How to Build a Custom Panel Room Divider

What You'll Need
Power drill
Decorative fabric
Staple gun
Carpenter's glue

A panel room divider is a great way to add a unique accent to a room while offering the practicality of hiding unsightly shelves and having a degree of privacy. Panel room dividers can be rather costly to buy but for those who have a few basic carpentry skills, a custom panel room divider is relatively easy to build.

Step 1 – Planning

The first thing to decide is how much space your divider can take up and how big it needs to be. Most free standing dividers are built either as a 3-panel divider or a 4-panel divider, but you can construct one with as many or as few panels as you like.

Step 2 – Measure and Cut Frame

A good height and width for panels is 6 feet high and 18 inches wide. Measure and cut all 4 sides for each panel. The size of your lumber is up to you, but 1x3’s are big enough without being ungainly. Cut the corners of your frame pieces at 45-degree angles so they’ll fit square together.

Make a cut an inch from the inner side. The cut should be ¼-inch deep and should be cut into the back of each piece of frame. Make a cut 1 inch deep into the inner side, 1/4 inch from the back side. Cut 4 more frame pieces for each panel (top, bottom, and 2 sides). Be sure that each piece matches the other frame pieces perfectly because you will be screwing them together.

Step 3 – Attaching Front Frame

To attach the front frame pieces (those pieces you made the inner corner cut into), first apply carpenter's glue to each contact surface and press the surfaces firmly together. Let the glue dry and secure a screw into the top and bottom of each corner to connect them.
Be sure the frame pieces are all facing the same way, so the back side that you cut into earlier is facing the same way for all of the pieces of the frame.

Step 4 – Paint/Lacquer/Stain

If you want to paint, lacquer or stain your wood, now is the time to do it--before assembling the pieces. Just be sure not to cover any contact areas between pieces of wood.

Step 5 – Cut and Attach Fabric

Measure your fabric to approximately the full size of your frame. Stretch it across the back of the frame. To make sure the fabric is smoothly stretched, pound a nail into the backside of the frame--just deep enough to hold the fabric in place at each corner. Once you are sure the fabric is smoothly stretched and wrinkle free, staple it to the frame. Make sure all of the staples are within the inner corner cut that you made earlier. Remove the nails and cut the excess fabric.

Step 6 – The Back Frame

Assemble the back frame the same way you assembled the other frame pieces. Screw the frame into the back of the other frame to hide the unsightly area with the staples.

Step 7 – Hinges

Screw the hinges into the sides, making sure to locate hinges at identical heights on all of the frames. Be sure to alternate the front and back sides of your panels, so you can put each panel at a slight angle and let it stand on its own. Alternating also allows for easy fold-up storage.

Once the hinges have been attached, you will have completed the project.