Install Simple Closet Shelves

finished shelves
Add storage to your closet with custom shelving. Better Homes and Gardens' contributing editor Danny Lipford shows you how.

Increasing Closet Storage Space

Storage space in most closets is limited to a hanging rod and a single shelf above it. By removing the hanging rod and filling the available space with shelves, you can greatly increase the storage capacity of a closet.

Measure Closet

Start by removing the existing shelf and hanging rod, then measure the closet to determine the length needed for the shelves.

Rip Shelving

Closet shelves can be made from either solid wood, plywood, or a composite material such as medium density fiberboard. While solid wood is stronger and doesn't sag as much, plywood and composite material cost less. The composite material for these shelves was ripped to 12 inches wide using a circular saw and rip fence.

Cut Shelves to Length

Once the shelving has been ripped to width, mark it to length, and draw a line across it with a framing square. Use a circular saw to crosscut the shelves to the proper length.

Cut Cleats to Length

Wooden cleats, cut from solid 1 x 2 lumber, are used to support the shelves along the back and sides. When cutting them to length, make sure the side cleats are long enough to attach to a stud at each end.

Prime and Paint Shelving

Use a paint roller to prime and paint the shelves outside before installing. This not only saves time and prevents a mess, but it also reduces VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in your home. Leave the shelves outside to dry in order to minimize the off-gassing in the house.

Prime and Paint Cleats

A paintbrush works best to prime and paint the cleats before installation.

Measure Cleat Height

Measure up from the floor and mark the height you would like each cleat.

Draw Lines for Cleats

Use a level to draw lines across the back and sides of the closet walls for the cleats.

Locate Studs

Use a stud finder to locate the wall studs, then mark them on the wall just above the cleat lines.

Attach Cleats

Nail or screw the cleats to the studs with the top of the cleat flush with the lines.

Install Shelves

Position the shelves in place on top of the cleats.

Added Support

If additional support is needed to keep the shelves from sagging, either install a metal bracket in the center under each shelf, or glue and nail a piece of 1 x 2 to the front edge of each shelf.

Finished Shelves

To prevent the fresh paint from sticking, allow it to dry thoroughly before filling the shelves.

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