Monday, February 15, 2021

Ta da! The completed pantry

When last you tuned in, Don was in the midst of building a combination pantry and canning closet in a chunk of floor space that would otherwise be underutilized.

Well, I'm pleased to report it's finished. This is a long post, so grab a cup of tea and follow along as he builds it.

Since we would be storing many hundreds of full canning jars in this space, one thing Don wanted to do was shore up the support underneath the house. We're living in a standard manufactured home (complete with hitches), and doubtless the support is excellent, but he didn't want to take chances. Accordingly, he ordered some jacks...

...and picked up some flat cinder blocks for support.  Then he donned knee pads...

...removed one of the side panels of the house...

...and crawled around inserting jacks. By happy coincidence, he needed fewer jacks than he thought, since the heaviest load-bearing area of the proposed pantry happened to align above two of the steel joists already in place. (He was also pleased to see how well the underside of the house looked -- no dampness, etc.)

With that unpleasant task finished, he turned his attention to the external structure of the pantry. Here he's working on the ceiling joists.

That done, he began putting in 1x4 supports for the back side of the shelves.

He found a stack of these 1x4s in the barn, left behind by the sellers, and figured he might as well use all the salvaged materials he could.

See that white bucket on the floor? That's acting as a measurement for the lowest shelf. I wanted room to store the buckets I use to hold common bulk staples such as flour and oatmeal, so the lowest shelf had to be high enough to accommodate them.

At each step of the way, Don's emphasis was on strength. Those jars are heavy.

Then it was time to begin installing the 1x12 pine boards for shelves.

Since we had a whole bunch of those 1x4s in the barn, he glued'n'screwed them to the front sides of the shelves for additional support (you'll see how they work a bit later on).

Here are a few of the pre-done shelves, letting the glue dry.

Before installing the shelves, however, he assembled the support unit for the front of the shelves.

Notice how he built it with a 2x4 base. That's so it would help distribute the weight more evenly than just 2x4 uprights on the floor. Remember, strength.

Then he started screwing the pre-made shelves to the back wall supports. At this stage the shelves were kinda fragile, since they were cantilevered out with only screws in the back to support them (no support in front). Don had to be careful lest he unthinkingly put weight (such as tools) on the shelves as he worked.

You'll notice the 1x4 boards fronting the shelves serve two purposes: one, it allows Don to secure the shelves to the upright supports, when he gets to that step; and two, it's a handy built-in earthquake retainer so jars don't get shaken off the shelves. Nice, eh?


Here's the front support unit, leaning along the other side, ready to install.

He used a bubble level to make sure the shelves were perfectly horizontal...

...then started screwing the 1x4 shelf fronts to the support unit.

One whole side, done.

And yes, the bucket fits.

Then he repeated the same process on the other side. On this side, however, he made the shelves shorter to make room for a door at the far end, which will swing inward.

Progress so far.

At this point, even though the outside walls weren't yet up, Don encouraged me to start loading the shelves with jars. I had so many boxes of full canning jars in both the bedrooms that he was anxious to get some floor space clear. I didn't need any further convincing!

One by one, I brought out boxes and flats of jars and installed them on the shelves. I was able to organize and inventory as I went.

Soon empty boxes and flats starting stacking up, and of course still I had more boxes to unload.

 The empty boxes overflowed into the kitchen.

The semi-final result is fruits and miscellaneous pantry items on the right...

...and meats, vegetables, sauces, and miscellaneous savory items on the left.

One problem Don had to overcome with this design is the gap between the back of the shelf and the 2x4 upright studs (since there is no wallboard to block the gap). The gap is large enough that a pint jar could fall through. His solution was to purchase a load of 2x2s...

...cut them into blocks...

...and screw the blocks between the studs. Worked beautifully. Now, jars won't fall through the gaps at the back of the shelves.

Meanwhile, during the time I was stocking the shelves, Don worked on another miracle of efficiency for this pantry. He decided the studs without shelves in front of them -- left that way so there would be room for a door to swing inward -- would make a perfect spice rack.

He measured my tallest spice container and installed 2x4 scraps (for mini shelves) that would otherwise be wasted, and made the pantry even more useful in the process.

After this, it was time to put up walls. Rather than purchasing sheet rock, he used sheets of OSB (oriented strand board) he found in the barn, left there by the previous owners. Hey, waste not want not.

Here's what the spice rack looks like with the OSB in place. Cozy, no?

It sure didn't take me long to fill it! And don't worry, earthquake strapping is next on the list.

Sheet by sheet, he boxed in the pantry, including the roof.

After this, he stapled up plastic corner guards to protect the corners and edges. (He used staples because it's OSB. With sheet rock, screws would be required.)

Next step -- a light! By this point, the inside of the pantry was very dark, requiring the use of a flashlight to find anything. Don found a four-foot LED light and installed it on the ceiling, with a wall-mounted switch by the door.

After this, it was time to finish the outside. He put in flexible-but-paintable caulk along the seams between the sheets of OSB. Then he put up wall board joint compound to smooth out the seams.

