Saturday, February 9, 2013

Easy Small Closet Organizer Plans

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Free woodworking plans for a reach in closet organizer that provides double hang, long hang, shoe and sweater shelves for a small closet.

My previous small closet organizer design provided a lot of storage for a narrow closet but it may be a little too complex for some to build. This new design is easier and cheaper to build. If you use MDF you can organize your closet for around $50. It doesn't provide as much shelf storage but it still has plenty of double hang as well as long hanging space and shelves for shoes and sweaters. With a closet this small you're going to need a dresser to store folded clothes anyway so that much shelving isn't as important.

If your current closet only has a typical single rod and single shelf you can see how much space gets wasted. With a little bit of wood and a few hours of time you can dramatically increase the space utilization of your closet. If you've been dealing with a small  3'-4' closet you know how important it is to squeeze as much extra storage as possible.

Good shoes are expensive and just tossing them on your closet floor increases the likelihood they get damaged. Shoe shelves help protect the investment you've made in your shoes.

Providing space for long garments is also important and this organizer allows you room to hang up some of those long dresses or coats so you don't have to run to another room for them.

The Right Hangers Save Space
I've designed the storage unit so that the interior shelves are 14" wide. That will hold folded clothing comfortably as well as 2 pairs of womens shoes side by side or one pair of mens shoes on each shelf. If you want less shelving space and more hanging space you can choose to make the shelving unit narrower (or wider for more shelvnig less hanging).

You can customize the dimensions of these plans to better suit your needs just keep in mind these general guidelines. The shelving unit needs to be 42" tall to be able to hold the double hanging rod. Women's shoes generally need about 7" of width, mens shoes 9" and sweaters and other folded clothing 12". Every body is different so measure how much space your clothes take and see if you need to customize the plan to get more efficient use.

What You'll Need

Materials

Tools

Cut List

  • (5) ~12" x 14" Shelves 3/4" Plywood
  • (2) ~12" x 9" Shoe Shelves 3/4" Plywood
  • (2) ~12" x 42" Shelving Unit Sides 3/4" Plywood (See Cut Plan for exact shape)
  • (1) 24" Rod Support 1x4 Board (or whatever the depth of your closet is)
  • (2) 14" Stretchers  1x4 Board
  • (2) 18" Shoe Shelf Supports 1x2 Board 

Cut Plan

3/4" Plywood

The first quarter sheet of 3/4" plywood will be for the shelves. You may want to alter the number and width of the shoe shelves depending on your design. The depth will be slightly less than 12" because of the kerf of the saw. Do your best to cut it as evenly down the middle as possible.
The second sheet is where we'll cut the sides for the shelving unit. To be able to limit the amount of plywood necessary the cuts aren't simple straight cuts. Again, the depth at the middle will be a little less than 12" due to the saw kerf. It's probably best to cut this out with a jig saw.

Boards

1x4: Two lengths of 1x4 need to be cut to the same width as the shelves, in our case 14" and one length that is determined by the depth of your closet for the lower rod support on the side wall.

1x2: One shoe support needs to be cut from 1x2 material for each side shoe shelf. The support needs to be long enough to reach from the back corner of the closet to at least the first side wall stud so that it is screwed securely at each end.

Step 1: Cut Lumber and Finishing

To minimize the time that the closet is out of service we're going to build much of the closet organizer before installing it. This includes finishing the wood so that it's dry when it's installation time. If you don't have a lot of space to lay all the plywood out flat to paint, you might find it easier to paint after you've assembled the shelving unit or just paint everything after installing but you'll have to wait until it dries before using the closet.

Double check your closet measurements and make any modification you need to the cut plan if you choose to customize the size based on your needs.

So that we can get 2 sides out of one 2' x 4' sheet of plywood they're not cut straight. Start off by cutting the board down to 42" in length. If you're comfortable making plunge cuts with a circular saw it's the best way to cut the horizontal cuts. The vertical cuts and rounded corners are best cut with a jig saw. You can also use a jig saw to make the entire cut just take your time and use a straightedge to get the cuts as straight as possible on the long stretches.

