Custom Closet Design/Build

I learned something new this month.  That is, I am capable of building something major with my own two hands!!  Any you know what?  It feels great!

Earlier this month I completely renovated my walk-in closet.  By renovate, I mean gut and build.   It’s important that you know a task this daunting requires planning, patience and perseverance!  In this blog I share my experience building out my dream closet.

Planning the Design & Prework

To be successful in building the closet, I knew I needed a good plan.  I turned to my mom to help make the vision I had in my head become a reality.  She is an electrician and graphic designer, so she had no problem drafting the plan with Microsoft Visio and preparing a supply list. 

 My closet is a 9×9 perfect square with 8-foot ceilings, so it is the perfect canvas for creativity.  The design I wanted has two walls dedicated to hanging clothes, 2 walls dedicated to a dresser storage, shoes & accessories.  The floor was to have a dark stone like finish and the entire closet cabinetry was to be white with glass look glam accents including a flush mount chandelier.  Can you see the vision?  It was to become my own personal boutique space inside my home. 

There are 2 large Tarva 5 drawer chests that serve a focal point in the closet as well as the basis for the design.  The have 4 full size drawers with one additional half size drawer which I felt was perfect for jewelry.  They arrived in 2 boxes and Karl put them together for me, thank goodness!

Patience to deal with the Unexpected

Once the design was complete and the supply list created, the project began.  I was very anxious at first because I wanted the closet done yesterday!  Karl removed the old closet racks and removed the baseboards, and my mom and I pulled up and removed the carpet and padding. One thing to note is when you pull up carpet, if laid properly, it will have a border filled with nails attached to the concrete you will need to remove.  You will need a hammer, a sturdy straight edge or a kit to remove the nails to be successful. 

So, I thought the process would be quick and easy and I would have results in a couple of days.  Then reality set in.  This is a build out from scratch.  All wood needed to be cut, sanded and placed in the proper location where it would be secured in place.  I decided to get the wood and supplies for the project from Lowes.  The overall experience was good, but the one person who was consistently good every visit we made to the store was Zach! 

He was the MVP for me.  For the project I used ¾ inch sanded plywood and 2x4x8 framing wood to build everything.  I started by laying a base with the 2×4’s and covering them with ¾” plywood I cut to size with my circular saw.  I used 2” wood screws to secure the boards using a drill with a Phillips head attachment..  I secured the frame to the wall studs using 3” all-purpose screws.

After the base was finished, I drilled pocket holes in the support boards on both ends.  The reason I used this method is to have a seamless finish and for ease of use.  To prepare the boards I used a pocket hole jig and drill.  The kit came with 2 drill bits but I had to purchase one extra to finish the project. You know that patience I was talking about?  This is one case where it was necessary.  You must have patience when a piece of equipment breaks, or malfunctions, or supplies run out during the project.  Just stop that task that was affected and do something else until your replacements arrive.

I installed the support boards and secured them to the base with 2” pocket hole screws.  I laid the horizontal support boards on top of the vertical boards and secured them in place using 2” pocket hole screws.  I added the dressers and secured them to the vertical supports.

Next, I built cubbies to fit on top of the horizontal supports and slid them in to place carefully.  I secured them using 2” pocket hole screws as well. I continued until the entire top layer of the closet was completed.  I then installed the shelves and secured them with 2” pocket hole screws.  Before I started installing the shelves, all cutting was done in the garage.  Well, the distance from the garage to the closet, and the constant tracking of sawdust through the house, made me move the cutting to the closet.

In order to facilitate the move, I had to buy a worktable to cut the wood.  The worktable was a life saver.

Persistence Is the Key

At this point it’s been a few days of hard work.  Measuring and cutting, measuring and cutting, measuring and cutting!!  It seemed like we were putting a puzzle together that kept generating new pieces!!  I cut so much wood, I had to replace the blade in my circular saw to continue.  After installing all the shelves on the dresser walls, I measured and cut shelves for the hanging walls.  The shelves were used to divide the stalls into shorter areas for hanging shirts and pants.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  The entire closet is built out, now I just had to cut and add trim to finish.  For the trim, I repurposed the old baseboard and used it a crown molding at the top of the closet.  I purchased 4.5” trim for the bottom of the structure and ¾”x ¾” x 12’ unfinished wood strips to cover the vertical and horizontal boards as well as the shelf fronts.  I secured all of the trim with my brad nailer and 2” brad nailsBe sure to purchase the battery and charger for the brad nailer because it does not come with the standard unit.

Next up was sanding.  Even though I purchased sanded wood, I still needed to sand the surfaces to prepare them for painting.  I filled in holes and rough patches with wood filler and let it dry.  This is a very important step, please do not skip and purchase a lot of the filler to make sure you have enough.  I used a hand sander to sand most of the larger areas and just a sheet of sandpaper for the more detailed areas.  The first round of sanding, I used 60 grit, the second, 150 grit, then final 220 grit sand paper for a smooth finish.  I wiped the entire structure down with damp microfiber cloths to remove the sand and dust.  Be sure to wear a protective mask for sanding, goggles and a head covering.  I purchased a mask that had a filter for sanding and for painting.

The next step is finishing.  I applied the first coat of pain by hand.  I wanted to be able to fill in any cracks the sprayer might miss.  After the first coat dries, apply your caulk.  Caulk is probably one of the most important items you will need to finish.  Use it along every seam and smooth as you go.  Allow to dry, then apply the second coat of paint with a paint sprayer.  Doing so will allow you to cover more area faster and evenly. Let everything dry.

Finally, the time came to add the finishing touches.  I installed the hanging rods in each of the hanging sections.  To accomplish this, I used 2” wooden dowels that I cut to size with my circular saw.  I attached the rod mounting brackets using 1”1/4” wood screws and sat the dowels neatly inside.  I put new hardware on the drawers of the chests that matched my aesthetic.  Finally, I installed under cabinet lights to add my special flair.  It’s done the major DIY closet build is complete.  Next up is the floors.

Pulling It All Together

To complete the floor, I used on of my favorite and inexpensive techniques.  The paper bag method.  It requires 3 main items, Elmer’s Glue All, Contactor paper and Polyurethane for Floors.  For this project I stained the floor, so that is one optional item used.  This type of floor is beautiful in its natural color, but I wanted a dark contrast against the white, so I went with a gray stain.

  1. Clean the concrete floor and let dry completely
  2. Prepare Glue mixture – 1 part glue 2 parts water.
  3. Prepare paper – tear into strips and pieces. Crumple up a few pieces to add character.
  4. Dip the paper in the glue mixture and place on floor. Smooth out with gloved hand or paint brush.  Continue until floor is covered.
  5. Dry completely.
  6. Wipe on stain. Let set until desired degree of richness is achieved.  Lightly wipe off excess stain with microfiber towel.  Dry
  7. Apply polyurethane using a varnish spreader. Allow to dry, then reapply a minimum of 3 times.

Once the floor was finished, I hung my mirror, changed my light switch plate and jumped for joy!!.

There are so many details I didn’t include in this write up, but the video will provide more details. I will do a follow up blog that is a Q&A to answer any questions you may have about the project. Please be sure to use the links provided to get some of the materials you need to complete a project like this.

So, what do you think? Do you want to build your own closet? Let me know in the comments.

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