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Creating closet space

In our remodeling company, the most common request from men and women alike is for more storage space. They ask for closet organizers, more closets, more shelving, bigger closets and the like.

Adding a closet is not so difficult or expensive if you build it yourself. Before starting construction, stack empty cardboard boxes where the closet will be located, rearrange the room and keep it that way for a few days to be certain you have made a decision you can live with.

A closet is nothing more than four walls and a door. But, building a closet into the corner of an existing room requires adding just two walls and a door. As a matter of fact, if you choose floor-to-ceiling sliding wardrobe doors, the project would require the construction of only one wall and no door opening.

Floor-to-ceiling wardrobe doors have many advantages. They are inexpensive, easy to install and allow full access to the storage area that they enclose. But, be careful not to change the character of your home by altering closet door styles. Closet doors in the master bedroom should match one another, but needn't match the doors to the closets in secondary bedrooms. Closets in secondary bedrooms should match. Hall and kitchen closet door styles can be different from one another and different from other areas of the home.

Purchasing a door is the first step in closet construction. If you are exceptionally handy, you can make the door and frame yourself, but our advice is to buy them ready-made and preassembled. A prehung door can be purchased for as little as $40.

In this project we will use 2x4s at 16-inch intervals to build the wall frames. And, our example will have two walls and a door opening. After the door size has been determined, it can be used to lay out the wall locations on the floor. Tape or other nonpermanent methods should be used to locate and mark the length and depth of the closet onto the floor. Remember that the interior of the closet after wallboard has been applied should be at least two feet deep. Length will depend on how much room is available.

With the layout of the front and end walls marked, attach a 2x4 flat on the floor to make up the bottom plate. Three pieces of bottom plate will be needed, one on either side of the door opening and one for the end wall. Leave about 3/4 of an inch of shim space on either side of the door at the opening on the floor.

Next, the two vertical 2x4s that will go against the existing walls should be installed. Toe nail the top and bottom ends of the two vertical pieces into the top and bottom plates of the existing walls. Use a level to ensure that the wall connections are plumb. If the vertical pieces do not align with an existing stud, use toggle bolts to connect the uprights to the wallboard. Next, attach the front and end top plates to the ceiling. No cut-out for the door is required here.

With the top and bottom plates in place, the uprights can be added. They should fit firmly into place, but it is important not to force them. Use three toe nails at the end of each upright into the adjacent top and bottom plates. As the walls are constructed, make sure that the corner framing provides wallboard backing at the inside and outside. Last, a horizontal piece should be added to reduce the size of the door opening to the proper height about 3/4 of an inch above the top of the door frame.

With the frame complete, all that is left is to install, finish and paint the wallboard and the door and any moldings needed to match the room such as baseboard or chair rail. Although cove moldings can be used to hide the joints between the new and existing walls, we suggest that the connections be made with joint tape and taping compound. Most folks can install wallboard as well as the best tradesman, but it's probably prudent to enlist the services of a drywall finisher to ensure an invisible match between new and old.


James Carey and Morris Carey are nationally recognized experts on home building and renovation.

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