Built-in: Round Dos

I’m of the mindset that you just can’t get enough of a good thing. Since I fell so hard for the built-in bookcase that we installed in the basement, I figured – what the hey, let’s add some of these bad boys up in the attic, too! 😀 Since our attic is knee-wall city, we’ve had to be pretty creative with the storage that we install up there, with pretty limited headroom up above.

Our main game plan for the east facing side of the room was to essentially fill the entire wall with one big old built-in a la the photo below.

Converting Attic to Master Suite

In the interest of saving ourselves some time and energy, we thought the best place to start would be back at Home Depot with some pre-fab unfinished cabinets. At $80 each, they set us back $320 for (4). Not amazing-sauce, but for the amount of energy it was going to save us (over building our own), we decided the marked up price was worth it to us. We also looked (for months) at our local restore and came up empty handed so buying new seemed like the best option in the end because quite frankly – I just want this room to be done already.

After lots of layout considerations, we decided that (4) cabinets, flanked by a sitting area and a TV area would be the best combination for us. We also decided to go with the 30″ long cabinets over the 36″ long cabinets we used in the basement, to provide a bit more room.

Installing Built-in In Knee Wall

Before we could get around to constructing the built-in, we had to deal with some pesky issues we’d avoided up to this point, like a big old row of tacks that had kept the previous (pink) carpet down. Since we kept stepping on these as we were working, we figured it was high time to get them out of there before one of us actually got hurt. Nails sticking out of the floor and a work space is not a good combo.

How to Remove Carpet Tacks

Once our area was cleared, we moved on to creating a base for each of the cabinets using some scrap 2×4 material that we had laying around from the bathroom wall installation. We essentially just wanted to create a foundation for each of the cabinets so that everything was

1) the same height (inconsistent floor height ..) and

2) to provide clearance for the doors to open since the new carpet and padding will bite into the height a bit.

The base mirrors the exact dimensions of the cabinet, and is 30″ across, with (2) 12″ sides.

Adding Storage to Knee Wall

To give us a surface to screw the base into the attic floor, we used some more scrap to attach to the corners. After making sure our screws were not too long (i.e. would pop through into our ceiling below), we just screwed the base right into the attic base floor. Once we jiggled it around to make sure it was stable, we added the cabinet right on top.

How to Install Built-in

Here is what the first cabinet looked like after we installed the base below, and the cabinet above. Bam – you seeing the magic happening?

Eventually we will add trim to the face of the 2×4 to give it a more finished look, but for now, this will provide the structure for the storage to sit on top of.

How to Build Storage in Knee Wall

In addition to installing the four cabinets, we thought this space would benefit from a TV area and a matching bench. In the interest of keeping everything looking symmetrical, we left a 60″ space between the two cabinet bases in order to accommodate these two areas.

You can see the space where our TV will be in the photo below. We used an extra 2×4 to make sure each of the cabinets were in line as we installed them.

How to Install Built In

Once we got all of the cabinets up on their bases and screwed into their respective locations, we moved on to building the frames for the TV and bench. For this part of the built-in, we knew we wanted the storage part to be about 8-12″ high (for some baskets, etc), while leaving enough room up above to fit a TV, or to sit down on for the bench.

Since both of these storage areas needed to be able to handle a bit of weight (the TV and a person respectively), we knew we’d have to put in some extra support to make sure the strength was adequate for these applications. On the TV side, we put some additional 2×4’s behind the TV location so we can easily mount it post drywall install.

Adding Storage To Knee Wall

Just like the built-in downstairs, we decided to use MDF for the shelving units. Since we won’t be staining the wood, MDF seemed to be the best fit for the job since it’s cheaper (bonus!) and smooth, which means you get a nice finish after painting over it.

For this part of the built-in, we simply created a frame with a 2×4 for the inside dimensions between the cabinets and then cut a piece of MDF for the bottom shelf (measuring 60″ x 12″) and an identical shelf for the top shelf. These measurements would vary if you had a different set-up, but the main jist is to make sure you use the entire space between the cabinets to avoid any gaps.

How to Build A Window Bench

We followed the exact same dimensions for the bench section as the TV (12″ wide by 60″ long), but since people will actually be putting their derriere on this get-up, we decided that a bit more structure would be needed to avoid any embarrassing moments where our friends fly through the seat down below them. Instead of just (1) brace, we added an entire structure to keep things extra stable.

You can see in the photo above that we simply used some 2×4’s to make a foundation that the entire piece of MDF could sit on, vs. the squares we used for the other side. We mounted the MDF counter directly to this piece, with supports going down to create a cube.

After we had all the rough-in’s done, our built-in was looking like this! Just imagine lots of white paint, trim, drywall, carpet … I guess you could say it’s not quite done yet. 😀

Adding Built In To Knee Wall

Now this bad boy can’t get checked off the list until we have drywall up (and drywall can’t go up until we have electrical and HVAC finished), by ya know, I’m feeling pretty good about the progress we made. I can see it and feel it and envision the space as DONE. Won’t that be one beautiful day? We are certainly getting closer, with our final check list for the bedroom portion of the attic looking like this:

  • Add trim and paint built-in
  • Finish adding insulation
  • Finish closet install
  • Frame out final wall
  • Finish HVAC and Electrical
  • Drywall
  • Add banister
  • Add carpet


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