open when the mechanism rises and then you will have to manually close the top every time you use it, rather than allowing the receding TV lift to close it.
Step Four: Source lumber and finishing goods
Now that you have a rough idea of how much lumber will be required, it’s time to buy materials. Find a local lumber yard or big box store and determine what materials you will need. You should plan a list before you go. Your list should include: 3/4″ furniture grade plywood, 1/4″ ply backing, solid wood trim, edge banding, fasteners, hinges, a stain or paint, and a sturdy top coat. If you are using a hinging top, consider a felt strip to protect the underside of your top from the mechanism rubbing on it. Finally, don’t forget to buy 10-12% more than you expect to use for waste and fixes.
Step Five: Start building your DIY TV lift cabinet!
Once you have everything planned and purchased, it’s time to make some sawdust! Build your cabinet and start preparing to dry fit your TV lift mechanism. Be sure there is plenty of support where the TV lift mechanism and TV will be mounted to the cabinet.
Once you have a rough, unfinished cabinet, take it for a dry run. Check to see how the mechanism interfaces with the cabinet, make sure there is no bowing where the mechanism is mounted, ensure your hinging top functions as planned, etc. The odds are things won’t go perfectly in this test period. That’s the point! Once the cabinet is finished it becomes much more difficult to fix problems. Root out those problems with this testing period and fix them before any color or varnish has been applied to the cabinet.
Step Six: Finish your cabinet
A wise man once said that the quickest way to gauge a woodworker’s caliber is by seeing a piece they finished. Finishing is one of the most technical aspects of woodworking and it can really make or break your entire project. All of the work you’ve put in up to this point won’t matter if your finishing job is shoddy. So, put in the work and take extra time to prepare. Sand your cabinet well and ensure that you are really ready to apply a finish. Once you are ready, start spraying, brushing, or wiping–whichever method suits you and your project best. Remember that the hinging top will be seen from both the top and the bottom and needs to be finished on both sides.
Step Seven: Install your TV lift mechanism
Once you have waited the appropriate dry time (see label on varnish to see appropriate dry time), it’s time to assemble the cabinet and install the mechanism. Get the top in place and place the mechanism in the cabinet. If you did a dry run there should already be holes in the cabinet where the mechanism will mount, which will make your job much easier. Get the mechanism installed, plug it in, and cross your fingers… it’s time for the big unveil!
Step Eight: Show it off 🙂
Invite some friends and put the big game on. We highly recommend homemade chicken wings for full enjoyment.
Building a DIY TV Lift Cabinet can be an enjoyable project. After it has been completed you will be left with a great focal piece to show off to all of your family and friends. Beware, neighbors will be asking you to help them build their own just like yours. If you are building your TV lift cabinet as a hobby project, it can be fulfilling and purposeful. If you are doing it to try and save money, you will likely find that, to match the quality and caliber of TV lift cabinet manufacturers like Wildwood TV Lift Furniture, you won’t be saving very much money. And, after you factor in your own time, it may not be worth the time and effort. Especially because TV lift cabinets are like pancakes, the first one is really just a tester. After you’re done, there will probably be several things you would change about the final product, which is a real bummer after you have invested 20-30 hours on it and more than $2,000 in parts and materials.
Should you decide that this project is biting off a little more than you can chew, give us a call! We build TV lift cabinets and TV beds that are of such high-quality they would even impress your grandpa… assuming your grandpa is a super discerning woodworker who values things like real wood, strong jointery, and impeccable finishes. With decades of experience and thousands of pieces under our belt, you can trust us with building your piece. Even if you want something custom, remember that we are the manufacturer! We build everything to-order, so you can get the look you want at an extremely reasonable price.