It's been a while, but I'm back with another instructable! This time with a practical wall mounted ladder!
I came about this idea after seeing a photo on my Facebook news feed with a small ladder mounted on a wall. I thought to myself, what a cool idea that is...but it needs to be bigger! and now that I own my own place, I can put my own one in :) After numerous google searches and a multitude of image searches, of which there are many pictures, but no real instructions. It did give me a few ideas about how to go around this project. The few images searches I feel don't really utilize the potential show stopper piece that this type of project could be in a room. I thought, if you're going to put a ladder on the wall, it may as well be a big a one as you can get (within reason?), and many DIY ladders either bolted theirs directly to the wall, to a plate and the plate onto the wall or didn't "hide the brackets"
- An aged wooden ladder.
- My living room is 3.5m by 5.7m, so something that could wrap around both walls, while leaving about 1.5m - 2m white space on both the end sides.
- Depth thick enough to hold some bottles of spirits, but also enough space on the back to hold books and board games.
The ladder I bought was 6.6m long and had another piece that was also 6.6m long. The secondary piece wasn't wide enough to fit bottles in it and in any case I only needed the one piece, and one that would hold more stuff on it. So fortunately for my parents they have inherited the secondary piece, which mum is still deliberating on some plans for it.
This ladder was so old that it had a six digit local phone number on it (now 8 digits in Australia) and had around half a millimetre of debris on it as for a number of years it had been sitting outside the guys place of who I bought it off. The ladder was also so long I couldn't transport it on my car roof, so myself, my partner and two mates walked both pieces a good 2km to my parents place so that I could work on it, as they have way more space than I have.
Also, because I'm going to split my ladder, I didn't want to make an even piece of art. So this 6.6m turned into ~2.3m and a ~4.2m after the cuts.
Find your ladder:
You should easily be able to find old wooden ladders on the cheap. I got mine off gumtree for $130. But you should be able to find one on craigslist or eBay pretty easily in your local area. Also, if you can't be bothered walking it, you could probably bring a circular saw and cut it to the length you require it before transport.
Step 1: What You Will Need
For the project
- A long ladder: I reckon 5-7m if you can acquire it.
- Short brackets painted the same color as your wall: This should give enough space that the ladder comes out from the wall, but alcohol bottles won't fall between the wall and the ladder.
- Long brackets painted the same color as your wall: This should give enough space to properly balance some books and board games, or any other heavy objects you might want to put up.
- Dynabolts: Is there anything stronger? I personally bought enough brackets to attach one to every second space and I started 1 rung in. I also alternated the top and the bottom brackets. Check out the pictures.
- As many bolts, nuts and washers you'll need to secure the brackets to the ladder.
- A high pressure hose(Not needed if you don't have one).
- Belt Sander, with a few 80 grit belts.
- Tenon saw.
- bolt cutters (Only if needed).
- A hammer drill: If you have brick walls.
- A set of screw drivers.
- A plunge Router
- A set of chisels.
- A spirit level.
Step 2: Wash the Ladder and Dry
Wait for a dry day outside, even better if its a few dry days in a row. Pull out the high pressure hose or go to your local car wash and use their hose. Give it a good wash and scrub dry to remove any loose debris. Once done, put it away for a few days to let it fully dry. If it isn't you can always pull out a hair drier and go to town on it.
Step 3: Remove All the Metal Objects From the Ladder and Clean Them Up
Any pulleys, metal brackets, anything you might want to keep or throw out...Pull it off and either clean it up to reattach or throw it out. The large metal bracket on my ladder, I pulled off and both the pulley wheels on the sides were also pulled off.
Ok, if you want to keep anything, does it need a clean or do you like the way it is already? To clean up the metal bracket I removed it, covered it in WD40, left it for 5 mins and then pulled out the belt sander and ran it over it. Then I pulled off the sand paper from the belt sander and got into the cracks that the belt sander couldn't get to. As for the pulleys, I just gave them a scrub with hot water and soap and left them the way they are.
Step 4: Time to Get Sanding (the Most Time Consuming Step)
Serious, this ladder was covered in a wax coating and it took about 6 weekends on and off to sand it back and clean it up. The wax kind of mixed with the debris and totally clogged up the belt sander and even "belt cleaning tools" couldn't clean up the belts. Overall, I went through 6 belts cleaning up this ladder. That said I got a pair of belts for I think $3...pretty cheap!
