Mudroom on the cheap: Remodeling ideas to corral clutter

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | October 7, 2013

You know you want one -- a mudroom -- an area of your home dedicated to controlling the mess made by dirty boots, casually-tossed school bags, dripping rain gear, sweaty sporting equipment and ice-encrusted parkas -- a point of entry where you can sit down for a moment to remove your athletic shoes and wipe the dog's paws from a walk in inclement weather.

While you may be drooling over that marble-tiled, combo laundry/mudroom you saw on Houzz or HGTV -- you know, the one with built-in, custom cabinetry -- you might not have the space, or the budget, for a major home improvement like that. But even so, you do not need to go through another season pleading with the family to leave their dirty footwear outside. You can create an instant mudroom that's fully functional using some relatively cheap remodeling ideas.

Mudrooms: home improvement for storage, not mud

Mudrooms have been a popular feature in American homes for decades, but you don't have to live near a bog in Alabama or brave blizzards in Michigan to benefit from what some folks simply call "the entryway." Today's mudrooms are all about organizing the paraphernalia of daily outside-the-home activities within easy reach on the way out -- and corralling them in one uncluttered place on the way in.

5 elements for a functional mudroom

1. Proper location

Mudrooms should be at an entry point to your home where you can dedicate at the very least a section of wall next to or close to the entrance door. These places are ideal:

  • Front entry foyer
  • Back entrance and hallway
  • Main-level laundry room, especially if it's off of the garage or back door

2. Flooring

Do you have ceramic, stone or vinyl tile flooring in the space you've designated for a mudroom? If so, then you don't need to change the flooring unless the tiles are a light color that shows the dirt. "Easy-to-clean" is the name of this game.

  • If you currently have carpeting, or another type of high-maintenance flooring that you want to keep, be sure to throw down an inexpensive area rug or a runner. It can also help prevent anyone from slipping on wet surfaces. You can find rock-bottom prices for stylish entryway rugs at off-price retail stores like Ross or even home décor consignment shops. Some of the big box stores can cut runners made of rubber, plastic or carpet to any length you need. They are reasonably priced by the foot.
  • If you want to replace the carpeting in your entry area, heavy-duty resilient vinyl planks that install easily and mimic wood or stone are a very low-maintenance and durable choice. Home Depot's Allure Ultra planks, for example, are waterproof and handle heavy foot traffic. They carry a 10-year warranty for commercial use, so you know the product can withstand whatever your family members -- including the dogs -- can dish out.
  • Wish you could afford to put in a heated floor to warm chilled feet or to dry socks and boots? Walmart sells a waterproof, rubberized, 16"-by-36" heated electric foot warmer mat that does the same thing for hundreds less than a radiant-heated floor would cost.

3. Benches

You may be one of those well-balanced types who can remove each of your shoes while standing on one foot or the other, but if you prefer to sit, you'll appreciate having a bench in your mudroom.

  • On the low end of the price scale you might be able to find an old footlocker you can fix up. Check on Craigslist, eBay or in local antique and thrift shops. Once it's sanded or stripped and you give it a new coat of paint or stain, you can add a canvas-covered settee cushion to the top. Open it up to store boots and shoes inside after they're dry -- they'll be ready to reclaim on the way out the door.
  • The Martha Stewart Living product line at Home Depot features reasonably priced benches for sitting down to put on and remove footwear and for storage. Nearly every retail chain store carrying home furnishings offers at least one brand of benches, and many have storage cubbies or cabinets underneath -- like Target's Threshold Windham Entry Bench -- for anything you want to keep neatly lined up or hidden behind doors.

4. Cubbies and cabinets

If you're creating your mudroom on a budget, here is where you can really clean up, so to speak, because besides keeping dirt out of the rest of your home, mudrooms are a great place for storing items you need when you're in a hurry to leave the house. Add cloth drawers or baskets to cubbies and you can store a variety of loose items that would otherwise find their way into other parts of the house where they can go missing at an inopportune time. Here are some ways to create room for shoes and cubbies.

  • Simply leave empty space under a bench, shelving or wall cabinets.
  • Repurpose an old or new bookcase or two -- you don't need so many bookcases, anyway, now that you have electronic mobile devices for reading. A tall, narrow book tower turned on its side with the shelving permanently screwed in can create divided spaces for each family member to store her or his own daily outdoor footwear and other gear. DIY home improvement types who favor IKEA suggest using their bookcases, cabinets and even TV consoles to create mudrooms.
  • You can put a shelf atop a set of short wall cabinets -- like those sized to fit above a refrigerator -- and add a matching baseboard for a built-in effect. Put a cushion on top to use it as a bench. Want to save money on cabinets and help out a non-profit that builds homes for those in need? Check your local Habitat for Humanity Re-store for used cabinets.

5. Hooks and lockers

No mudroom is complete without places to hang things -- jackets, back packs, scarves and hats, dog leashes -- you get the picture. Hooks are a key ingredient. Here are some ideas to add interest.

  • Vintage school and employee lockers can often be found for sale on Craigslist and in antique stores for around $200 to $600. Repaint them in fun colors and set up as many as you need or will fit your space. They give a whole new meaning to "old school."
  • Remember to arrange hooks at heights appropriate for each member of the family. Choose different color hooks for each child or add decorative name plates under each hook. Don't forget one for your canine companions.
  • Install a couple of tall cabinets on either side of the space for long, bulky coats and sports equipment.

If you want to get fancy and tie it all together, add a bit of wainscoting on adjoining walls painted or stained to match the cubbies, cabinets and moldings. The important thing, however, is that when you finish adding your mudroom, life can be a little easier. No more steam cleaning your floors every other week, and hopefully no more frantic searching for your kids' shoes before the mad dash out the door to school.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.