If you missed the previous two posts, I talked about the design process for our new closet, and the purchase list and building process. Check ’em out! 

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Just as a reminder here’s where we started. Our closet is a small 59″ deep by 71″ wide walk-in that previously was outfitted with rubbermaid shelving.

closet-mess-before

Two weeks worth of planning, two weeks of purchasing, building and painting, just under $500 and here’s our new extremely efficient and organized closet!

DIY Closet Built-ins for under $500

Much better right? I’m in love!

Each of the towers is fastened against the wall with an L bracket on top of the tower so we don’t have to worry about it falling over.  The towers are very quick and easy to remove should we eventually decide to move some walls around when we remodel the adjacent bathroom.

To trim out each of the towers, we used the nail gun to fasten some shingle molding on the top of the towers, and baseboard molding along the bottoms. I also used some extra 1×2 to trim the front of the shelf that sits directly over the top drawers in each tower so that we wouldn’t have a awkward gap between the shelf and drawer.

Trim over Drawers

We chose closet rod supports that also supported a shelf on top so that we would have two shelves along the back wall. Those are trimmed out with simple 1x2s.

Man's -top-shelf-shoes

Along the bottom of the back wall of the closet we re-used some ClosetMaid shoe organizers we previously owned.  The shoe organizers are made out of particleboard, which is fine for shoes, but we had horrible luck with a few sets of the matching drawers over the years that just fell apart.  During the design process, I struggled with how to use all the corners in the closet, while not blocking off access to the clothes/shoes in each corner. The towers are only 15″ deep, so we can still reach each corner fine and just put the clothes and shoes that we use the least, furthest into the corner.

Shoes

Montana’s side has a thin tower with just shelves so that its symmetrical with my side. He has more folded clothes than hanging.

Man's side of closet - top shelf - shoes

I needed a small area for dresses, across from Montana’s thin shelves, and used some extra pieces of wood to put in shelves above and below to match his side better and maximize efficiency. womens-side shelf-above-dressesshelf-below-dresses

We’re liking the cedar floor so far, it gives a great fresh scent to the closet instead of smelling stale and I don’t have to worry about bugs eating away at our wool!

Cedar Floor

Montana did an awesome job on the recessed lights. They make a HUGE difference in the room since the light is coming from multiple directions now instead of just from the wall above the closet door.

Recessed Lights in Closet Recessed Lights in Closet

Now that we we have a better organized system, we still have leftover room, and thats after we put back ALL of the clothes that were in there before, AND added all of our shoes that used to take up their own closet!!!  In the future, we can still add another shelf on each of the side walls above the shoes that are there now if it turns out we need more shelves. We hope you like it as much as we do!

If you missed my post on our design process for the Master Closet, click over here to catch up

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Armed with a shopping list I wrote on a paint sample, we set out to Home Depot to purchase everything we’d need for the closet. We had all the plywood ripped length-wise at the store so that we could fit everything in the Escape to take it home.

shopping list for home depot

Here’s a Home Depot – Shopping Cart with a complete materials list for 3 towers. (Our closet is 59″ deep and 71″ wide) Some things we bought at Lowes because they ended up being noticeably cheaper, or they weren’t carried at Home Depot. For example, the drawer pulls I chose were about 30% cheaper at Lowes. Also, Home Depot doesn’t carry the Kreg brand.  We already owned a Kreg Jig Pocket Hole Systembut we still needed a jig for creating shelf pin holes so we could have adjustable shelves. I read reviews on a bunch of different shelf pin jigs and I’m happy I went with the KREG Shelf Pin Drilling Jig because it is a great product!  We also bought the recessed swivel lights at Lowes, but turns out they’re cheaper on Amazon.  We already had painting supplies on hand since we used the same paint as for our trim the house, Behr Ultra White in Satin. We also already had wood glue and nails for the nail gun. 

All total, our purchases came out to just under $500. The 10% military/veterans discount at Lowes and Home Depot really comes in handy on large jobs! $500 is not exactly cheap by any means, but it’s about the same price as we would have spent on the cheapest option 25% off at Ikea (the algot system), and it’s fraction of what we would have spent on similar pre-made products of lesser quality.