I only used 80 grit for the whole thing. Its course enough to pull off stuff and in the end you don't need to have a super smooth ladder shelf in your house. It just need to be practical, clean and smooth enough that no one gets a splinter.
So, what did I actually sand?
Essentially, sand everything! haha.
Firstly, start on the back of the ladder. You don't need to do an awesome job cleaning it up, but just do enough to clean off the debris so you're not bringing all this extra dust into your house.
Then, turn the ladder on its sides and do both the sides. Once you've done both of them, you can judge which side actually looks better and cleaner. So then, consider that the "best" looking side should face downwards when you hang it. So any shorter people or people sitting below it see its best side :)
Now do the front of the ladder and make sure this is the cleanest and most even sanding job you've ever done. It's the the largest side that people in your house will always look at, so make it count!
Finally, sand all the cornering that leads to each face. ie. back to side, side to front, front to rung side. This will help clean up and smooth out those edges.
Then just quickly check the ends and see if you need to sand them.
Step 5: Make 4 Important Cuts
As I'm going to hang this ladder around a 90 degree corner I needed to make four 45 degree cuts to create the 90 degree fit. Now to make this even, I cut out one of the rungs in the ladder and measured in from both side to the rung to figure out where to cut from. I made sure that the front of the ladder where the corner was could be the same distance to the next rung. So each rung was the same distances to the next, including the two rungs where the ladder wrapped around the corner.
How to do this?
Put the ladder up on blocks and with your spirit level(s) get that ladder as level as possible. Make sure that it is well supported at the points where you are going to make the cuts, and also at the ends of the ladder so the ladder doesn't fall back and tear the wood when you are finishing off the cuts. With a pencil, mark on top of the ladder the two different 45 degree cuts you are going to make. Now grab your tenon saw and make the two cuts, slowly, making sure you don't cut into the wood at an angle. If possible, have someone start on the other side and watch you do this and also, if possible have someone help support the ladder while you cut it! :)
One you've done, make a makeshift plump bob. I just used some string and a metal loop, or use fishing wire and a sinker, whatever...Hang this from both your cuts and see where it marks on the bottom part of the ladder. Then make the same measurements as you did before. Do the plump bob marks and your measurements line up? If so that is the point you are going to cut. If not, reassess and figure out why it might be out. Before you cut again, make sure you are cutting the correct 45 degree angle you need to create that 90 degree corner. Once you have made the two cuts, give the edges a quick hand sand to take away any splinters.
Now, transport it if you need to.
Note: Save the rung you cut out, you might need it!
When you finally mount the ladder, if it is slightly off in the corner and not touching, you can quickly just knock up a wedge that would slide in and hide a gap. I made one for mine and I only had a 1.5mm gap, no one else could see it, but I could haha.
Note: The ladder I bought was reinforced with steel wiring behind the ladder. So before making the cut, I trimmed this off with the bolt cutters.
Step 6: Hold It Up and See If You Like It!
Just grab both the pieces and ask a mate to hold up one piece while someone else takes a few photos. Does it fit? would it look better slightly shorter? This is about the only opportunity to ask these questions. I asked this question here and then after I had started to actually mount it on my wall. Because realistically, once I put it up, with the dynabolts, it was going to be a pain to take down. So get it right the first time!
Step 7: Recessing Your Brackets.
Grab your combination square or something that will allow you to draw a line at the same positions along the ladder. Hold it against the ladder and then check that the bracket will fit nicely in that position, while thinking about how far you want the bracket from the wall to hold stuff and also where the hole to bolt your bracket onto the ladder will be. Once you're happy, mark this spot and then mark each spot on both sides of the ladder. I personally cut a spot between the rungs on the reverse side and then skipped a spot (i.e. brackets between every second rung), then repeated this (Check the photo). On the bottom I alternated to what I had on the top.
Grab your plunge router and set the depth to the thickness of the brackets you're using, lock that in place. Then just route all the sections out that you just marked. I would recommend stay within the lines drawn on the side that is going to face downwards on the wall, we will chisel them out in the next step to get them nice and straight. While on the top side, feel free to going outside of the lines slightly, because this will give you wriggle room when installing the ladder later.
