Introduction: Closet Transformation - Fixing an Old Closet

My house was built in 1917. Like a lot of older homes, the closet was pretty basic. I needed to expand space for hanging clothes, have a place for folded clothes, and create shelves for my shoes. I also wanted to change the way I opened and closed the door. I didn't like that I had to open one door in order to open another. This was a fun project and a good fit for the Instructables Fix It Challenge. I started just shy of 30 days ago and completed it 1 day before the deadline. We all know closets can be expensive. In researching closet and organizational companies, I found the estimated cost for my closet would run from $450 - $2,800. I did it all on my own for around $150.
In all, I fixed - door knob, added a door knob, increased my hanging shirts by 40%, increased my handing pants by 35%, removed all of my clothes from other closets in the house, removed clutter from my dresser, made a home for all of my shoes, and made the closet much more organized and functional.

Step 1: Overall How to Video and Materials

These items will vary by closet size. For me, I used;

2 - 8'x4' sheets of 3/4 Birch Plywood - $12 each
3 - 6' x 4" strips strips of 3/4 hard maple - $4.20 a board foot
1 - 6' Oak Closet Rod - $16.00
2 - Closet Rod Holders (sold in sets) - $4.00
1 - Door Knob - $9.00
1 - Square Threaded Rod - $1.00
3 - Tubes of Caulking - $2.25 each
1 - Sherwin Williams Paint / Primer - $55.00
Kreg Screws and Kreg Pocket Hole Covers
A few odds and end screws, nails and nuts.

Step 2: Understand Your Total Space, and Final Hardware.

Step one in any project should be understanding what your finished project looks like. This includes selecting hardware. You cannot work towards a finished project without knowing everything you will be using to compete it. This included wood, hanging rods, and hangers. Once I knew the hangers I would be using I measured my shirts and pants on them to make sure my height would be sufficient. As you can tell from my preliminary drawing, the height was not right. I needed an additional 6 inches to have the shirts hanging on top of each other. I opted to change my final design. Once I changed design, I realized that I needed at least 3 more inches of height if I was going to hang shirts over pants, over 2 rows of shoes. I'll explain that later. I also realized I needed to use the space on the far left side that was partially blocked by the wall for my folded clothes. My hanging shirts would not have worked there, as the hangers are too wide.

Step 3: Empty Your Closet - Set Up a Temporary Closet.

I emptied my closet. I then set up a temporary closet in another room. As you can tell, I was able to keep the same order. Luckily I had room to do this.

Step 4: Remove Baseboard

My closet had trim and baseboard going around the bottom and partway up the side. I removed the trim by cutting the caulking and then slowly pried it out. I did leave the back baseboard in as the walls are plaster and I wanted to make sure I had something for my bottom board to screw into. I also have electrical running on the other side of this wall. With this being an older home, I didn't want to risk having screws go near my cloth covered wires. I also took out the old rod. I laid out a couple pairs of shoes to understand the widths I had to work with.

Step 5: Beef Up the Sides

With trim out, I felt it was important to add wood to the side walls. This was so I could screw my shelves and sides into something permanent that will hold. I was at a local lumberyard a few months ago and came across some scratch and dent 8' x 4' sheets of 3/4 birch plywood. The guy there gave them to me for $12.00 a piece so I bought them all. I borrowed some tools from a neighbor so that I could rip the boards down to size. I used them to build the side walls of my closet. I screwed the boards into the sides where I knew the studs were. I couldn't build the shelves and place them in my closet because my closet didn't have any good right angles. I had to build the shelves as I was going. As you see from the last picture, there are obvious gaps even with a straight edge along the back wall. This is because I live in a 100 year old house and my walls are plaster. They just aren't perfectly straight up and down, or left to right. I used caulking that I purchased at Home Depot along the way to fill these gaps. This product worked great!

Step 6: Building the Shelves

Once the side walls were in, I started at the bottom and worked my way up. As I stated earlier, because I didn't have right angles in the closet, I had to build the shelves in the closet as I was going. If I wanted to build it outside and bring it in, I would have lost about 2 inches because my closet was not made square. I tried to square up as much as I was going along. I made a spacer block that was 9.5" to even space out my 3 middle shelves. The left and right were just a bit shorter. I wanted 5 across and needed at least 9.5" for my dressier shoes.

I also left the spacers long and trimmed them down right before I put it together, as the depth changed at least 1.5" from one side of the closet to another. Luckily the bottom of the shelves were level, so I did not need to shim anything before I started. I kept my level handy to ensure the closet was level as I went.

I want to mention I used a Kreg Jig to put these shelves together and attached the bottom of the shelves to the side. Kreg Jig is a pocket hole system. I9.5"spaf you don't have one and want to build a closet, I would recommend you put it on your list. I could have done similar work with dados, but I didn't have access to a dado blade. We might look into getting one. After I screwed in the pocket holes, I covered them with some Kreg Plugs.

