Installing New Closet Shelves, DIY Tips

Today we are going to describe exactly how to install shelves in a closet. Actually, it’s pretty simple but there are lots of steps. In the beginning, you need to find out how many shelves you want and what size they need to be.

We settled on 4 new shelves, plus the original one already in the closet. We choose to leave the original shelf and the clothes rod hardware in the closet, just in case we ever want to convert it back to a clothing closet. We wanted two additional shelves that were the same depth as the original shelf, and then two lower shelves that were deeper.

So we needed 4 shelves, all the same width; two of them 11″ deep, two of them 18″ deep. We also needed a bunch of 1x2s to support the shelves, and 4 metal “L” brackets to support the center of each shelf because the shelves were so long we were afraid of bowing.

Sheets of MDF are significantly cheaper than pre-cut sheets of MDF or wood, so we choose to purchase two sheets of MDF and have our local hardware store cut it for us.

Once we got home with our pre-cut MDF and all our 1x2s, we laid them out in the garage so we could prime them. We learned the hard way while doing K’s board and batten that it’s easier to prime MDF before you install it.

We primed each board with two coats. Make sure you prime the front edge of your shelves as well. When the primer was dry, it was time to begin the install process. Sound strange? Well, you MUST insert all your boards into your closet BEFORE you start adding all your 1×2 supports.

If you add all your 1x2s first, it will be impossible to get the shelves into the closet because the opening of the closet is smaller than the actual closet.

Once your shelves are inside the closet, start adding your 1×2 supports. We added them all equal distance apart, so a little math was involved. We used our nail gun to attach all the supports, but you might want to consider adding a few screws into the studs for additional support.

Now we know you are itching to put those shelves up now, but you still have to get your center bracket into place. First, you should add a board a little wider and longer than your “L” bracket. The “L” bracket will screw into this board.

We added mine slightly off-center so they would line up perfectly with the bracket from the original shelf. Now it’s time to add the “L” brackets. Use some heavy duty screws when you attach the bracket to the support board.

And now, finally, you can pull the shelves up one at a time and plop them into place. We added several nails into the top of each shelf, down into the 1×2 supports below. You don’t want your shelf to budge, so adding nails to secure it is a good idea.

If you noticed, there are lots of nail holes and ugliness with your shelves. We filled all the nail holes with spackle and then we used caulk around all the exposed edges of the wood, just to give it a more polished look.

Once everything was puttied up and dry, we used a small foam roller to add two coats of semi-gloss white paint to the tops and fronts of each board. We also used a small angled brush to paint all the 1×2 supports. We really weren’t concerned about getting paint and caulk all over the walls because once the white shelf paint dried, we planned to paint the walls.

Hopefully, this will help you to realize that you can do stuff like this. Don’t get overwhelmed with the entire project, just take it one step at a time.