Hide the mess
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Meet the pro
Spike Carlsen is a carpenter, author
and former editor at The Family
Handyman. You can find his books in
stores and at online booksellers.
My daughter, Kellie, recently bought a nice little
house with a nice big coat closet by the front door.
The problem is, since the garage is in the back,
everyone, including the dog, uses the back door.
I designed and built these hide-the-mess lockers
with people like Kellie in mind. Each locker is big
enough to stash a coat, backpack, boots, hats, and
odds and ends that normally wind up on the floor.
Since they’re modular and space efficient, you can
build one for each member of the family—including
the dog (leashes, toys, food, you name it). Now
everyone has a personal place for stashing stuff—and the responsibility for keeping it organized.
The louvered door is made from one of a pair of
closet bifold doors, which you can buy at almost any
home center. Since the doors come in pairs and you
can get two locker “boxes” from each sheet of plywood,
you’ll make the best use of materials by
building them in twos. Here’s how to do it.
Money, materials and tools
My total materials cost was just
under $100 per locker. Since I was
planning to paint the lockers, I
used inexpensive “AC” plywood. If
you plan to stain your lockers,
and use hardwood plywood such
as oak or birch and hardwood
doors, you’ll spend about $150
per locker. On a row of the mudroom lockers,
only the outer sides of the end
lockers show, so you can use
inexpensive plywood for the
inner parts and more expensive
material for the outer parts.
Expect to spend at least a day
buying materials, rounding up
tools and building a pair of lockers.
Set aside another day for
A table saw is handy for cutting
up plywood, but a circular saw
with a guide will provide the
same results (see Two Essential Saw Cutting Guides).
You’ll also need a miter saw to
cut the screen molding. A finish
nailer will help you work faster,
but hand-nailing will work too as
long as you drill holes to prevent
Buy the doors first
There are a variety of bifold doors available.
If you need more ventilation, use
full louvered doors; if ventilation isn’t an
issue, use solid doors. The doors you buy
may not be exactly the same size as
mine, so you may have to alter the
dimensions of the boxes you build. Here
are two key points to keep in mind as
you plan your project:
- You want a 1/8-in. gap surrounding the
door. So to determine the size of the box
opening, add 1/4 in. to the height and
width of the door. Since my bifold doors
measured 14-3/4 x 78-3/4 in., I made the
opening 15 x 79 in.
- To determine the depth of the shelves,
subtract the door thickness from the
width of the sides (including the 1/4-in.
screen molding). My doors were 1-1/8 in.
thick, so I made the shelves 10-7/8 in.
deep (12 minus 1-1/8 equals 10-7/8 in.).
When the doors are closed, they’ll rest
against the shelves inside and flush with
the screen molding outside.
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Photo 1: Build a simple box
Cut the plywood parts and assemble them with trim-head screws. Make sure
the box opening is 1/4 in. taller and wider than the door itself.
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Photo 2: Square it up
Take diagonal corner-to-corner measurements, then adjust the box until the
measurements are equal and the box is square. Install the back, using one edge
of the back to straighten the box side as you fasten it. Check once again for
squareness, then secure the other edges of the back.
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Photo 3: Cover the plywood edges
Install screen molding over the front edges of the box. Apply wood glue lightly
and use just enough nails to “clamp” the molding in place while the glue dries.
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Photo 4: Build slatted shelves
Plywood shelves would work fine, but slatted shelves allow better ventilation
so wet clothes and shoes can dry. Space the slats with a pair of wood scraps.
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Photo 5: Install the shelves
Stand your locker up and position the shelves to suit the stuff that will go in
it. Mark the shelf locations, lay the locker on its back and screw the shelves into
place. Make sure the shelves are inset far enough to allow for the door.
Use a table saw or straight-cutting guide
to cut the plywood sides (A) and top and
bottom (B). The Cutting List (see Additional Information, below) gives
the parts dimensions for my lockers. If
you plan to paint or stain the mudroom lockers, it’s
a good idea to prefinish the insides of
parts. Once the lockers are assembled,
brushing a finish onto the insides is slow
Assemble the boxes with 2-in. trim-head
screws (Photo 1). Trim-head screws
have smaller heads than standard screws
and are easier to hide with filler. Cut the
1/4-in. plywood back (C) to size (see Figure A). Make
certain the box is square by taking diagonal
measurements (they should be equal;
see Photo 2), and then secure the back
using 1-in. nails. Use the edges of the
back as a guide to straighten the edges of
the box as you nail the back into place.
Cut 1/4 x 3/4-in. screen molding and
use glue and 1-in. finish nails or brads to
secure it to the exposed front edges of
the plywood (Photo 3). Cut the shelf front
and back (D), sides (E) and slats (F) to
length, then assemble the three slatted
shelf units (Photo 4). With the locker box
standing upright, position the shelves
and hold them temporarily in place with
clamps or a couple of screws. Adjust the
shelf spacing based on the height of the
locker’s user and the stuff that will go inside. Once you have a suitable arrangement,
lay the mudroom locker on its back and
screw the shelves into place (Photo 5).
The shelves are easy to reposition in the
future as needs change.
Figure A: Locker construction
Figure A: Locker Construction
16-1/2” wide x 81" tall x 12-1/4” deep
See the Material List and Cutting List in Additional Information, below.
Cutting diagram for the sides and back.
Figure B: Cutting Diagrams
To avoid wasting plywood, follow these cutting diagrams for the 3/4-in. and 1/4-in. plywood.
Add the hardware and finish, and then install
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Photo 6: Mount the hinges
Remove the hinges from the doors (they’ll be pointed the wrong way) and
reinstall them on the door based on the direction you want it to swing. Prop up
the door alongside the box and align the door so there will be a 1/8-in. gap at the
top and bottom of the box. Then screw the hinges to the box.
Remove the hinges that hold the bifold
doors to each other. Determine which
way you want the door to swing, then
mount the hinges onto the door accordingly.
(Note: You’ll need to buy another
set of hinges if you’re building two lockers.)
Remember, you want the louvers to
point downward on the outside! With the
locker on its back, position the door and
secure the hinges to the plywood side
(Photo 6). Install door handles and magnetic
catches to hold them closed.
Remove the doors (but don’t finish
them yet!) and install the locker boxes.
Your lockers can stand against baseboard,
leaving a small gap between the
backs of the lockers and the wall. Or—if
you remove the baseboard‐they can
stand tight against the wall. Either way,
installing them is a lot like installing cabinets:
Fasten all the boxes together by
driving 1-1/4-in. screws through the side
of one locker into the next. Then screw
the entire assembly to wall studs.
Install the unfinished doors to make
sure they all fit properly, then remove
them again. This may seem like a waste
of time, but there’s a good reason for it:
Your locker boxes may have shifted a
little during installation, and the doors
may not fit properly. If a door or two
need some edge sanding, you want to do
that before finishing.
When you’ve checked the fit of all the
doors, remove them one last time for finishing.
Whether you’re using paint or a
natural finish, louvered doors are a real
pain. If your plans include a clear coat,
consider polyurethane or lacquer in
spray cans: You’ll get better results in far
less time, though you’ll spend an a little extra. After finishing, install
the doors and load up those lockers!