Adding a closet

MATERIALS: 2x4 lumber, drywall, prehung door, 8d and 10d nails or 2 1/2- and 3-inch drywall screws for framing, 6d and 8d nails for trim, toggle bolts, shims, metal corner bead, joint compound, drywall tape, paint, primer

TOOLS: Tape measure, framing square, combination square, chalk line, plumb bob and line, miter saw, small backsaw, hammer, 4-foot level, drill with drill and screwdriver bits, screwdriver, clamps, utility knife, 6-, 8-, and 12-inch drywall knives, coping saw, paint roller or paintbrush

Before you start measuring hangers and making plans, the minimum depth you’ll need for a closet is 24 inches. If you’re hanging coats instead of suits and dresses, plan on a minimum of 28 inches. As for length, allow 48 inches per person. This, of course, is the inside dimension. The outside dimension is an extra 4 1/2 inches for each wall - 3 1/2 inches for the studs and another 1/2 inch on each side for the drywall. If you have the space, get out your tape measure and start making plans. Putting the closet in the middle of a long wall, for example, is sure to look like the afterthought that it is. Tucking it into an unused corner of a large room, or along the entire length of a windowless wall, on the other hand, will make the closet seem like part of the overall scheme.

Building a closet in a room with a finished ceiling is a bit different than building one in an unfinished room. It’s no longer possible to build the wall flat on the floor, and then roll it up in place without wedging it at an angle between the floor and ceiling. Instead, you’ll have to nail a plate to the floor and one to the ceiling, then measure and cut the studs to fit between. (For more information on framing the door opening, Note that when the time comes to draw layout lines, you should start on the ceiling. This simplifies aligning the floor and ceiling plates because you can transfer the lines to the floor with a plumb bob. If you find overhead layout confusing, by all means, start your layout on the floor. When you need to transfer lines to the ceiling, keep moving the string until the plumb bob is over the right spot on the floor.

On average you’ll want the closet bar 63 inches off the floor for dresses or about 72 inches off the floor if you’re storing a collection of ballroom gowns. Either of these heights works for suits, blouses, and skirts, but if you drop the bar down to 45 inches, you can install a lot of shelf space, or even another bar, above it. It’s also an appropriate height for a kid’s closet when they’re from about 6 to 12 years old. Drop down to 30 inches for younger children.

UP TO CODE - In most municipalities, adding a closet is considered a major renovation. Check with your building officials to see if you need to obtain a building permit.

CLOSET LIGHTING - Plan ahead for closet lighting. Get a recessed fixture—code no longer lets you install a bare bulb above the shelf, where the heat can start a fire. Install the fixture before the new walls get in your way. Consider covering up the holes you'll have to chop by screwing a new drywall ceiling right over the old one. Run wiring for the switch before you drywall the new walls, and shop around for a switch. Ask about one that turns the light on and off automatically as you open and close the door.

1 BEGIN BY LAYING OUT THE SHORTEST WALL OF THE CLOSET. Measure along what will become the back wall to what will be the outside edge of the new wall. Measure back the thickness of the drywall, 1/2 inch, and use a framing square to draw a line marking the outside edge of the ceiling plate. Draw a second line marking the inside edge of the ceiling plate.

2 MEASURE AND LAY OUT A FRONT CLOSET WALL PARALLEL TO THE EXISTING BACK WALL. This assures that the closet depth won't change because of an out-of-kilter corner. Once you've located the front edge of the wall, measure back by the thickness of the drywall to lay out the plate. Draw a second line laying out the inside edge of the plate.

3 USE A PLUMB BOB TO TRANSFER THE LINES FROM THE CEILING TO THE FLOOR. Begin by hanging the plumb bob from what will be the outside corner of the plates. When it stops swinging, mark the spot on the floor immediately below it. Repeat to mark the inside corner, and then mark the inside and outside edges of where the plates meet the wall.

4 CUT THE PLATES TO LENGTH. One ceiling plate and one soleplate will be the full length of the closet wall; the others will be shorter than their walls by 3 1/2 inches—the width of the adjoining plates. Lay the long plates side by side, and lay out studs 16 inches apart, on center. Repeat on the shorter plates.

5 BUY A PREHUNG DOOR BEFORE DOING THIS STEP. Find the rough opening required—it will be listed on the installation directions that come with the door. Lay out the opening on the plates. Each side of the opening requires two studs—one that runs floor to ceiling, and one that runs to the top of the rough opening. For now, just lay out the edges of the rough opening.