One thing that could have drastically cut down the price of our build was the plywood used. We chose Purebond Plywood for a few reasons. Cost was definitely a factor against it and I will say that we considered lower quality plywood and MDF to save money. MDF would have saved us about $100, but the boards at Home Depot were all fraying on the edges, and I was afraid that would give us some issues based on how many cuts we’d have to do. There were lower grades of plywood, but they were all warped, or really rough and knotty. The factors going for Purebond were that its Formaldehyde-free, made in America, and has a BEAUTIFUL smooth veneer coat. In the end we decided the extra money was well worth it for a much superior cabinet-grade product. Believe me…. at over $45 a sheet, we thought about it for quite some time. (Keep in mind material costs vary across the country so it may be cheaper where you live.)

Another area where we could have saved about $30 would have been by getting the basic grade closet rods instead of the heavy duty brushed nickel. I liked the brushed nickel  because it matches our hardware and really felt much more sturdy. I was afraid the basic grade closet rod would have sagged from the weight of our clothes since it was going to be across a 71″ wall. We could have added more supports for the cheaper rod, but then you negate the savings.

I took off a day that Friday from work so that we could hopefully finish in one weekend.  Montana got started tearing apart the closet upstairs and installing the recessed lights.

 demo-closet

Tiffany and I started by priming all the plywood on the inside since I figured that would be easier than doing individual pieces once they were cut.

primed cabinet pieces plywood

Then I started measuring and cutting, and measuring and cutting… to be exact, there were 127 pieces to be cut to size. In case you don’t fully appreciate my pain right now, I’ll repeat that… 1  2  7  pieces. Needless to say Day 1 for me was mostly measuring and cutting, and putting pieces into organized piles so I wouldn’t forget which pieces went with what. (TIP: If you’re building with a friend, make sure the person that is most OCD is in charge of measuring and cutting and organizing the piles.)

After cutting all my pieces, I started drilling all the shelf pin holes.  We decided to do adjustable shelves so we didn’t lock ourselves into something that ended up not working out for us later on. The Kreg Shelf Pin Jig is super easy to work with. It comes with an adjustable bit, a fence to hold it square against the edge of your board, and a locating pin to make sure your holes are all evenly spaced when you move your jig down the board. You also really need to use a clamp so you don’t accidentally move your jig in the middle of drilling a hole.  Its easiest to start with your jig flush against the end of your board and drill only the hole furthest from the end of the board. Clearly you don’t need a shelf thats only 1″ tall, but 6″ in is pretty good.

Shelf Pin Hole 1Then you you just pull off your jig, and set the locating pin in the hole you drilled, and slide the first hole of your jig over the locating pin. You can only drill 5 of the 6 holes each time you move the jig, since you always have 1 of the holes used by the locating pin. This is tedious… try not to fall asleep.

Drilling Shelf Pin holes

Next came drilling pocket holes in the tops and bottoms of my tower frame pieces. You want the pocket holes to be facing the outside of the tower (top of the top and bottom of the bottom) so no one sees them and you don’t have to fill them with plugs or wood filler. The towers were 72″ high without the base, so quite awkward for one person to manage. Tiffany helped me get the boards all squared up and we used wood glue before securing with corner clampsand pocket hole screws. Because we were putting drawers in 2 of the 3 towers, getting the tower square was very important. I wish we would have had a few more corner clamps to help us along,  it turned out ok, but definitely not perfect.

Tower Frame built

Next came 1 x 2 pieces that I wood glued and pocket screwed together on the backside before using the nail gun to secure the entire face frame to the front. The top of each of the towers got a 1 x 3 instead of 1 x 2 since it looked a little more polished. We don’t own a jig saw yet so we left them square.  

