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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?

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.

Step 1

Trim overhanging ends

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.

Step 2

Trim feet

Photo by Geoffrey Gross

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

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.

Step 4

Close the gap

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.

Step 5

Paint, stain or varnish unfinished wood (if needed)

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.

Step 6

Outline the chest

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.

Step 7

Remove interferences

Photo by Geoffrey Gross

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

Step 8

Install supports

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.

Step 9

Insert dresser

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.

Step 10

Secure the chest

Photo by Geoffrey Gross

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

Step 11

Finish up

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.