Build A Drying Rack Like A Boss


Ever wanted to have an excuse to yell out, “NICE RACK!” to someone and not risk getting slapped? Well, here’s your chance. A how-to on building your own drying rack.
The idea to build a drying rack all came about in one of my many mad dashes to strip all the doorknobs in my hallway of my delicate personals before the arrival of friends and/or relatives showed up at my door who had just pulled into my driveway moments before. I don’t like putting my delicates in the the dryer because they are just that; delicate. So I have always been in the habit of hanging them off doorknobs when they came out of the wash. Not for any college dorm stuff-is-going-down-beyond-this-door kinda way, but just in the practical sense that I needed to hang them somewhere and the knobs were the closest thing. Then I thought to myself, “Caitlin, you’re a freakin’ adult. You are better than this. Go build something.” And the conversationalist in me said, “You’re right,” because the conversationalist is an agreeable introvert, and likes to be concise. Moving on.
Drying Rack from Ballard Designs
So I started researching, and in my research I found this really cool shallow box that hung on a wall with a frame built into the middle of it. The frame was lined with dowels and folded out to a degree before stopping so you could drape things on it. It took a little digging to find out it was a product made by Ballard Designs. The one I’d seen was a dark walnut color, but upon finding the original, I saw it also came in other woods as well as white. They came in various sizes as well, but I think even the smallest one was $100. The design looked simple enough, so I decided I could probably build that, and set about planning. Here’s what I came up with.
Step 1: Build your outer frame. This is the frame your beadboard will attach to. I measured the space between my cabinets on the laundry wall. I wanted a few inches of space to the left and right of where the rack would hang, so I went with four lengths of 1×2 at 28″ each that I cut with my miter saw. I knew I’d be framing it so the top and bottom pieces capped the sides with a little overlap, so even though all four pieces were the same length, the frame would not be square in the end. The sides are recessed by 1/2″ on either side of the bottom and top edges, then brad nailed in place with wood glue. Note that all the frame pieces here are turned so the narrow edge of the wood is what faces out from the wall. Some of the brad nails pierced my frame and came out the sides in places on mine, but these get fixed in step 3.
Step 2: Cut your beadboard down to size and attach it to your outer frame. I had some beadboard paneling left over from my staircase remodel, so I just used that. Measure from outer edge to outer edge both horizontally and vertically on your outer frame you just built. This will be the dimensions you want to cut your beadboard to. You could totally use regular poplar paneling in 1/4″ for this project, but I just wanted to fancy it up by using the beadboard. Plus, I already had it, so yay for saving money. I ripped my beadboard down using my table saw. Be careful to note where the lines in your beadboard are if you want them to run in a particular direction.
Attach it to your frame so the beadboard faces into your frame by laying it face down on top of your frame, then brad nailing (or just hammering) the beadboard to the frame. Sparks fly when cutting off nailsSome brad nails popped out the sides like annoying Caddyshack gophers here too (I swear, brad nails act like silly string for me sometimes, just going all willy nilly through stuff).
Step 3 (optional): Cut off any brad nails that pierced through in weird places. The easiest way to do this, I’ve found, is to get a reinforced metal cutting disc for a plain old Dremel tool, and cut with that. Sparks will fly, and it will leave marks on your project, but it’s nothing you can’t cover up with paint later.
Step 4: Attach d-ring hangers. Flip this beast over and decide where you want to place your d-ring hangers. I put mine about 7″ down from the top, flush with the side edge of the beadboard’s back. I thought about putting them all the way up at the very top so they’d hang off hooks just over the very top lip of the frame, but when I realized I’d need to use two different hooks to hang this rack (one side was over a stud, the other wasn’t), I decided to put them lower to conceal the hooks more. Use the 1/2″ screws to attach the d-rings to the frame through the beadboard backing.
Step 5: Measure out and cut your inner frame. Flip it back over. Measure from the inner edge to inner edge horizontally. This measurement, less 1/4-1/2″ will be the length you will need to cut the top and bottom of your inner frame. Measure from the inner edge to inner edge vertically. Subtract the same 1/4-1/2″. This is the length of your sides. I cut all my inner frame pieces down with a miter saw to have 45 degree angle cuts so they’d fit together like a picture frame for this inner section. Note that here, unlike the outer frame, I turned the wood so that the widest edge faced out from the wall, making it visually thicker than the outer frame. This is so the dowels will have somewhere to sink into in the next step.
