Organize the Closet

So I have a closet where I throw most of my junk (Read: networking equipment rack, boxes, wires, cables etc…) This closet also happens to be the closet with the attic access in the house. So whenever I need to get up in the attic to run another cable, I’ve got to clear out the entire closet to get my ladder in there.

I need to build something that organizes the closet, but also allows me to get into the attic without clearing everything away.

So I started measuring and jumped into sketchup to start designing. After quite a bit of contemplating, I decided to build a ladder into the closet organizer.

The black box is my network rack.

The shelves are spaced around 18 inches apart and I felt like this design gave me a good bit of storage and the ability to access the attic if I needed to. If you can make out from the picture, there are no studs behind the side walls, so I’m going to use pocket holes to secure the side cleats front and back. This will be my first foray into pocket holes, so it should be interesting.

Time to start gathering supplies. Off to home depot to buy some wood. I purchased 3 premium studs with the least amount of knots that I could find. 4 1x2x6ft select pine boards for the shelf cleats and some 3/4 x 16 inch by 3 foot melamine shelves (5 total).

Where to start? I wanted to first clean up my mess of a network rack with wires running everywhere. The UPS for it was powered by an extension cord that was run out of the closet to an outlet in the room. I didn’t like this. I had to run a new outlet into the closet.

The closest power source I found was the switch box for the fan/light in the room. After taking the switch out to see how easy it would be to feed a new line into the box, I decided that wasn’t possible. The box was old and broken, and the switch was held to it by drywall screws! Time to replace the whole box… That’s for another post. Removing the old box made fishing the new outlet line much easier, and it was then tied to the source power for the fan light. Viola! New outlet in the closet.

While I was up there reorganizing I decided to install a high isolation rg6 switch for my cable. Last year we “cut the cord” and I installed a Mohu Sky HD antenna on the outside of the house. The land line cable still provides us with most network channels in HD, but not CBS. So in order to watch CBS Sunday Morning, we needed the antenna. Well sometimes reception isn’t that great on normal channels, so I want to switch back to the land line cable for the network channels. This is where the switch comes in. I pulled the antenna source cable, and the land line source cable through the ceiling, and then ran the output up into the attic as the source for my main splitter. Cable/Antenna switch works great, and it’s hidden in an upper corner, so not noticeable at all. Just have to remember to switch the TVs to either cable or antenna source, or it will seem like it isn’t working at all.

Now I can get on to building the organizer. Taking measurements from sketchup for the ladder angles, I cut the 2x4s at a 14.5 degree foot angle with the mitre saw. I needed to use a straight edge and circular saw to make the top tight-angled cuts, and then used my belt sander clean up the cuts and make the 2 legs as identical as possible. I kind of forgot to take pictures of this step. After cutting the ladder rungs and building the ladder, I went into the closet for placement.

Once I figured out where the ladder needed to go, I drilled pilot holes for the lag screws that were going to hold the ladder to the wall. I chose to go with Spax 4 inch powerlag t star screws. Holy cow these things are beasts. Such a huge improvement over my supply of grip tite screws from home depot, I decided to restock all my supply of screws with the Spax wafer head T star screws. I ordered 1 pound boxes of 1 1/4, 2, 2 1/2 and 3 inch. All of which were used on this project. Time to relegate the grip tite screws for jobs I don’t care about.

Anyway, the ladder is now up in the closet.

I started filling in the noticeable knots and abrasions from milling the 2x4s to sand down later. Since I wanted to keep the shelves and the ladder rungs at the same height, I now had my reference. To make this easier I ordered a laser level. I had never had one of these before and wow, it sure made life easier

With my reference lines projected, I could now start measuring the cleats for the shelves. Measuring 3/4 inch down from the line to account for the actual shelves of course. The rears were easy to attach to all the studs in the wall. The side were not. I ordered a Kreg pocket hole kit from amazon since I had never worked with them before and didn’t have any supplies. I would come to find out the 2 1/2 inch screws still weren’t enough to secure the side cleats front and back.

