Redistribution of Space: How To Subdivide Your Bedroom Into Two Bedrooms

We don’t hear much these days about subdividing a bedroom when two bedrooms are needed. Redistribution of space is simply unacceptable, especially if you’re a teenager lobbying to have your own bedroom instead of sharing with a sibling.

In some cases, an elder sib may head off to college, giving a younger sister or brother a chance to lay claim to the newly vacant bedroom. In others, families actually sell out and move to larger homes in order to shut up that nag-nag-nagging kid.

Or, as a more moderate solution, a room may be added onto a home.

Our situation is a little different. I built the Border Fort with comfort and space for two in mind, designing bed-and-bath rooms for Pam and me, each room the mirror image of the other–keeping in mind, of course, that we’d have space enough to fit in other people someday, additional caretakers to help me take care of my disabled spouse.

Not counting the porches, this house encloses a total of 1,296 square feet. When I was growing up in a log house on a Montana ranch, five of us lived comfortably in 900 square feet of space.

We could certainly figure out a solution when the time came.

What we did not foresee is that the time would come as soon as it did. Pam’s friend called in desperation from a homeless shelter in Missouri. She needed a bus ticket back home to Arizona and a place to stay.

She didn’t ask to stay with us; that was our idea. She could use a secure place to flop, and we could use the help.

But…where to put her?

By the time we had an agreement on Friday, we knew she’d be showing up at the bus station late Tuesday evening…and I had a plan.

It had to be my bedroom that was subdivided. If we put her bed in the kitchen, she’d be underfoot. No go on that one. Pam’s bedroom was likewise out of the question.

“I’d be tripping over her!”

Yes, dear. Yes, you would.

There’s barely space to walk in the utility room. Ditto for my office.

By default: my bedroom is it.

The deadline was a blessing. Without pressure, I hadn’t cleaned up that half of my room since 2010. Literally.

It took me 15 man hours of labor to muck that area out. What. A. Mess. Four hours Friday night, quitting at midnight. A much earlier (a.m.) start on Saturday, but the last of the stuff wasn’t out of there until nearly midnight, topping off an eleven hour shift.

It didn't look like all that much of a task, but mucking out that end of my bedroom required 15 man hours of labor.

It didn’t look like all that much of a task, but mucking out that end of my bedroom required 15 man hours of labor.

Finally, by midnight on Saturday, the south half of my bedroom was ready.  Constructing the subdivision could now commence.

Finally, by midnight on Saturday, the south half of my bedroom was ready. Constructing the subdivision could now commence.

By allowing myself no more than a small, 12″ wide walkway between the end of my bed and the new wall, I could enclose a second bedroom for our new resident that would be 8′ wide. The length would also be 8 feet for half of the width; the remaining width would have 11 feet of reach.

Hardly humongous, but I’ve seen worse.

The first construction step was to install an eight foot 2″ x 4″ stud wall that would mark the border between the two bedrooms. Most builders (me included) usually put up all of the stud walls first, then add sheathing. I decided to change that pattern this time for one specific reason: It would save at least a few minutes of put-together time.

A few minutes may sound unimportant, but we were under a deadline. Construction began Saturday evening. Our new resident would be sleeping in the new bedroom Tuesday night.

There was no time to waste.

Locking a home improvement stud wall firmly to the ceiling is a piece of cake. Since that (the ceiling) is made of OSB strand board (which I use a lot), the header 2″ x 4″ is simply nailed to the ceiling, and that’s that.

The floor is a different matter. Ours is all loose lay, rubber tiles over OSB strand board over black plastic. That’s not much wood thickness in the subflooring. Penetrating the moisture barrier plastic with a nail tip would be a very bad idea.

However, tacking the sill plate (bottom board) to the rubber tiles is a surprisingly simple process. The key is to use 6d nails. They’re just long enough to go through a 2″ x 4″ plus the rubber, with a teeny tiny bit–no more than an eighth of an inch–left over for the strand board.

It’s not really solid, nailing into rubber, until the sheathing is hung–but once that’s finished, it’s a mighty solid wall.

The first step in my one bedroom into two bedrooms was to install and eight foot stud wall, defining the border between the rooms.

The first step in converting my one bedroom into two bedrooms was to install an eight foot stud wall, defining the border between the rooms.

Squaring the sheathing away underscored one of the numerous eccentricities inherent in the way I built the Border Fort. Approaching the west wall of the house, there’s a sizeable dip, deepest right at the edge of the wall.

No big, but also no surprise that this most dramatic lack of level ground turned up in my bedroom. All of the most challenging quirks show up there; don’t ask me why.

There’s no need to insulate this wall; it’s a hollow wall.

Squaring the sheathing away underscored the significant dip in the floor next to the west all of the house.

Squaring the sheathing away underscored the significant dip in the floor next to the west wall of the house.

There's no need for insulation here; it's a hollow wall.  Also, the sheathing boards are installed horizontally instead of vertically.  I like doing it that way when working with shorter (8 foot) walls; a single board covers the entire length of the structure.

