Towel, Magazine Rack Fits in Wall

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

A lot of bathrooms in a lot of homes are so small there's barely enough room to open the door, let alone install a towel and magazine rack. That's certainly the case in my home, and that's why I designed the built-in rack shown in the sketch.

It sets flush into the wall, has a towel bar at the top, a magazine rack at the bottom, and takes up no space at all.

The rack is easiest to build if you center it directly between a pair of existing wall studs, so that's the way I'll describe the installation here.

Start by planning out a rough location for the rack. Tap on the wall or use a stud finder to locate the pair of studs between which you will locate the rack. Also decide on the desired height of the rack. A good height is 3 to 4 feet (depending upon the length of your towels) and keep the bottom of the cutout about 4 inches above any baseboards to leave space for any trim around the rack.

Once you have located the studs and planned on the height of the rack, cut out the wallboard to create the opening. Cut the sides right up flush to the flanking studs, and cut the top and bottom dead level at the desired height. An ordinary hand saw will do the trick.

Next you need to frame off the top and bottom of the opening with two lengths of 2-by-4, (marked A in the sketch). If the studs are spaced 16 inches apart, these pieces will be 14 1/2 inches long, but measure the distance between studs to be sure. Cut the two pieces of 2-by-4 to length, and toenail them in place as shown in the sketch, behind the wallboard and flush with its edge.

If your rack is going on an exterior wall, it's a good idea to insulate the rear surface of the rack cavity. To do this, cut a piece of three/fourth-inch or 1-inch foam insulation the size of the opening and fasten it in place with construction adhesive. Make sure to use an adhesive that is compatible with foam insulation. Some types will dissolve the stuff.

Then, over the face of the insulation, glue a sheet of quarter-inch hardboard, also cut to the size of the cavity opening, and using the same adhesive. If your rack is going on an interior wall, skip the insulation, but do put up the piece of hardboard. This will provide a neat, smooth surface for the back of the rack.

Next, line the sides of the opening with the four pieces of solid lumber marked B and C in the sketch. If you are going to paint the rack, use pine. I used oak for my rack, and finished it with varnish.

At any rate, start by cutting the two B pieces. Cut these to the full height of the opening, and make them wide enough to set flush with the face of the surrounding wallboard. Note that the bottom 10 inches or so of these pieces are cut back one/fourth inch to accept the one/fourth-inch hardboard magazine rack. Before you put the two side pieces in place, drill them to take your towel bar. You can make this from a piece of 1-inch dowel. Slip the ends of the dowel into the holes, slip the two B pieces in place and fasten them to the studs with finishing nails.

Now cut and install the two pieces marked C. These are the same width as the B pieces and are cut to fit tightly in place. Fasten them to the two A pieces with finishing nails.

Next, fasten the magazine rack (part D) to the edges of the B pieces, using brads or small finishing nails. Now all that's left is to install trim around the opening of the rack. You can use the same kind of casing used around your bathroom door or window, or any other type of trim you like. Just miter the joints and install it like a picture frame around the rack to finish it off. Top it all off with two or three coats of enamel or varnish and the job is complete.

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