A do-it-yourself three-tiered plant shelf

Written by benna crawford
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A do-it-yourself three-tiered plant shelf
A old stepladder earns its keep as a great multilevel plant stand. (Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

A three-tiered plant stand can add visual interest to a sunny corner of the kitchen or a corner of the patio. In the spirit of all things green and growing, make a simple and attractive stand that's completely recycled from an old stepladder, some scrap lumber, leftover paint and a faux-ageing glaze. The stepladder provides enough shelf space for a vertical flower garden or an herb patch for the cook. If the look works and you have an old wooden ladder around, make a companion plant stand for even more height variety.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Old wooden stepladder
  • Rags or wire brush for cleaning ladder
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Bolts and screws
  • Tape measure
  • Handsaw
  • Wood scraps for side braces (optional)
  • 2-inch by 4-inch scrap lumber for shelf brace
  • Plywood
  • Paint
  • Crackle glaze
  • Paintbrushes
  • Fine-grade sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Wire-brush or wipe down an old stepladder and check it for stability. If it is wobbly, brace the sides with the ladder fully open by screwing a 1-¼-inch by 4-inch or a similar-size piece of lumber to each side at the midpoint of the fully open ladder. Use scrap lumber if you have it, in the spirit of an entirely recycled piece.

  2. 2

    Screw or bolt a 2-inch by 4-inch brace across the fly (the nonstep side) of the ladder at the height of the second step. Use a carpenter's level to be sure that a board placed across this brace and the second step will be level. If the horizontal brace near the bottom of the fly is level with the bottom step, you can use that to support a shelf without adding another brace.

  3. 3

    Screw plywood "shelves" over the braces, step to fly brace, at the bottom step and second step level. The top step of the ladder is its own shelf.

  4. 4

    Antique the ladder by painting it all over with a vivid or dark base colour. Once the base coat has dried, slick crackle glaze over much of the ladder in every place where the paint might have worn from use or weather damage over time. Apply the top coat of paint, a contrasting or lighter colour, as the glaze begins to get tacky. You might use barn red as the base coat and a chalky turquoise as the top coat, or slate grey as the base and lima bean green as the top coat --- whatever will give an attractive contrast when the paint cracks and the base colour shows through.

  5. 5

    After the top coat and glaze are finished reacting and the ladder is dry, sand the edges lightly with fine-grade sandpaper to simulate more wear. The base colour will show through the sanded areas and the craze where the paint cracked from the crackle glaze. You can leave your new plant shelf as-is or protect it with a clear coat of lacquer if you don't want natural weathering to further age it.

  6. 6

    Set plants on the shelves, using the real steps and the new shelves inside the pyramid of the open ladder.

Tips and warnings

  • Use the top shelf for a tall spiky plant, a single orchid or a fern or flowering plant that spills over the side and hangs down.

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