Step 7: Increase Overall Height

As I stated earlier I needed 3 more inches to get the height I wanted for this final project. I took the cabinet above and ripped a 3 inch board I then took out the floor of the cabinet and put the spacer in. Below this then gave me 3 more inches. I used a Kreg Jig on this spacer to attach it to the floor.

Step 8: Folding Clothes Area

Once I had all of the shoe compartments built, I moved on to the side shelf that would store my folded clothes. I ripped another 3/4 plywood piece to create a wall. Based on my measurements I put this wall 11.75" from the left wall. That left enough space for my hanging clothes. I attached that wall to the top and bottom and back using Kreg Screws. I divided total height of wall by 5 plus the 3/4" wood for each shelf to evenly space out the shelves. I checked every shelf and side to ensure they were square and level.

Step 9: Attaching Hardware

With my walls in place, I wanted to start attaching some of my hardware to ensure I had my heights correct. I was adding shelves so I needed to get the rods in now. I bought the rod and rod holders at Home Depot. I opted for wood so I could paint them the same color as the rest of the closet. Make sure you keep these level, and understand your hanger space if you are hanging your rod high. Once both rods were in place, I marked the wall to give me clearance between my shirts and pants to add a shelf.

Step 10: Adding a Shelf

I added a shelf between the shirts and the pants. However I didn't want to expand it to the edge of the closet. I stopped it 7 inches short. I did this because I wanted to create an angled shelf that mirrored the angle of a hanger thus giving me more space. It also looked better. I will use this shelf for belts, ties, pocket change etc. To attach the shelf properly, I added pocket holes and ripped 1 edge at 30 degrees. This gave it the proper angle to go right along with the profile of my hangers.

Step 11: Trim It Out!

Once all of the shelves were in place I began trimming out the closet. I had a bunch of 3/4 hard maple in my garage. I ripped them down to 7/8 strips. I used these strips to trim out anywhere I could see the 3/4 plywood edge. This also gave the shelves a more substantial look. I attached them to the shelves with 1 1/4 16 gauge nails. I didn't cut my vertical strips until my horizontal strips were in place. Once they were, I used a cross cut sled and got my vertical strips cut.

Step 12: Shelf

I measured my shelf and divided it by 2 (plus the width of the wood) to create the spacing I wanted on the shelf. I also measured my belts rolled up to ensure they would fit on these shelves. I then notched out a section for the middle divider. Its a little sloppy but caulking would fix it. I then attached similar trim to this shelf.

Step 13: Final Caulking and Prep Work

Once all of the shelves were in place I went through and caulked most of the areas. Some of them won't be visible until priming is done. I used a microfiber cloth to remove any particles still around. Luckily, my wife stepped in while I was at work and primed the closet. I can't guarantee you'll be as lucky with your spouse. Once the priming was done I used a vacuum and sander to remove any of the raised grain. This is an important step as raised grain could snag your clothes.

Step 14: Final Final Caulking

I went through the closet after it was sanded and vacuumed to look for any noticeable gaps. I then ran a bead of caulking along the gaps with the gun and my finger. I wiped away excess with a wet paper towel. This ensured a smooth finish.

Step 15: Final Paint

Here are a couple pictures from the final paint coats. I once again was able to leave for work while my wife surprised me and painted the shelves. We used (oh I mean she used) 2 coats of Satin Finish, and 1 Coat of Semi Gloss Finish. I did this because I had a couple of partial gallons of Sherwin Williams Dover White sitting around. I didn't want to deplete either gallon.

Step 16: Door Handles

I wanted to create door handles that could open and close the doors independently. I didn't want to open the right door in order to open the left door. To do this, I had to bypass the passage latch, and add a door handle to the other door. I also needed a way to keep them closed. I used magnets as you will see in the next step.

I bought a square threaded rod at a thrift store in town. I then measured my holes to make them even. I attached a nut and washer to the other side of the square threaded rod so I could put the handle on the other side. I broke off a couple toothpicks and put wood glue on them to go into the old screw holes. This gave the screws something to bite into. I found a door handle like my current one on eBay.

To bypass the passage latch, I drilled a hole into it. My plan was to put a small machine screw in here to keep the passage latch always closed, but my drill bit broke off inside during the process. The passage latch stayed closed with what broke off inside. Problem solved!

Step 17: Keeping Doors Shut

To keep these doors shut I added a couple of small metal plates (bought at Home Depot) and then drilled 2 (1 on each door) 1" inch holes in the door to counter sink 1" earth magnets. This keeps the doors closed when not in use.

Step 18: Time to Fill the Closet

My kids volunteered to help fill the closet. And by volunteer, I mean they negotiated each getting $1.00 to help with this process. You can see the money in my back left pocket.

Step 19: That's One Organized Closet

After living with 1 rod and moving boxes for the last year (I had plenty of things to fix before this closet), this feels great. Thank you to my wife for helping paint, my kids for helping me fill the closet, and my neighbors for the use of their tools. I really appreciate the help and support I had.

Fix It! Contest

Second Prize in the
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