c A DIYers guide to installing built-in wardrobes

How to install a frame for built-in sliding wardrobe doors

If you are installing built-in sliding wardrobe doors from wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling and the opening aperture for the installation is not true, plumb and straight or the walls and ceiling are not suitable for direct installation, then we would recommend first installing a frame using either soft wood or one of our melamine-faced chipboard (MFC) framing kits, when ordering your doors.

Soft wood wardrobe frame versus melamine wardrobe framing kit

Although a wardrobe frame can be created from soft wood / planed timber and then painted, stained or varnished, we recommend using our specially designed wardrobe framing kits made from melamine panels, as these enable a smart, colour co-ordinated and professional finish to be achieved relatively simply and quickly. Our framing kits, comprising strike plates, liners and end panels are all made of melamine-faced chipboard (MFC) and are available in a variety of colours. To understand more about MFC, please refer to our article What is melamine-faced chipboard?

Within these kits the strike plates and liners are:
Length: 2800mm
Width: 87mm
Thickness: 18mm

The framing kits are available in two different widths – 2800mm and 5600mm – to accommodate wider aperture openings. The 5600mm kit includes two 2800mm lengths and these will need to be cut to equal size so that they fit your overall aperture width and then butt-jointed together. Please see the section below How to join melamine panels.

Our sliding wardrobe door installation and framing kit guides describes broadly the process of how to construct a frame using a framing kit; however, this article will discuss in greater depth the different methods possible and offer some handy tips and tricks that may make the installation process easier.

TIP

If you are installing a framing kit we recommend that you choose a melamine colour that matches or coordinates with your existing skirting boards, door frames and / or coving. As these are often white we would recommend a white framing kit. However, you could also choose to match the panel material of the doors or even the colour of the metal frame.

Do I need a wardrobe end panel?

If your sliding door wardrobe is not going to be installed from wall-to-wall, eg. across the entire side of a room or across an alcove, then an end panel will be required. Two kit options are available: a wall-to-end panel framing kit and an end panel-to-end panel framing kit.

End panels are available in the following dimensions:
Length: 2800mm
Width: 640mm / 900mm
Thickness: 18mm

You may find this article useful: How to install a wardrobe end panel between a floor and ceiling.

Built-in wardrobe wall-to-wall framing kits

As mentioned above, our wall-to-wall framing kits consist of strike plates and liners. The strike plates should be attached vertically to the walls at each end of the run of doors and, when installed correctly, will provide a completely vertical surface for the wardrobe doors to close against. Strike plates offer a ‘buffer’ between the door and the wall – so preventing the door coming into direct contact with the wall and causing damage to the plaster, paint or wallpapering, or indeed, to the stile / metal frame of the door itself.

The liners should be attached horizontally to the floor and ceiling and again, when installed correctly, provide a completely level surface on which to fix the running tracks to ensure the doors run smoothly and effortlessly.

Note: If you do add a wardrobe framing kit (strike plates and liners) to your order we will automatically deduct 2 x 18mm from both the width and height dimensions you have provided us with for your overall aperture measurements, to allow for the thickness of these items. Therefore, if you do add them to your order you will need to use them! Please refer to our measuring guide for more information on how to provide accurate measurements to us.

Attaching strike plates / wardrobe framing to the wall

There are two main methods to attach the strike plates to the walls and these are described step-by-step below. The first is to drill both the strike plate and wall and then screw the strike plate to the wall (using rawlplugs), making use of packers where necessary between the wall and the strike plate to ensure the strike plate is true, plumb and straight. Using this method does leave screw heads visible in the face of the strike plate which can then be dealt with by using plastic cover caps or round adhesive decor caps. However, if these are in the same plane as the doors, then the edge of the door will close against the cover caps and not the face of the strike plate itself.

If you prefer no holes to be visible at all then the strike plates can be fixed to the walls using a strong silicon-based ‘grab’ adhesive (eg. Sticks Like Sh*t by Unibond) which dries to a rubbery consistency. White coloured adhesives such as this are also a good colour match to our white strike plates and liners and so can also be used as a gap filler if necessary.

