It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas

My colleagues at The Wills Company recently devised and executed a storage solution that is so clever I had to share.

Here was the situation: A basement crawlspace accessible by removing a hatch from the floor of a coat closet. Sure, that sounds innovative enough in and of itself, until you consider that a 2×4 weighs about 10 pounds and the hatch was framed using more than one 2×4 and topped with a rectangle of OSB and a layer of hardwood planking to blend into the closet floor. Attempting to pick up so much lumber—even if you lifted with your legs—was a recipe for lumbar distress. Bottom line: There had to be one helluva buried treasure in the crawlspace to warrant opening it.

So Matt and Travis conspired to transform the hatch into a trap door, by applying a set of hinges and a “gas spring” not unlike the struts that lift the rear door of my minivan with a satisfying “hiss.”

While gas springs are elegantly simple in the way they harness the pressure of gas to make light work of heavy things, they require a facility with the complex laws of physics to mount them just right. If you don’t select just the right strength of strut, or if you don’t place it right, you can get a trap door that either springs open too easily or slams shut too fast.

To find the Goldilocks solution for mounting a gas spring, you can resort to complex charts and equations, like these…

…or you can use some good old-fashioned trial and error until you get the balance just right.

In this case, the right balance is a trap door that’s easy to lift and easy to close. Now, the only problem with this secret storage door is that it’s too cool to keep it a secret.

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