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  • Writer's pictureEric

Upscaling A Pantry or Closet


We've all seen it. Those dreaded wire shelves. They are fine. Installed properly they are pretty strong. They serve their purpose, but they really don't convey any style and they beg to be swapped out. Maybe move them to the garage or basement where you just want storage and don't care about the esthetics.












For this project, we are going to redo the entire walk-in pantry. Remove these shelves, paint the walls, install new baseboard, clean and seal the tile floor, and make our own shelves. The pantry is quite large and the shelves along the right hand side will be just over 6 feet long.



We could try to find pre-made shelves, and then cut them down to fit, but that would probably be expensive, so we purchased some pine boards (the kind that are made up from various boards glued together like a butcher block). We found 16" by 8' boards. We cut down the length to 78" and then we removed 2" off each board and will use that 2" cutoff as the face to make the shelves seem thick. Without a table saw, we clamped a straight board and ran our circular saw down the board.









Here we've glued and brad nailed our 2" cutoff to the face of the board. We used some wood glue and made sure the board was as flush as we could get it.


Since these boards are 78" long and only 3/4" thick, adding a face to them really stiffens them up. With a cleat on the wall along the back of the board, we will have good confidence that these shelves will be sturdy. We've made up 5 shelves and while the glue dries, we can go back and remove everything from the pantry.


Before installing these, we will paint them with 3 coats of white trim paint, with a 220 grit light sand between each coat. Don't skip the sanding!





Removing wire shelving can be a bit disruptive to the sheetrock. You will certainly have to spackle or puddy over the holes. We've done that here. We are also removing the baseboards and replacing them with nice 5 1/4" ones. I really dislike the cheap builder baseboards used and it's an easy improvement. It's also quite nice to paint walls with no baseboard to mask.


Now is your chance to spackle any imperfections you see!








We sanded the spackled holes and painted two coats of eggshell white on the walls. We can now install the new baseboards.


My process is to find the longest wall/piece first and cut it to fit from wall to wall with no angle or copes on it. Shorter pieces will get a cope to lock this long piece in place. It's also good practice to make all the long cuts first and use the cut offs as you get to shorter walls.










A bad cope is almost always better than a 45 degree joint. Especially when doing white or painted baseboards where you have the opportunity to caulk.


I've found the easiest way to cope, with a nice coping saw, is to pretend you are doing a 45 degree cut and then use the profile of the 45 to cut. Just follow the face. If you mess up, recut the 45 and try again. Don't cut the other end of this board until you get the perfect cope.











Here, the right hand piece has the cope and the left hand piece is just a straight cut against the wall. The coped piece will hold the other piece against the wall nicely.


A swipe of caulk from the floor up the joint will make this look perfect.













With the baseboards attached and caulked, we can start installing the shelves. We are only placing shelves on the long wall. This is an outside wall on our house, which is constructed with cinder blocks. We are using Tapcon screws which require us to pre-drill first. These screws like to bite into cement. We are using 3 screws along this wall for each shelf.


For the the two side walls, we are using some hollow wall anchors. Our shelves then sit on these cleats and we shoot some brad nails into them to hold the shelves in place.





With the shelves installed and the floor vacuumed, we cleaned our grout and tile with some grout cleaner, bleach, baking soda, Mr. Clean bar and a scrub brush. Once it dried, we sprayed on some grout sealer which dries in no time and will protect the grout from stains. Sometimes just a bright clean floor looks great and eliminates the temptation to rip it up and start over.











For our pantry project, we wanted to store wine as well. We purchased a customized cork holder and a wine rack. We added a shelf to hold the wine openers, stoppers and an open bottle or two.


We didn't need all those shelves that the builder put in. Five long shelves was enough.


We can now store all our paper products, dish-ware, foods, cookbooks. We started the first shelf 2 feet off the floor so we can place large or heavy items on the floor, like cases of water or dog food.


This is definitely a DIY project and great results are easily attainable.

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