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What Are the Best Tips for Building a Wardrobe?

By Gregory Hanson
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are four main things to keep in mind when building a wardrobe. As with any construction project, planning and measurement are crucial, both to ensure safe and sturdy construction, and to make sure that the finished product meets expectations. Materials should be chosen based on budgetary, structural, and aesthetic grounds. Special consideration should be given to the carpentry and joinery involved in building wardrobes. Finally, attention should be devoted to finishing the wardrobe, as wardrobes tend to be working pieces of furniture, and require finishing touches that combine aesthetic appeal with durability.

A wardrobe should be big enough to hold all of the clothing that it is expected to contain. Clothing should be measured while it is on hangers to see how much space will be required. Building a larger wardrobe than is strictly necessary at the time of construction is almost always a good idea. A second set of measurements should also be taken, to make sure that the wardrobe will fit comfortably in its intended location and to make sure that it can be moved to that location through any stairways, doors, and hallways along the way. Plans for wardrobes can be purchased either online or at home improvement stores and are a good choice for less experienced carpenters.

Many materials are suitable for building a wardrobe. Particle board or oriented string board are very inexpensive, reasonably durable and available with laminate finishes that disguise their appearance. These materials are heavy, however, and are apt to be damaged when moved. Plywood is another good choice for wardrobe construction, and is both lighter and more durable than engineered materials, although it is usually more expensive. Very light plywood can be used to build a wardrobe, with the structural strength provided by internal wooden framing.

The most expensive option for this project is solid wood construction. Some wood, such as white pine, is available in large pieces at a relatively modest price, but such soft woods are prone to incidental damage. Hardwoods, such as oak, are much more expensive but are also lovely and can be used to construct wardrobes of heirloom quality. Hardwoods are the most durable construction option.

The carpentry skills needed to build a wardrobe are modest, but there are some special requirements to consider. Drawers should always be designed with extra clearance inside of their frames because wood swells as the humidity changes, and drawers that fit snugly will tend to stick fast in humid weather. Dado joints are adequate for holding shelves and framing members together, but dovetail joints are stronger and are a better choice. Hidden casters on the bottom of a wardrobe make the task of moving it much easier. The wooden back of the wardrobe should be attached at several different points, as it serves an important structural function by bracing and strengthening the wardrobe.

Finish and hardware are the last things added to a wardrobe and are, therefore, among the most visible. A few extra dollars spent on handles and drawer pulls can make a major difference in the final appearance of a wardrobe. If the wardrobe is not made of a laminate material, it should be finished, usually with stain, and then covered with a layer of varnish, as it will inevitably need the protection offered by a sturdy topcoat. Paint is an option here as well and is especially appropriate when building a wardrobe for a child’s room.

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Discussion Comments

By anon940489 — On Mar 18, 2014

I need to know where to buy large pieces of wood, like pine. Maybe 23"×6ft. 23"×3ft, and 3ft×6ft.

By Ivan83 — On Dec 07, 2012
You can make a simple storage wardrobe out of just scrap lumber and particle board or plywood.

It may not be the prettiest thing but they work. I have three or four that I have built in my basement and they hold clothes as well as anything.

By truman12 — On Dec 06, 2012
This article makes it sound pretty easy, but I would like to hear from someone that has attempted this project themselves. How hard was it and how much time and money did you spend? Do you think it is a project than an amateur handyman could accomplish?
By chivebasil — On Dec 05, 2012

Shopping at thrift stores is a great way to build up your wardrobe. You can find everything you need from shirts to pant to coats, plus there is a huge, unique selection and everything is cheap.

You can spend $100 and walk out with pounds and pounds of clothes, enough to make a dozen different outfits. And if you decide you don't like something or never wear it, you are not out that much money.

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