Bedroom · House

How To Create a Custom Built In Robe (part one)

As you know, there were a few things we left out in our new home build. Yes, leaving these things out saved us money and allowed us to include in the build things that we needed for our future expansion, however, now we need to add in all those things we left out (like the built-in wardrobe).

How To Create A Custom Built-In Wardrobe | Totally Hammered Home

The Hammerlings’ built-in robes was something that desperately needed to happen. Clothes, toys, shoes . . . when they don’t have anywhere to go they end up everywhere (even if they have somewhere to go, they’re likely to go everywhere).

So lets get those shelves in; doors can wait.


As you can see from the photos, we had the builder put in the nib wall at the end. As the cupboard was not going from wall to wall, this was needed to create the cavity for the robe.

The Design

The standard height for the top shelf of a wardrobe is 1700mm. Door height is a standard of 2100mm. This gives you about 40cm to squeeze stuff onto the shelf, even though generally that shelf will reach the ceiling.

This did not really apply to us as we are having doors that go all the way to the ceiling (just gives you that extra room to access the top shelf, or maybe put in another shelf).

After some research, we compiled a list of our favourite wardrobe designs and came up with this design .

Robe design / Built-in Robe Installation part one /

We kept the top shelf a standard 1700mm, to give us plenty of room for an extra shelf above.

Splitting the underside into 3 parts will give us a twin rail on each side with an underwear drawer and shoe rack in the middle (though we’re not really sold on the shoe rack), as well as a toy/Lego drawer or other ‘hide that mess’ strategy.

We measured vertically 1695mm on the back right corner and put a mark. This represents the underside of the shelf (top side of the rail), giving us 1710mm to top of shelf (the shelf is 15mm thick).

After marking the back left, using a chalk line and the assistance of an extra person (the lovely Mrs Hammer), I flicked a line across the back wall.

Then I leveled a line out from each back corner, 450mm on the side walls (the with of the shelf).



Now I measured the distance between the two walls. Using this measurement I subtract 32mm (the thickness of two boards), then divide the resault by three.

 This gives me three equal spaces for two outer hanging and one middle drawers. 

 I can now measure in from each side and put a mark on the chalk line where the dividers will go. This mark is then plumbed down and transferred to the skirting board (the decorative timber that covers the gap between the wall and floor). 

Using a stud finder or the tap test, locate the positions of the studs and put a mark on the wall just above your flicked line on the back and side



Now taking the measurement from the previous step, we cut three pieces of timber that length (to go along the back wall), as well as two pieces 427mm. 

I came to this length by taking the width of the shelf (450mm) and subtracting 18mm (the thickness of the rail timber) and 5mm (this I will tell you about later).

Before I fix this timber to the wall, I will remove the arris from the timber. We can do this by using a small block plane, a piece of sandpaper or even the side of a chisel blade. What we are doing is taking the edge off the timber (only on the edges that stick out, so on the rails only one edge will need to be done).


This is done for two reasons. Firstly we do this to prevent damage to the timber and to Hammerling heads and other body parts. Secondly, paint will not stick to the very edge of timber, leaving it exposed to moisture.

Now that the walls and timber are prepped, we can go ahead and fix the timber rails to the walls. 

I will be using 15 gauge nails 50mm (2”) long and pva glue. The rails will be fixed underneath, but right on, the chalk line. Use your stud marks to ensure that you have a secure fixing. 

At the internal corner of the wall you always have a stud on each side for fixing your wall sheets to, so if you angle your nails you will be able to pick up these as well.


Almost ready for dividers, but first we have to cut out the piece of skirting that we marked before. 

To do this I used a multi tool (in the bottom right hand corner of the picture below) to cut down the vertical lines and a chisel to knock off the bottom. This can be all done with a chisel if a fancy multi tool is not available (can get a little messy though).


Dividers and shelves.

The material that I used here was 450mm wide, 16mm thick chipboard. This is fairly standard for cheaper built-ins. 

For a more hard wearing shelf (and what I would usually use) is white melamine (chipboard coated in a hard white veneer). 

The only reason I chose to go with plain chipboard and painting it, is that I had some in the shed that came out of another reno.

First we will need to measure from the ground to the top of our timber rail. This will give us the length to cut our dividers. 

Now measure wall to wall at the front of the cupboard to get the length of the shelf. 

We can now cut our dividers and top shelf. The shelving was cut using a 7 1/4″ circular saw and a large square (roofing square). It is fairly important here to get the ends of the chipboard nice and square (90 degrees).

7 1/4 saw and square/Built-in Robe Installation part one/

Once the shelving was cut, I painted it. Yes there will still be painting to do in the bedroom, but this gets the bulk of it out of the way (and the bulk of the mess out of the bedroom).

In go the dividers.

They will go into the gap between the rails and the gap in the skirting. Mine fit well the first time round. 

However, if your gaps are slightly too small (can be a hassle) you will need to make them slightly wider using a sharp chisel (and when I say sharp, I mean sharp. Sharp enough to shave with). 

If your floor is slightly uneven, or your dividers cut slightly too long, you can plane this off with either an electric plane or a hand plane.

Hand and electric plane/Built-in Robe Installation part one/

Using the 50mm nails, we can fix this on an angle through the chipboard and into the rails at the top, and into the skirting and wall frame at the bottom.


