The unfortunate truth about moths is that, while they’re not smart enough to stay away from a flame, they have exquisite taste in clothes. 

One of the best defenses against the mouth of the moth is a cedar-paneled closet. Unlike the smelly mothballs of yesteryear, aromatic cedar naturally repels moths without an unpleasant or unhealthy smell. 

This project allows you to reap the benefits of a cedar-lined clothes closet without having to do all the work inside the closet. Mounting cedar boards on plywood is easier than working inside the closet—and, as an added bonus, these panels can move from closet to closet or home to home.

Step 1: Measure closet space

Closets can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so the first thing you’ll want to do is figure out the dimensions you’re working with. 

Our closet, for example, has a sharp pitch where the wall meets the ceiling, making the width at the top of the wall narrower than at the foot. Therefore, we took measurements to span the area where coats and clothes would hang—36” wide and 48” high. This means our panel should measure 3’ wide by roughly 4’ tall.

Closet shelving

Step 2: Cut plywood

First, cut a piece of ¼” plywood to the measurements you took in Step 1. This plywood will serve as the mounting board for your aromatic cedar panels. (We had ours pre-cut.) 

Once cut, figure out how many cedar panels will fit on your plywood board. For ours, we figured about 12 pieces of paneling stacked horizontally would measure around 45”. We tacked on an extra ¼” on the top and bottom to account for additional trim, bringing the total height to 45 ½”.

Cut plywood for cedar shelves

Step 3: Acclimate paneling, plywood, and quarter-round

Before you begin building, you’ll want to make sure the wood is roughly the same temperature as the room. Open your package of aromatic cedar and lay out the pieces in the same room as the plywood and quarter-round to acclimate to the room’s temperature and moisture.

acclimate cut wood

Step 4: Draw guides

At the end of the project, we’ll picture frame the cedar boards with ¼” quarter-round trim. Mark for these now by drawing a ¼” margin around the perimeter of your plywood. 

These lines will also serve as your guide for placing the cedar boards.

Measure and mark

draw guides

Step 5: Cut boards

Now it’s time to cut your cedar boards to size. You’ll cut each board to the width you measured in Step 1, minus ¼” on each end to account for the width of the trim. In our case, we cut each cedar panel to 35 ½”.

As you cut the boards, begin laying them out on the plywood—but no gluing yet! 

Place the first board at the top of the plywood panel to form the first row. If your cedar has a rough and smooth side, place the rough side against the plywood so the smooth side faces out. Position the board so the “tongue” of the panel is up and the “groove” is down. 

Mark your measurements.

Cut boards

Cut boards

Put board into place

Step 6: Add more rows

Continue placing one panel after another on the plywood board. If you find that some of your cedar boards aren’t long enough to span the full width of the plywood, simply use two pieces butted up next to each other.

As you add rows, stagger the joints by having the shorter piece on the left on one row and the longer piece on the left on the row below. Gently push the tongue of each board into the groove of the board above so they lock together. 

Repeat this process until you have enough rows to fill the plywood.

Add rows of paneling


Step 7: Remove boards in order

When you’re happy with your cedar layout, remove each board one by one beginning with the bottom row. Place each board with the rough side (the side that will mount to the plywood board) up, being careful to keep the boards in order.

Now remove the boards

Keep your boards in order.

Step 8: Glue paneling onto plywood

We’re using a quick-grab adhesive to mount our cedar boards to the plywood. This type of adhesive doesn’t bond instantly, but it’s sticky enough to hold a board in place so it won’t slide around easily. 

To prep the adhesive for use, cut off the tip of the cartridge tube, puncture the seal at the bottom of the nozzle, insert the tube into a caulk gun, and get ready to glue!

Gun out a bead of glue onto the back of the first row of board(s). Then, place that board into position according to the lines you drew in Step 4. 

Repeat this process to mount the remaining rows, covering your plywood panel in aromatic cedar (minus the ¼” margin around the perimeter). As you add each row, ease the “tongue” of the row beneath into the “groove” of the row above; then, press the boards down onto the plywood. 

Quick-grab adhesive

Use your adhesive to glue boards.

Put boards into place.

Lock boards into place

Continue laying your boards.

Line up boards in original order.

Step 9: Cut and add quarter-round trim 

Now to fill our ¼” gap around the perimeter. We’re using a simple quarter-round trim, of which we cut four lengths: two pieces 36” long and two pieces 45 ½” long. 

Cut the strips of the quarter round with 45º angles like a picture frame and glue into place.

Note: We ended up running out of the glue we used to mount the panels, so we switched over to a different type of quick-setting glue we had on hand. Any quick-setting wood glue would work fine here.

Cut strips to proper lengths.

Glue into place.

Rapid Fuse wood adhesive

Step 10: Let dry under weight

Once your boards and trim are mounted, carefully flip the plywood board over so the panels are on a firm surface and the plywood is facing up. Set something heavy on the plywood to help the glued paneling set. We used a handful of heavy-duty lighting sandbags, but a couple buckets of water would work great here.

The glue should set in about 60 minutes, but the longer you can wait, the better.

Carefully flip the board over.

Place something heavy on board.

Step 11: Attach hangers to back of panel

Once the glue has set, you can go about attaching whatever hanging contraption you’d like. We used a set of flat loop hangers affixed to the back of the plywood and placed them 16” apart to line up with wall studs.


Attach hanger to back of board.

Attach the hanger with screwdriver.

Step 12: Hang on wall

And now, to mount! Install two picture hangers 16” apart onto the wall of your closet (or the width you mounted your hangers in the previous step). That’ll anchor the top of the panel to the wall; Near the bottom, 3M’s hook-and-loop strips can help keep the panel flush to the wall. 


mark board

Mark for measurement

Attach hangers to the wall

Place your board.

Your DIY cedar panel for a closet

Cedar paneling DIY step-by-step tutorial

And that's all there is to it! Now your closet is equipped to defend itself against burrowing moths sans mothballs. 

For more home organization and beautification inspiration, check out our DIY laundry drying rack and the famous midcentury modern cat litter box.