How to Build a Closet

DIY Closet Build

matejphoto / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 6 - 8 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 - 4 days
  • Yield: 96-inch by 30-inch closet
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Estimated Cost: $400 to $800

If you lack closet space in the bedroom, a spacious built-in closet might seem like a far-fetched dream—but this is a dream that you can transform into reality.

Installing your own clothes closet takes just a day or two but may stretch as long as a week because of drywall work and painting. Building a closet not only improves your enjoyment of the room, but it also adds resale value, since it's a permanent improvement that most homebuyers desire.

Before You Begin

At 8 feet wide by 30 inches deep, this clothes closet is large enough to serve the needs of occupants of medium or small bedrooms.

The interior width is roughly 92 inches and depth is 26 inches—plenty of room for clothes hanging on a lateral clothes rod. Since the closet extends from the floor to the ceiling, there's plenty of room for large open shelves, shoe cubbies, and even enough open space for stacking storage boxes.

This build is only two walls: the front wall with two bifold doors and one short side wall. This closet is built into a room's corner, so the other side wall butts up against a bedroom wall.

Tip

For clarity, these instructions assume that the butted wall will be on the right side. If desired, the closet can be reversed: butted wall on left, open side on right.

Permits and Coding

A building permit may be required. If a permit is not expressly required, it might be required under the broad designation of interior alterations or remodels. 

Safety Considerations

Observe all electrical safety restrictions, since building the closet requires tying into the existing walls. Make sure that all circuits to the area are shut off at the electrical service panel.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Electric miter saw
  • Stud finder
  • Painter's tape
  • Tape measure
  • Laser level/plumb device
  • Pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Drywall finishing tools
  • Painting tools

Materials

  • 2 24-inch by 80-inch bifold doors
  • 3 3/4-inch by 4 1/2-inch by 81-inch (true width) primed interior door jamb moulding
  • 2 48-inch door trim kits
  • 4 Drywall sheets
  • 10 Two-by-fours
  • 16d nails
  • Toggle bolts
  • Drywall paper tape
  • Drywall compound
  • Drywall primer
  • Interior paint

Instructions

  1. Shut off Water and Electricity

    At the service panel, shut off all circuit breakers that supply electricity to devices around the project area. If either of the walls are adjacent to a bathroom or kitchen, water pipes may run through the walls. Shut off water for the time being.

  2. Mark Closet Location

    Mark off the general location of the closet's perimeter. Use squares of painter's tape or a pencil to mark on the walls, floor, and ceiling. Locations do not have to be exact right now.

    • Front: The front edge of the closet will be 30 inches away from the back wall. 
    • Left: The left wall will be 96 inches away from the right (bedroom) wall. The right side of the closet will butt up against an existing wall. The existing wall will act as the right side of the closet.
  3. Mark Location of Studs and Joists

    Within the perimeter that you marked off, search for and mark all wall studs and ceiling joists.

    • Wall Studs: Use the stud finder to locate the top and bottom of every wall stud. Mark the centers with a pencil mark on the wall. In most homes, there should be one or two studs on the side wall and six studs on the back wall, not including the corner studs. Each stud should be 16 inches on-center away from an adjacent stud.
    • Ceiling Joists: If the closet is situated perpendicular to ceiling joists, you should be able to locate six joists. If the closet is parallel with ceiling joists, you should find one or two joists. Ceiling joists are usually 16 inches on-center away from each other.

    Tip

    Since the closet's bottom plate can be attached to the floor covering and subfloor, there is no need to locate the floor joists.

  4. Remove Trim

    With the pry bar, remove all trim in the perimeter area, including but not limited to baseboards, shoe molding, quarter round, crown molding, and chair rail.

  5. Add Top (Ceiling) Plate

    Run a full 8-foot-long two-by-four on the ceiling, its outer edge 30 inches from the back wall and one end butted up against the right wall. Cut a 26 1/2-inch section of two-by-four. On the left side, run the two-by-four between the back wall and the inner edge of the top plate.

    Tip

    All two-by-fours that attach to ceiling joists or wall studs should be attached with 16d nails or screws. Any two-by-fours that attach to drywall that has no solid structural element behind it should be attached with toggle bolts.