There’s no need for insulation here; it’s a hollow wall. Also, the sheathing boards are installed horizontally instead of vertically. I like doing it that way when working with shorter (8 foot) walls; a single board covers the entire length of the structure.

After the eight foot wall was completed, a shorter four foot wall was installed at right angles. This closes off part of the new room, and I finally realized the way I’d put this thing together, the closed off portion was not exactly eight feet to a side; seven feet, eight inches was a lot closer.

The shorter wall forms one side to a walkway that (a) provides the new room’s occupant with easy exit from the room and (b) makes it possible for either one of us to reach the bathroom.

The shorter four foot wall provides an easy exit from the new room and easy access to the bathroom from either bedroom.

The shorter four foot wall provides an easy exit from the new room and easy access to the bathroom from either bedroom.

Those walls added up to a tough job for one reason. Carrying a full 4′ x 8′ sheet of OSB strand board does not normally present a problem, but this was a special case. The new bedroom is in the “far back corner” of the house from the front door, which is the only real possibility for moving large things in or out of the Border Fort. We’ve moved furniture here and added construction tidbits there until routing through the entire residence is a bit of a serpentine adventure. In a couple of places, it’s not possible to grab under the edge of the board with a full hand.

Instead, the board must be lifted and carried by gripping its top edge only. With both hands, to be sure, but at this point, gravity is definitely not a friendly force.

Especially since I generally wear leather gloves if I’m going to be moving strand board any significant distance. They do protect the hands, but they also slick the thumbless grip a bit. The first two boards were merely a grunt-and-focus challenge. The last two were inclined to slip right out of my hands and go thump on the floor.

At two in the morning, the old man was weakening a touch or two.

The walls got built, all right, but that seemed like a decent stopping point for the shift.

Sunday required a whole lot of errands in town. Among other things, the new bedroom’s new occupant would be needing a few things. She’d gladly sleep on the floor if that’s all there was, but no. We could do better than that. My haul for the day included a queen size air mattress, sheets, a snuggly-soft blanket, a quilt, pillows, towels, towel rack, clock, two pictures, carpet style rugs, a lamp, and probably lots of other things I’m not remembering at the moment.

Once again, I didn’t get started building until after dark. Trim boards were added, the easiest and most pleasant part of the entire project. Then it was time to paint the new walls–in her room only; there wasn’t time enough to tackle my side of the equation.

Yeah, there’s something I forgot to mention from the shopping run. Two gallons of pale yellow paint with various painting accessories. As it turned out, the new room’s interior required just one gallon, but it was close.

Trim boards added.

Trim boards added.

One coat of yellow paint applied.  The camera did not catch the tone accurately; it's a much lighter yellow, rather creamy.

One coat of yellow paint applied. The camera did not catch the tone accurately; it’s a much lighter yellow, rather creamy.

Two coats of paint applied.

Two coats of paint applied.

Furnishing the new room went well…until the new brown blanket came out of its shopping bag. That POS turned out the be a shedder. It shed loose lint-thread pieces all over the top sheet and pillow cases. Bouncing it around in the dryer didn’t help. In the end, frustrated by a dumb purchase (soft and cuddly but cheap cheap cheap), I turned on the water supplying the laundry shed and washed the blanket, dried it with two Bounce fabric softener pieces, and…

…and the blasted thing still shed a bit. Not only that, but there was water blasting up out of the ground over by the water tower. The green irrigation control valve cover wouldn’t release its lid and had to be yanked bodily from the earth. Plunging in the nearly freezing mud and water to the elbow–ah, contact; got the valve shut off.

What the dickens caused that? My plumbing’s never that bad. Well…almost never. I finally remembered: This was the place where, for the first and only time in my life, I’d shattered a piece of PVC water line with the spud bar when digging it out to rework and pressurize the lines. I’d thought I’d cleared the shattered area, but hadn’t tested it after making the connections–and hadn’t gone past the next union, dumb me.

You’d think I’d have known better, and in truth I did…but laziness won the day. Hopefully it won’t take more than a day to rectify the situation.

In the meantime, back at the new bedroom, it was time to top everything off with the new quilt, take one last look around in what was now bright sunshine, haven’t been to bed and it’s 11:30 a.m.

But the deed is done. That’s how to handle the redistribution of space by subdividing your bedroom into two bedrooms.

One way, anyway. You might have a story of a home remodeling job that went a bit more smoothly than that. Or then again, maybe not. Most of my friends, when they have a remodeling story to tell, begin with something like, “On a dark and horror night….”

To top that off, our new 300 lb. occupant gallops into town tonight, riding the big gray dog. Thirty-eight hours on a Greyhound bus. After that, our friend ought to be ready for a couple of days of unconsciousness.

And to top it off, it’s a full moon tonight.

Furnishing the new bedroom:  Shelf and lamp.

Furnishing the new bedroom: Shelf and lamp.

