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    Hanging uniform construction tips


    Location : New England, US
    Registration date : 2009-03-08
    Number of posts : 6921

    Hanging uniform construction tips Empty Hanging uniform construction tips

    Post by CollectinSteve Fri May 27, 2011 2:32 pm

    I wrote this up a long time ago and either never posted it or put it somewhere on this Forum that isn't obvious. I am now reposting as per request:

    Here are some tips based on my own experience building racks that currently hold about 800 items ranging from light summer shirts to 20 pound full length wool coats. There's 8 separate systems in all, so I've had some experience messing around with different methods, ranging from "high end" to "super cheap". Some tips I've already posted in other threads. Hopefully others will share their tips. Please don't be afraid to challenge/question my systems. Nothing is perfect Very Happy

    Basic Design Considerations

    Before you start, keep in mind some basic concepts prior to buying materials and start knocking things together. Here are some of the most important:

    1. Basic dimensional requirements of the racks must be the prime consideration for your project. Not only to make sure the racks are of adequate size, but also that they fit in with the rest of the space around it. I've found that you need to allow about 32" in depth minimum, 34" preferred, to prevent hanging stuff from being squished from front to back. For height, 41" is needed from top to bottom for normal length uniforms. Longer items, like field jackets and winter coats, require more along the lines of 46". Full length garments, like great coats and jump suits require about 70". These dimensions allow for enough space to get the average hanger on and off the rack.

    2. Obviously you want to use as much of the available space as possible, but you must keep in mind things like doors, room to walk around, corners, immoveable obstructions (like pipes), ceiling height, etc. More than once the design I had on paper had to be changed (or even trashed!) because of other realities. A good trick is to put boxes on the floor to simulate where your rack will sit, then see if you trip over the boxes. This is better than putting masking tape on the floor because the tape method lacks height.

    3. Be realistic about how much your proposed rack can accommodate and plan for it. Figure roughly 1 normal uniform for every linear inch, 2 linear inches for most winter gear, 3 linear inches and more for things like load bearing vests. Figure roughly the loss of 2 inches (2 uniforms) for every support. Figure roughly 2 supports for the first 4-5 feet, 1 support for each 4-5 feet thereafter. More or less depending on materials used. Don't put in too many supports, but definitely don't put in too few! The former costs you valuable space, the latter could have catastrophic consequences. Something I know about first hand several times now! Remember that like all projects, build for more than you think you need. Just like adding 4 lanes to a 4 lane highway, give it a few years and there will be just as much gridlock with 8 as there was with 4. Overtaxing whatever exists is something we Humans are very good at doing!

    4. Use vertical space as much as possible! Most ceilings are tall enough to have two racks, one over the other. Since you're losing the footprint area to one rack, might as well use the space to house two! Use leftover space for shelves (on top) or for bins (down below). Remember to allow space to your hangers on/off the racks when building shelves on top or putting the top row near the ceiling.

    5. Decide if this is going to be a "showpiece" or a "utilitarian" project, then figure where on the spectrum you want to aim for. This makes a huge difference in terms of materials and attention to detail. Obviously for showpiece racks you're going to want better materials, however you might also want to use different building methods because some are pretty damned ugly.

    6. Got natural light? Make sure you plan on blocking it out COMPLETELY. Heavy curtains, doors, whatever... just make sure you understand that any direct exposure to sunlight, no matter how briefly during the day it might be, is extremely bad. As in very, definitely, horribly, extremely bad. Remember, light just needs to be blocked, so if you go more towards utilitarian you can use some pretty cheap/easy materials to do just as good a job as expensive doors.

    7. Dust mitigation and air ventilation. These are often competing issues which will depend heavily on what sort of environment you live in. Whatever you do, make sure air can move around your stuff and that sources of dust are mitigated as best as you can.

    8. Plan on utilizing oddball spaces before you build. You might very well find that moving something 1" this way or that opens up completely different storage options for other things. Building your main supports one way can give you support for a shelf "for free", while doing another method might give you nothing. Be creative.

    Hanging "Rods"

    Probably the most important place to start is with the thing which is going to carry all the weight of your stuff. Since the length of storage space is the most important factor to consider, do your designs based on the rod first and everything after. In other words, optimize your entire project to maximize free span length so you can have the maximum number of items stored as possible.

