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-2×6 header and pair of trimmer studs to support the rafters over the opening.
Steps for Installing Knee Wall Storage
Step 1: Trim overhanging ends
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.
Step 2: Trim feet
Next, saw off any feet or other protrusions from the bottom of the chest to create a smooth, flat base.
Step 3: Trim dresser to fit opening
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.
Step 4: Close the gap
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.
Step 5: Paint, stain or varnish unfinished wood (if needed)
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.
Step 6: Outline the chest
Mark the outline of the chest onto the wall using a level, then cut out the wallboard using a drywall saw.
Step 7: Remove interferences
Use a hammer to remove any knee-wall studs from the opening. Also be sure to remove any insulation.
Step 8: Install supports
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.
Step 9: Insert dresser
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.
Step 10: Secure the chest
Drive 2-inch screws through the sides of the chest, top and bottom and into the 2×4 framing.
Step 11: Finish up
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.