How to attach the strike plate to the wall using screws

  1. Cut the strike plate to the required length so that it fits exactly the height of your aperture. For cutting melamine neatly please refer to our article How to cut melamine with no chipping.
  2. Using a spirit level and pencil, mark on the wall a vertical line where you want the front edge of the frame to finish.
  3. Down the centre of the strike plate mark positions for the drill holes, spreading them evenly along its length at approx. 600mm centres.
  4. Ensuring that the melamine panel is placed on a work bench or has a piece of waste timber underneath to support it, and using a sharp bit, drill the holes through the melamine panel. Stick a small piece of masking tape over each mark prior to drilling as this will prevent the drill bit from slipping on the surface of the melamine.
  5. Place the strike plate into position against the line on the wall and drill pilot holes into the wall surface through each hole in the strike plate.
  6. Drill out the pilot holes marked on the wall with a masonry drill bit and then place the correct size rawlplug into each hole. If necessary, gently tap them in so they are flush with the surface of the wall.
  7. Replace the strike plate and check with a spirit level that it is truly vertical and pack away from the wall if necessary to ensure it is plumb.
  8. Screw the strike plate to the wall, remembering to attach plastic screw caps to each screw prior to screwing if you are using this method – see Fig 1.
  9. Cover the screw heads with adhesive screw covers if you are using this method.

How to attach the strike plate to the wall using grab adhesive

  1. Cut the strike plate to the required length so that it fits exactly the height of your aperture. For cutting melamine neatly please refer to our article How to cut melamine with no chipping.
  2. Using a spirit level and pencil, mark on the wall a vertical line where you want the front edge of the frame to finish. Also mark a line on the wall where the back edge of the strike plate will be.
  3. Score the plasterwork / surface of the wall using a cross hatch pattern between the two lines you have marked – see Fig 2. This will give the adhesive a ‘key’ to adhere to, so providing a more secure bond.
  4. Placing the strike plate against the wall, check with a spirit level that it is truly vertical and pack away from the wall if necessary to ensure it is plumb. Ensure the packers you use (eg. cardboard, plastic, timber fillets) are attached to wall in the necessary places with a thin layer of the grab adhesive.
  5. Stick masking tape along the front facing edge of the strike plate.
  6. Apply the grab adhesive across the back surface of the strike plate in a zig-zag pattern and place the strike plate into position – the ‘grab’ of the adhesive should hold it in place.
  7. Use a spirit level to make sure the strike plate is vertical on both the front plane and the side plane and push it against the wall surface to adjust these as necessary.
  8. Any adhesive that squeezes out along the front edge can be spread carefully to fill any gaps between the wall and the strike plate, using a thin blade (eg. paint scraper or old round-ended dinner knife).
  9. Remove the masking tape from the front edge of the strike plate.
  10. Do not try to remove or clean-up any excess adhesive at this stage – let it dry first.
  11. Once the adhesive is fully dry run a sharp Stanley knife blade along the front facing edge to create a neat join between the strike plate and the wall – see Fig 3.

Installing strike plates by removing sections of skirting / coving

If you need to remove a section of skirting board and / or ceiling coving (see Fig 4) in order to install the strike plate flush against the wall you may find this article helpful: How to remove part of a skirting board or coving to install a wardrobe frame.

Installing strike plates without removing sections of skirting or ceiling coving

It is possible to install the strike plates for your sliding wardrobe without the need to remove sections of existing skirting board or ceiling coving. Two such methods are described below and whilst both of these will work, they will involve a certain amount of careful finishing, filling or patching to achieve a satisfactory finished outcome.

Installing the strike plate above the skirting board

Whilst this method offers possibly the quickest solution it is not necessarily the most effective, or attractive. To consider using this method, the skirting board itself needs to be of equivalent depth away from the wall to the strike plate when fitted (ie. 18mm), for an effective contact buffer to be created – see Fig 5. Any depth mismatch will result in either the strike plate being deeper than the skirting (thus creating an unsightly gap between the skirting and the bottom corner of the door when closed); or the skirting being deeper than the strike plate, meaning that the leading edge of the door will not contact the strike plate at all, and a gap will remain all the way up the height of the door and the strike plate. Even if the two relative depths are compatible the top edge of the skirting board may include a moulding detail (eg. torus, ogee, lamb’s tongue) making it difficult to butt-up neatly the bottom edge of the strike plate against it without some kind of gap being noticeable.

Cutting the strike plate to create an infill panel fillet

This method can be relatively involved to achieve a satisfactory result, as it requires the transference of an accurate template of the profile of the skirting board to the bottom edge of the strike plate and then cutting out a section of the strike plate so that a matching fillet remains. If the profile of the skirting board is, for example, a simple chamfer, then this method is relatively straightforward – see Fig 6 (a). However, if the skirting has a more traditional ogee or lamb’s tongue profile then creating an accurate template to cut away from the strike plate could be more problematic – see Fig 6 (b). In either scenario, this method is only really worth considering if the depth of the strike plate is equal or greater than the depth of the skirting board so that enough material of the strike plate remains after some of the bottom portion of it has been cut away in order to completely cover the existing skirting board – see Fig 6 (c).

