A professional installer shares his knowledge about how to install wire shelving. Make your job go faster and look better with these tips for leveling, supporting and cutting wire shelves.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine:May 2012
Wire shelving is popular because
of its price, flexibility and ease of
installation. Wire shelving can be
designed to meet almost any
need at a fraction of the cost of a
custom built-in system. And while
learning how to install wire shelving isn’t quite
a no-brainer, you don’t need to be
a master carpenter or own a fully
equipped cabinet shop to get it
done. We picked the brain of a pro installer Tim Bischke
for these tips to help you on your
Over the past 15 years, Tim has
hung wire shelves in thousands of closets.
His jobs have ranged from simple one-shelf
reach-in closets to elaborate walk-in wardrobe
sanctuaries. When you’ve hung that
many shelves, you can’t help but know
what you’re doing.
Even if you’re just planning to build one closet shelf, have extra parts
on hand. It takes a lot less time to return a few wall clips
than it does to stop working to make a special trip to
the store for just one. And plans change, so if
you or your customer decides to add
a section of shelving, you’ll be
Tim primarily works with Closet
Maid’s standard wire shelving, sold
at home centers. Most manufacturers
make a heavier-duty product for
garage storage, but Tim feels that the
regular stuff is plenty strong for the
average bedroom or hall closet.
However, if your customer’s closet is
going to store a bowling ball collection,
you may want to consider
upgrading. The materials for
the closet shown here
ft. of shelving and
rod) cost about $150.
Tim uses a bubble stick rather than a level. A bubble stick is like a ruler and a level rolled
into one. Holding a level against the wall with one hand can be frustrating. Levels are
rigid, and they pivot out of place when resting on a stud that’s bowed out a bit. A bubble
stick has a little flex, so it can ride the imperfections of the wall yet still deliver a straight
line. You can get one at acehardware.com for less than $10.
Tim’s first template was nothing more than a 1x3 with a
couple of holes drilled in it. He rested a torpedo level on
top of the board and marked the end bracket locations
with a pencil. The template he’s using here has a built-in
level and allows him to drill the holes without marking
them first. At $190, this is for guys who do lots of closet
shelving. But if that’s you, it’s a great investment. You
can order one from your local Closet Maid dealer.
Back wall clips are designed to
support the shelf, but if there
are a bunch of clothes hanging
on the front of the shelf with
nothing on top to weigh them
down, the back of the shelf can
lift. To keep the shelf in place,
Tim installs a retaining clip in a
stud near the middle of the
shelf. One clip toward the
middle of an 8-ft. shelf is plenty.
Cut your shelving with a bolt cutter. It’s
quick and easy, and it makes a clean cut.
To make room for the cutter, Tim uses his
feet to hold the shelving off the ground.
Tim considers aesthetics when installing his
angle brackets. If a shelf only needs one
bracket, he’ll find the stud closest to the
center. If two or three brackets are required,
he’ll try to space them evenly, making sure
that at least one bracket toward the center is
hitting a stud.
When cutting the shelf, measure wall to
wall, and subtract an inch. This allows for
the thickness of the end brackets plus a
little wiggle room. It’s the top, thinner wire
that actually supports the shelf, and one
wire per end is enough. Cutting exact
lengths will only earn you wall scratches
and a trip back to the cutting station.
When Tim installs wire shelving in pantries,
he likes to cap the top of the shelves with
white 1/4-in. pegboard. This stops the skinnier
items from tipping over. He uses white
zip ties to hold the pegboard in place. A
4 x 8-ft. sheet costs less than $20 at most
home centers, which makes it an inexpensive
It may go against your every instinct, but hitting a stud when you’re installing the back wall
clips slows the process down and isn’t necessary. After marking their locations, Tim drills a
1/4-in. hole and pops the preloaded pushpin in with a push tool. He loves his push tool. It
has a little indentation in the tip that won’t slip off the pin when it’s being set in the drywall.
The occasional wall clips that do land on studs need to be fastened with a screw instead
of a pin. You can order a push tool from your local Closet Maid dealer. It should cost
less than $25. Use the dealer locator at closetmaid.com.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
You'll also need a bubble level, a bolt cutter, a template and a push tool.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
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