11 Tips For Buying and Assembling a Closet Storage System

Updated: Jun. 11, 2024

Ready-made storage components make organizing your closet simple and inexpensive. This article compares features of three different systems and explains basic installation techniques.

organized Closet Storage System TMB STUDIO

If you have a messy closet, one option for taming it is the customizable bedroom closet storage systems that you can find at home centers or online. Most of these systems feature great-looking, ready-made storage components that make organizing your bedroom closet easier and more functional than cramming just one more box in the corner or under the bed.

While you can also build your own closet organizer, these systems are nice options if you don’t have the time or a garage full of woodworking tools. Another advantage is that, in many cases, you can mix and match components from different manufacturers to get exactly what you want.

Types of Closet Storage Systems

There are three basic types storage systems designed to organize a standard 8 feet x 2 feet deep closet: laminate, wire and hybrid of the two. Each has the same basic components: a “tower” composed of drawers and shelves that provide the sturdy center of the system; a single closet rod on one side for long clothes; and stacked closet rods on the other side to hang shirts and folded pants. Ready-made systems usually come with easy-to-follow instructions.

How Much Do Built-In Closet Systems Cost?

Costs vary for these built-in closet systems, depending on how many components you buy. Typically, closet systems start at around $200 and go up from there. They can use laminate, fixed wire, or a combination of the two.

What to Consider When Buying a Closet System

  • Labels don’t tell you much about quality, so try to compare components at a store physically.
  • Choose wire systems where moisture is an issue, such as in an entry closet where you’ll be storing wet clothes or boots.
  • Combine components and accessories from different systems to create a custom closet (think about all those scarves or ties you’ve got stuffed into a drawer).
  • Choose wire shelves that have continuous hanging rods. They allow hangers to slide uninterrupted along the entire rod.
  • Adjustable wire uses horizontal tracks, vertical standards and movable brackets that allow for flexibility.
  • Vinyl-coated wire is thick and rubbery, while epoxy-coated wire is thinner and harder. Vinyl custom closets cost a little more, but they resist rust and corrosion and cover welds better than epoxy.
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Read Instructions
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Before Assembling Your Closet System

Read the instructions before you start. Once you buy your storage components, compare the parts list with what is included in the box. If something is missing, you can get it before you begin the installation instead of having to stop in the middle.

Remove closet doors. If possible, remove the closet doors before installing new storage components to avoid scratching them and to give yourself the widest possible area to work in.

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woman installing wall panels

Add Flexibility with Panels

Attach an extra tower panel to the closet side walls and cut your shelving 1/2 in. shorter to attach to the panel. The predrilled holes in the panels will allow you to easily move or add shelves and accessories to customize the closet now and in the future.

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installing drywall anchors with a drill

Buy Your Own Drywall Anchors

Instead of using the toggle bolts or drywall anchors included with most kits, buy your own screw-type drywall anchors to attach shelf brackets and posts. That will give you the strongest hold.

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using putty to fix chips and scratches in the closet

Putty Fixes Chips and Scratches

If the Melamine coating gets chipped or scratched, dab on spackle (for white Melamine) or a matching wood putty for nearly invisible repairs. This will also fill a ‘whoops’ drill hole in a shelf or cabinet.

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Adjustable closet Systems for Flexibility

Use Adjustable Systems for Flexibility

Their movable shelf brackets make adjustable wall-mounted systems a good choice for storage areas that require frequent reorganization, such as kids’ closets, pantries and the garage.

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measuring with a tape measure and making a mark with a pencil

Notch the Base to Fit Over Baseboards

To achieve a ‘built-in’ look with laminate, notch the bottom of the base tower panel sections so the tower hugs the closet wall. This will also stabilize the entire system.

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Bolt Cutter Work Tool
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Make Clean Cuts

To get clean cuts in laminate, you can often have the shelves cut at the home center where you bought them. If you prefer to cut the shelves yourself, use a sharp 140-tooth plywood circular saw blade for the cleanest cuts.

Use a bolt cutter rather than a hacksaw to cut wire shelving. A hacksaw will work, but a bolt cutter will make for smoother, easier cuts.

Use a pipe cutter to cut hanging rods. Manufacturers also typically suggest using a hacksaw to cut closet poles, but a pipe cutter is a better, faster way to make the cut.

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Closet Storage System

Install the Tower First

Install the tower, then the shelves. After you install the tower unit, cut the shelves to complete the system. Tilt the top shelf in from below. A snug-fitting shelf is hard to install from the top.

Wall-mount the tower if you have thick carpets. Floor-mounted towers work well on hardwood floors and low-pile carpets. If you have uneven closet floors or deep-pile carpets, choose adjustable wall-mounted towers that are supported by standards suspended from a wall-anchored horizontal track. The track and standards are sold separately from the individual tower components.

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organized closet system with pants hanging above shirts

Hang Pants Above Shirts

It may feel topsy-turvy, but hanging folded pants above shirts and coats makes everything easier to see.

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Shoe Shelves

Use Shoe Shelves, Not Cubbies

It’s difficult to fit a pair of shoes into narrow cubbies (especially men’s shoes). Open-shelf shoe organizers allow air to circulate and also make better use of the available floor space below the long hanging section of clothes.

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Get Easy Access to Hidden Spaces

If your closet has a deep return wall (more than 2 feet), you can take advantage of that hard-to-use space by installing a hanging rod so that it runs the depth of the closet.