Thursday, June 7, 2007

Elfa Meltdown and Recovery

I love Elfa. For the uninitiated, that is the very clever, very reconfigurable, very pricey modular storage system from the Container Store. A friend of mine who moved a lot had it in all her closets. The first thing she'd do when she moved into a place was take down the cheapo clothes shelf/rod in her closets and install Elfa. When she moved out, she uninstalled her Elfa, put back the cheapo stuff, and repeated the process in her new place. She only had to buy it once, and just reconfigured it for her new place.

She tried, in vain, for years to talk me into the investment, but it took an overflow of craft supplies in a too-small condo to push me to try it.

For my first step, I cleared out one smaller closet and put in stacks o'drawers. I store all my stamps in them, and it is sweet.

Next I did two more closets - one to hold what's left of the clothes and other stuff I had to purge from closets #1 & 2, and the other one was to organize all my cr@p, er craft stuff.

All was well, and I was SOLD. I even talked a co-worker into buying into it, and his wife is soooo happy. He, however, wonders what all the fuss is about, and what he will do with all the empty, extra storage space in HIS closet. He is such a it out to your wife! Yeesh!

I still love Elfa, and I will probably convert every remaining space in my condo to more wisely use said space.

Now to the meltdown. There is something you should all know about drywall. It is great at holding things up, especially if you can hit a stud along the way. Since the Elfa closet system uses a single horizontal bar attached near the ceiling of the closet, with all the vertical supports hanging off of it, it is critical that (1) the horizontal bar is level, and (2) it stays in the wall. Yes, I said "stays in the wall". You see, mine did not. I followed all the rules and instructions - really, I did. Unfortunately for me, one other thing about drywall is when it gets wet, it loses its integrity, meaning it can turn to mush.

Enter me, the naive downstairs condo owner, anxious to install her Elfa. I gutted my closet, spackled the holes, painted (PAINTED!), including the ceiling, then set to the installation process. I managed to hit zero (none, zippo) studs, but never fear, I used the handy-dandy supplied anchors. I measured, drilled, tightened screws, and completed my installation. The levelling and installation of that horizontal bar is really the hardest part of the whole thing.

Fast forward about 4 months. I enter my craft room one evening after work to find my Elfa shelving hanging from the wall - AWAY from the wall ...on a SLANT. This is The Meltdown. Turns out all the anchors pulled completely out of the wall. Well, not ALL of them, as the right-hand side of the shelving was still attached. Just the left side was ripped out of the wall and dangling.

Being an Analyst by trade, I enlisted the sage advice of my local Container Store experts and we eventually determined that the drywall had been wet, then dried, and that is what burned me. I live in a downstairs unit, and the upstairs unit's furnace/air-conditioning unit is above my closet. In the 15 years I have lived here, there have been two water 'incidents' where there was water drip-drip-dripping into my closet. Two incidents in 15 years - I did not give it another thought.

Until now. Apparently I now needed to (1) attach the horizontal bar into studs, (2) try to attach the horizontal bar right next to the ceiling line in hopes of hitting the topper for the closet/wall (not happenin'), or (3) replace the drywall. I opted for #1.

They warned me I might need to invest in a stud-finder and a metal drill bit to drill new holes in the header to align with the studs. I sulked home with this information in my brain, and looked at my closet, sighed, and left the room. I repeated this over the next few weeks, never having the energy to actually start working on it.

You see, I have too much stuff. Yes, don't we all? But I have a small condo, and I really do not want to live in the closet, so I MUST be organized, or stop buying, more organized it is! Thus, the Elfa system. In order to fix the Elfa, I have to unload the closet, deconstruct the Elfa, deal with the reinstallation of the header, then put everything back. With no where to unload the closet TO, I again looked at it and walked away for weeks.

Finally, I said ENOUGH! I took off two days from work this week with the intention of dealing with this whole mess. It is now the end of Day 1, and I am almost done! I first had to clear off enough space on my craft table to relocate my scrap boxes (organized by color, of course) from the shelving to the table. Then I set to work on my scrap PILE, putting all of the scraps into their proper scrap bins, and tossing all the bits not worth keeping.

Then I emptied all the shelves from the closet onto the now-cleared table. I was then able to deconstruct my modular shelving and deal with the header. It sickeningly pulled right out of the wall. So much for drywall integrity. ;-( Also, so much for my screw-tightening skills. I only have a 30-year-old Craftsman screwdriver I got as a wedding present, and have never invested in anything electric outside of my drill. Apparently I did not tighten the screws enough the first time around or the 'good' side would not have pulled out of the wall. I am bad. Dad, if you are reading this, I am sorry I failed in this. You taught me better!

Then I went hunting for studs. Remember, this is a closet - who's gonna see? So instead of investing in a stud-finder, I used a finishing nail and hammered it into the wall until I hit a stud. I then left it there and measured 24 inches and found the next one. Found 3 all together. And it was free!

Then I pondered the drilling into the metal header piece. But first, I measured the existing holes, and they were 8 inches apart. 8 x 3 = 24! Woo-hoo! If I could line up those holes with the studs, I would not have to drill any new ones, thus eliminating the trip to the hardware store for a new drill bit. I measured several times (measure twice, cut once), and took my tiny hack saw outside to hack off about 3 inches of the header. Back inside, it was a perfect fit.

I dug into my Elfa stash and found the wood screws, drilled their holes (level, of course), and installed the header with the three wood screws in place. They only went in about 1/2 way. Hmmm .... Then I could not get them out. Hmmm .... Then I figured I should have put the anchors and screws in the other holes, so off to the Container Store to buy more of those buggers. Fortunately, in my rummaging I also found more Elfa parts-is-parts that I did not use with the original construction, so returning those paid for my new anchors. I also asked the sage Container Store person about the wood screws, and he said I NEEDED an electric screwdriver - not battery, electric. Apparently my wimpy upper arms clued him in to my lack of upper body strength, though he did say ANYone would need an electric screwdriver to do that. Trying to make me feel better? Ya think?

Naturally, it is mid-day on a Thursday and anyone I know who MIGHT have an electric screwdriver is either at work or out of town. Being that I was in instant-gratification mode, I stopped at the hardware store to check out what kind of investment we were talking about for an electric screwdriver - $30, with 22 different screw parts, and an extender...sold!

Once home again, I uninstalled the three partially-installed screws with my trusty new electric screwdriver, drilled all the holes for the anchors, and I installed ALL the screws. Unfortunately, the wood ones still only went in about 2/3 of the way. Sigh ...

But I continued anyway. I installed the verticals (unscrewing and rescrewing the wood screws to let the verticals pass by those spots, and reinstalled all of the shelving.

Being a bit cautious, still, with the partially-screwed-in wood screws, I only loaded up about half of my stuff...figured I'd let it hang out for a while (no pun intended) to see if the dang thing will stay on the wall. But with my clean table, I have room for everything else, so I can at least walk around in here until the final verdict.

Let us pray.

1 comment:

  1. Foe elfa lovers, is the only other authorized U.S. dealer of elfa products (besides The Container Store) and competes with them in price and customer service!


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