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Building an alcove wardrobe, some questions

Discussion in 'Wood / Woodwork / Carpentry' started by JT101, 28 Mar 2019.

  1. JT101

    JT101

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    Hi guys

    Am building a decent sized wardrobe in an alcove. Space is 900 deep x 1665 wide x 2670 tall with existing carpet in place.

    From what i can tell looking online there are a number of ways it can be done.

    Client doesn't want anything fancy and are trying to save a bit of money by painting it themselves, so decorative trims, and unnecessary timber facing is not required.

    They have specified the internal design (see attached image), so it's just a case of deciding how to put it together.

    So I believe I can either A) build one single skin carcass and then put a trim around the edge of say 100mm
    B) just build the shelves and divider separately without a carcass and then add the trim and doors, or C) build a carcass out of 3 separate boxes.

    I intend to build it of 18mm mdf. The front will have three doors, the first finishing at the left hand divider

    And secondly, the question is whether I build it onto a base (if I build a carcass) or directly onto the carpet, or cut out the carpet. Not sure I entirely understand the reason for a base. If it's uneven underneath either on floorboards or carper, surely I can just pack it level.



    Thirdly is it worth putting a back on it?


    Thanks

    Wardrobe A - Top right.jpg Wardrobe A Front.jpg Wardrobe B - Below.jpg Wardrobe B - Front.jpg Wardrobe B - Top left.jpg Wardrobe A - Doors.jpg
     
  2. foxhole

    foxhole

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    Needs to sit on a plinth or doors will catch on the carpet and you have to stand back when opening as doors would normally pass over your feet. Also looks strange with doors to floor.100 mm seems a lot of space to waste with trim.?
     
  3. Harry Bloomfield

    Harry Bloomfield

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    If it is built in, why bother with back and sides at all? All you need is a frame to hang the doors and any shelving. Doors might work as sliding doors on rails, depending on layout. I made my built-in 35 years ago, 14 feet wide, 6 sliding doors on rails, with 3x large cupboards above.
     
  4. JT101

    JT101

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    Hi everyone

    The project is finished so just thought I would provide some feedback from what I've learned encase anyone else tackles this for the first time.

    So it is clear from the comments above that there are multiple ways of doing this. And more importantly, there is no one "right" way to do it, so long as it is accurate and strong.



    How I built mine:

    1) Choose design -

    A) Build the shelves and dividers using battens on the wall to support them. Then build a frame at the front to hang the doors the trim pieces off of. Guessing you would need to switch to a folding sliding door system on a rail, or floor & ceiling pivot hinges.

    B) Build a carcass either fixed to the floorboards, or on a base, with doors attached to the carcass, and infill pieces attached to the carcass. The top unit is a separate box. Makes life easier.

    I chose the carcass method, with overlayed doors to hide the carcass edges.

    2) Choose materials
    TIMBER: Clearly solid wood is out of reach for all but the wealthier client, so the choices are limited to good quality plywood or MDF. Given the need to edge finish ply, and the extra expense, I'm sure 9 times out of 10, the choice for most carpenters, myself included is MDF. Being careful to avoid the low grades that can become fluffy when cut or abraded, I looked at reviews of better grades. The brands I looked out for were Caber, Medite and Scandia. It is claimed that moisture resistant boards have a better structure than regular, but I went with Caber Pro MDF and it was fine.
    Previously I used 25mm for a pottery studio storing very heavy bags of clay. In this case 18mm thickness for the body, and 12mm for the backing which was fine. The carcass was quite big (2.6 x 1.6m), and had a lot of lateral movement, so 6 or 9mm probably wouldn't cut it. I definitely need some sort of backing, it couldn't be open.

    FASTENERS: 4 x 50mm wood screws, sunk with countersink drilll bits. Got no break out apart from when I was too close to the ends.