If this method is used it is good practice to scribe the whole length of the strike plate along its long edge as the wall itself may not be plumb or flat. You can read more about this process in our article How to install sliding wardrobe doors when your walls are not plumb and straight.

Although not the focus of this particular article, an end panel (or interior divider panel) can also be fitted using this same method, whereby the profile shape of the skirting (or cornice) can be removed from the bottom (or top) corner of the panel so that it matches the profile when butted up against it.

Installing liners if your floor and/or ceiling are not level

As the liners are also 18mm thick MFC they enable an equal thickness of frame to be constructed on all sides of the aperture. For details of how to install a floor liner please see this article: How to install a bottom liner onto a sloping floor.

To install a ceiling liner you will find it easier if someone helps you as it is likely you will need two pairs of hands to hold the liner in place while drilling and screwing! If it is not possible to detect where ceiling joists may be, or the ceiling is constructed from wooden laths and plaster then we recommend glueing the top liner to the ceiling with a strong grab adhesive, in preference to screwing it to the ceiling. Prior to fixing the top liner in place, check with a spirit level that the ceiling is completely level across the width of the aperture but, if necessary, use plastic or slim wooden packers to make up any differences in level. The liner will ultimately have the top track screwed to its underside so you do not need to worry too much about screw heads showing.

If your ceiling is not level then you may want to consider building a ‘bulkhead’ – a lightweight partition constructed from liners and infill panels – to effectively drop the height of the opening to make any imperfections in the line of the ceiling less obvious. Please refer to this article for further details: How to fill the space between the top of your wardrobe and the ceiling.

How to join melamine panels together

The single framing kit will come with two liners, one for the ceiling and one for the floor. However, if your aperture is wider than 2800mm you will receive two floor liners and two ceiling liners which you will need to butt join together. The method for achieving this is described below:

  1. First, cut two separate liner lengths to equal size (ie. half the aperture width) so that the butt joint will be in the middle of the aperture. To achieve the cleanest cut please read our article How to cut melamine with no chipping.
  2. Place the two panels on as flat and level a surface as possible and use grease-proof paper under the position of where the glued joint will be to prevent the work piece being inadvertently glued to the work surface.
  3. Using a strong wood glue on each of the cut ends butt-up the two sections of liner – see Fig 7a – and use masking tape on both surfaces to keep the two sections in contact with each other until the glue has set . Wipe off any excess glue with a damp cloth. Alternatively, you can use super glue to clamp the two halves together: place wood glue all around the perimeter of the two cut ends to be joined and then apply two large dots of super glue in the centre of both cut ends – see Fig 7b. Push the two pieces together and hold for a few sections until the super glue has dried. As the super glue is quick-drying it will hold / clamp the two separate pieces together. Wipe away any excess wood glue and leave until the wood glue has fully dried.
  4. Another method to ensure the two sections stay in contact until the glue has set can be achieved by temporarily screwing a timber batten to the top surface of the two panels to create a ’splint’ – see Fig 7c. This is especially useful in the case of fixing the two panel lengths together for the top liner, as described in the next point. Make sure that the screws used are not so long that they will protrude through the entire assembly and damage the melamine surface of what will be the visible face of the liner, although this will likely be concealed when the top track (or bottom track in the case of the bottom liner) is installed over it.
  5. Even when glued together, the butt joint is not a structural joint so does not have a great deal of inherent strength. Therefore, if possible, when installing the top liner, leave the timber batten in place until the liner has been glued or screwed to the ceiling. This should avoid the two halves coming apart when the liner is being lifted into place. Once the liner is fixed to the ceiling, the temporary timber batten can be removed, and as mentioned earlier, the addition of the top track should cover over any screw heads that remain visible.

How to install a frame if your walls are not plumb or have an uneven surface

If your walls are completely out of plumb or the wall surfaces are so irregular that even caulking or filling would not work then we would recommend you create either an L-shaped or a T-shaped fillet frame. We go into more detail of how to achieve this in the following article: How to fit sliding wardrobes doors to uneven walls.

Creating the wardrobe frame as a feature

The framing of the sliding wardrobe doors can be created to be a distinct feature of the overall wardrobe installation itself. Please see this article for further information: Frame design ideas to complete the look of your wardrobe doors.

Contact us

If you have any queries in relation to this article please contact our Design Team 0800 035 1730.

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