How to Make a Towel Ladder
Display toiletries and towels on a decorative ladder that attaches to the wall.
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Far more interesting than a towel rack, a decorative ladder can be a great accent in a bathroom. Here’s how to build one:
Materials and Tools:
1-by-3-inch, 1-by-2-inch and 2-by-4-inch poplar lumber
1-inch Forstner bit
flush spackling compound
1-inch half-round trim
¾-inch quarter-round trim
wooden lathing strips
self-anchoring molly bolts
paint or stain
1. Cut two pieces of poplar to 6-foot lengths for the side pieces. Make six marks along one of the boards every 10¼ inches for the placement of the ladder rungs. Clamp the two boards together, along with a sacrificial board underneath the two to protect the bench while drilling. Drill the holes for the rungs with a Forstner bit, but skip the first and third marks, as this is where two shelves will eventually go.
2. The top of the featured ladder is 12 inches apart and widens to 27 inches at the bottom. Lay the two ladder sides on a table and use 2-by-4’s at the top and bottom as guides so that both ends are even and level. Measure the distance between the holes and cut closet dowels to length with a miter saw. Once all the dowels are cut, place them between the ladder sides. Don’t glue or nail any dowel in place until they have all been cut and put in position so that you can make adjustments.
3. Once all the dowels are in position, nail them in place by first drilling pilot holes and then securing them with finish nails from the back of the ladder sides.
4. To hide the dowel holes, attach another 1-by-3 along the length of each side with wood glue and finish nails. This gives the ladder much more strength and adds depth to the side rails. Fill the nail holes with flush spackling compound, and then sand the entire piece smooth and remove the dust.
5. To create the shelves, place the ladder against the wall so it leans 17 inches from the wall to the base. Measure the distance from the first mark on the ladder to the wall and the distance between the ladder sides. Cut a shelf to those dimensions with a table saw. Cut a 15-degree angle on each width of the shelf, matching the angle of the ladder.
6. Cut a piece of half-round trim for the front of the shelf and attach it with finish nails after drilling pilot holes. Place the shelf at the first rung mark and secure it from the sides by drilling pilot holes and attaching drywall screws. Repeat these steps for the larger shelf, and attach it at the third rung mark. For more detail on the shelf, add wooden lathing strips to the sides and back. Cut them to size and drill pilot holes before attaching with wood glue and finish nails. Fill all holes with flush spackling compound and let dry.
7. To mount the ladder to the wall, make two cleats for the shelves to rest on. For the top shelf, cut a length of ¾-inch quarter-round ½-inch shorter than the length of the shelf, and use a 1-by-2 for the bottom shelf, as it will be hidden. Attach the cleats to the wall with molly bolts and screws and fill the holes with spackling compound. Paint the cleats to match the wall color once dry.
8. Paint or stain the ladder as desired and let dry.
9. Place the ladder against the wall with the shelves resting on the wall-mounted cleats, and secure each shelf from the top with drywall screws.
Note: This is strictly a decorative ladder and should never be used for climbing.
Nicci Battilana adds sparkle to her painted pillow with an acrylic jewel and glitter paint.