Misadventures in DIY: Closet Organization/Conversion

(Disclaimer: I’m no handy man. I hope I can inspire other people who are complete DIY novices to try, even if it’s not perfect. That’s why I always mention my terrible errors and sloppiness.)

One of the things about humble beginnings is making them more livable: case in point, our duplex. One of the other complaints that Melanie and I have lobbed is the super crowded closet. Our bedroom closet is 64″ wide with a 30″ opening and it’s only 22″ deep. Melanie couldn’t even reach all the way inside the closet to grab some of her clothes because one of the sides of the closet went back so deep. The crowded, cramped clothes jutted out of the entrance, making it hard to close the closet door. It had this terrible Lowes metal wire shelving that was poorly installed. I understand why the previous Owner did this, because it was a rental unit, and we usually don’t spend too much time making those super nice.

But when Melanie casually mentions that something is inconvenient, I, of course, go to work on a plan that is way more than is necessary to cure the ill by hacking and screwing wood that would make most home improvement professionals cringe.

Onward!

Forgot to take a true before pic, so this one after I got the first part up. FYI: I know these photos suck… I may need some photography classes if I’m gong to keep doing these blog posts.

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I Googled solutions and I came upon an idea to make 2 levels of perpendicular clothing racks and went to work designing it. The plan was to use 1x4s to make strips around the perimeter of the closet to attached the clothing bars to. This would also give me a way to put wood shelving in the top of the closet for storage.

Step 1: I took measurements and drew up a plan

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Materials:

  • 32′ of yellow pine 1×4 (2 at 16′ lengths)
  • 8′ of round closet rod
  • 1 4’x8′ A/C Plywood
  • 5 Wood closet rod holders (I like the look of wood more)
  • 2-1/2″ Square drive screws
  • 1-1/2″ nails
  • 5 #20 Joiner Biscuits
  • Wood glue
  • Scrap 2×4

All of my lumber was purchased from Siewers Lumber & Millworks, my employer’s supplier here in Richmond, VA. Siewers is a local, family-owned business since 1888 and their lumber is infinitely better than the crap you have to dig through to find only slightly less crappy lumber at Lowes.

Also, I only needed 4 closet rod holders, but I messed one up when I split it in half trying to hammer a nail on it to hold the rod on. Thus, I had to buy another.

Tools:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Speed Square
  • Level
  • Circular-saw
  • Electric drill/driver
  • Hammer
  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • “F” Clamps
  • Saw horses
  • Plate joiner
  • Headlamp

I had access to my employer’s workshop and thus nicer tools than most novices, but a skil-saw can do what any of these saws that I used can do, it just takes longer because of all the steps to make sure you don’t mess up.

Step 2: Cut the 1×4 support band

I cut the 1x4s to the appropriate lengths. To do this, I used the chop saw at the shop.  (I took pictures after the fact, so yes, that is not a 1×4, that is a piece of plywood.)

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Step 3: Installing the band around the perimeter.

First, I used my trusty stud detector and found the studs around the closet.

Once that was done, the first problem that came up is that (like it is all over the house) the walls and floor were uneven, the floor was not level, and the doorway was crooked. None of it uniformly so. With Melanie’s help (and patience) I did the best I could to give a sense of balance and symmetry to the thing.

IMG_20151213_104132[1]So, with sort of a weird un-level, but straight base line using the doorway and floor as a guide, I began screwing (with 2-1/2″ square drive screws) the upper and lower bands around the closet. I had to toe-screw some of these 1×4’s in place to be able to reach the stud. I’m not sure if that’s suppose to be done or not, but I did it anyway because it seemed right!

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I used that shelf to try to make the bands even and contiguous for when I put the top closet shelf in.

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A skilled carpenter would have mitered the corners, or made some other joint to lock the 1×4’s together, but skilled carpenter doesn’t describe me, and the project needed to get done without spending 10 hours and 30 extra linear ft. of 1×4 to finagle a half-decent joint of some kind.

Step 4: Closet Rods

Next was the closet rods. I opted for wood ones, because I feel that they look nicer. I cut the rods to length (and re-cut when I screwed up twice) and then installed the brackets.

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In order to make sure the closet rod didn’t come out when clothes were pulled off it, I hammered a small nail into the bracket to hold it in.

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Step 5. Melanie’s lower closet bar leaving room for longer articles of clothing to hang

The other issue that I had to find a solution for was mounting the clothing rod for the lower level of of the closet while leaving some space for the longer articles of clothing (dresses) to hang down freely from the top bar. The solution was a (shoddily) homemade bracket using a piece of the plywood for the shelving and a 2×4 ripped in half to be a 1×1.

