One of the quirks of my old house is that the bedrooms are connected by a short hallway. This is not a hallway from which the bedrooms branch off through separate doors. This is a hallway from one room to the next! So much for privacy! The obvious solution is to simply close the door and never use the hall. But then there is wasted space. Unthinkable!
My plan was to put a wall in the center of the hall, creating a new closet for each of the adjoining rooms. They will be shallow spaces, but ideal for storing shoes or linens or… use your imagination!
I started by screwing my starting studs to the wall- right over the paneling. Initially I planned on pulling off the paneling but discovered that it was securely glued to the wall and where I could peel it back I discovered a wallpaper that could only be described as “God Awful”! The potential damage to the wall and the need to remove wallpaper as well as paneling made me change my plans.
So anyway, the studs were screwed to the wall. I screwed the bottom plate directly to the floor and secured the top plate against the suspended ceiling by toenail connections. Finally I added additional supporting studs to complete the framework for the wall. The studs are 10 inches apart- a little close together, but I am planning on hanging shelves inside the closet and I wanted good support for the shelves.
Before I go farther, what is this strange thing called a toenail connection? This is how you join material together at a right angle. Two nails, or in my case, screws, are driven at an angle through the vertical member into the horizontal member. An additional toenail connection is added on the other side of the vertical member. The result is a very secure attachment. I have clear memories of being the stud holder as a little girl. I stood on one side of the stud with my foot against the base of the stud to keep it from bouncing away from my parent as he (or she) pounded the nails in place. Maybe this is where the term “toenail” came from? I don’t know. Since I was working alone, my solution to the bouncing problem was to drill pilot holes for wood screws. Then I pushed the screws into the pilot holes and drove them in using an electric drill. This allowed me to hold the stud firmly in place while driving in the screws.
My next step was to attach drywall to my newly constructed wall. Drywall is heavy and awkward but aside from that, simple to cut and nail in place. Mark where you want to cut. I used a chalk line to draw a long, straight line. Next, score the paper that covers the gypsum interior of the drywall sheet. It is not necessary to make a deep cut. As long as you break the skin of the paper you have cut deeply enough. Once the line is cut, the drywall will snap along the line with light pressure. Finally cut through the paper backing.
To complete the job, hold the drywall against the frame and nail it into place along the studs. You only have to dent the skin of the paper; try not to break it. Finish the job by covering each nail dent with drywall compound. The seams at the edges of the drywall sheet are finished by first filling the seam with drywall compound. Next, cover the seam with drywall tape and then add a second coat of drywall compound. You will need several coats of drywall compound to completely conceal the seam and the nail dents. Be sure to sand any ridges of compound smooth between coats. The goal is to blend the seam into the drywall so that no repairs can be seen once the wall is painted.
While I was completing the drywall taping I experimented with concealing the paneling. That paneling HAS to go! There are different ways to get rid of circa 1970 paneling. One is to rip it all down. That won’t work in this room because it is so thoroughly glued. I could just paint over it but that would leave grooves. I read about using drywall compound to fill the grooves and then paint over it. I decided to try the third option. I rubbed the paneling inside the new closet with a deglosser. This is an alternative to sanding the wall. It removes any glossy finish that might interfere with the drywall plaster sticking to the paneling. Then I filled each groove with drywall compound and treated it like any other surface that I was repairing with drywall compound and tape. The result of this little experiment was mixed. It was effective, but in some places I could still see the groove after the inside of the closet was painted. I think this method will work if I add an additional layer of drywall compound, then prime and texture the wall before painting it. I will give it a try when I start working on the bedrooms.
Back to the closet. One side of the hallway already had a door. All I had to do to complete that closet was to paint and hang shelves. The other side needed a door, so I had to make a door frame. The process was the same as making the wall, except that I had to leave an opening in which to hang the door. I found a prehung door at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, which eliminated the need to space the hinges or position the doorknob. I just had to make a rough opening a little larger than the dimensions of the prehung door and then screw the door in place. I used a level and wooden shims to make sure the door was positioned squarely inside the frame.
I put up the shelf brackets before hanging the door because it gave me a little more room to work. The brackets were made of 1X2 strips that I screwed to the wall. It was easy to find the studs since I hadn’t painted yet. A contractor would probably put up similar brackets and secure them in place with a nail gun. It’s faster, but I prefer to use screws so that if I decide later to move the shelves I don’t have to rip them apart to get them out of the closet. Use a level to make sure the brackets are straight. Bitter experience with split wood has taught me to drill pilot holes before driving the screws through narrow boards.
With everything painted and the shelves in place I hung my freshly painted door inside the premade frame and called the project done. Now to fill the shelves!