The jig is easy enough to use. Set your material depth on the jig and bit, clamp the jig and drill away.

Like I said above, after getting my side pieces ready, and drilling the pocket holes, I used some of the 2 1/2 inch screws from the kit to secure them to the front and back of the closet. They just weren’t biting enough to be secure. I did just get my fancy Spax 3 inch screws, but the wafer head is 1/2 inch diamter, and won’t fit into the pocket holes. Time for some alterations… Using my half inch drill bit, I widened the pocket holes to accept the wafer head screws. I also made the holes a tad deeper, so the screws would have more length to bite into the stud.

Not that pretty, but the holes are on the underside of the supports, and I don’t really care that much.


Now it’s time for the actual shelves. I went with melamine because it was prefinished, pre-egded and I was lazy. I know cutting it nicely will be a pain, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. I bought 5 3 foot wide, 16 inch deep shelves. I bought 5 because I couldn’t make more than 1 shelf out of a 3 foot section, and the 4 foot sections were heavier and I didn’t feel like carrying them out of the store.

To cut melamine and leave a nice edge, be sure you have a sharp saw blade (I don’t). You will also need to tape the edge that you want to be clean. I taped the top edge so I could get a nice cut on the visible portion of the shelf. Since the circular saw spins so that the teeth cut from the bottom, the shelf will need to be flipped so the top is down while cutting. Be sure to keep your orientation straight so you’re left with the edge banding still on the front!

Taped and ready to cut with my not so sharp anymore finishing blade.

After cutting, if the picture weren’t so blurry, you might be able to see it is still a nice clean cut!

Once all the shelves were cut to size, I dry fitted everything before taking the ladder out for paint. I was going to paint the shelf cleats too, but once they were in and level, I didn’t really feel like touching them.

Time to take the ladder out and paint. I used a satin finish white spray paint. I think it turned out decent, plus the grass got some nifty new white stripes in the process.

Before reassembling the ladder I wanted to make it a bit safe to climb up so I applied some clear grip tape to each rung.

Now the ladder is complete and assembled. I just replaced it and re-drove the lags back into the wall. One last thing to do for more support is add some cleats to the ladder to support the weak side of the shelves. This will at least give me a little more peace of mind that the shelves won’t collapse.

Now I am finished! I really don’t care about the cleats not being painted. The aesthetic aggravation is much less than the grief I would have been caused removing and reinstalling them.

Sketchup/Real Life Comparison. Not bad if I do say so myself.

And of course filled with the junk I needed to organize.


List of purchases for this project:


Qty Product Price Notes
1 Kreg R3 Jr. Pocket Hole Jig System with Face Clamp and 5 Size Screw Kit $84.77
1 AFFINITY Anti-Slip Tape, Clear Textured Slip Resistant Safety Tread, 25 ft. Roll $12.99
1 C2G / Cables To Go 41015 High Isolation AB Switch $17.22
1 Spax 4″ T-Star Drive Washer Head Yellow Zinc Powerlag Screw $15.54
1 Firecore Self-Leveling Horizontal/Vertical Cross-Line Laser Level with Magnetic Bracket $49.99
1 Spax 1-1/4″ T-Star Yellow Zinc Wafer Head Cabinet Screw $7.98
1 Spax 2″ T-Star Yellow Zinc Wafer Head Cabinet Screw $7.98
1 Spax 2-1/2″ T-Star Yellow Zinc Wafer Head Cabinet Screw $7.98
1 Spax 3″ T-Star Yellow Zinc Wafer Head Cabinet Screw $12.98

Home Depot

Qty Product Price Notes
3 2 in. x 4 in. x 96 in. Premium Kiln-Dried Whitewood Stud $3.05
4 1 in. x 2 in. x 6 ft. Select Pine Board $3.52
5 Melamine White Shelf Board (Common: 3/4 in. x 15-3/4 in. x 3 ft.) $3.05

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