You may also want to increase the 4" to 6" or so for a little extra flexibility in positioning the lower rod.


Once you have the 2 sides cut out, a notch will need to be cut out at the back bottom of each side to fit around your baseboards.

Once everything is cut, prime and apply two coats of water based paint. Let everything dry at least 2 days before continuing. Let the paint cure for at least a week (more if weather is humid) before placing items on the painted surfaces.

Step 2: Attach Top to Side

The shelving unit consists of 2 sides, 2 stretchers and 2 fixed shelves. We're going to begin constructing it by attaching the fixed top to one side using pocket hole screws from underneath.


Note that the back of the top is flush with the back of the side and the notch cut out in the back/bottom of the side for the baseboard so it will fit close up against the wall. The front of the top does not extend all the way to the front of the shelving side.

Step 3: Attach Bottom Shelf To Side

Next we'll attach the bottom to the side. The shelving unit needs 2 fixed shelves to make it sturdy. The location of the top shelf needs to be at the top but you have some flexibility when positioning the bottom shelf.

I've planned for the bottom of the bottom shelf to be 12-1/2" from the bottom of the side but depending how big the items you plan to store in that area are, you might want to increase or decrease it. For example, if you want to store boots you may want to increase it.

Make sure the side is square to the front of the side and attach it using pocket hole screws as you did the top.

Step 4: Attach Stretchers To Side

Two stretchers cut from 1x4 boards are used to provide a way to attach the shelving unit to the wall as well as provide extra strength. Using pocket screws attach them to the side and fixed shelves as shown.


The bottom stretcher needs to clear the baseboard notch. If you want the shelf lower, mount the stretcher above the bottom shelf instead of below it.

Step 6: Attach Other Side

Finally we'll attach the other side of the shelving unit using the previously drilled pocket holes in the fixed shelves and stretchers. It's important that everything gets screwed together square.

Step 7: Drill Shelf Pin Holes

With the shelving unit completed we can now drill 2 rows of shelf pin holes on each side of the shelving unit. This is much easier to do with a jig like the Kreg Shelf Pin Drilling Jig.

For each set of holes use the same reference point. For example start all sets of holes by resting the bottom of the jig against the bottom shelf.

If you don't have a pocket hole jig you can either screw the shelves in directly using pocket hole scres or you can manually mark and drill the holes for the shelf pins. 1-1/4" spacing 2" from the front and back should do it.

Step 8: Move Existing Rod and Shelf

With the shelving unit complete and the rest of the components primed and painted it's time to start preparing the closet. To save some money we're going to reuse the existing rod and shelf. A typical closet has it's shelf installed at around 66" above the floor. 


To accommodate a double hang space the shelf and rod are going to need to be moved further up so that the bottom of the top shelf is at 84" above the floor.

Typically the closet will have 1x4 boards installed at the 66" mark on three walls that will support the shelf and rod. Try and determine how the boards are attached to the wall. They're probably just nailed in but sometimes they'll be screwed in.

Start by trying to remove the top shelf. Run a utility knife around the edges where the shelf meets the walls and 1x4s to break any paint that might be helping keep them together. Use a prybar to lift the top shelf off. If it's not coming up easily check for any screws and unscrew them.

Next the closet rod should be easy to lift off. 

Finally start removing the 1x4 support boards. We want to reuse all these pieces so take your time and try to avoid breaking them.

Use a level to draw a line as a guide to reinstall the existing closet rod and shelf. The tops of the support boards need to be at 84". To make installing easier draw your level reference line at 84" minus the width of board. Your boards may vary but if they're 1x4's they'll be 3-1/2" wide. So draw a line at 80-1/2" above the highest point on the floor.

Now reinstall the support boards into the closet lining up the bottom of the boards with the reference line. That should put the top of the boards at 84".

