Whether they're teensy hallway versions or expansive walk-in options, closets can be all shapes, sizes, and configurations. But the vast majority of all closets are made with just a few materials, and the types of shelves include just a handful of options, too. Our guide helps you sort through the differences and find the right closet shelving for your needs.
Types of Closet Shelving Materials
There are four main types of closet shelving materials. While each type works in a variety of spaces and with a range of items, there are installation and cost considerations that are important to review. In addition, you can mix and match closet shelving material types -- a wire basket with an medium-density fiberboard (MDF) shelf, for example.
Closet shelving option No. 1: Solid wood
Not all wood is created equal, and that's true for wood used for closet shelving, too. Softwoods, such as fir, might warp if used to store heavy items, while oak and cedar are more resilient. Types of wood vary by cost, as well, with hardwoods being more expensive than softwoods. Wood, which is widely available, might be sealed, stained, or painted. While some closet shelving units made from wood come prefabricated, wood can always be custom cut and designed to fit a specific space.
Closet shelving option No. 2: MDF
Very heavy but not as sturdy as wood, MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, is sold in prefabricated units or in large sheets that can be cut to custom size. It can be prone to sagging, which is why it needs structural support at regular intervals. MDF can be painted or left unadorned and sometimes is manufactured to resemble other materials, such as wood. MDF can be purchased either thermally fused (the stronger option) or cold-pressed.
Closet shelving option No. 3: Plywood
Plywood is also an oft-used closet shelving material; it is generally sturdier than MDF but still needs to be reinforced. It can also be painted, stained, or left untreated. Plywood can come in prefabricated options or can be cut to a custom size.
Closet shelving option No. 4: Wire
Fairly inexpensive and widely available, wire closet shelving options come in predetermined lengths, widths, and sizes. You can buy a wire basket to hook under a shelf, for example, or install a wire shelf to add additional storage at ceiling height. Wire closet shelving systems tend to be fairly durable and are typically coated in white, although other colors exist. One drawback to these types of closet shelving systems is that items can fall through the gaps in the wires.
Types of Closet Shelving
There are several types of closet shelving, including drawers, shelves, and baskets. Drawers might include hardware and a sliding mechanism or they might be pullout baskets that fit into cubes or on shelves. Drawer dividers or organizers are often used to separate items, while wire closet shelving units rely on shelf liners to help items from falling out.
Open shelves are a staple of closets and can be sized to various heights and widths depending on the storage need. Shelves can be fixed or adjustable and are great to fill in spaces around drawers or above closet shelving poles. Specialty shelves, such as angled shoe shelves, are also options. Poles -- often installed at varying heights and sometimes stacked -- can be used together with slide-out systems that hold items such as pants.
Whatever materials or storage options you choose, closet shelving systems can be freestanding or wall-hung. Freestanding systems should be attached in some way to the wall so they don't tip over, while wall-hung options must be installed to a wall stud or using wall anchors.