6 THE BEST WAY TO MATCH TRIM TO THE EXISTING TRIM IS TO REUSE AS MUCH OF IT AS YOU CAN. Cut along the edge of any baseboard or other trim that you will have to remove—this breaks any paint seal between it and the wall. Pry the molding loose, protecting the wall with a piece of scrap wood as you pry, as shown. If the molding seems reluctant to come off, try driving the nails that are holding it all the way through the molding and into the wall.

7 NAIL THE PLATES TO THE FLOOR, DRIVING NAILS EVERY 2 FEET. Use common nails long enough to extend through the subfloor and into the framing; 10d nails are usually adequate.

8 UNLESS A JOIST JUST HAPPENS TO FALL IN THE RIGHT PLACE, only the ceiling plate that runs perpendicular to the joists will have any framing above it. Nail or screw this plate into the joists that cross it. (If the ceiling is plaster and lath, be sure to screw it to avoid cracking the plaster.)

9 ATTACH THE OTHER TOP PLATE WITH TOGGLE BOLTS. Begin by drilling holes in the plate that are big enough to slip the folded toggle through. Put the plate in place and trace through the holes to mark the ceiling. Remove the plate and drill holes in the ceiling for the toggles. Secure the plate to the ceiling by tightening the toggles and toenail it into the other plate.

10 FIND THE STRAIGHTEST STUDS W FOR FRAMING THE DOOR. Measure back 3 inches from the marks you made for the rough opening and make a second mark. This will be the outside edge of the king stud, the one that runs from ceiling to floor. Measure, cut to length, and nail it in place, leaving a 1 1/2-inch space between the edge of the rough opening and the nearest face of the stud. The jack stud gets nailed into this space later.

11 BECAUSE THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE PLATE MAY VARY SLIGHTLY, MEASURE FOR LENGTH EACH OF THE REMAINING FULL-LENGTH STUDS ONE AT A TIME. Cut them to length and toenail them to the plates with 8d nails. Nail the studs nearest the existing walls to the framing inside them. If there is no framing directly behind the new studs, attach them to the wall with toggle bolts, the same way you attached the plate to the ceiling.

12 FRAME THE CORNER TO CREATE A STRUCTURE THAT LOOKS LIKE THIS. Begin by nailing a stud in place at the end of either one of the walls that forms the corner. Nail spacers to it, and nail a full-length stud to the spacers. Once you've nailed in the spacers and both studs, begin work on the adjacent wall by nailing a full-length stud in place.

13 NOW THAT ALL THE FULL-LENGTH STUDS ARE IN PLACE, GO BACK TO THE CLOSET OPENING. Cut the jack studs to length—they will be as long as the rough opening is high. Clamp both jack studs to the king studs, and verify with a level that the top of one stud is level with the other. Adjust as necessary and nail in place.

14 CUT A 2x4 TO FIT ACROSS THE OPENING. Put it in place and nail down through it to secure it.

15 TO SUPPORT THE SPACE ABOVE THE DOOR, you will need to place cripple studs at 16-inch centers between the top plate and the 2x6 across the opening. Lay out the locations and measure to see if the length varies. Cut the studs to length and nail in place.

16 RUN ANY WIRING THAT YOU’LL \S/ WANT FOR THE CLOSET. If you want a light, put the switch for it near the door and position it 1/2 inch beyond the framing to account for the thickness of the drywall. By law, closet lights must be recessed into the ceiling to prevent an accidental fire.

17 COVER THE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF THE CLOSET WITH DRYWALL. (It's easiest if you prime it first, and then start hanging on the inside of the closet.) Cut any necessary openings for switches and receptacles, and screw the drywall in place. Put a metal corner bead on the outside corner and tape and finish the drywall with joint compound.

18 HANG THE DOOR FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT COME WITH IT. Start with the jamb on the hinge side, shimming as necessary until the jamb is straight and plumb. Shim the other side so that it is plumb and so that there's a gap about the thickness of a nickel between the door and the doorjambs. Level and shim the top, leaving the same-size gap. For more on hanging doors, see Installing a Prehung Interior Door.

19 TRIM AROUND THE DOOR AND THEN INSTALL BASEBOARD. If you saved the old baseboard, it will match up best with the baseboard already on the wall. For a tight fit, cope the joint—cut the piece going in so that it nests with the piece on the wall. Find the profile by mitering the closet molding and then cutting along the edge with a coping saw, as shown. Practice on a scrap first.

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