Now that the dividers (and the little girl support) are in, we can put in the top shelf. 

This can be a little tricky (especially if you have a door head height of 2100). 

You need to lift the shelf in on an angle, rest one side on the rail then gently lower the other side until it hits the back corner of the wall on the other side. 

Now this is why we measured the shelf length at the front. When your walls are constructed and the gyprock (drywall) is fixed then set with plaster, you end up with the internal corners bulging out slightly, as shown in the diagram below.

Corner plaster/Built-in Robe Installation part one/

So now that we are trying to install shelves, this plaster can get in the way.

Once you have the shelf sitting in there on the angle, take your pencil and scribe both sides of the shelf. 

If your corner plaster is fairly thick, you should have a line on each end of your shelf going from 3-4mm at the back to nothing at the front. 

This then needs to be planed off (this whole process may not need to be done, as in my case, if your internal corners are not built out too far with plaster, or if you have some other type of wall-lining that does not get joined in the corner in this manner).

Now that you have your shelf sitting down on the rails, the above process will need to be carried out along the back. 

Remember when we cut the rails for the sides of the top shelf, and I said I would explain later the reason for deducting the extra 5mm? Well this is it. 

Even though your shelf is 450mm wide along most of it, when it gets to the corners it can be as little 445mm, due (as before) to the plaster in the corner. So if this extra 5mm wasn’t deducted off the length of your rails you would end up with rail sticking out past the front of your shelf, which would need to be cut off (a pain in the posterior once it is glued on the wall).

Once the top shelf is in place we can go ahead and nail it down. 38mm (1 ½”) nails are better here, as there is less chance of the nail skewing out the side of the timber rail.


Perfect.  Now before we go any further,  I would like to say that the way we just put in the shelves (with all the scribing and planing) is considered by some to be unnecessary. 

What some people do is simply measure the length of the shelf at the back (the shortest point) and cut it at that. This way is quicker as you don’t need to remove the shelf once you have put it in to plane it. They then have a 3-4mm gap on each side which they will fill with No More Gaps (acrylic filler). 

With the way I first described (the proper way) you can still run a bead of acrylic filler around the top to hide any discrepancies, but you should not need to fill any 4mm gaps.

Okay, next I need to give the front of the shelf a bit of support, too. To do this I will use a bit of timber 18mm x 68mm. Cut a length of said timber to the same length as the front of your shelf. This had to be arrised as well (this time on three of the edges). The outer top edge and both the bottom edges. 

With the timber all prepped I went ahead and nailed it on flush with the top of the shelf.


Next we measured the distance from the floor to the underside of the front support on each divider. We then cut two lengths of the rail timber (42mm x 18mm) at these measurements and nailed them onto the edge of the dividers.


Now it is time to paint! Using some putty, I filled all the nail holes on the front supports and the rails. Using the same colour as the shelving (the same as the walls – flooded gum) I painted the timber. Two coats was plenty.


Now that our built-in is looking all built-inny, I am up to installing the hanging rods. I am using chrome plated rail with wall flanges.


As you can see from the photo, I purchased one length at 1800mm, then using a hacksaw, cut it to the size required (the width of your opening minus 5mm).


Measuring out 225mm from the wall (half the shelf thickness) and down from the underside of the shelf 50mm (to clear the rail), I place a mark. This is done on both sides of the hanging area. Then holding the top hole of the flange over the mark I can mark the bottom hole.


For the side that is against the wall I think that hollow wall anchors are a bit of overkill, so here I am using Wall Mates.

Wall Mates/Built-in Robe Installation part one/

These little beauties are great for this sort of hanging (they also work well for pictures that aren’t too big and heavy). All you need to do is screw the Wall Mate in on your mark (making sure you don’t over-screw it) and then using a 7 gauge screw 25mm long (1”) screw fix the flange to the centre of the wall mate.



For the side that is against the divider, I just repeated the process for obtaining the marks. Using the short screws provided with the flange, I screwed them into the marks, then removed them again. This ensures that the holes are in the correct spot without having to juggle the flange and the rail.


Now slide the flange onto the hanging rod, slide the rod into the flange on the wall side and screw the flange to the divider. One hanging rod installed.

Next we reproduced the same process for the middle rod. To get the height for this rod I measured the distance from the top of the top rod to the floor and divided by two.


One side done.
Rinse and repeat…..
Built-in robe shelves done.

And the so-far result?  Not too shabby.  There is still a lot to be done with this space, but for the moment, it provides a place to hang clothes and somewhere to store all that kiddy crap.

Stay tuned for part two, where we will install the doors.

Want to see the pictures we hung in the babies’ bedroom?
Want to see how we organised and coordinated storage in there, too?

How do you like our custom wardrobe creation?  What would you do differently?  Any ideas for how we should gussy up the insides?

How To Create a Custom Built-In Wardrobe | Totally Hammered Home

9 thoughts on “How To Create a Custom Built In Robe (part one)

  1. Thanks a lot for your very detailed guide. It is so helpful for a new DIYer like me.

    Can’t wait for part 2, really! Can I ask how long does it take in total for this cupboard?

    1. So glad it has helped someone! We got this part made up and installed in a weekend.

      Thanks so much for commenting! We’ll be getting onto Part Two shortly, and also installing a cupboard in the Oldest Hammerling’s bedroom soon, too – his will be a different design.

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