How to Install Wire Shelving for a Wire Closet System

Updated: Dec. 13, 2021

Our expert will share his secrets to help you install closet wire shelving.

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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.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Bolt cutter
  • Bubble level
  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit set
  • Level
  • Push tool
  • Safety glasses
  • Stud finder
  • Tape measure
  • Template

Materials Required

  • 1/4-in. pegboard
  • Angle brackets
  • Back wall clips
  • End brackets
  • End caps
  • Retaining clips
  • White zip ties
  • Wire shelving

Meet the Expert

Closet wire shelving is popular because of its price, flexibility and ease of installation. Closet wire shelving, such as the attractive white wire shelving used for this project, 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 closet 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.

Project step-by-step (10)

Step 1

Buy Extra Pieces for Your Wire Closet System

extra wire shelving piecesFamily Handyman

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.

Step 2

White Wire Shelving: Closet Gauge vs. Heavy Gauge

Closet gauge vs. heavy gauge wire shelvesFamily Handyman

Tim primarily works with Closet Maid’s standard wire shelving, sold at home centers. (Rubbermaid shelving is comparable.) 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.

Step 3

Installing Closet Shelves: Lay It Out With a Bubble Stick

bubble stick levelFamily Handyman

Tim uses a bubble stick rather than a level when installing closet shelves. 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.

Step 4

Use a Template on the End Brackets

end bracket wire shelves template Family Handyman

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.

Step 5

Lock Shelving in Place for Sturdy Wire Closet Racks

lock wire shelving in placeFamily Handyman

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.

Step 6

A Bolt Cutter Works Best for Trimming Wire Closet Racks

cut wire shelving to lengthFamily Handyman

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.

Step 7

Space the Angle Brackets Evenly

Angle bracket wire shelvingFamily Handyman

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.

Step 8

Measure an Inch Short

end bracket wire shelvingFamily Handyman

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.

Step 9

Pegboard Prevents Tipping

Pegboard wire shelves pantryFamily Handyman

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.

Step 10

Back Wall Clips Don’t Need to Hit Studs

push tool wire shelves Family Handyman

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

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