Meet the expert
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 next installation.
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.
Buy extra pieces
Save a trip
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 prepared.
Leave the heavy stuff for the garage
Closet gauge vs. heavy gauge
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 (approximately 22 ft. of shelving and rod) cost about $150.
Lay it out with a bubble stick
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.
Use a template on the end brackets
Save time with a template
Tim’s first template was nothing more than a 1×3 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.
Lock shelving in place
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.
A bolt cutter works best
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.
Space the angle brackets evenly
Make the installation look good
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.
Measure an inch short
Leave wiggle room
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.
Pegboard prevents tipping
Tip for pantry shelves
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 option.
Back wall clips don’t need to hit studs
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.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Drill bit set
- Safety glasses
- Stud finder
- Tape measure
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- 1/4-in. pegboard
- Angle brackets
- Back wall clips
- End brackets
- End caps
- Retaining clips
- White zip ties
- Wire shelving