Shelving for the slightly impaired

Your Domestic Dilemma: “My living space has so many walls, and I have so much stuff! What do I do?”

Crafty Connie’s Solution: Shelves. Shelves are great because they allow you to put your aforementioned stuff on your aforementioned walls.

A good shelf, level and properly installed, speaks to your houseguests.

It says, “My host(ess) has excellent taste, fine woodworking skills and many places to display all of his/her wonderful possessions. Perhaps this person is a domestic success!”

Unfortunately, most college students don’t have the time, skills or tools to properly install shelves. Most students also don’t own the places in which they live.

This means most—college students trend towards slapping a shelf on any surface they please in a haphazard fashion with inadequate tools.

Below is a brief list of things to remember when attempting a shelf installation under these conditions.

1. If your landlord is friendly, lives in close proximity and has been amiable towards such requests in the past, it’s a good idea to consult with them before installation.

If your landlord is an asshole and you didn’t sign a walk-through on your lease, then it’s probably best to just wing it. Telling him in advance is like using turn signals in your car: polite, sure, but it telegraphs your intentions to the enemy. Best to hope he doesn’t notice when he comes through unannounced on some flimsy premise and that your roommate’s four-foot bong on the coffee table distracts from the horizontal abomination you slapped up next to the stove.

If you still live in the dorms, you can attempt to install anything you want as long as it is held to the wall by non-paint-marring sticky putty. This means your shelf will inevitably fall off three hours later.  Take it up with your RA. I would change the ‘Your call’ to some other snarky finish. I’m not exactly sure what is my call…

2. It’s a good idea to assess what tools you have available before you begin a carpentry project.

There are a few basic tools that will be very helpful in shelf installation.

First, you need a hammer. A hammer is a tool of subtle correction.

If the project is proceeding well, or is entirely beyond repair, do not attempt to use a hammer. If you are drunk, these caveats go out the window. Use the hammer as you see fit.

Second, a drill with the appropriate drill bits to make holes and drive fasteners into things is very useful. If you have a cordless drill, factor in an additional three hours in order to charge the drill batteries.

Third, you need a level. Levels let you know when things are level. Shelves are one of these things that should be level. If you are drunk, nothing is level.

Fourth, you may want to use a chopsaw, worm drive saw or radial arm saw in order to cut shelving material to length. If you know what a radial arm saw is, but you don’t own one, you may choose to have some “me time” with the Craftsman catalog before crawling back to that crappy four-inch-blade off-brand worm drive you borrowed from a nearby uncle. If you don’t have any saws at all, try to find shelf material that is the length you want already.

Finally, some people (father figures, actual carpenters, Lowe’s employees) may tell you to use a “stud finder” in order to ensure your shelf bolts into something solid. Don’t listen to these people—they just want you to waste your money. Instead, use the drill to find solid spots.

It’s best to use a small drill bit for the “Swiss cheese” stud finding method. Most studs sit vertically behind the plaster at 6, 9 , 17, 24, 30, 38, 40, 44, 45 or 53-inch intervals.

If you don’t have a tape measure, use your imagination. If you are drunk, squinting aids in measurement accuracy.

3. There are a number of sources for shelving material depending on whether you have access to a vehicle and money to spend. Many people in Tacoma leave furniture on the curb where you can take it for free.

You may even be able to salvage all of the lumber you need from an old armoire.

Next up the budget ladder is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore located in downtown Tacoma. This store sells salvaged building materials, which is a wallet- and earth- friendly option. No guarantees that they will have what you need for your Taj Mashelf aspirations, though.

For the high rollers, a large box store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot will have everything you need for shelf construction.

I would recommend Home Depot, as their lumber is Forest Stewardship Council certified, meaning that it comes from sustainable sources.

By using a prefabricated piece of wood intended for a stair step, as well as two metal L-brackets, a simple shelf with a beveled (rounded) edge can be bought for around $20, including mounting hardware.

Finally, for a more local (read: expensive) option, try Grey’s Lumber on Sixth Avenue between “A Row of Bars” and “Another Row of Bars.”

While there, be sure to ask for the “college plumbing pack:” a funnel, two hose clamps, a short length of tubing and a 3/4-inch check valve. Use your imagination to put together a “social release valve!”

As for the shelf design, I’ll leave that up to you. Well, you and Google.