    1. The best thing I've found for the hanging "rod" itself is steel pipe (conduit). It's pretty cheap and nearly indestructible. You can overload the Hell out of it and it won't break on you. I prefer black painted pipe for aesthetic and cost reasons, but bare galvanized works fine. If you find uncoated bare steel pipe (i.e. not painted or galvanized), make sure you use metal primer and paint before installing. Last thing anybody wants is rust being near uniforms!

    2. Size does matter Very Happy Through experimentation I've found 1" steel pipe can stand on its own pretty well for up to about 4 linear feet. 1.25" steel pipe can get you up to about 5 flinear feet. I've got some 1" pipe at 5 feet and it sags a little bit in the middle, while my 4 foot runs are straight as arrows. I foolishly installed an 8' section of 1.25" pipe without center support as a quick and dirty project to hang light stuff on. Well... it's still being used some 6 years after I built it and few things on it are light. Sags like crazy, so I arrested the sag with a ceiling support (more about those below).

    3. Try to use single pieces of rod material (wood, square metal, round metal... whatever!) instead of butting two smaller pieces end to end. Physics means that a single large piece of pipe is much harder to bend than two separate sections given the same amount of support. For example, an 8'8" single piece of pipe with 2x4s on each end and one in the middle for support will have more strength than two 4'4" pieces of pipe with the same supports.

    4. There are different ways to secure the rods to their supports, and these methods may have some construction implications. Method one is the easy way and that is to use a sawsall or jigsaw to cut a square chunk out of the wood support and put the rod down in it so the top of the rod is flush with the top of the 2x4. Then put something over the top to prevent the rod from jumping (not a usual risk considering all the weight on the rod!). Another method is to use a hole saw or wood bit to make a more perfect hole for the rod. Harder to do and get right, but definitely works. The third method is the easiest... put the rod on top of the support, then use a 6" or so piece of steel support strapping (has holes already in it) and screw down on either side with 2 screws each. Works very well! Any of these three options gives you enough support for the rod so don't worry about that.


    Obviously rods don't float in mid air, so the next important thing is what and how you're going to support your stuff. You can support the rods in one of three basic ways: free standing, wall mounted, ceiling mounted. Of course you can use a combination of two or three of these for the same project, depending on needs. I suppose a 4th type is "free standing with wheels", but that's rather specialized and follows the same principles as free standing. I'll discuss that in a bit.

    1. Support materials are likely to be wood. Why? Because it's cheap, flexible, extremely easy to work with, light for its strength, aesthetically pleasing (if you want it to be), and generally far stronger for the job than you need it to be. As for the latter consideration, after having had a few projects collapse on me due to under engineering I am here to say that over engineering is never a bad thing!

    2. The best primary support material is the run of the mill 2x4. Get them straight and as in good condition as you can even if you are going for a utilitarian project. Trust me... working with bad materials isn't worth the $5 you saved by going with crappy materials.

    3. My next favorite thing to work with is 1x3 softwood strapping. I use this for lighter duty things like shelf support and framing for fancier projects. It's also nice to use because they come in all kinds of lengths, so they're good for long runs.

    4. Assume your uniforms will come in contact with the wood that supports it. Splinters and general interaction with bare wood (oils, dust, etc.) is a bad thing. Therefore, sand the sides facing your uniforms and coat them with polyurethane or some other non-transfering coating (not oil based sealants or paints of any sort!). Use stain underneath if you care about the looks, otherwise it's not necessary since the coating is what counts. I've also applied adhesive "contact paper" plastic (often used for the insides of drawers) with some success. It holds up pretty well as long as you realize that it doesn't stick to wood all that well. Wrap a 2x4 with the material THEN fasten it to a wall or another 2x4. That locks the material in and keeps everything good for the future.

    5. Brace along walls whenever possible. Put torque screws through your supports and into studs whenever it makes sense. Usually I do two screws every stud for anything directly bearing weight. Keep stud locations in mind when planning things out. If you don't care about the looks it's sometimes easier to run a support long so you can grab another stud than it is to provide extra bracing.

    6. Angled support going from directly under the rod to the wall or (better still) junction of a wall and floor provides a lot of great support. Far better than a free standing support because it can't be kicked out by mistake and transfers the weight back towards a supporting wall. However, free standing supports work too and are generally easier to construct. Just remember that you must make sure they have lateral support so they can't be moved. Use right angle brackets to attach to the floor or, if you don't care about the looks, a foot plate. For the latter I've taken 6x6" 1/2 piece of plywood, screwed it to the bottom of my support with at least two heavy torque screws, then when positioned where I want it I screw the plate down to the floor. If you have concrete to deal with, then you're going to need some sort of nail driver.

