Closet Workshop

For many occasional, around-the-house handypeople, a closet workshop is an easy answer to a multitude of headaches.

By Bob Vila | Updated Nov 10, 2013 7:22 PM

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One frequent complaint of homeowner-handypersons is tool inaccessibility: It’s a pain to do even simple jobs if finding the right wrench or that small screwdriver requires ten minutes of rummaging around the bottom of a back closet packed with deflated footballs, widowed ski gloves, and stacks of empty paper bags.

Your problem-solving efficiency might increase a good deal if you follow this recipe: Find one underutilized closet, some scrap stock (to be cut into shelves), and add a dollop of organizational thinking. And voila, a workable workspace emerges.

An ordinary closet will do. Remove the closet bar first.

Design the workshop so that the shelves run the full depth of the closet: you won’t be able to walk into it anymore, but the deep shelves will hold much more stuff. Make sure the battens that support the shelves are sturdy enough to bear the weight (nail or screw them to studs). Three-quarter-inch plywood works well for shelves if you don’t have scrap at hand.

Plan the installation first: Your arrangement should take into consideration any toolboxes or carriers, large tools, materials, or other objects you plan to store there. Heavy objects are best stored near the floor (why lift heavy objects any higher than necessary?). Frequently used hand tools belong at waist or chest height for quick and easy access.

With the addition of a fold-out table on the door or attached to one of the shelves, there’s even a bench available.

You can put the door to use for hanging tools, too. If it’s a hollow core door, stiffen it with a sheet of half-inch ply-wood glued and screwed in place. Or replace it with a solid door. Before you start installing shelves in the coat closet next to the front door, think about the location as well. The easier it is to close off adjacent spaces, the better. Just a single handsaw cut produces a surprising amount of dust; a power saw raises much more.

Speaking of power tools, remember that they require electricity. Is there an outlet near the closet? Preferably, it should be one that is wired for twenty amps, so as to accommodate the power surge that many saws produce.

Only you can identify which is the right closet in your home and the right arrangement within it for your needs. And I can’t pretend to have addressed all the questions or possibilities here. One option I’d recommend for the adventuresome home handyperson is to enlarge the opening of the closet workshop, making it four or five feet wide instead of the typical two-and-a-half feet or less. If you add a folding workbench, maybe a portable table saw, and a few other elements, pretty soon it’ll feel like a full-fledged workshop.