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How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

It's an awkward corner of the house. Why not make it a space-saving dresser?

Knee Wall Storage
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

You can convert hidden, unused spaces into valuable storage areas. Here, you'll recess a chest of drawers into the knee wall of an upstairs bedroom. You'll gain a full-size, eight-drawer chest without sacrificing a single square inch of floor space.

Knee walls are the short interior walls built beneath the roof rafters. Not every home has knee walls; they're most often found in finished attics and top-floor living spaces. These low walls help define the living space by creating vertical surfaces between the sloping rafters and the finished floor. They're typically framed with 2x4s and built 4-feet-high so they can easily be covered with full sheets of drywall. In most cases a knee wall is not a load-bearing partition. If you're not sure if a knee wall is load-bearing, you should consult a licensed contractor or structural engineer. If it is, you can still build in a chest of drawers, but you'll first have to install a double-2x6 header and pair of trimmer studs to support the rafters over the opening.


Steps // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage
1 ×

Trim overhanging ends

 
Step One // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Trim overhanging ends

using a handsaw to trim the ends off of a dresser
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Start by using a handsaw or circular saw to trim off the overhanging ends and front edge of the chest of drawers. That'll allow the chest to slide cleanly into the wall.

 
2 ×

Trim feet

 
Step Two // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Trim feet

saw off feet and other protrusions with hand saw
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Next, saw off any feet or other protrusions from the bottom of the chest to create a smooth, flat base.

 
3 ×

Trim dresser to fit opening

 
Step Three // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Trim dresser to fit opening

Trim dresser to fit with circular saw
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

If the chest is too deep to fit the space, use a circular saw to slice off its upper, rear corner. If necessary, finish the cut with a handsaw. The goal is to have the chest slide all the way into the wall without banging into the roof rafters.

 
4 ×

Close the gap

 
Step Four // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Close the gap

Covering gap in back of chest with plywood
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Cover the gap at the rear of the chest with a thin strip of hardboard or plywood. Attach the strip with ¾-inch wire nails or staples.

 
5 ×

Paint, stain or varnish unfinished wood (if needed)

 
Step Five // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Paint, stain or varnish unfinished wood (if needed)

Curing unfinished wood with polyshine
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

If the chest is unfinished, brush on a coat of paint, stain or varnish. This will help protect the wood from exposure to excessive heat and humidity.

 
6 ×

Outline the chest

 
Step Six // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Outline the chest

makring the outline of the dresser in the wall
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Mark the outline of the chest onto the wall using a level, then cut out the wallboard using a drywall saw.

 
7 ×

Remove interferences

 
Step Seven // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Remove interferences

remove studs and insulation from inside the wall to make room for the dresser
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Use a hammer to remove any knee-wall studs from the opening. Also be sure to remove any insulation.

 
8 ×

Install supports

 
Step Eight // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Install supports

add support braces to give the in-wall dresser a sturdy home
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Screw two support braces to the attic floor right behind the knee wall. Build the supports out of 2x4s, making sure they're flush with the sill of the cutout.

 
9 ×

Insert dresser

 
Step Nine // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Insert dresser

put the dresser into the wall-opening
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Set the chest onto the sill and slide it into the hole in the wall. Push it straight back until it's flush with the finished wall surface.

 
10 ×

Secure the chest

 
Step Ten // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Secure the chest

Install the chest
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Drive 2-inch screws through the sides of the chest, top and bottom and into the 2x4 framing.

 
11 ×

Finish up

 
Step Eleven // How to Install Knee-Wall Storage

Finish up

finish the knee-wall storage installation with attractive wood trim to  match dresser
Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Install decorative trim to finish—in this case, ogee doorstop molding—around the perimeter of the chest. The trim will hide the seam around the cutout and give the chest a more finished, built-in appearance.

 
 
 

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