    ADHESIVE: Strong wood glue

    HINGES: Concealed Blum hinges 110° x 16

    FIXTURES: Left handles to customer, but would have chosen chrome or satin round knobs, probably to match the clothes rail. Double clothes rail with 1 x central support, and 6 x endplates

    PAINT: Left this to customer, but would have used Zinsser B.I.N. primer, or dedicated MDF primer, followed by 2 x water based top coat.


    3) Delivery & cutting materials:
    After creating a slow hand drawn cutting list, I came across CutList Optimiser software. Came up with the same result in a tenth of the time.
    I wanted the timber yard to cut it using my list, since they are experienced and have quality machinery, less dust in clients home etc, but sadly this is where it went wrong.
    The cuts were fine more or less (0.5mm off), but the operator was the problem. Refused to look at my cutting list, cut it differently, then insisted I needed 9 boards rather than 7 that I'd already paid for. 2hrs later, I got my boards without paying the extra.
    Going forward I will either get the boards cut roughly to size and finish onsite, just to make handling easier, or get the widths of the carcass cut exactly, then just cut down the lengths. Not sure if you can get perfectly cut sheets from a computer model that you then just assemble onsite. I might not be that brave.
    The doors, I learned, should be cut to size onsite, encase of discrepancies in the final size of the unit.
    Final point I hadn't considered was ensuring the depth was 600mm so I could get two pieces from one 1220mm sheet. Mine was 700mm deep, and hadn't factored in all the additional material required when I quoted.

    4) Check for pipe work under floor - If you're confident enough to take a risk be my guest, but I had to take the time to check for pipes. In these old houses, pipes were often laid at the top of a joist right under the floorboards.

    5) Build & level base - Given that I was really tight on height because shoe storage at the bottom was taking up height in the double railed wardrobe, I wanted to consider levelling the carcass on carpet. There are many advantages to building a base, including: Doors won't potentially drag on carpet, easier to level a base than a carcass, can inspect for pipes, and super solid. So I went with some 2 x 3" CLS timber and just about got away with the height. Floor was totally skewiff, so needed a lot of packing and planing. I also had to install inner cross members since the wardrobe seemed to need central support, not just at the edges.

    6) Decide on cutting location - I was cutting in the garden and assembling in the bedroom. This is very tiring and takes much longer. I should have asked the client to completely clear the bedroom or factor it into the cost.

    7) Prime - Had I been painting it, I would have probably primed the unit at this stage

    8) Build carcass of main wardrobe & square up on floor - I had a show shelf and decided to dado joint it, so now is the time to cut the dado. I then assembled and fixed the carcass on bedroom floor, then squared up, fitted back, then stood into place. I must have used a screw every 200mm, but this is probably overkill. Squaring up in the odd shaped alcove, I measure the gaps on sides and at back for packing material.

    9) Fit mdf packing - I had initially thought to install some solid timber to the wall, but there was a lot of MDF offcuts. Removed carcass. Cut MDF to size, stacked on top of one another, and fixed to wall, filling the gap to within 5mm or so of the carcass. Replaced carcass, and fitted packers in gaps. Fixed wall of carcass to packers.
    I went a bit nuts on making sure the whole thing was super solid, after the client commented that her son liked hiding in wardrobes. But no harm in that.


    10) Cut & fit doors & hinges - Made a jig, made hole cutting process much faster. Blum recommended 5 hinges for 2m door, but this seemed overkill, and I've even seen 3 on a door that size which has lasted 20 years, so I opted for 4. Outer doors used overlay hinges, and central one half overlay.

    11) Cut & fit infill panels - L-shaped method as mentioned on here before. Another good used of offcuts. But quite fiddly and time consuming. Walls were totally out so needed a lot of scribing. Had to make a join low down out of eyesight due to the total size being longer than a single sheet 2440mm. Did a bevel joint, glued and nailed with a supporting brace behind.

    12) Fit infill piece at base & gripper rod & carpet - To cover the timber base I had to fit a covering infill piece under the unit. Then refit the gripper rod and carpet.

    13) Fill & sand screw and nail heads - I used a lot of nails and screws to make it super solid, so this took me some time to do.

