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Last week we doubled our closet space by installing a two-tier pole system. This week we will convert the underutilized 12- to 18-inch wing on either side of the door opening into a vertical cubby that can house shoes or miscellaneous items such as folded Levis, sweaters and linens. Cost for materials: $20.

The depth of typical “reach-in” residential closets ranges from 22 inches (where the leading edge of a winter coat barely clears the door) to a relatively commodious 30 and 32 inches. The specifics of your cubby will be determined by the available width and depth of the recess area.

If there’s 11½ inches or more between the edge of the door casing and the corner, and 12 inches of free space from the corner to the face of the hanging clothes, it is ideal for a shoe cubby. If your available space is smaller, you can easily reduce the dimensions below and use it for more compact items.

Let’s build a shoe cubby.

Tools Required:

Chop saw or table saw

Electric or battery operated drill with Phillips bit

#10 countersink bit

Framing Square

Stud finder

Our cubby design is 4 feet tall and approximately 13½ inches wide, with seven intermediate 12-inch wide shelves. Extending the vertical dimension and adding shelves is a simple process if you need more storage room.

Individual cubby height dimensions listed below are based on an average shoe, including an inch or so of free space.

Of course, you can customize the height of each individual cubby to fit specific shoes. For example, you might want to make two or three cubbies extra tall to accommodate hiking or cowboy boots.

Materials Required:

Two 4’x1”x12” #2 pine boards

One 10’x1”x12” #2 pine board for shelves

One 2’x1”x4” #2 pine board for back ledger supports

½ pound 2-inch #10 Phillips head screws

Four 3-inch #10 screws


Cut the 10-foot board into eight 12-inch pieces. Uniformity of length is essential to ensure a tight, even fit when assembling. If you do not have access to a chop saw or table saw, ask the lumberyard to pre-cut the material for you.

Lay the two 4-foot side boards flat, side by side, making sure the ends are even. Measuring from the top down, draw a pencil line across both boards at 6 inches, with a second line at 6¾ inches, using a framing square. Repeat the process, measuring from the previous 6 3/4-inch mark, until you have located all six shelves. You should have about 6 inches between the last shelf and the bottom board.

Stand the side boards on edge on a flat work surface. Butt one 12-inch board flush against the inside wall of one of the 4-feet-long side boards. Apply a bead of glue along the ¾-inch line (have a rag on hand to wipe off excess).

Using the countersink bit, pre-drill three pilot holes in the side board, and secure the top board to the side board with screws. Repeat this process at each ¾-inch cross shelf mark to attach the six shelves and the bottom board (it’s less frustrating to complete one side at a time).

Repeat the process with the other 4-foot side board.

Cut the 2-foot ledger board into two 1-foot pieces, and place one piece across the back of the cubby, aligning it with the bottom of the top board. Attach with screws. Place the second ledger piece across the bottom, aligning it with the top edge of the bottom shelf. Attach it with screws.

To install the cubby box, snug it into the corner and determine the ideal height (suggested top height is about 6 feet). Using a stud finder, see if there’s a stud within 12 inches of the corner. If not, use a toggle bolt. Pre-drill countersink holes in the top and bottom ledger, and secure the box to the stud and corner stud, using 3-inch #10 screws.

If you missed last week’s column, you can read it at http://bit.ly/1pyCpSg.

Letters from readers

Jesse with Blue Barrel Systems writes: You mention, “BlueBarrel systems connect five to as many as 15 barrels in a row...” The minimum is actually two barrels, and there’s no upper limit. Our most ambitious customer (to date) did 42 barrels in a single BlueBarrel System at a Santa Rosa residence.

Reply:Thanks for the clarification, Jesse. That’s an impressive line up.

Gary writes regarding rainwater harvesting: “I was really surprised not to see Bataeff Salvage mentioned as a source of food grade drums and barrels. This family-run business has been selling drums, barrels, buckets and general farm type hardware for over 60 years here in Santa Rosa. Their prices are far lower then the chain hardware stores and they have everything needed to construct a water storage system, food grade drums and barrels, PVC pipe and all the fittings, plastic and lead free brass spigots, etc.

Reply: It’s always good to learn of new salvage sources. Thanks Gary.

Tom Wilmer has been a licensed general contractor since 1986. Contact him with questions or comments at tomwilmer@aol.com.

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