Modifying the Laundry Room Shelves

While organizing our laundry room I realized we didn’t need as much clothes hanging space as the builder allotted, but we did need more shelving space. The builder gave us two sections of hanging space and one was situated right over the washer, which for us, that 2 feet of space was just unnecessary when we had an additional hanging section of 4 feet on the adjacent wall.  So, I set out on a trip to the hardware store to purchase some necessities for dressing up our existing builder-grade shelves.

Since I was only adding to what was already installed, I had to match what the builder did…the only problem with this is that most of the time these box shelves are built on the ground and then hung on the wall.  I couldn’t do that because my new cabinet already had an existing side and top.  This made things a little more tricky because, of course, our walls aren’t square.  Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself…  First thing: demo.

1. Remove hanging clothes bar and wooden supports.

I got my trusty pry-bar and began to pry off the supports on ether side of this little section of hanging storage.  I had to be gentle so I didn’t mar the shelving I planned to keep.  Once that was done I had to use a hacksaw to cut off the exposed nails.  I also sanded the cabinet so there wasn’t a paint line from where the supports had been.  This part was pretty easy.

2. Mount 1×2″ support for new shelf. 

Next, I mounted a 1×2″ support to the wall to frame out my cabinet box. This gives both the shelf and side panel an attachment point.  The first 1×2″ support measures the length of the shelf and was placed horizontally 1/2″ above the finished bottom of the adjacent cabinet. The second support was placed vertically 1/2″ inside the finished right side.  I did this so that my finished shelf could slide in under the 1×2″ support and the bottom would be flush with the existing cabinet. To install the 1×2″ I temporarily nailed it to the wall and I made sure it was perfectly level before screwing it into the studs.   I also used construction adhesive to make it even more secure.

3. Measure and cut 1/2″ plywood for shelf and side of cabinet box.

To make my shelf and side panel, I used 1/2″ plywood, cut to the exact measurements for the space.  I won’t bore you with my measurements, because they are obviously custom for this space.  Cutting the plywood took a little finagling, but since wood doesn’t grow after it’s cut, a few trips back and forth to the garage were worth it.  Once I had the perfect fit, I sanded each piece thoroughly before installing them.

4. Secure the shelf to the existing cabinet and 1×2″ support.

To secure the shelf, first I drilled pocket holes into the underside of the shelf, which would connect to the existing cabinet. I had to drill them free hand with a 1/8″ bit, because it required a very shallow angle. Then I screwed the shelf into place from underneath, mounting it to the 1×2″ and to the side of the existing cabinet. I used self-tapping wood screws that I counter-sank into the wood.

5. Secure the right side panel of the box.

Last, I added the right side panel.  I secured it to the existing shelf above by first pre-drilling all of my holes…that was much easier than trying to hold it in place and start a screw with one hand, lol. Once that was done, I screwed it to the shelf from the outside of the right panel. I also added a bit of construction adhesive along those seams for added strength. Finally, I had completed a box!

6. Add trim.

It still looked obviously ugly.  Once that was done, I measured for my trim pieces.  On the vertical box edges I used 1/2″ flat trim and on the horizontal edges I used a little beefier 3/4″ flat trim piece.  The 3/4″ piece just gives the shelves a little more substance, in my opinion.  I didn’t want an overly decorative look; I just wanted the cabinet to look finished and to cover up the seams between the existing cabinet and the add on I built.

These trim pieces came primed and ready to go.  All I had to do was measure them and nail them in place with small finishing nails. I did all the vertical pieces first.  To get each piece straight up and down, first I ran a small bead of construction adhesive on each strip.  Once I had it “stuck” in place, I checked it for straightness and plumb with my level before I nailed it to the cabinet.  I attached it one nail at a time, checking for straightness as I went along.  This trim is so thin and flexible it’s easy for it to get twisted if you aren’t careful.  It’s a tedious process, but this is what you see, so I tried not to rush.  I counter-sank all the nails with my nail set so I could go back and fill them in with wood putty for a more professional look.

Another little issue I ran into was when I purchased my trim pieces I didn’t realize that they were different thicknesses…ugh. So rather than return everything, I decided to cut the ends of my horizontal pieces at a 45 degree angle to soften the transition between the two pieces.  I knew once it was all painted it wouldn’t look odd or out of place.

7. Finish work: fill nail holes, caulk, & prep for paint.

Okay, so now I was on the finish line!  I caulked all of my joints, filled my nail holes, and made sure everything was secure. After a quick once-over with some fine grit sand paper (just to be sure there weren’t any caulk boogers or wood putty crumbles) it was time to paint.  I also sanded the existing cabinets so everything was prepped for a fresh coat of paint.

8. Time to paint!

I can’t stand oil based paint and the fumes make me sick, but for woodwork in a wet-ish area it’s the only way to go. I chose Alkyd paint by Olympic in semi-gloss.  I can’t tell you the exact shade because I had it tinted to match our existing trim, which was formerly painted in the famous builder shade of “White Chip” by PPG.

So after slapping on a lovely 3M face mask, I gave the cabinets 3 coats of paint (sanding lightly between coats) with a high quality bristle brush.  I didn’t bother taping, because I knew I had more painting to do in this room, but as you can see I now have “new-looking” shelves. All it took was a lot of patience, some trim, and measuring everything 3 times before cutting. I can’t wait to show you the whole laundry room when it’s done and these shelves took me one step closer!

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Modifying the Laundry Room Shelves — 8 Comments

  1. Good job! I think the patience is the part that would get to me. And the wood cutting. I took a stained glass class in college and I loved it but I was hopeless with making frames. (Fortunately the teacher wasn’t lol)

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