  6. Add Bottom (Floor) Plate

    Cut three pieces of two-by-four: two at 20-1/4 inches and one at 26-1/2 inches.

    On the left side, attach the 26 1/2-inch bottom plate piece on the floor directly below the 26 1/2-inch top plate on the ceiling. Attach the two 20 1/4-inch pieces directly below the top plate 8-foot piece, one on the left side and one on the right side.

  7. Attach Studs to Back and Side Walls

    On the left side of the back wall, measure the vertical distance between the ceiling and floor plates. Cut a two-by-four to size and attach it to the back wall. Repeat for the right side wall.

  8. Finish Left Side Wall Framing

    Finish the left side wall by measuring the distance between the ceiling and floor plates and cutting two two-by-fours to the size. Toenail one of the studs at the front-left corner. Toenail another stud in the center of the left side wall.

  9. Attach King and Jack Studs

    On the left side of the closet door, measure the vertical distance between the ceiling and floor plates. Cut a two-by-four to size. Cut another two-by-four to 81 inches. Attach the two to form a combined king and jack stud. Toenail into place on the left side, with the jack stud (the shorter one) facing toward the door. Repeat for the right side of the closet door.

    What Are King and Jack Studs?

    A king stud is a long, vertical stud next to a doorway that runs the entire length of the wall. A jack stud is a shorter vertical stud that runs from the floor to the height of the door header. The door header rests on a pair of jack studs.

  10. Attach Closet Door Header

    Cut two two-by-fours to 52 1/2 inches. Lay one on top of the other and attach the two. Then, lay the assembly on top of the two jack studs and nail into the jack studs as a door header.

  11. Attach Short Studs Over Header

    Measure the distance from the top of the header to the bottom of the ceiling plate. Cut three two-by-fours to this size. Toenail these short studs between the header and the ceiling plate 16 inches, on center, apart from each other.

  12. Attach Drywall

    Hang drywall to the inside and outside of the closet. Cut the drywall around the closet door. Tape, mud, and sand the drywall to finish it.

  13. Install Door Casing

    Cut one piece of door casing to 48 inches. Attach it to the bottom of the door header. On the right side of the door, measure downward from the bottom of the casing to the floor. Subtract 1/4-inch from the measurement. Cut the right-side door casing to size and attach to the right side of the door. Repeat for the left side.

    Tip

    Whatever the door casing's stated nominal width, its true width must be 4 1/2 inches—the exact width needed for the door casing. If not, purchase door casing with a true width of 4 1/2 inches or rip down wider casing to this width. The door casing must also have a true thickness of 3/4 inch for all measurements to work in concert with each other.

  14. Install Bifold Doors

    Following the bifold door instructions, install the two doors side by side so that they open in the middle.

  15. Add Door Trim

    Cut and install door trim pieces to frame the outside of the closet door: one across the top and two vertical pieces on the sides. Cut the trim on the electric miter saw at 45 degree angles. Repeat on the inside of the closet.

  16. Paint Closet

    Prime the drywall with drywall primer using a roller and brush. Finish with two coats of interior acrylic-latex paint.

  17. Add Organizers to Closet

    Install a clothes rod, shelves, cubbies, shoe shelves, or other organizers to the inside of the closet.

Building a Wall-to-Wall Closet

One variation on this project is to build a wall-to-wall closet. Rather than stopping at 8 feet long, the closet continues until it reaches the opposite wall. A wall-to-wall closet's smooth, uninterrupted look means that it blends seamlessly into the bedroom. Plus, it gives you even more space for clothing or for general storage.

A wall-to-wall closet can provide space to a large bedroom through its two closet doors. Or it can share space with an adjacent room: one room gets half of the closet and the other room gets the other half. A center dividing wall keeps the two halves separate.

One benefit of a wall-to-wall closet is that there is no need to build a side wall. Both of the closet's side walls are borrowed from the bedroom walls.

When to Call a Professional

A contractor or general carpenter can build a closet in a bedroom for you, including all internal shelving and clothes racks. If you built the closet by yourself, you may decide to hire a closet organizing company to build out the internal elements.