    7. You can get some support from some ceilings quite easily. Not necessarily pretty, but it works! Wrap steel support straps (with holes in it) or wire (solid or braided) around the part of the rod you want to support, then extend it up to the ceiling. If you have exposed rafters/joists then you simply screw it into them. Use at least 2 screws per end. Make sure they are heavy duty. If you don't have a exposed joists, then you can take a 2x4 or 1x3 that is long enough to span between two joists. Run your strapping up over the wood, screw the wood to the ceiling, run the other end under your rod, then bring the strapping back up to the other end. Overlap by 8-10" and then secure the strap ends to each other using bolts or heavy gauge wire. It's ugly as sin, but it's fast and super cheap. Very strong too! I've had nearly 80 heavy wool uniforms hanging on an 8' piece of 1" pipe for years and the steel strapping hasn't failed at all.

    8. Light duty 1/2" plywood is generally fine as long as all four edges are supported and you have a "spine" along the depth (short width) every 4-5 feet if the width is greater than 3 feet or you plan on putting heavy stuff on it. Otherwise you can get away with just the supporting edges. For smaller shelves (3-4 feet or less in length) you can usually get away with support on three edges only. If you go with a thicker grade plywood you can usually radically reduce the support needs. But that stuff is more expensive, heavier, and generally overkill even for things like helmets and boots. Regardless, remember that you need at least 3" of space between the top of the rod and the bottom of shelf in order to get hangers on/off.

    Fasteners and other materials

    1. The best things to use with wood are torque screws. A little more expensive than standard drywall screws, MUCH better than more expensive wood screws, and nearly impossible to strip the heads off of. Drywall screws were something I used a lot of early on in my various projects, now I use torque screws for ANYTHING that has a load put on it. I've had drywall screws literally snap under the weight of uniforms. The length of the screw depends on what's being asked of it in terms of load. Personally, I like to have at least 50% of my screws sink into each piece. That means putting a screw through two 2x4s requires a screw of at least 3" in length (2x4's aren't really 2x4 Wink).

    2. Store bought metal brackets help secure things together and keep things like corners squared, vertical supports lateral reinforcement, etc. However, I've found that 1/2" plywood and sometimes 1x3 strapping can do the job even better and cheaper. Generally speaking, I use wood braces where they can't be seen or I don't care about the look because generally speaking they look ugly. It's also something else you have to consider sanding and coating, though generally they are in places that uniforms won't come in contact. Flush mounted steel plates are great for reinforcing adjoining pieces of wood without taking up space near uniforms because they are thin and mount practically flush with the wood.

    3. Inexpensive angle iron is good for cross supports when other options are not viable. This type of support gives you fantastic strength along two axis and two directions (e.g. left/right and front/back), but not three axis (e.g. left/right, front/back, top/bottom) unless the run is fairly short (under 3'). Simply cut a notch in either the steel or the wood so you can mate it with something like a 2x4. Use a drill to make a hole in the angle iron and then drill it down into the wood with a torque screw. Remember to prime and paint before you install! Angle iron rusts very easily and that will get on your uniforms.

    4. Inexpensive steel braided or solid wire can provide great support along one axis, but only one direction only. Therefore, this is good stuff for keeping two free standing supports from getting further apart, but won't stop them from getting closer together. They can also be used to prevent something from skewing if you use the wire in a criss/cross fashion. I recommend using twist type tension adjusters at the mid point so you can keep them tight as things naturally shift around.

    5. Curtains can be made from cheap camo cloth, old sheets, or whatever discounted stuff you find at your local cloth shop. However, make sure no light can get through. Generally this is only possible if you get a dense weave cloth and then double it. Even densely woven fabric tends to let light through one layer. Use baffles around the edges, like pine strapping or other strips of fabric, so that you keep out all light and mitigate dust movement. How fancy you make the hanging of the stuff is up to you. I have some that are simply thumb tacked to the ceiling, while another one has a complex roller system (which is broken at the moment, I might add!). Again, the point is to block the light no matter what, everything else is a secondary consideration.


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