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That 90 degree line right there was to notch it so that it fit around the 1×4 band.

I didn’t have a jig saw, or any fine woodworking tools really, so I just had to make due with my circular saw and coping saw leftover from trimming out my water heater closet…..which is why it looks so sloppy. (1st photo)

I split a 2×4 into two then, once again, use a circular saw to cut a notch for the band. (2nd Photo)

Then I hammered a nail through both sides to attach the 1×1 flanges to the plywood. Ignore my messy nightstand. (3rd Photo)

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It’s bulky, ugly, and, yes, I didn’t make the plywood wide enough and had to add another, wider piece of ply to make the clothing rod mounting bracket line up with the other one, but I didn’t have to spend money on any extra materials; which I consider a minor victory.

Yes, the rod is slightly tilted. It’s an…um…err….  aesthetic choice….

For the other side, I actually found a better method for making the bracket.

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I added a shelf in case we need it for whatever reason. I used 1-1/2″ trim nails to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere.

I actually should have done the upper closet shelves before we put Melanie’s clothes in the closet, but I didn’t want her to have to leave her clothes in the living room closet and on the couch while I waited until the next week to finish the closet.

Step 6. Closet Shelves

The next order of business (before installing my clothing racks) was getting a shelf in the top of the closet. this was made immensely difficult by uneven walls, and studs making drywall subtly bulge out.

The thought was that I could use the 1×4 band as support for the shelves. The only problem was that I had to make the shelves in 3 parts to make a “C” shape and one corner would be unsupported.

So I used the table saw in the shop to cut 3 boards (one all the way across, and 2 smaller panels to go in the sides of the closet):

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Now, how to join the 3 boards? Our cabinetry subcontractor (Joshua Cooley Fine Carpentry) and I were talking about this one day during work and he showed me how to use biscuits, a plate joiner, and wood glue to make it into one unit. (These illustrative photos are actually of two scrap boards because I had already joined my shelving and was waiting for the glue to dry.) Descriptions are in creepy Silence of the Lambs speak for my own entertainment.

Photo 1: It lines up the two boards that it wants to join and draws a line (hopefully more straight than mine).

Photo 2: It clamps the board to its work bench/surface/precariously placed saw horses, lines up the plate joiner and makes the hole on both boards.

Photo 3: The hole

Photo 4: The #20 biscuit

Photo 5 & 6: It puts wood glue in the hole and then puts the biscuit in the hole on both boards. It also glues the surfaces of the boards that will be touching.

Photo 7: It uses “F” clamps to hold the boards to the table and flat, and also to hold the boards together.

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Then I put the boards in the closet, and hacked, cut, and maimed the sides so they fit into the uneven closet. Because I’m a jack-leg I used a hammer to tap the corners down to get the shelves flush.

That dividing line in the side and the main shelf is because I didn’t glue them well and the joint started to come out, but I had no glue at the house, so I just said screw it and left it. The biscuits will hold it together enough to hold towels and pillows and stuff that will be up there. The other side stayed together perfectly.

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Step 7: My lower rod (get your mind out of the gutter)

The final piece of the puzzle was to make a lower bar for me using a panel, rather than a bracket (you know, to hide old shoes and stuff behind) as well as to leave room for longer articles of clothing.

First, I notched the board to accommodate the 1×4 band and the trim at the bottom. I also had to cut the bottom side at an angle to account for the slope of the floor.

Next, I made a new and improved bracket by nailing a piece of 1×4 to the plywood panel and then nailing that to the band. It looks much better than the 1×1 flange type thing that I used on the other side. I did the same at the bottom.

I also put a shelf there which I forgot to take a picture of.

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And voia-la! An ugly bit of closet customization that is nonetheless effective at making it so we can access all of our clothing, as well as reduce crowding of clothing. I only put a pic of my side, since I don’t know if Melanie would be too thrilled with me displaying her wardrobe on the internet.

Also, the answer is yes, that is my red suit with gold trim and buttons, custom made in Hoi An, Vietnam.
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There’s a bunch of empty space in the middle of the closet now, so we’re thinking we can put some hooks to hang stuff from, and maybe some sort of shoe cubby.

My workstation set up on the front porch when I do these projects along with the most important tools of the trade: measuring tape, square, and pencil. Along with my cheap, plastic saw horses that have served me well over 3 projects.

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and my Skil-saw (that is actually Skil brand).

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Thinking that my next project (aside from covering squirrel holes around the roof line) will be a rail for this front porch.

