Friday, September 2, 2011

Is storage an issue with your home?

My home is seriously short on storage.  It is also seriously short on uninterrupted wall space.  My previous home was a 4 square built around 1910.  Big rooms with tons of wall space.  The longer I lived in that house, the more family photo's I framed and hung.  The more artwork I bought to adorn the walls.  However, that was an issue when I moved into this house.

I tried buying shelving units to house all my pictures and dust collecting objects that I just couldn't do without.  That just took up more floor space and made the rooms feel far smaller than they were.

My solution?  I added shelving between the wall studs!  This was a very messy project but a very attractive solution!  It takes up zero floor space and adds life to an otherwise blank wall.

Here are some examples.  Below the photo's I will give you step by step instructions.
While the depth of your shelving depends entirely on the depth of your wall, these shelves will nonetheless add storage for things that would otherwise take up either floor or counter space.

These shelves live in my rather narrow hallway.  I made two of these and have since painted them white to match the trim in the house. (I have also replaced these items with family photo's).

Here are other areas in which this project is useful.

  • Kitchen:   Great for a kitchen pantry or shelving for spices. Makes a nice niche to display decorative plates.
  • Bedroom: Great in the kid's room to house pictures or small toys
  • Bathroom: Best way to get the razor's, hair spray and other assorted products off the counter that I know!
  • Den/Living Room: There is no better way to get those family photo's  or treasured knicknacks in plain sight without taking up valuable floor space.

Now that you've seen the completed projects, let's get on to how to do this in your home.

Bear in mind that you can only have the width and depth that your house will allow.  The first thing you have to do is find a wall that you want to rip into.

  1. Find the studs in that wall and mark each stud with a thumb tack (or you can use a sharpie and clean up afterwards).  Then taking your hammer knock out the sheetrock between the studs.  NOTE: try to be careful during this process for two reasons. First, you don't want to knock into any electrical or plumbing that might be hidden in the wall and secondly, you don't want to damage the sheetrock that covers your studs.  I chose walls that didn't have any electrical outlets on them to minimize the risk of finding electrical wires.
  2. Once you have knocked away enough sheetrock to expose the area between the studs, take a sheetrock knife (I actually used a large serated knife typically used to cut ham) and trim up the edges.
  3. At this point there are two ways to continue.  You can either build a box that fits tightly into the opening or you can use the existing studs and back wall as your box.  If you choose to go this route, all you will have left to do is install the shelves, paint and trim it out!
  4. If you go with the first option, there will be extensive measuring and cutting to do.  The end result will not vary greatly from option number two.  However, with option 1, if you are off in your measurements, you will have to recut, renail and try again.  I don't know about you but I'm not good enough with this type of precision, so I chose to go with option number two and build off what was already there.
  5. One issue you might have with the second scenario -  you have to make sure that the studs butt up against the back wall for this to work.  If it very nearly butts up, you can still use this procedure but you will need to apply paintable and waterproof caulking to fill in the gaps otherwise your cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter will escape quite easily.  Gaps will also allow critters such as spiders easy access to the interior of your home.  To me the most important reason is because if you don't close up the gaps - it just looks ugly!  Once you have applied caulk and painted, no one will ever be able to tell - promise!
  6. Once you have opened your space and trimmed up the sheetrock, wipe the area clean and paint.  I like to use the same wall color for the back board and studs and then paint only the trim white.  It gives it a lot of depth.  However, if you paint the entire area white will make it pop!
  7. While the paint is drying, begin to cut your shelves.  I used regular MDF (medium density fiberboard) for my shelves. NOTE: MDF should never be cut indoors!  Also, when knocking in the wall always turn off the HVAC until you have gotten rid of all the dust or it can and will clog up your filter.  I like to use MDF because it's cheap and since I'm not going to be putting anything heavy on the shelves, it will hold up really well.  If you are going to have 3 shelves you will still need to cut 5 pieces.  3 for the shelves, 1 for the top of the area and one for the bottom to close up the gap.  I then used plain, cheap quarter round to make my shelf supports.
  8. When you go to the lumber store to get your lumber, don't be afraid to take your measurements with you and get them to do all your cuts for you.  Each store varies but most will give you a couple of free cuts when you buy the lumber and will charge you a nominal fee for any additional cuts that you want.  I had my MDF cut for the shelves but cut my own quarter round and trim.
  9. While you are there, pick up your trim.  I used a plain corner trim for the sides of the opening and also for the front of the shelves.  As the name suggests, corner trim is typically used on corners.    I then picked up trim that matched the existing trim in the hallway to put at the top and bottom of my unit.  Tip.  Before you go to the lumber store, take a photo of the existing trim and take that with you when you shop for the trim for your shelving project.  Another tip.  You can purchase trim that is already primed.  This cuts down on the painting part of this project and normally it only costs a few pennies more than the plain wood.
  10. Once you have everything cut and ready, use brad nails to attach the quarter round inside your unit to act as a support for your shelves.  Make sure the flat part is facing up so you can sit your shelves on top and that each side is exactly the same distance otherwise your shelf will tilt.  Also, make sure the piece you have cut is wide enough to give amble support to your shelves but short enough that it doesn't interfere when you are trying to put your side trim on.
  11. The first shelves to install should be the top and bottom that will serve as the interior top and bottom of your unit.  Attach supports just below the sheetrock on the bottom and then set the shelf on top.  For the top part put the supports as close to the opening as possible allowing just enough room to put your shelf in.  Then continue to the rest of the shelves.
  12. Don't worry about nailing the shelves onto the supports.  If you have cut your shelves to fit snugly into the opening, they will sit there without wobbling.  Also, should you decide to place something tall in your unit later, you can always take a shelf out if it's not nailed into the support.
  13. Once you are satisfied with the placement of your supports and the shelves, it's time to do the trim.  The corner trim is awesome on this project because it covers the edges of the sheetrock where you have trimmed it and it gives it a wonderful finished look.  After the corner trim is applied to the sides of your opening, attach the top and bottom trim.
  14. Now that the unit has been completely assembled, it's time to grab the caulking gun.  Look for any spaces between the shelves and the back wall or studs, gaps between the trim and the wall, etc.  Give each space a good bead of caulk and then smooth it flat.  Allow 24 hours for the caulk to completely dry.  Then paint and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

This is one of the easiest and most rewarding projects that I have ever done.  I absolutely smile every time I walk past it!!