Alternatively, you can use a chisel to do this step, but its more time consuming and also the router will get the same depth every time for you! Check out the alternative method here.
Step 8: Chisel the Bottom Ones
Now on the side that will be facing downwards. Grab a sharp chisel then straighten up those cuts you've made with the router. After you've done this, grab a bracket and just make sure that it can fit nicely into each cut out you've created on both the downward facing side and the top facing side. Correct anything with a chisel.
Step 9: Drill Your Holes, and All in the Same Place!
To get the same drill position each time. I attached one of the brackets to a straight bit of wood. This allowed me to get the same hole and therefore each bracket would be the same distances to the wall from the ladder. I drilled straight through to the other side of the wood and then used a countersink drill bit to allow the bolts I was using to be hidden on the shelf side of the ladder, so they wouldn't catch on any objects on the shelf. So go ahead and drill all your holes that you need now :)
Now attach all your brackets!
Note: If you are using different brackets, i.e. one longer than the other, you may need to change that little hole finder I made. My brackets had different holes down the lengths on the metal.
Step 10: Begin the Process of Mounting the Ladder! :)
Before beginning this step. Feel free to reattach anything you may have taken off the ladder before sanding.
Ok. Remember, once this is on, it's going to be hard to take down and you're going to have holes or bolts that will be in your wall...so you need to take your time, get everything level and everything marked. But the process overall is very simple. Also you might want about 5 other people to help out with this step.
Right, are you ready? I aligned the bottom of my shelf to about a foot above my shoulder height (I'm 5'10" - 11"). So, get a pair to hold the longer of the two pieces to the wall and hold it up to the wall with a spirit level on top of it. Then get another pair to grab the shorter of the two pieces and get them to hold it up to the wall. Get both pairs to move it to the corner of the wall and get those 45 degree angles, making that sharp 90 angle now. Grab a tape measure and measure down from the ceiling to the top of the ladder in several spots on the piece that you have the spirit level on to make sure that it also aligned with your ceiling (remember, your walls and ceiling might not actually be square).
Once in place, get them to hold it steady, have the other free person constantly look at the spirit level while you quickly, using a hammer drill, drill a hole in one bracket through to the wall and then bolt it into the wall. Then go to the other end, drill the hole and secure it with another wall bolt. Now everyone should be able to let go of these pieces. The longer piece that you just put on the wall, might be now sagging in the center. Correct that now with another bolt in the centre, while lifting up the centre to make sure that the shelf is now level.
Now you have one piece essentially in place. Put the spirit level on the shorter piece and then lift it up to the longer piece. It should align or be pretty darn close. Make sure it's all level and also measure from the ceiling again. Then repeat by securing both ends and propping up the centre and securing it as well if there is evident sagging.
Now you can send everyone out of the room for a drink and a bite to eat. While you continue to secure the rest of the brackets to the wall that you haven't bolted on yet. :)
And now that is pretty much it...
Note: Before you put the dynabolt in. If some debris that you've created in the hole catches the side of the dynabolt it can secure itself in the wall before its actually fully in the wall...and if this happens its near impossible to get it all the way in. So make sure you drill the required depth and I recommend giving the hole a quick vacuum before you insert and start screwing in the dynabolt.
Step 11: Done, Finally, Additional Touches?
Finally it's all done.This ladder in the end was able to hold one of those 1m x 2m Ikea bookshelf worth of stuff, a hip height bookshelf of stuff and my whiskey collection. So we were able to de-clutter our bedroom and now clutter a trendy shelf in our living room! :)
All up this ladder shelf cost ~$180 ($130 Ladder, $50 Goods) Australian Dollars, which is less than the price of two bookshelves at Ikea, plus a bit more storage!
Additionally, my dad and I hooked up some pendant lights that came off the ladder, to the roof and hung over the dining table. I just used those dim incandescent light globes that are becoming pretty big in the cafe scene in Melbourne now.
Shout outs must go to.
My partner Stephanie for helping with every step.
My mate Ross for helping out with transport and installation.
My uncle Ray for insisting that I recess the brackets and helping with cuts.
My mate Andy for helping with transport and telling me that I should route out the recess section for the brackets.
Mum and dad for space, tools, installation and helping out along the way as well!
Big shout outs to everyone who I told what I was going to do and could not understand me until I showed you a photo of the finished product! :D