Tower with Face Trim

The base is made out of 2 x 2s and was cut to be just as tall as the baseboard molding we picked out, 3.25″, thus making the total height of the towers just over 75″ tall.  Ana makes a complete rectangle bases for her towers, but I would have had to buy an extra piece of 2 x 2 and decided to save a few dollars by just putting a brace across the middle of the tower making an H instead of a rectangle. It seems to be sturdy enough so far. Tower with Trim and Base

 

While I continued in the basement Montana was upstairs installing the cedar plank floor using the Cedar Safe Closet Liners. Unfortunately, it looks like the quality is really not what it used to be with this brand. Most of the boards were warped just enough that the tongue and groove ended up being mostly useless. The boards wouldn’t stay clicked together and if you tried to pull them into each other to force them straight they would end up cracking.  So, we ended up with some gaps between the boards, which will inevitably collect dirt, and doesn’t look 100% good.   Keep in mind though, that the manufacturer recommends they be used for closet walls or ceilings, not floors. Some people would say thats because the walls and ceiling cover more square footage forcing you to spend more money on the product.  I think they get away with making an inferior product by not mentioning it for floor use because on the wall or ceiling it doesn’t really matter as much if the boards are warped because you’ll be putting clothes in front of it and won’t be able to see the problem areas.

The closet’s been done about a week now and with us walking on it every day, we haven’t seen any boards split or crack since the installation.  We’ll see how they wear over time and as I said in the previous post, decide whether to keep them or remove them when we redo the rest of the floors on that level. In the meantime they look okay, and they smell wonderful. All in all, it was only $60 for the floor and for that price I think its satisfactory for now. cedar-floor-2 cedar-plank-floor1

It would figure that the most frustrating part of the entire closet remodel is the part where I apparently took no pictures… Drawers… those darn drawers. I seriously question what made me decide that we should do 7 drawers. The tower on my side of the closet got 3 drawers all 6″ tall. Montana got 2 drawers that were 10″ tall and 2 drawers that were 6″ tall. Again, the drawers need to be extremely square so that you don’t have issues using them with your drawer slides. It was miserable. They are literally the only reason I’m not ready to go to Home Depot tomorrow to start on built-ins for our office. SERIOUSLY MISERABLE.

First, I built all the drawer boxes, and then I built the faces of the drawers. Since I took no pictures, you’ll have to pop over to Ana’s blog to see the tutorials on each. Just picture lots and lots of pocket holes, and lots and lots of glue.

Finally, comes painting! It took us about 3 coats, which used up a few days.  Note to self…don’t do built-ins in the dead of winter and force yourself to paint in the basement when you could use your awesome paint sprayer to paint outside saving you tons of time!  Also… don’t decide to do a project that takes over your basement gym right after new years…oops.

basement-painting-zone

Finally we were able to start installing the closet rods on the back wall of the closet and carrying the towers upstairs.

start-tower-install

It took me most of a day to install all the drawers… but alas they finally came together.

drawer-installation

Which is good… because I was going crazy living with this for two weeks.

Messy Bedroom

Check back soon for the final reveal!

Sometimes I think back on the days when I was single and lived alone and maintained a spotless organized apartment and I laugh at what my past self would have thought when visiting our house now.   Oh… my… gosh… the dirt, dog hair, and clutter that come with a family and pets in the house. Keeping our house clean and tidy is a constant battle now that I usually feel I’m losing, so I’m always looking for ways to more efficiently use our space and make things more organized and easy to clean.

As I mentioned in our house tour, our master bedroom has a sitting room that was originally a 4th bedroom before previous owners knocked out part of the wall. I toyed with the idea of using it as a full size dressing room, but decided that probably wasn’t best for resale. In the meantime I’ve been using our small-ish walk-in closet for our clothes, and the sitting room closet for our shoes.  I get lots of “you have a whole closet for shoes!” comments from friends who are sweet enough to overlook what a disaster our walk-in is 95% of the time. Part of the problem with our walk-in is that it’s relatively squarish and has too many corners with overlapping wire shelves. Corners as such a pain when designing closets to be fully efficient. Also, our wire shelves didn’t have a separate clothing bar that you could slide clothes on, so putting clean clothes away was always a battle with trying to find an open little square.

We also had lots of open wall space, but not enough shelves for Montana who doesn’t have as many hanging clothes as folded. Usually this meant his “folded” clothes would end up in a haphazard heap on some old closetmaid drawers we brought with us from the condo. I’m ashamed to admit that other than the 5% of the time RIGHT AFTER I organized, our closet looked something like this…

closet-mess-before

 

For a long time I’ve struggled with wanting to put built-ins in the closet, but wanting to wait until we refinished or replaced the very worn hardwood floors in the bedroom. Also, I wasn’t positive that  when we eventually remodel the bathroom that I wouldn’t want to tear into some of the closet walls and move things around. So, our mess continued to wreck havoc.