Then he textured the surface (no photos, sorry) to resemble the texture on the rest of the house walls. After that, he applied two coats of primer. He recommends not stinting on good-quality primer -- it saves trouble in the end.

He found a beige paint that matches the existing wall color quite closely, and applied two coats.

Don still wants to apply trim to floor and corners, but that can wait. Eventually he also wants to finish the ceiling and box in the top to make a narrow storage space up above, but that can also wait. Meanwhile, the two extra bedrooms are now clear of canning jars, and most of the kitchen is also stored in the pantry.

This pantry is truly a thing of beauty. Often I'll stand in the doorway and just...gaze.

This is the outside of the pantry as of this morning. The long front wall and short side wall will be covered with bookshelves in the near future, giving us room for our extensive library.

As I said before, this pantry occupies a chunk of floor space that would otherwise be underutilized. By boxing in this 5x14 foot area, the "return" on our floor space "investment" is massive -- on the inside, a spot for canned goods, dry goods in buckets, pantry items, spices, and kitchen paraphernalia; and on the outside, space for several thousand books.

And this was all done by my clever husband. He's a blessing.


  1. Looks great! When designing our current home, I truly wish I had doubled the size of our pantry. Decorative cabinets had to be incorporated. Is it okay to be just a little jealous?

  2. Looks great! Glad to see you guys hit the ground running. Looks like you have plenty of "meat" running around your place! Good luck on your new adventure :)

  3. Just curious, what keeps the crawl space under the house from freezing?

    Nice shelves, but the way.

    1. It's a pretty nice crawl space. I can actually crawl it unlike other places I've lived. The floor 2x6 joists are 16" on center and have fiberglass insulation with an r value of 21. The batts are held in place with belly wrap. Whoever put the place in also poured a realllly good concrete foundation, pretty obviously installed french drains on the out side and actually covered the interior ground with heavy mil ground cloth. They also put in heavy wire cables anchoring the steel frame to the concrete. Doing all of this allows the house (for insurance and financing purposes) to be classified as "real" property rather than just personal property. Good place and pretty well built for a 90's manufactured home.

  4. Oh my, that is a pantry to die for! Love a good organized pantry. You have a very talented husband, what a treasure

  5. Fantastic work by Don. There is a pantry in the future at our house and this post is a great place to start. Glad to see your getting settled in.

  6. It looks amazing. So wonderful to see a skilled craftsman at work.

  7. That is a thing of beauty!!!! Such a blessing. And wow, you moved so much canned food. I loved reading this post. P

  8. Great job! you are indeed a talented wood worker. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  9. Wow, what a great and useful space.

  10. What a dream come true!

    If only we had the room!

    My husband is a wood worker too. Although he is now 87 and such, would be a big job, for him, now. -smile-

    so we have to live with put together shelving, in our bedroom! And our small pantry.

    Which is fine! Having a "deep pantry," is more important, than how the bedroom "looks." But of course, our "deep pantry" is nothing like the amount of yours.

    "It sifts from Leaden Sieves --
    It powders all the Wood.
    It fills with Alabaster Wool
    The wrinkles of the Road."
    ~Emily Dickinson

    ☃ ❄ ❅ ❆ ⛄

  11. I am impressed with the extra efforts that went into this structure to make it extra safe. Most people would never think to make it so secure.

  12. I don't know if it will work for you, but I used 1/4" elastic shock cord as earthquake proofing for my spices on a shelf almost identical to yours. It allows me to pull out what I need easily, but holds everything snug and tight otherwise.

  13. Can’t wait to come visit and see it in person! So much talent in your household between the two of you❤️

  14. An industrious, knowledgeable, capable spouse is worth their weight in gold. The added bonus is I love mine dearly. You are both blessed.

  15. I'm curious. Why remove the inside sheathing from the outside wall? Why no insulation?

    1. Actually, that is an interior wall between the living room and a bedroom. No insulation was present or needed. At the very end of the pantry you might have noticed a bit of insulation showing. That's where the wall transitions from an interior to an exterior wall. That insulation was left in place and resealed.

      I removed the interior sheathing because I knew that most interior non-bearing walls in manufactured homes are made with studs with considerably smaller dimensions than those used in stick-built homes. In this case, the studs were 1" x 2 1/4". Because I wanted stronger studs to support the load, I "sistered" a standard 2x4 to each of the thinner original studs. This meant that I had much stronger composite studs for the shelf supports and it also meant that the studs stood an inch and a quarter further out, so that I was able to make enough room for Patrice's buckets on the floor without having to make the shelves above wider than the standard 1 x 12 pine boards I had on hand.

    2. Don, the insulation at the end is what made me think that was an exterior wall.

      I noticed that wall wasn’t 16 OC but I didn’t notice the tiny studs. Not sure I would have caught that. Good move shoring that up, I imagine there is a lot of weight on those shelves.

      Clever use for that dead space behind the door!

  16. I would rather have a large pantry than a large, fancy, spa-like bathroom. It looks great!

  17. Wow - and I agree with "Prepared Grammy" - better a large pantry than a fancy bathroom!