Introduction: Built-in Wardrobe

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Built-in wardrobes are good inexpensive renovations that get you lots of additional storage space. They're pretty simple to build, and make a good project for someone wanting to develop their DIY skills. You'll get experience in how to frame a wall, how to put up drywall, how to plaster, and how to install a set of sliding doors. The whole project costs about $150, assuming you've got the required tools already. If you don't, what better excuse?

The built-in wardrobe described here is designed for shoes (a wardshoe?), so it's a bit shallower than the average wardrobe, and it's filled with shelves rather than a clothes rail. However, the construction is pretty much the same as other built-in wardrobes I've made - this is just the only one I thought to document. It took an afternoon to build, then plastering took a week as did painting.

Step 1: Design

This design is meant for a corner wardrobe of full height, and wide enough to fit a 4' wide set of sliding doors (two 2' wide sliding mirror doors). I'd always hated the sloppy boxing that protruded into this room, and we were always tripping over shoes that were dumped unceremoniously on the floor. A 4' wide wardrobe would cover both problems. All that was needed was two simple frames, which could be screwed to the walls, floor, ceiling and each other. For dimensions, see the sketch.

The room is wired with a light switch on each side. I planned to remove the one that would be hidden in the wardrobe and replace it with a receptacle, so we could add a small heater if needed in the winter months.

Four shelves 400 mm apart, plus the floor, would give us separate footwear storage for each member of the family (5). I also added a half-depth shelf 400 mm higher (above the level of the door) for some additional storage.

Step 2: Materials & Tools

8-10 pieces of 8' lengths of 2 x 4 construction lumber
One set of sliding doors (or bifold, if you prefer). The mirrored ones I bought cost $75.
1 or 2 sheets of 8' x 4' x 1/2" drywall
Bucket of pre-mixed plaster
Box of drywall screws
Box of 3" deck screws
1 length of drywall corner bead
3 lengths of J-bead metal drywall trim
Roll of paper joint drywall tape

Saw ~ Cordless drill ~ Hammer ~ Level ~ Tape measure ~ Square ~ Trowel ~ Utility knife

Step 3: Build Frames

I'm not a professional builder, so I do most of my construction with deck screws rather than nails. They're strong, they pull the lumber together, and best of all, if you muck something up, it's trivial to undo your mistake and do it over correctly without damaging anything. For me, that's golden, and well worth the small added expense.

Put together the frames according to your design. Make them about 10 mm shorter than your ceiling, or you'll never be able to stand them up! Shim the top with thin wedges of wood. Screw the frame to the ceiling joists (or rafters) and to the wall. Make sure they're vertical (use a plumb bob or a level) and perpendicular to the walls (testable using a large square or a 3-4-5 triangle). You may have to use wedges next to the wall if the wall isn't vertical.

Step 4: Fix Frames to Floor

The side frame should be screwed to the floor through the bottom plate - easy if you've got a wooden floor, but if you're on a concrete slab as shown here, you'll have to use some concrete anchors. I just used a couple of rawlplugs and two screws, which with the tight fit provided by the shims at the top, made the whole unit rock-solid. Use a hammer drill with a masonry bit to drill the holes.

Step 5: Add Drywall

Luckily, I could do this whole wardrobe with one sheet of drywall. If yours is bigger, or if you want to finish the inside as well, you'll need two sheets. Measure carefully, and cut the drywall using a utility knife. Score on one side along a straightedge, flip the sheet and it will snap along the line when you gently strike the other side. Slice through the remaining paper.

Step 6:

Fix the pieces of drywall to the frame using drywall screws - don't do the edges near the external bead or near the door opening, as these will be covered by J-shaped metal profiles. Put the profiles up - the door surrounds all the way around the opening (see images), and the external 90 degree corner bead. The profiles will secure the drywall along those edges.

