Dear James: I have always liked cedar closets and want to add a small one in my bedroom. How do I build a closet with cedar wood and how do I maintain the cedar scent for years? -- Jamie P
Dear Jamie: Cedar closets are wonderful for storing clothing because the scent repels moths and other insects that may damage the clothes. Cedar also gives the clothes a nice fresh smell. If you have a head cold, breathing the cedar scent in the closet will help open the sinuses.
The basics of building a cedar closet are similar to any other closet. Use 2x4s for the framing and then cover the exterior of the framing with drywall. Instead of also covering the interior with drywall as you normally would do, cover it with cedar planks or other cedar material.
It is important to use the proper type of cedar to get the cedar scent. Don't use standard western red cedar, which is used for exterior siding and roofing. It will give off very little cedar scent. You should use aromatic eastern red cedar wood. This wood contains many more of the cedar oils, which slowly evaporate into the air.
Solid cedar planks are the best material for lining your closet, but they are quite expensive. Another option is plywood with a cedar veneer. It will look exactly like solid cedar once it is installed on the closet walls. Contact Columbia Forest Products, (800) 237-2428, if you have trouble finding the aromatic cedar veneer plywood locally.
The lowest cost option is cedar chip flakeboard. It is available in 4x8 ft. sheets, so installation is quicker for the do-it-yourselfer.
The more airtight you make the cedar closet, the longer it will retain its strong cedar scent. After the closet framing is completely covered on the outside with drywall, caulk all the drywall joints where it meets the wall, floor and ceiling. This will be covered with the cedar, so spread the caulk liberally.
Installing an airtight door is a must. You can use a standard interior door and weatherstrip it well. It will also need a threshold seal where it meets the floor. A simpler and more effective option is to install a low-cost exterior wood door. It already will be weatherstripped.
When you are sawing and fitting the cedar planks or plywood for the closet, save all the scraps. You can put them in dresser drawers or large plastic bags when you store clothing. Save any unused pieces in sealed small sandwich bags to keep the cedar oils from evaporating.
When your cedar closet begins to lose its strong scent after several years, vacuum the cedar surfaces and lightly sand them. The sanding will take off a thin layer of the wood and expose fresh cedar pores and its oil to the air. Don't ever finish the interior walls with urethane or any sealers because they will block the pores.
If after sanding the walls, your cedar closet still does not have a strong enough scent to satisfy you, you can treat the wood with natural cedar oils. Several companies which offer these cedar oils are Giles & Kendall, (800) 225-6738, and Cedar Fresh, (305) 870-9390. Another option is cedar moth balls, porous bags filled with cedar shavings, cedar shoe trees and cedar-lined storage bags (from Cedar Fresh).
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.