I hope you enjoyed fuddling my way through this project!

 

Podcast/Book Recommendations: Overcoming Being Overwhelmed and Over Worked.

Feeling Overwhelmed: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (And It’s All Small Stuff)” by Richard Carlson

Right now is a big time of transition for my girlfriend and I. We are about to close on our first Duplex (we are so super stoked); The Richmond Tour Guys is experimenting with charging for tours (this coming weekend is the first of that); and my girlfriend started a new job this week. Between all of this, making time for each other, and my full time gig; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

For a week or so after we got back from our trip to the West Coast trip, I started really stressing and panicking. There was so much to do. Will paid tours be successful? What if I fail? What if I don’t make the flyers in time? What if I don’t have the tour script memorized? What if the Duplex which seems like an awesome deal from my due diligence, turns out not to be? What if I am not a good landlord? What if I’m neglecting my girlfriend? What if I’m losing connection with my friends and family? What if, what if, what if!?!

Well, I decided after suffering these pangs of anxiety that I needed to stop worrying so much; but needed some tips on how to do (other than Buzzfeed posts). I was listening to an episode of Entrepreneur on Fire (Sorry JLD, I can’t remember which one) and one of the guests recommended “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and it’s all small stuff)” by Richard Carlson. I bought the AudioBook and listened to it for the next few days repeating certain chapters that resonated with me. The book helped me put all this anxiety into perspective. I mean, I was overwhelming myself so much about what wasn’t getting done, that I paralyzed myself into inaction which created tons of inertia.

The book said a some stuff that I already knew (being present, realizing that things aren’t that big of a deal, etc.), but it’s sometimes necessary to have it hammered in again. Repetition is invaluable.

I suppose the point of this is if you feel constantly overwhelmed, anxious, angry, etc: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is a must-read. It’s a good healthy dose of perspective.

Overworked “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiosaki

I finally read (well, listened to) Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I totally see why so many people refer this book. It is really mind blowing. As someone who’d always looked with interest upon getting passive income, this book greatly helps expand as to how to make that possible and reminds me of why I want to produce enough passive income to where dictate my lifestyle rather than trading my time for dollars.

The biggest take away for me was to constantly be learning. I already do that, but the book made me realize that almost everything even if it’s not obviously an educational experience, is an opportunity to learn something; be it my day job, giving tours, or writing a blog post.

After having my girlfriend listen, we decided to take our futures into our own hands and we are purchasing our first duplex.

This book has changed the lives of a lot of people and it’s easy to see why.

New Podcast Recommendation: Get Rich Education with Kieth Weinhold

In continually learning; Podcasts help me a lot with this. Via Entrepreneur on fire, which I recommended a couple of months ago, I found a new Podcast that has shot to the top of my list of Podcasts that I regularly listen to:

Get Rich Education With Kieth Weinhold: He is a successful real estate investor who pretty much gives away incredible information for free every week on his Podcast. Listening to it from the beginning is almost like an education series in that he builds off of earlier topics. He starts general with mindset and principles of ways to think about things, then gets into very specific details about tools and strategies. My mind has been expanded a lot since listening to his Podcast. As someone with a fledgling real estate portfolio, having someone give me this information weekly in digestible form is priceless.

I’m still kind of waiting to see what the catch is. One thing is that he invests in Turn-Key real estate in Memphis, and gets $1,000 referral reward if people he refer use their services. Although, the company gives anybody who refers someone $1,000 so it’s not like they are a sponsor of the Podcast (that I know of).

I am currently doing my own due diligence on this Turnkey Real Estate service.

Website/Podcast Recommendation: Bigger Pockets

The other things I’ve discovered since my last post is a social network for real estate investors called Bigger Pockets. It’s completely free (although some extra features require membership; but it’s reasonably priced and totally worth it). It’s a way to connect with other real estate investors, both local and nationally. It also has a blog, a podcast, forums, calculators for flips and buy and holds, and a lot more.

For the last month, my girlfriend and I have been in contract for a duplex and I posted questions on this forum and got answers. There is no way I’d be able to get these answers otherwise. People help you analyze deals, tell you about the market, help with land lording strategies, tax strategies, asset protection and even give advice on specific situations.You can also search the forum and the blogs and find a lot of your answers.

The Buy and Hold calculator alone was worth paying for the Plus membership. I highly encourage anyone even remotely invested in real estate to sign up and get involved in this website; listening to the podcasts; and reading the blogs. I can’t stress how invaluable this resource has been for me over the past 2 months.