There’s some great closet systems out there but they can get very pricey, very fast. I’m a big fan of the PAX System from IKEA because it can look really beautiful with a little added molding and lighting, but I’ve seen it in people’s homes where it started sagging almost immediately.  For our size closet, with the rough design I wanted, it came out to $1040. That’s a lot of money for something made out of particle board in my opinion. On the plus side, its ready made and I’m sure could be put together in a day or two tops. Also, IKEA has a very convenient planner tool, so as long as you know the measurements of your space its VERY easy to play around and design exactly what you want.

pax-bedroom-design

The week after Christmas I got an email from Ikea mentioning that their ALGOT system was going to be on sale 25% off until the end of January.  The ALGOT system is much cheaper than the PAX system even at full price and is very similar to the Container Store’s ELFA line (that is about $2,500 for a walk in closet).  I don’t particularly love the look of it, but I thought that we could do it for pretty cheap and it would go up super fast.  Here’s a sample design. algot-wall-upright-shelves-rod

 

After browsing through some of their pre-designed sections and I found the prices to be very reasonable I convinced Montana that we should get an ALGOT system to harness our clutter for at least a few years until we decided what to do with the master bath and the floor.  Then we could always take it out and use it in the laundry area or sell it on craigslist.  Designing the ALGOT system is pretty time consuming because a.) there’s no planner and b.) you can’t just take the length of the shelves or drawers and add them up if you’re making an exact plan since the rails fastened onto the wall add a certain length on the inside and a different length on the outside… UGH… Unfortunately, after hours of drawing up different plans to get the maximum efficiency out of the wall space the plan I came up with was almost $400…enter the deadpan from Montana.

Back to the drawing board, literally… I stayed up until 4am New Years Eve drawing multiple versions of plans for built-ins that we could make ourselves and that would use every inch, while still letting us easily access stuff in the corners.

Based on what we currently hang in the closet, I thought we probably needed mostly half-wall height hanging space for shirts/skirts/pants, and only a small section for full size hanging my  dresses. Montana needed more shelves and drawers. To make the closet as symmetrical as practical I decided to put the double closet rail across the entire back wall of the closet. Then Montana and I would each get a 2 foot wide tower with a combination of drawers and shelves which would go in the middle of the side walls. Right inside the door I would have a full size hanging section that mirrored a 1 foot wide tower with shelves on his side.

closet-graph-paper-design

 

I used plans from two of my favorite bloggers for the towers and drawers: Ana White and Sandra over at Sawdust Girl.  Ana White great plans for building almost anything with very basic tools, nothing fancy needed.  Most things you see on the pottery barn website, you can find on her blog in a build-it-yourself version. Sandra tends to have slightly more advanced plans, or plans that require a few more tools. She has some literally awe inspiring build projects on her blog that you must check out.

Here are links to the specific plans we used or modified to fit our space:

Another thing that I wanted to change about the closet was the lighting. This is a bad picture, but the only light was just a bulb screwed into the wall above the door. It definitely did not scream sleek or pretty, but it was technically functional.

old-closet-lighting

I thought about putting in track lighting or rope lighting in each tower before I finally chose Utilitech White Swivel Recessed Lights to install in the ceiling around our attic access that could point in different directions. Montana has become quite the master electrician in the last few months and was excited to get to tear apart the ceiling. I chose the swivel type so that we could point each bulb directly at the section of the closet we wanted to illuminate.

Lastly, we decided to add some cedar to our closet. Cedar is popular because it keeps bugs from eating little holes in your favorite sweater, but it also smells nice and fresh and is especially great for masking smelly boy shoes. Home Depot sells a brand of cedar planks called CedarSafe which are meant for lining closet walls but we decided to use the planks instead for the floor.

Cedar Safe Closet Liner Planks

I was a little afraid to try the CedarSafe brand on the floor because it had very mixed reviews with many people saying their boards were warped or cracked, but it was cheap, and I figured if it didn’t work, then in a few years when we refinish the floors we could easily replace them then. My parents used cedar closet lining for all of their closet floors about 20 years ago and they’ve held up fine.

Next up, building!