Step 7: Plaster

This could be an instructable in itself, but I will try to keep it short and provide a few handy tips for DIYers. There are tons of places you can go to find instructions on plastering, but most of them are written by pros (e.g. That can be a problem, because pros give great advice but have different priorities to DIYers. They need to be really fast. They do big jobs. They're good - no, great - with a trowel. However, if you're like me, speed is not an issue - you live in your house, and you want to do a good job more than you want it done quickly. The jobs you do will be small (probably one room at a time, max). You know what a trowel is for, but your expertise level is low. So, here's my advice for a slow, low skill level but nonetheless high quality plastering job...

1. Buy the premade plaster. Pros NEVER do this - it's heavy and more expensive, but more importantly, it dries MUCH slower than the stuff you mix up on the spot. However, you don't want it drying out, and you want to be able to keep coming back to the bucket for all those other little patch jobs you need to do in the future (tip: when you've finished one job, shape the plaster flat in the bucket and add water on top. Pour it off when you use it next - it will keep literally for years if you do this).

2. Start with the easy stuff - the bits near the metal corner beads and trim. You have a straight edge to work off. Smear on the plaster, make sure it's worked in well, then smooth off using the metal edge as a guide. That's all for today. Scrape off your trowel and come back tomorrow.

3. Tape the joins and corners. This is trickier, but it is made easier because you will wet the paper tape first. Pros NEVER do this, because it adds an extra step and they are skilled enough to use dry tape without worrying about it falling off or getting bubbles. Start by cutting your tape to length for each corner and join, then wet the tape, squidge off the excess so it's damp rather than dripping, and hang somewhere close by. Now go to a corner and smear plaster both sides, at least 2" wide, from top to bottom. Now embed the wet tape in the plaster, trying to keep it relatively tight (but don't tear it!). Get your trowel, and scrape the tape in, starting at the top, going 6" down on one side, switch to the other side, same again. The plaster behind the tape will ooze out, that's good. Go all the way to the bottom. You may have to account for some slight stretching of the tape, that's fine, just pull it tight and keep going, you can cut off excess at the bottom later. Now plaster over the tape, scraping it down well. Repeat for all your other joins. Scrape off your trowel, have a beer, come back tomorrow.

4. Before you add the second coat, scrape off any ridges or lumps in the plaster with your trowel. Don't sand, unless you don't mind making a lot of dust. When you plaster, do ONE SIDE OF THE INTERNAL CORNERS ONLY. Pros always do both, because they're awesome. You're not. Do one side only, that way you won't screw up the side you just plastered when you do the second one. Scrape off your trowel, come back tomorrow.

5. Since you only did half a coat last time, go back and do step 4 again for the other side of each internal corner.

6. Don't sand; repeat steps 4 and 5 again. It should be starting to look pretty darn good. You may have to keep going, each time feathering the plaster out wider (a wider trowel helps a lot here). Once you think it is as good as you can get it with a trowel...

7. You may now sand. Use a pole sander with a fine grade paper (200+ grit). It should come up really nice and smooth. Congratulations, you did in two weeks what it would have taken a pro two days to do (and they would have done the rest of the house too, not just one lousy wardrobe). On the bright side, you were charged $0 for labor, you have a nice smooth finish and if you've been careful, it will look almost as good as a pro job.

Step 8: Shelves

This wardrobe is designed to store shoes out of the way, so we decided to just have one big shelf for each family member (5). I like to use construction lumber for building utility furniture, so I made the shelf supports by ripping two pieces of 2x4 lumber into 8 pieces of 19x38 mm. These formed the underside of each shelf and the front lip. I didn't add any side supports for the 5/8" plywood shelves, because the front and back supports made it plenty sturdy enough.

Step 9: Paint and Add Doors

Undercoat the whole wardrobe, then apply two coats of topcoat. It makes sense to do this wardrobe reno at the same time you redecorate the whole room, of course, or you'll have to carefully match the paint. Add trim.
To hang the doors, just follow the instructions - all mounting directions and hardware are included. Basically, you attach the top and bottom tracks with screws, then clip the doors into the tracks. Easy.

Step 10: Install Sliding Door

Load it up with all those shoes & gloves & hats, and get them out of your sight and out of your way.

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