Furnishing the new bedroom:  The family love clock.

Furnishing the new bedroom: The family love clock.

Furnishing the new bedroom:  Airbed with morning sun kissing the pillows.

Furnishing the new bedroom: Airbed with morning sun kissing the pillows.

Furnishing the new bedroom:  Pictures on the south wall, next to the window.

Furnishing the new bedroom: Pictures on the south wall, next to the window.

The moon was setting (shown here), the sun was rising, and I was still going.

The moon was setting (shown here), the sun was rising, and I was still going.

8 thoughts on “Redistribution of Space: How To Subdivide Your Bedroom Into Two Bedrooms

  1. Nice job. Katy’s room is only 8×9, and ours is 9×10, but we have a king sized bed in there too. So that is a decent sized room to me. I like the light butter yellow color, bright and cheerful, but not overpowering. Our whole house inside is dark charcoal gray. Dennis refuses to but some paint, so I can paint at least one wall in each room white, to brighten it up a bit. Really depressing. Like your efforts to make it feel homey.

  2. Thanks. I’m up again (got 3 hours of sleep, good to go). We need to get Pam’s hair washed & get ready to go pick up our friend.

    But…dark charcoal gray? Ew-w-w! I think I understand Dennis’s take on it, but that’s got to be hard as the dickens to deal with on a daily basis.

    Gotta go. Bunny out by the bowl, waiting on the sliced carrots….

  3. Dennis’ take on it is that we can’t afford to spend money painting a rental. This is the color it was when we rented it, and this is the color it will stay. I would love to buy a five gallon bucket of white, for $20-25, and just lighten things up. It would help all of our moods. I would paint one wall in each room, and if I still had more paint, after the 2-3 coats it would take, I would do more walls.

  4. Absolutely. I completely understand Dennis’s position, but I’m with you on this one. The impact of all that darkness on the human psyche has got to be debilitating over time.

    Our friend (her name is Alta) has arrived and is impressed with her room–and with this site. She wanted to see some of the critter pics, so I just got done giving her a peek at some of the pics of coyotes, road runners, and Mojave green rattlesnakes.

    Now, to see if the few pics I got of a chickadee earlier in the day are good enough for a post. Haven’t written that species up yet.

  5. I’ll do that. In fact, I’ll show her this page–eventually. At the moment, she’s outside with Pam, having a smoke. Alta and Pam are really hooked at the hip, which is a good thing. She (Alta) also spotted a hole where somebody had thrown a rock or something through one of the old camp trailer’s windows, right next to the door.

    But there was no evidence inside of the missile itself, so maybe it was the butt end of a quarterstaff or some such, something the hitter took with him.

    Our first suspicion was (automatically) one particular neighbor, but no. The more I checked things out, the more clearly the signs pointed to an illegal first trying to break into the door, failing, and then busting the window in simple frustration. Whether this was a coyote on the run from the Border Patrol (or enemies within his own cartel, who knows) or just some border crosser trying to hide for a day or two is impossible to tell–but there’s a good grab handle on that door, not a knob, so he could yank to his heart’s content. Which he obviously did; that’s a decent Brinks deadbolt on there, and it’s now super wobbly loose…but not even close to giving up.

    The trespasser would have naturally expected to break in easily, most camp trailer doors being what they are. But that one’s a Door by Fred, built in 2009, not quite solid core but reinforced throughout with 2″ x 2″ lumber.

    Don’t know for sure how long ago this happened, except that it had to be after the monsoons. There was no evidence of rain having come through the hole in the window. Which, naturally, is now “repaired” with duct tape.

    P.S. I had it wrong. Alta’s not 5′ 7″. She’s 5′ 10″.

  6. Ghost, you did a nice job of creating private space for Alta. I’m sure she was thrilled. Why would you not insulate the hollow wall though? Wouldn’t that help to keep each of you from hearing each other’s movements?

    As for your trailer invader, that’s a little scary. How far is it from the house?

  7. Sha, there is no door on her bedroom, only a doorway, and she has to walk through my bedroom to get to hers. What little movement I’ve heard from her side of the equation has come out and around through the open doorway, not through the hollow wall. Remember, even hollow, there is nearly an inch thickness of wood between us, plus the dead air space between the two layers. Pam and I’ve been functioning for years with the same wall arrangement between the two bathrooms, and the noise that makes it through is simply not all that much.

    Beyond that, insulating would have taken (a) time, (b) effort, and (c) money. Under the circumstances, it wasn’t worth overspending on any one of those.

    The trailer invader isn’t all that scary to us. First of all, he didn’t make it through my homemade door, so, Homeowner !, Wussy Trespasser 0. The trailer is close enough to the house, about 60 feet to the nearest corner. Most likely, that assault on the trailer took place when both of us were out and about.

    Plus, Pam seldom goes out at night, and never alone. I know what’s out there when I do; if there’s a threat worth worrying about, I’ll feel it and take appropriate measures to stay safe.

    Overall, no big.

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