I am by no means a carpenter, but I am going to be attempting to build a
wardobe or closed for my bedroom. It will be about 7.5 ft high, 7 ft wide,
22inches deep. There will be about 6 1ft high shelves on either side and the
middle will be for hangers.
Question is, would it be easier to build with with plywood, or MDF?
1/2 or 3/4 inch?
If using 1/2 inch, would screws or wood glue and nails be better?
Do they sell ply wood in 5/8 thickness?
I build a small shelf with 3/4 MDF. It was really heavy and used screws.
Seemed to be ok, but just wondering if plywood on a smaller thickness would
Have you ever done this before? Do you have the tools? If it's a closet,
then you'll probably frame it out of 2X4 yellow pine and cover it inside and
out with wall board. Be sure to locate the wall studs since you'll use these
studs and your framing studs to support the shelves or drawers. You'll also
want to attach your closet to some of the wall studs
There are probably library books on adding a closet. Also books on
building a wardrobe. I don't see you doing a good job on a wardrobe without
a table saw.
MDF is smooth, easily painted, cheaper than plywood. It is also much
heavier, does not glue as well or take screws as well as plywood. There are
screw made for MDF and it is also prone to poor fit when a screw makes a
little raise section. This is best eliminated by making a little
countersink on the mating side beforehand.
Plywood, IMO, is easier to assemble, can be made in natural or stained
finishes. It can also have an exposed edge that looks crappy if not
Take a look at some plans for such things, or large cabinets. Given the
size, it would make sense to build a frame of 2 x 3's or 2 x 4's and put a
plywood or MDF covering over it. If it is going to be a built in, you can
use drywall instead of wood.
3/4" plywood is lighter and stronger, have them cut it to sizes for
you at the supplier. 1/2" may not hold the weight of anyone's foot
climbing up its shelves to reach the top. build it strong to last.
That's a sizeable wardrobe...you need to build it strongly.
1. MDF is weak
2. Ply is strong but doesn't glue real well face to edge. Screws help
but screws into ply edges aren't great.
I'd use 3/4 ply and attach the bottom and top to the sides by
gluing/screwing hardwood cleats to the sides and attaching the
top/bottom to the cleats by gluing & screwing. You can position
things so the cleats don't show. You could use thinner ply instead of
3/4 but it should be framed with solid hardwood. When I built a
similarly sized room divider I used two pieces of 3/4 ply fastened
together for the sides; i.e., sides were 1 1/2.
The internal vertical dividers should be firmly attached to the top
The thing that will add a lot of strength and keep the cabinet from
twisting is the back. Best would be 1/2" ply, next best 1/4" ply,
1/4" hardboard acceptable. Regardless, it needs to be well fitted to
the sides/top/bottom and screwed/nailed and glued to them and to the
internal vertical dividers. It can be lapped over the cabinet frame
members - in which case the edge will show - or recessed into a
Ply edges can be covered with either solid wood or veneer tape. The
veneer can either be purchased ready made in common wood species or
home made. To make your own, rip off strips 1/16 to 1/8 thick from a
piece of stock about 1/8 wider than the ply thickness. Coat one side
of the strip with white glue ("Elmers", eg) and let dry (best if ply
edge is also coated). It can then be ironed onto the ply edge with a
household iron. Trim excess with a small plane or file.
Solid wood is somewhat more difficult as there is more to trim and it
is easy to damage the ply veneer. That can be avoided by not trying
to make it cover just the ply edge...let it overlap and become a
design element. Suppose, for example, you don't recess the back and
instead cover it with a piece of wood 1 1/2" wide. Now, on the front
edge of the side, use a piece of wood wide enough to overlap the side
by a bit more than the thickness of the piece covering the back edge.
On the side - behind the front overlap - apply another piece so that
you have an "L" which is visually as wide as the piece covering the
back. The front strip is a bit too wide to be flush to the strip
behind it but - being solid wood - can easily be planed down without
fear of damaging the ply.
Nobody mentioned this, but you might want to double check the measurement
you want for the depth. I bring this up as my wife and I just had plans
made for our house, and one of the things she was picky on was the closet.
I think normally they are about 2-1/2 feet, but when you put a heavy
(thicker clothes) on a hangar, you barely close the closet door(s).
So she had the plans made up to be 3' depth. She just wants a bit of
movement in the closet. So if you are going to hang things, verify your
items you will be putting in there and what depth you really need.
One last thing, remember that it is the inside dimension that will need to
hold the hangars and it's clothing which will make the outside dimension
Just an FYI.
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