    14) Fit shoe shelf - Now is the time to install the shoe shelf. Otherwise you make it really difficult to get fixings in the base.

    15) Sand down all edges to take off sharpness

    16) Paint - I could also prime the unit at this stage, but certainly I would be painting it now.

    17) Fit clothes rails - The position of this took me some time to figure out. Typically they are 1.8 - 2m from the floor. Each rail needs ideally at least 750 - 900mm. But I was trying to fit in a 180mm shoe store too. Ended up at 2m exactly with an 80mm gap to shelf, giving me 845mm between rails.

    17) Fit handles

    18) Tidy up



    What would I do differently next time:
    - Whole job took me 5 x 8hr days which I didn't allow for. Assuming I get quicker, I still need to factor more time for infill pieces, packing material, refitting carpet etc etc.
    - Use different techniques to stiffen the structure rather then a shedload of screws i.e. dado/biscuit joints, pocket screws, rebated backing.
    - Better extraction on powertools and cutting in the room. The dust was phenomenal, and because I couldn't close off a room, took me over an hour each night to pack away tools and clean up.
    20190402_130552.jpg 20190403_174716.jpg 20190403_131438.jpg 20190403_201221.jpg 20190404_134724.jpg 20190404_174627.jpg 20190405_131827.jpg 20190405_181856.jpg

    Other than that I'm happy, and so is the client.

    Sorry that’s so long winded. More for my reference and for any newbies.
     
    Last edited: 16 Apr 2019
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  5. JT101

    JT101

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    Following on from this, I guess I do have two questions going forward:

    1) If I hadn’t put a backing on, or had put a much thinner backing on, the whole carcass structure would have had lateral movement. My corner joints were simple butt joints glued and screwed. Is there a way to make it all rigid with better jointing, or do you guys rely on the packing material to stop this movement?

    2) To what extent do you investigate pipes under the floor. Do you lift floorboards or cut access panels like I did, or do you just be very careful not to screw through? It was quite time consuming, so will avoid if possible.

    Thanks
     
  6. foxhole

    foxhole

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    Should be no need to screw anything thru floor. Carcass should be stable when screwed to walls.
     
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  7. JT101

    JT101

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    Can't thank you guys enough. Client was super happy and now have my follow on job through recommendation.

    This time the wardrobe is a bit more complex so I do have some more questions.

    So the first wardrobe I wrote about in this post was a single plain mdf, to be primed and painted.

    This new one is a 3 part wardrobe, surrounding the chimney breast. The design hasn't been finalised but at present I am proposing 3 carcasses with inbuilt shelves and drawers, and a separate frame with 4 of the largest sliding door kits I. e. 2220 x 914mm per door. Room is 4100 x 2530mm so will have infill panels at top and sides.

    Given that the carcasses will be about 600mm deep, the central one on the face of the chimney breast will be more of a bookshelf i.e. only 200mm deep. Much like the attached images.

    The client seems to want mdf veneer, probably just beech, and presumably something different for the doors.

    So two questions. Firstly i just want your opinions on how you would approach / assemble this to give me some ideas.

    I figure I have several options e.g.

    1) Just subcontract the whole thing to a wardrobe company
    2) Buy all materials and make everything myself including the doors, drawers etc
    3) A mixture of the two

    Secondly, i can only price it based on how lomg it will take me. So how long do you think it would take you.

    Given that the single wardrobe I built took me 5 days including ordering and collecting materials, cleaning 2019-05-27 11.39.58.jpg 2019-05-27 11.40.20.jpg up, cutting in the garden, I can see this taking 8 - 10 days if I take my time. Sounds like an awfully long time.
     
  8. JT101

    JT101

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    should look something like this 2019-05-30 08.50.35.jpg 2019-05-30 08.51.03.jpg
     
  9. JT101

    JT101

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    Any thoughts on time frame for something like this and how you would go about building it. e.g. a kit for the doors, maybe for the drawers too? or build it all myself?
     
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