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Red from Shawshank Redemption tells us that “Geology is the study of pressure and time.” It seems that geology and bedroom closets have much in common. Over time, a small amount of crap we don’t need multiplies to epic proportions inside this all-too-finite area. When the closet nears bursting and the impending clutter bomb threatens to pop the door from the hinges, the twin axioms of organization must be wielded like the hammer of Thor — pare down the excess and add storage.

Several trash bags full of junk in the trash and a trip to the local donation center saw half the offending objects removed from my bedroom area. The rest now neatly piled in front of the bed would need a new home. A look at the top of the closet was all I needed to realize that there was a ton of unused space in that area. I needed a set of built-ins.

I had two problems; I needed containers for the junk and a place to store the containers. A visit to any local home center provides a crafty consumer with 100 different solutions that help to eradicate most crap-stowing dilemmas. I found these 16-quart containers on sale for $1.25 a pop at the local Target. Once that was taken care of, constructing a set of shelves to hold them all was the task at hand.

A few 8’ x 1’ pieces of uncoated MDF and some white MDF interior trim totaling about $35 were the only items on the “buy list.” The rest would come from scrap and a few odds and ends I had lying around the house.

For the last five years I’ve carefully separated my wood scrap into three sections:

Bits — defined by their ability to fit in a small crate under my workbench
Long pieces — have a large bin on wheels at the side of the shop and
That-crap-in-front-of-the-shelves — which was the subject of a few jokes for years

It was now time to bring my long-awaited secret weapon online. This pathetic smattering was all that was left from the once mighty pile of seconds.

The storage units would be built on top of the current shelf in the closet in the shape of a “U” with the sides spaced to carry two 16-quart boxes in each of the six cubbies. The back piece would be divided evenly in the same style, but the four cubbies on the outside would be half-blocked by the side shelves. 

This is about as basic a build possible featuring pieced-together scrap materials so the fit and finish isn’t the best, but the goal here is storage, not beauty. I started by putting the back piece in — 60” span with two dividers spaced evenly to support the weight in the middle. I most likely could’ve gotten away with just one if I used 3/ 4″ plywood, but cost was more of an issue. The first sidepiece went in just after the bones of the back piece.

Other than fencing, I don’t really have a call for a full-size framing gun around my shop; however I do know my way around an 18 ga. finish nailer. It is the six-gun I reach for when solving many trim and carpentry issues; since we’ve been testing the hell out of finish guns recently we’ve found that one of the best uses for a cordless unit is tight spaces where a compressor is not welcome and hoses get in the way. Enter the Paslode Trimmaster 18 ga. brad gun: For this project it was a solid no-brainer.

The Paslode weighs 4 lbs., holds 100 fasteners in the mag, and the fuel cell sends 1,200 rounds home before you have to think about swapping out. The battery will last several times that so the only thing you really need to think about is getting the job done.

Even more than its larger brethren, the 18 ga. becomes an extension of your arm instead of something to be wrestled with and fussed over, which is as high a compliment as we can give any nailer, hose or not.

After a bit of fitting and trial and error, the third and final shelf assembly was constructed in the shop and put into place on the right side of the closet.

Remember that your closet walls and shelves are anything but straight and square, so it might take a time or two to get anything to look even. Also, trim helps.

Some quick fastening to the walls and a bit of glue had the storage looking pretty good. I saved a bunch of cash getting uncoated MDF, but that meant I would need to paint. Luckily I had some paint left over from another project so it was little hassle to throw a few coats of white on to make the shelves match the closet. It did, however, take two coats as you can see here — one coat just doesn’t get it done.

The entire system added roughly 33 cubic feet of useable storage space to the closet. With the cheap materials and my being a general tightwad the cost boils down to about $2 per square foot with the bins included. It was pretty simple to do, and the benefit of de-junk-i-fying the closet is already making life on the homestead better. It’s a win all the way around.

Of course, if you really want to get technical about it, I did get an assist from a $250 cordless brad nailer – which helps.

TrimMaster 18 Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer [Paslode]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


One Response to Project: Built-In Storage On The Cheap

  1. Scott says:

    Great job! I retrofitted my master closet with additional shelving when we moved in, but I’ve been thinking about doing something more professional looking for years! I love the use of scrap and low cost materials in your design. This weekend I will embark on fitting up a pull-up bar in my workout room for my son using scrap from a ton of other projects. As least my scrap will be used for something productive, if not as nice looking as your closet job!

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