Carl and I have spent a while thinking about the best way to get more storage space into the bedrooms upstairs. Like a typical English house, there aren’t any closets (save the linen closet in the hallway). Since we left our Ikea Pax wardrobes at our previous house, we have next to no storage and are starting from scratch.
We’ve toyed with the idea of getting Pax wardrobes again. We liked their functionality and their height tall. They really use space effectively. However, the overall cost to fit the wardrobes in both our room and the boys’ room felt a bit too high. Plus, there would be a lot of effort required to take the wardrobes from a ‘here are my flat-pack Ikea wardrobes’ look to a ‘here are my custom fitted wardrobes’ look (like this one). Basically, we want don’t want them to look cheap!
For less effort and less money, we found that we could frame out a closet in timber, board it, hang doors, and fit it with the Ikea Algot system. The Algot system has features similar to the Pax system, but is less expensive. It’s meant to be wall-mounted or free standing, rather than installed within a frame. I get the impression that people usually use the Algot system when they want to retrofit a storage system into a closet or storage space that already exists. Instead, we are purpose-building a closet just to fit the Algot system.
Designing a Closet for the Ikea Algot System
We want to get the absolute best use of the space, so I started by researching Ikea’s Algot system. The foundation for the system is posts which you mount on the wall at either 40, 60 or 80 cm. With that done, you click brackets into place which will let you fit shelves, pull-out drawers, hooks, clothes rails, shoe organisers and more. It’s a very modular, flexible system, and we appreciate that as the boys grow and their needs change, we’ll be able to change things around in their closet to suit.
We’ll be storing the boys’ clothes in the closet, so I wanted to make sure that we had plenty of pull-out baskets, as well as some shelving and hooks to store other things. They don’t need a clothes rail yet, so we aren’t worrying about that at this point. The pull-out baskets have to be hung on wall-posts placed 60cm apart, so this was my starting point. With three posts, spanning 120cm we can fit two columns of the baskets – one for each child.
With that dimension in mind, I started to look for doors. 61cm is a standard door width, and with two, I would have an opening of 122cm. Perfect. If the doors fit, the Algot system will fit, so I designed the frame for the closet around these doors.
Sketching the Closet Frame
While I was sketching the frame, I found this illustration from HomeTips.com to be invaluable. Using this as a reference, I designed two parts to the closet: the side of the closet and the front.
The side of the closet is a simple box with some cross pieces to brace it. There isn’t a door in this piece. and it will be boarded completely on each side. The length of this piece determines the depth of the closet. In our case, we want the internal depth to be 50cm, so we cut the piece to be 51.5cm, to allow for plasterboard and skim along the inside. For the height, we aimed for 6mm shorter than the ceiling so we could lift it into place after construction.
The front of the closet needed a stud on each side into which we’ll fit the sides of the door casing. It also needed header across the top for the final piece of the door casing. It will also be plasterboarded.
I started by determining the size of the pieces for the door casing. The doors need a 2mm gap on all sides and a 4mm gap between them, so the width of the top piece of casing needs to take this into account (So 2+610+4+610+2, plus the depth of the door casing on each side, since this piece rests on top of the sides). For the height of the doors, I calculated the height of the underlay plus the height of the carpet in order to make sure we would have a 2mm clearance above and below the doors.
To calculate the height of the header, I took the overall ceiling height, subtracted the height I calculated for the side of the door casing and the depth of the top piece of the casing and used that as my reference.
At this point I noticed that the width of the side of the closet (two sheets of plasterboard plus skim plus the width of the timber) would be wider than the stud and the door casing along the front. Therefore, I made the header wider to accommodate this. Now when the door casing is up, it will be flush with the side of the closet.
I loved this part of the work. It’s like a giant puzzle to figure out!
Making a Cut List and Cutting the Timber
With my design in hand, I calculated how many studs we would need (the answer: seven 2400mm studs). This was another fun puzzle to figure out: whether the off-cuts for the longer pieces would be long enough to cut any of the shorter pieces. Carl bought the timbers, and I laid them out on the floor with my calculations and square in hand, ready to measure and draw.
I must have calculated correctly, because we had enough timber in the right lengths, and hardly any timber left, so it’s a minimum-waste project.
The next day, Carl and I off-loaded the children to some very kind friends and set to work with the chop-saw. I don’t get to use power tools often, so it was great to have Carl’s undivided attention to bring me back up to speed. Cutting the timber went quite quickly, and we were nearly ready to start assembling. Carl pointed out how nice it was to have a cut-list and to know what we were doing before we started. Our other projects have been a bit more of the ‘figure it out as you go’ variety.
Notching Out the Studs for the Skirting Board
Before we started putting things together, we had to decide how we were going to work around the skirting board. It’s attention to these kinds of things that will really get a good finish. The options were to cut out the skirting, or to notch out the battens that go against the wall. We hemmed and hawed for a minute, but decided to notch out the battens. In case we, or someone, decide to take the closet out, then the skirting will still be in tact.
Carl did this job. He set the chop saw to only cut to a certain depth (not all the way through the stud) and made tons of little cuts along the bottom of the stud. Then he turned it around and did the same thing again along the other side. Then he was able to go along with a chisel to clear away what was left.
Here’s how they look against the wall.
Assembling the Closet Frame
At this point we were able to put the chop saw to the side and get to work putting the frame for the closet together. We probably were a bit over the top with this, using screws instead of nails. Following my sketches, it was pretty straightforward. The only decisions were where to place the braces along the side piece. Because we’re thinking of hanging shelves along the side of closet, we attempted to place them where we would probably hang the shelves.
It would have been manageable for just one person to do it, but I think it went so much faster with two of us. I was able to lay out the pieces and Carl could go around drilling pilot holes. Then one of us could screw the pieces together. It would have been even quicker if we had two drills.
Fitting the Closet Frame into Place
After we the two faces of our closet fitted into place it was time to fit it to the wall. We used the timber we had already cut in order to mark where the pieces would fit along the all. You can see below that we took a piece of timber that was the same length as the side of the closet, held it in the corner parallel to where it would run and marked the end. This line is where the back edge of the front of the closet would need to fit. We did the same on the other wall.
And then some real magic happened. I left to go pick up the kids and when I came back, Carl had done this:
He had fitted each face of the closet in place and screwed it to the walls, and to each other. The only thing a bit quirky about fitting is along the wall on the front face. I had calculated that the architrave would be the exact width of a timber stud plus the depth of the door casing. Typically, architrave is set a few millimeters back from the edge of the casing, so Carl used some 3mm plastic shims between the stud and the wall to allow for this.
A whole closet frame, designed by me, from paper to reality! Next up: fitting the casing, boarding, and skimming. And once I get the inside painted, actually installing the Algot system, which should fit perfectly.