Should you build your electronics into a cabinet?

I have this conversation about once a week, and I’ve had it hundreds of times in the last 30 years or so. It goes like this:

I have a customer who needs to replace his (satellite box, TV, whatever.) The problem is that it’s built into a cabinet. What can we do?

This is one of the biggest problems with consumer electronics that no one talks about. It’s not new, either. I remember it from the late 1980s. A wealthy fellow hired me to replace his computer, which he had built into an expensive mahogany desk. It took a lot of careful work with a small prybar and several other tools to get that computer out of there, but when I was done the damage to the desk was minimal. Of course, after I replaced the computer I am sure this guy hired his carpenter to enshroud it again, but what are you going to do.

Too late to fix the past

Today, you’re seeing a lot of people who want to upgrade their RVs and marine setups. Many of these setups date back to the mid-2000s before the recession hit, and so you see a lot of tube TVs and standard definition receivers. Obviously no one wants that kind of tech anymore. However, getting it out can be a real problem. Most of this stuff is mounted in custom cabinetry with molding that prevents it from being removed easily. Even in the best case scenario you’ll see cabinets where it’s easy to take stuff out but impossible to put anything larger in.

It’s too late to go back in time and tell people not to build stuff in so tightly. And I get it, because in RV and marine systems space is at a premium so it’s hard to say, “let’s leave a ton of empty space” when there isn’t any empty space. But obviously there are problems down the road.

As you move forward

If you’re looking at an upgrade today, I would rethink your strategy of hiding components behind expensive wood moldings. Instead consider mounting them securely outside the cabinet. We have a wide variety of products from companies like Mount-It that can help here. You can mount the TV securely in a very small space and put a satellite receiver behind it, using either a custom mount or some serious industrial Velcro (I’ve seen both done.)

This may not seem like as attractive of a solution and I get that. It also may expose sharp edges that might seem dangerous in an RV or marine situation. I hear you. However, if you start with a solution that lets you remove and upgrade your electronics, there’s always the idea of putting that mounted TV behind cabinet doors if you want. I’m not saying you need to put in a massive amount of empty space there but I guarantee you’ll be glad down the line if you leave yourself a little bit of elbow room in there, if you feel like you have to put everything in a cabinet like that.