How To Build A Laundry Closet

By Robert Robillard on How To

Building A Laundry Room Shelf System for under $200

Laundry Rooms are Moving Up in the World! Growing up the laundry machines were always in the basement, that’s just where they lived! While the basement may have been an afterthought, with the advent of indoor laundry, it did have some benefits, such as, less noise and less damage in the case of a burst water hose.

Over the last 20 years with the introduction of laundry machine drain pans, water shut-offs and stainless steel braided hoses there has been a growing trend to move laundry upstairs or on the bedroom level.

The advantages of locating your laundry upstairs is that you eliminate the trips of laundry up and down the stairs.  When you stop and think that most of the dirty laundry is generated from the bedrooms [clothes and bedding] and the bathrooms [towels] it makes sense to place it at that location.

Creating a Laundry Closet

Laundry rooms always seem to collect clothes, clutter and cleaning supplies. And for that reason you will want to hide it from view at times.

We often add laundry closets, not rooms, to our client existing living spaces, In these situations we are looking for a spot that will be out of the way, and functional. Many times we find ourselves retro fitting existing closets or building a new laundry closet. In the latter case, if space allows, I always advocate for a wide enough closet for the machines and try to include space for shelving. When shelving is involved the closet often becomes wider then a normal size door, so we often finish the closet with a set of double doors to close off the space.

Create Elevated Laundry Storage

Elevated storage keeps potentially dangerous cleaning supplies out of reach of young children, and pets. But it’s more than that, being organized makes any job easier, including laundry.

On this project, we chose to build our laundry room in a large unused hallway.  We built a closet with inside dimensions of 32-1/2” x 62-1/2”. Our client was planning on purchasing a stacking washer dryer unit and wanted storage shelving for laundry, cleaning supplies and also towels.

After leaving ample room for the 28” laundry machines, we had approximately 24” of space to the left of the machines to build vertical shelving and a top shelf that spanned the entire closet.

Choosing Laundry Closet Shelf Materials

For our shelving unit we decided to use ¾” Birch plywood for the shelving and vertical side panels. We used Poplar for the face frame, cleats and nosing.

We chose Birch plywood because it has a smooth, quality finish on both sides, and finishes very well. We like to use Poplar wood, because it’s durable, inexpensive, has no knots and also finishes well. Birch plywood in my neck of the woods costs around $70 a sheet. Poplar is cheap

Sizing Material

My lumberyard has a panel saw, so I had them rip the two sheets of plywood into four 24” wide pieces. Not only did this allow for easier carrying and transport, but it eliminated the step of my having to cut it down to a narrower width. That saved me time.

Shelf Cleat Design

For the shelves to be secure, we usually install 1½” wide cleats on the wall, with two finish nails per stud. The problem was that the cleats were not long enough to hit enough wall studs for proper fastening.

Instead of using wall anchors, we decided to use vertical plywood on both sides of the shelves. The plywood essentially creates a plywood box and gave use solid nailing throughout the entire length of the cleat. This also allowed us to use narrower cleats which meant that we could hide it behind our 1-1/2” shelf nosing.

Laying Out the Shelves

We knew the size of the stack able laundry machine units and added 8” to that for the top shelf. We wanted to allow plenty of air space for ventilation, top and sides.

Working from the top shelf location down we started to lay out our shelves. Knowing that the client wanted a laundry basket on the floor we allowed for 17” from the bottom of the first shelf to the finished floor.

We cut our two vertical plywood sides to the height of the top shelf [minus the ¾” top shelf] and then laid out the five [5] shelf locations. We ended up with 10½”  spacing between shelf nosings. We based our spacing off of the 1-1/2” shelf nosing, the actual spacing between shelves is 11¼”.

Applying the cleats

Once we had our shelves laid out we started cutting cleats.  For the shelves we needed 10 cleats, measuring ¾” x ¾”x shelf depth. The cleats, like the shelves will be the same depth as the vertical plywood panels. We used DAP construction trim and panel adhesive and brad nails to fasten the cleats onto the plywood sides.

Cutting the Shelves

We cut five shelves using a circular saw and rip fence. The shelves were left at 24” and cut to the same depth of the cleats and vertical plywood sides.

Installing the Vertical Plywood Sides

We installed the inside wall vertical panel first. We used the DAP adhesive and glued and fastened the panel to the one wall stud we could with 2-1/2” finish nails.

To install the other panel we used two short shelves as spacers, fastening them to the shelf cleats with DAP adhesive and brad nails.

Once those two shelves were on we installed the remaining shelves the same way.  The top, longer  shelf was installed and fastened to the tops of the vertical panels, as well as, a cleat spanning from the shelf unit to the opposite side of the closet wall. This cleat was wider than the other cleats [1½”] and was fastened to the wall studs with two finish nails per stud.

Applying the Face Frame

The face frame is 1/1/2” Poplar wood. We installed the long parts first, which was the two vertical and top shelf nosing. Followed by the five shelf nosings.

Install Baseboard

1×10 baseboard and base cap was installed last and helped lock in the vertical panel on the back side. On the front side we toe-nailed finish nails into the floor to hold the panel in place until the finished wood floor locked it in.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor / Writer / Video Talent

Robert Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter and operates a remodeling company located in Concord, MA. He is the editor of ConcordCarpenter.com and ToolBoxBuzz, and a has a weekly column in the Sunday Boston Globe. Rob is a recognized leader in tool and how-to information for building professionals, he hosts the Concord Carpenter Cable TV Show, offering advice on home repairs and maintenance. On his website, Rob uses his knowledge and experience to help and educate on best practices in the remodeling industry. His motto: “Well done is better than well said!”. Contact Rob at: info@aconcordcarpenter.com

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