Step 6: Drill dowel holes in your inner frame’s side pieces. I used a Kreg jig to hold my side pieces steady for this bit, but you could totally just use standard clamps to lock it down at the right angle. I used a power drill with a 3/8″ drill bit and just eyed it to drill a hole every 4″ down the length of each piece that would face inward on the inner frame (this is for your dowels to go in later). If you want true Batman precision on these holes for both the depth of the hole and the straightness of which it goes in… use a drill press. I don’t have a functioning drill press (yet), so I just went old school with the ol’ “eyeballin’ it” method till it looked like I’d drilled somewhere like… almost a 1/2″ down… mostly. I wave my spirit fingers at you. SCIENCE! MATHAMAGICS!! OOOHHH! AAHHHHH!
Step 7: Measure and cut your dowels. Do a dry assembly of your inner frame pieces (put them together, but don’t attach them). Measure from inner edge to inner edge horizontally. Add roughly a 1/2″ and this is basically the length your dowels should be cut to. You essentially want it so that there’s a 1/4″ sitting pretty inside those holes you just drilled on the side pieces. “But, Caitlin! What if they slide around and pop out and everything is ruined? RUINED, I SAY!” Well, gentle reader, that’s why you’re going to add a dollop of wood glue to each of them there holes in a moment, m’kay? (“dollop” is such a fun word, makes me feel vaguely Julia Childs – except when I pair it with “them there” or “them thar” which is where it morphs into Paula Dean)
Step 8: Assemble your inner frame and fancy dowel science. Be prepared here, because this is like the bash-the-mole game in an old arcade and can make you a little edgy. Drop a small smear of wood glue into each hole you drilled and stick your dowels into one side, capping it with the other. They kept popping out here for me as I was trying to get another one in, but eventually I conquered with brutal sawdust might. Clamp this assemblage down and align either the top or bottom to this framework, pressing it together with more wood glue at the joint and then brad nailing them together. It’s going to be all wibbly wobbly (timey wimey) still, so just continue being ginger with putting the other corners together, using lots of clamps to keep everything in line like a Catholic nun school-marming a gaggle of unruly children and everything will be fine.
Step 9: Paint everything. Spray paint whatever color you like. I went with white. I considered a pop of teal though, briefly. Spray paint both the outer frame with the beadboard backing, and the inner frame with all the dowels. Make sure to coat at many angles as those dowels are tricksy hobbitses who will totally want to miss a spot of paint and make you spray more later after everything is dry and you’re in a big damn hurry to get everything done and over with finally. Cover any spots you may have burned the crap out of marked with your Dremel when you removed the nails in step 3.
Step 10: Attach inner frame to outer frame using pin hinges. Now, originally, I’d attached these 1/4″ poplar strips to the top and bottom of the beadboard inside the frame with the thought that I’d attach the pin hinges to these and then to the inner frame. This was a fail because of all the awkward angles ever to get the inner frame to sit right and also to screw the hardware in. I’d only tried it that way in an effort to hide the pin hinges completely from sight. They’re not terrible to look at though, so instead (for the sake of sanity), I attached the hinge first to the bottom edge of my inner frame on the outside, then to the outer frame on the inside. The hinge’s pin pivot part is exposed on the front of the frames, but it’s all shiny and brass. You could paint it if you really wanted to, but I didn’t mind the metal coloration. Pre-drilling holes for the hinges will really help here.
Step 11: Attach support hinge to inner frame, then the outer frame. This armed hinge is to prevent the inner rack frame from just opening and flopping down completely. Instead, it only allows the rack to extend out to maybe a 35 degree angle when you place it right. By “right” I mean roughly 10-12″ from the top of the inside of the frame. Use your best judgement for how you want your rack to open. I recommend connecting the flexible head flat to the back of the inner frame, then connecting the lever arm to the side of the outer frame on the inside. This is to avoid awkward angles when using the drill. Pre-drilling holes will really help here.
Step 12: Hang on wall. Get heavy duty picture hanger hooks for this one. You can get some that hold up to 200lbs even. All for under $6. On one side, I had a stud, so that was a quick screw-in solution. On the other, I had nothing but drywall. For this, you can get a special hook with a metal oval plate that nails into the wall, and a giant L-shaped flat spike coming out the back. You can drill an opening for this and angle the spike up into it so that it rests flat against the inside of the drywall for a strong hold. Mount your drying rack, and you’re done.

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