As I mentioned in my recent post about renovating my pantry, I got a tiny bit side-tracked when I decided to re-route the existing laundry chute. It was on the pantry floor, which basically made it unusable unless I wanted to give up a big chunk of storage, so I cut a hole in my wall (there’s a first time for everything!) and moved the chute. A laundry chute may not sound that exciting, but I LOVE how it turned out! Ready to see it?
My goal with this was to make it look original to the house as much as possible, and I think I came pretty close! The rest of my pantry makeover is on hold while I wait for some supplies to arrive, but as soon as my kitchen isn’t a construction zone, I’ll show you the door in context. I think it matches the rest of the kitchen really well, and it’s super functional, too. I’ve already tossed lots of laundry down it.
The door is secured with brass chains attached to eye screws, and there’s a little catch to keep it closed.
The glass knob is actually the same one that was on the original door inside the pantry. It was pretty gross, with lots of paint and dirt, but I decided to see if I could clean it up and re-use it.
I boiled a cup of white vinegar, let the knob sit in it, and all of the paint came off pretty easily. A little scrubbing with an old toothbrush and dish soap, then a Magic Eraser, and it was good as new! The new brass screw I added helped a lot, too.
Even Delicious is impressed.
I’m not sure how useful a full how-to for this project will be, because it was a unique situation where I already had a hole through my floor to my basement, so I “just” had to move things around. But I’ll go into some of the details of how I made the opening and door, because I got really bogged down with some mistakes, and hopefully I can help someone else avoid the same errors!
Step 1: Find a door
In order to create my new laundry chute, first I needed a door. I measured the area, then every time I went to the ReBuilding Center, I looked for a door of about the right size and style. I wanted something with a panel, so that when I painted it it would look similar to the pantry door above it. I hit paydirt with this little oak cabinet door:
I forgot to take a picture before I chopped off the beveled edges on the short sides, but I did the same with the long edges after I took this photo. I used my miter saw for the shorts end, and my jigsaw for the longer ones. Getting rid of the beveled edges made it fit the space better, and look more like the nearby vintage doors.
Step 2: Remove existing chute
First I got the old metal laundry chute out of the way. It’s just a tube of metal ducting that was attached at the top and bottom with screws, so I unscrewed them, pulled it out, and set it aside. I was really glad that I was doing this before blocking access to the old chute, because I wouldn’t have been able to remove the screws at the top otherwise. Here’s a reminder of the situation at the bottom of my pantry:
(Lest you think it was this always this dirty, this is post-demolition!)
Step 3: Cut hole in wall
Once I had my door cut down, I measured it to figure out how large to make my opening, and then added the thickness of the frame I knew I was going to build around the opening. Then I measured and marked this rectangle on the wall.
Well, first I went back and forth about a million times over whether the opening should be centered on the wall, under the mouldings of the pantry door, or under the pantry door itself. Each of those options shifted the door an inch or two in one direction or another, and they all looked weird because centering under one thing meant it was off-center relative to the other two. I finally decided to go for centering it under the mouldings, and I’ve decided to be happy with it, because I think that no matter which option I chose, I would think, “Maybe I should have done it the other way….” Ugh, shut up, brain.
Ok, back to the hole in my wall. I enlisted my dad to help me with this, because he has more experience with this type of thing, and he has a reciprocating saw/sawzall. Have you ever used one of those? They’re pretty great, and I was coveting my dad’s. But after we cut the hole, my dad and I were down in my basement looking at the power tools that my kind mother-in-law had given us after she inherited them, and I realized that one of them is a reciprocating saw. So I have my very own and didn’t even realize it. Watch out, walls!
Step 4: Build frame
I built an inner frame for the wall opening out of the vertical pieces of the shelf on the left in the pantry. Re-using the wood saved me from having to buy new wood, or dispose of the old wood. This 90-degree corner clamp was invaluable for making sure my corners were nice and square. Along the top and sides, I also added wood stop pieces, to keep the door from swinging inward, and to prevent a gap from showing. (If you look at a wall door frame you can see the piece I mean.)
Step 5: Door prep
In order to get rid of the oak grain, first I sanded, then I painted the door with one coat of Zinsser shellac primer, and then two or three coats of Zinsser standard primer. Shellac primer, if you’ve never used it, is oil-based, and it’s really good at sticking to things that other primer won’t, plus it can seal off woods like oak or pine that might bleed through regular primer. It smells terrible, and using a disposable brush is easier than trying to clean oil paint off of your brush, but it works! (Rumor has it that you can even use it to prep slick Ikea furniture for painting.) Once I put on my final paint, I couldn’t see any of the oak grain, so I’d recommend this prep for hiding oak grain cabinets.
Step 6: Fit door and frame
After building the frame, I checked the fit of the door. There was a lot of adjustment necessary to make it fit, a bit to the frame, and a bit to the door. Actually, I had to plane and sand the edges of the door a lot to make sure it would fit right. Eventually it did, but then I needed to add another coat of primer to the door edges.
Step 7: Add hinges
I bought some narrow cabinet hinges, put them on the door and frame, and realized that I needed to mortise them. That means cutting out wood on the door and frame so that the hinges sit flush with the surface of the wood. I’d never done this before, so I was figuring it out as I went along, but now I wish I had done it like this, with a drill. That looks way smarter and faster than the way I did it, mainly with a chisel. Later, when I was fitting the door to the wall, I realized that I actually needed to attach the wall-side hinge to the outer moulding frame, not the inner one, so I had to fill the mortises I had cut on that frame. Definitely a dumb mistake that I might not have made if I had ever done anything like this before!
Step 8: Paint door
After I had fixed my hinge mistake, I painted the door with the same paint I used for my kitchen cabinets and mouldings (Benjamin Moore Advance in “Cotton Balls”).
Step 9: Add chute and framing
I re-inserted the laundry chute, turning it 90-degrees from its original orientation. This means I also had to cut some drywall on the basement ceiling. I screwed the chute bottom of the chute to a wood frame I had built around the bottom opening and attached to studs in the basement ceiling. To cover up the edges of the hole in the wall, I also added moulding to frame around the outside of the opening.
That’s when I realized that because the door is bigger than the chute, and I made the opening to fit the door, I should cover up the empty space around the chute so that I didn’t end up losing stuff in the basement ceiling. So I added more wood around the chute at this point. Doing it earlier in the process would have been way easier and smarter! It also kind of pointlessly bugs me that the chute isn’t centered, but a lot of things pointlessly bug me so my brain should probably shut up about that. (My brain doesn’t listen to me, so I’ll probably end up someday doing a bunch more work to add another piece of wood to make it look like the chute is centered.)
Step 10: Finishing
After getting all of the various pieces attached, there was still a lot of finishing to do. I counter-sunk the finish nails that I’d used for the moulding frame, filled the holes, sanded, and painted with primer and paint. I also added the chain, the catch, and the pull. (The best part was when I went to my local hardware store, Hankins Hardware, to find brass screw eyes and chain, and asked about some brass chain in a bucket near the chain display. It turned out it was the free bucket, with chain they were no longer selling, so it was my lucky day. Yay for shopping local!)
I’m totally skipping over the part where I had a different plan for the door that involved drilling additional holes that I had to fill and fix after I changed my mind. Like I said, I made a lot of mistakes on this project, and did a lot of things in the least efficient way, but I’m proud of the final outcome, and I learned a lot from my mistakes, so all’s well that ends well!
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