It’s amazing how a small home improvement project can make a big difference in your daily life.
For example, building out your closet can change the way you start and end your day. If you do it right, you can even save time in the morning because everything is well-organized.
It’s also one of the few do-it-yourself projects that can easily end up looking professionally installed – while you save as much as 80 percent off the cost of having a professional closet company install a closet for you. So the payoff for your sweat equity is significant.
But if you’re going to build out your closet, you’ll need to think through how to make the best use of space. Here are a few things that can make a big difference in how satisfied you are with the finished product:
-Space. Most of us don’t have a closet larger than our living rooms. In fact, the average American thinks he or she doesn’t have nearly enough closet space. How can you maximize the space you have?
Whether you’re going to hire a closet company or do it all on your own, start by looking at the closet space you have. Is it a walk-in closet or does it hug the wall? Is it tall or short? Narrow or deep?
Matching the use to the size and shape will help make the most of a particular closet. Take careful measurements of the height, width and depth of each closet. Note the height, width and depth of doors, and if there are any obstructions, such as a pipe or column, that could interfere with your closet design.
-What’s in your closet? Once you’ve opened up your closet, take a look at the types of things you keep in it.
In a bedroom, you might have long and short hanging items, shoes, tall boots, thick sweaters, underwear and socks, pajamas and black tie dresses. You might even store extra pillows and blankets. In a downstairs coat closet, you might find you’ve stored your children’s lunch boxes and school junk into a box on top of winter and summer gear.
One of the biggest problems we have with closets is we try to overstuff them – usually with items we don’t need in each season. For example, you might have ski equipment in your mudroom during the middle of spring and summer.
Try to separate out items that don’t need to be in a closet year-round with those that do. Look at the types of closing or items that you will need to store and measure them. Do you need to hang your pants straight down or can you fold them on a hanger so you can double-hang your closet to maximize hanging space?
-How are you going to use your closet? Start by counting your shoes. Women typically have 10 to 20 pairs of shoes (or more!), while men often have either 6 or 12. Three pairs of women’s shoes will fit onto a shelf that’s 24 inches wide. If you have 20 pairs of shoes, you’ll need to have at least 7 shelves just for your shoes – or you might want to figure out another place to keep them.
Do you want drawers or baskets? Do you want to keep your jewelry in a shallow drawer or do you want it somewhere else? Do you need a place for your belts and purses? And, what about those tall boots. Figure out what you need to get to most often, then design a solution that makes these items accessible.
-Look at sample closets. Home Depot, Expo, Menard’s, Lowe’s and other home improvement companies all have samples of closets that have been built out so you can actually see what each component looks like.
If your friends have built out their closets, invite yourself over for a tour. Ask them what they like and don’t like about their closets and how they would do it differently the next time. What you want to do is develop a design that work for the items you have and how you use them.
-Draw it out. If you’re going to have a closet company install a closet, most will send a design associate to go to your home, take the measurements and provide you with a closet design at no charge. If you’re going to do it yourself, take a look at the half a dozen or so standard components and start moving them around to create the kind of closet that will meet your needs.
If you’re having trouble visualizing how the closet will come out, take some construction paper and measure out the components to scale. The idea is that you build a model of your closet, so you can figure out how well it will work for you. Some of the manufacturer’s of closet components, like Mill’s Pride, offer websites that can help you with your design.
-Read the contract. If you’re going to hire a closet company, read the fine print on the contract before you sign it. Most national closet companies have a standard contract that provides for a full or limited warranty on closet pieces. Make sure you understand what the warranty covers and what you have to do to qualify for a replacement or refund.
-Don’t pay everything upfront. Closet companies understand that savvy customers aren’t going to pay until they’re satisfied with the job. If you have to pay up front, choose a credit card that gives you six months interest free. For example, if you use the closet company that works with EXPO, you can use your Home Depot credit card to pay it and not pay the bill for six months. You’ll know by then if there’s a problem with the installation or manufacturing and still have leverage with the closet company.
If your closet installer insists on payment in full before the job begins, consider looking for another closet company.
-Prepare your closet. If you decide to build out your closet, you’ll have to dispose of your old closet system first. That can cause some damage to your walls. If you don’t want your new closet looking shabby from the get-go, take the time to patch, prime and paint before the installers get there. Otherwise, you may not be quite as thrilled with the result.