How to Build Room Dividers or Partition Walls

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You can make a room divider to suit any interior design environment. However, it is more important to make a divider that contributes to the decor and function of a space, rather than one that just fits. Use your divider by creating activity areas within your living space. For example, you can arrange a divider in your living room to make a separate sitting area and television room, or you can use a divider in a shared children's room to make a discrete changing space. Consider these ideas while constructing and designing your room divider in case the height or width needs to be custom fit.

Things You'll Need

  • Saw
  • Saw horse
  • Table saw or hand saw
  • Plywood sheets
  • 2 hinges
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Chisel
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Primer
  • Stain
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Stencils
  • Determine the divider height. For a ceiling that is 12 feet or higher, an 8-foot tall divider is sufficient. However, if the ceiling is low, a lower divider is necessary. Calculate the height of the divider for a low ceiling by multiplying the measurement by 0.66, so the divider is two-thirds of the room's height. Round up to the nearest half-foot. For example, an 8-foot high ceiling would fit a 5 1/2-foot divider.

  • Measure the width of the area you wish to cover. Round up to the next even foot. Divide the width by two to find out how many 2-foot-wide sheets you need. For example, a 5-foot-wide area requires a divider that is 6 feet wide and uses three 2-foot-wide sheets.

  • Select 2- to 3-inch-thick plywood sheets; plywood sheets are sold in a variety of sizes but 4-by-8 feet is the most common sheet size in the U.S. Cut the plywood sheets to size with a table saw or with a hand saw. If using a hand saw, rest the sheet on a saw horse for stability.

  • Lay two of the three plywood sheets alongside one another so the longer sides of the sheets are touching. Label the long sides of the plywood sheets one, two, three and four from left to right. You can write these labels on the sheets with a pencil.

  • Measure the right side of the left plywood sheet, side two. Divide the measurement by three to reach the variable A; the value of A will change depending upon the height of the panels. For example if side two is 12 feet long, A will equal 4 feet. Mark the side you just measured at intervals of A, dividing the edge into three equal sections.

  • Use the measurements taken from the first sheet to mark the left side of the right panel, side three; each panel will have two markings along its inner edge where you will place the upper and lower hinges.

  • Lay the hinge on a flat surface with the barrel on the underside of the hinge so it opens like a book. Measure along the left edge of the left hinge plate and mark the center of the plate; a hinge that is 4 inches high will be marked at 2 inches. Repeat the procedure to mark the right edge of the right hinge plate.

  • Align the mark on the left hinge plate with the marks on the left panel; ensure the barrel is on the underside of the hinge as it was in Step 7.

  • Press the hinge to the left, towards the panel, so the barrel of the hinge rests lightly against the edge of the plywood. Leave a gap between the plywood and the hinge barrel if you plan to attach moldings or other 3-D ornaments to the divider. The width of the gap should be 1/8-inch larger than the thickness of the decoration; for example, a 1-inch-thick molding requires a 1 1/8-inch gap between the plywood and hinge barrel.

  • Move the right hinge panel to ensure that the plywood does not hinder the movement of the hinge. Trace the perimeter of the hinge plate where it rests on the plywood to mark the location of the hinge.

  • Repeat Steps 8 through 10 for the right panel; align the center mark on the right hinge plate with each of the marks on the right panel and trace the perimeter of the hinge. Now each panel will have two hinge plate markings on the inner edge.

  • Use a chisel to carve a shallow depression for housing the hinge plate within the four areas defined by the hinge outlines. Test the depth of the depression with the hinge often as you work. Stop chiseling when the hinge is flush with the surrounding wood. Sand the chiseled areas.

  • Test the depth with the hinge again. With the hinge in place, trace the interior of each screw hole. Drill a pilot hole at each of these screw marks. Repeat for each of the chiseled areas.

  • Place the hinges on the panels with the barrel on the underside of the hinge resting in the groove between the two panels. Fit the left hinge plates into the chiseled depressions on the left panel and the right hinge plate into the depressions on the right panel.

  • Screw the hinges in place.

  • Lift the hinged sheets and test that they open and close smoothly. Oil the hinges as necessary.

  • Flip the sheets over, face down, so the hinge plates are against the floor. Place the third panel to the right of the first two.

  • Repeat Steps 4 through 16 to place hinges between the rightmost and center panels ignoring the presence of the leftmost panel. Place a piece of tape on the leftmost panel to remind you not to touch it.

  • Lift the divider and set it up so that the hinges are partially open, forming a zigzag.

  • Prime the plywood. Apply one to two coats of paint. Use stencils, stencils or fine brushes to add detail.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can make room dividers of many materials, including plastic, wood sheets, glass, metal and plywood. Of these materials, plywood is an inexpensive, durable and easily managed option. When purchasing the plywood to make your room divider, be sure to invest in a high-quality hardwood, which can better tolerate the stress of standing upright.
  • To use sheets of a different width, divide the width of the area to be covered by the width of the sheets you will use. For example, to use 3-foot-wide sheets, divide the width of the room by three.

References

  • "If I Had a Hammer: More Than 100 Easy Fixes and Weekend Projects"; Andrea Ridout; 2008
  • "Home Staging For Dummies"; Christine Rae, Jan Saunders Maresh; 2011
  • "Wood Accents for the Home"; Cy DeCosse Incorporated; 1996
  • Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
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