Place the rod back in and then attach the shelf.

There will be some holes in your walls and mismatched paint so fill in any holes with spackle, and sand any paint edges. When the spackle dries, sand it smooth then prime and paint the entire closet. For a closet, water based low VOC paint like Benjamin Moore's Aura is a good idea so that your clothes don't wind up smelling like paint.

Step 9: Install Shoe Shelf Supports

Before installing the shelving unit it's a good idea to install the wall supports for the side shoe shelves now that there's plenty of room to work. Typically, shoe shelves are installed 7" apart but you can change that to suit your needs. Keep in mind that the shoe shelves will reduce the height of the long hang area. If you have especially long garments to hang you might want to limit the number of shelves you're installing. If you use special pants hangers on the lower bar of the double hang section there should be sufficient room for shoes underneath your pants if extra shoe storage is important.

The shoe shelf supports are cut from the 1x2 boards. Make sure you cut them long enough so that they can be attached to at least 2 studs near the ends of the support.

Draw two level lines on the side wall, one 7" up and the other 14-3/4" up from the floor. (Or more or less depending on how high your shoes are.) Use these lines as a guide to align the tops of the 1x2 boards and drill or nail them into the studs on the side wall.

Step 10: Install Shelving Unit

Position the completed shelving unit against the back wall. It's position in relation to the sidewalls will determine how much extra hanging space you get via the double hang section as well as how much long hanging section you have. In this design I chose to put the shelving unit 9" from the left side wall. That will provide 9" of long hang which is enough to hold 4-6 long hanging items. If you need more or less you can position the unit as you see fit. I think it's a good idea for all closets to have at least some long hang area.

The position of the shelving unit will also determine the length of the extra shoe shelves on the left. Since you should have cut out the shoe shelves before this point you can rest one of the shoe shelves on the shoe shelf support and use it to determine where to position the shelving unit.


Once you have the shelving unit where you want it, make sure it's level and plumb then secure it to the wall by screwing it into studs through the back stretchers. 

Step 11: Install Lower Rod Support

The lower rod support is a 1x4 board that is cut to be as long as the depth of the closet. Screw or nail it into studs on the right wall so that the top of the support is 42" above the floor. You can also draw a level line from the top of the shelving unit to determine where to position the support. Make sure it is installed level.


With the rod support in place you can now install the closet rod. Directions will depend on what rod you use but it's important that the top-center of the rod is about 12" away from the back wall and about 1-1/2" down from the top of the shelving unit top and that the rod is installed level.

Step 12: Install Shoe Shelves

To install the shoe shelves, pocket holes will be drilled on the underside of the right side to attach to the shelving unit. On the wall side screws will be drilled from the top down into the wall supports. Drill pilot holes and countersinks so the screws are flush with the top or you can simply nail the shelves in place. Pilot holes are a good idea to prevent splitting the wood.

Step 13: Install Adjustable Shelves

Push the shelf pins into the appropriate holes depending on how you'd like to space the shelves in the shelving unit. Then place the shelves on top of the pins. Once the paint dries you can fill up your closet again.

If you'd like to add a drawer or two see my instructions on how to build drawer boxes.


6 comments:

  1. Tom, thank you so much for such detailed plans and drawings. We just bought a small older home, and this will be perfect in the master bedroom! You're a genius! Thanks!

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    1. You're welcome. Thanks for the kind words. :)

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  2. I don't know exactly what point it was when 'I GOT IT, but I did!' Thank you so much! I have been exhausting myself over how to do this and that to the point of living in a condo full of strewn about items from my de-structed closet, waiting for the right light to go off. Your quide is simple enough (even to state I don't have to use a jig!) that I feel a sigh of relief wash over me with a renewed zeal to get this done! Thank you again.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. That's very kind of you to say. I'm glad you found this helpful.

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  3. That is so cute, I would of never thought of that. I am definitely making me one or maybe a few! Lol

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  4. Thank you. I'm going to try this!

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