Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated March 25, 2022)
Closets can be extremely useful in hiding unsightly possessions or to reserve space for new items. A new closet cannot only improve the size of your living space but it can also become an essential part of decor.
Before you begin your project you will want to pick the area of your living space in which you intend to place your new closet. Take the measurements of your chosen space and jot those down so that when you take a trip to the home improvement store you will purchase the proper size and dimensions of lumber for your new closet.
When you get to the store, you will find that there are two ways you can go: you can either purchase all the items to build the closet from scratch, or you can pick up a "closet-in-a-box" set. While the kit approach is appropriate for many projects, building a closet from scratch is not that difficult and can offer better results if you have unique closet tastes or needs. You'll want to consider your space carefully and compare that space (along with your desires) against what the kits have to offer.
If you intend to build your closet from scratch you will need to figure out what supplies you need. You'll obviously need wood, but what type of wood can be baffling. In general, you'll want 2 x 4 studs for the framing of your closet area and then drywall to cover the frame that you build. Calculate the number of studs by figuring the dimensions of the walls that will comprise your closet. Figure that you will need two studs to run along the footer of the walls and two to run along the headers. Then, you'll want the studs to run vertically every sixteen inches along the walls. Don't let this sound confusing; it doesn't need to be—draw your walls on a piece of paper and simply add up the lengths that you need to build the walls. Remember that studs come in several lengths, usually six, eight, ten, or twelve feet.
Once you know how much lumber you need, you can visit the lumberyard. I've always found it helpful to get one or two more studs than what I've planned on needing—you never know if you will make a cut in error or discover a miscalculation in your figures. You'll also want to pick up a closet door; make sure you get one that is pre-hung as they are much easier to install.
Regardless of whether you use the kit or build from scratch, you will need some common tools: hammer, screwdrivers, tape measure, level, chalk line, and paint brushes are common; a drill and bit set is usually helpful. You'll probably also need some nails, screws, and paint or finish materials, although these could all be included in some kits. If picking up nails, some good framing nails are necessary for putting together the shell of your closet, and then you will want some finish nails to attach your door and molding.
If you decided to purchase a closet kit, you should thoroughly read, understand, and follow the instructions provided with the kit. If you are building from scratch, you'll want to start by determining where you want to tie the closet walls into the existing frame of the house. You'll definitely want to attach your new closet wall to an existing wall stud, as this gives the best support and stability to the wall. Locate the existing stud and mark it in some way, using either a pencil or a chalk line.
Now that you know where your new closet walls will tie into the existing walls, determine where the footers for your new walls will run. If there is existing carpet on the floor, you will need to remove the carpet and padding to expose the flooring underneath. Use the chalk line to mark where your footer will go and make sure that the chalk lines mark the outline of your walls fully. You'll want to double-check at this point to make sure that the walls are at right angles to each other.
Now you can run your footers. Place a single stud along the chalk line and nail it to the flooring; this becomes the base for your closet walls. Put another stud on top of the first stud and nail it in place. You now have your footer properly placed.
If your closet walls will extend all the way to the existing room ceiling, you can go ahead and run the header for your wall. You do this by first putting upright studs at each end of your closet walls, where the new walls tie into your existing walls. Make sure the uprights are straight (use your level) and nail two studs in place at each end. These uprights will anchor the new walls and serve as indicators as to where your headers should end. Make sure that your headers are square with your footers, and you can't go wrong.
At this point it is usually best to build the frame for where the door will be placed. You want to use double studs, as you have for the footers and headers, and make sure that you leave enough room for the door casing to be placed within the frame. You'll also need to cut a length out of your footer to allow for the door. (Yes, in most cases it is easier to lay the full footer and then go back and cut out the space you need for the door. That way you are sure that the footer on each side of the door is in line with each other.)
Now you can start to put up your interior studs. Remember that they need to be placed every sixteen inches along the wall. Use your level to make sure that the studs are square and straight. You tie the studs into the header and footer by "toeing" the nails through the bottom of the studs at an angle. When you are done, your wall should be sound, secure, and strong. If you need to run electric for lights in the new closet, now is the time to do it—before enclosing the framing with drywall. Make sure you use a qualified electrician to do this step, as you'll not want anything wrong with your electric later.
The next job is to place drywall over your closet framing. While installing drywall is not overly difficult, there can be an art to finishing the joints between the drywall pieces. If you know someone who has done drywall before, you might invite him or her to help you with this step of the project.
With the drywall installed and the joints properly finished, you are ready for the next step—installing the door and any molding. Since you purchased a pre-hung door, the installation should be easy. Just follow any instructions that came with the door and make sure it is properly leveled. Finally you can install molding, as desired, to finish out the look of your closet.
Painting is the next step. Make sure that you use a primer to seal the drywall, otherwise it will absorb the paint and give you an unsatisfactory finish. Even with the primer you may need to apply two coats of paint to finish the walls.
The final step to finish your closet is to install any closet hardware, such as rods and shelving. Here's where you can get creative and really maximize your storage space. You may want to pay another visit to your local home improvement store and figure out if there is some type of closet kit that will do the trick for you.
Once you have finished your closet, you can begin putting it to use. You may want to apply fancy knobs that will compliment its function or your room. Organize your items slowly and properly so that you do not place strain on your new closet and so that it does not become too full. Enjoy the extra space that you have just created for yourself!
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