Home Project Tip 14 – Adjustable Shelving


Thank goodness for adjustable shelving.

We needed a solution for my wife’s craft supplies.

Tired of tripping over a room full of stuff? Have too much clutter and don’t know what to do with it. The answer may be as easy as adding additional shelving to a room. Fortunately, companies like Lowe’s and Home Depot make this process easy as they stock a variety of shelving products. In today’s Home Project Tip I’ll show you what we did for my wife’s crafting supplies, and you can take it from there.


We needed more usable storage space.

We had to pull everything out of the closest to get to the box we wanted.

The Problem


My sweetheart likes to craft—everything from beading to stamping and more—and yet she never seemed to be able to access the supplies she wanted because they were hidden under other “stuff”. We did our best. We had her supplies gathered within our guest bedroom, but the closet which held them was packed from floor to ceiling. That meant every time she wanted to start a new project the particular item she needed was in the container at the bottom of the pile. Inevitably, this meant pulling everything out and tossing it all around the room.



Awhile back we got rid of the cardboard boxes, which had previously held her supplies. We replaced them with clear plastic storage bins—the kind that come with lids. Our hope was to find the bin we needed without opening every one in the pile. The new bins did help, but they didn’t solve the problem since we still ended up digging around more than we preferred.


After tossing around a few ideas, we decided our guest room closet could provide us with much better storage space, but we didn’t want to build in permanent shelving. We settled on a temporary “adjustable” shelving solution in the event we need the closet for another purpose down the road. Thus, we used a shelving system that mounts on the wall and uses metal strips and brackets.


Our Solution: The Process


We're just about ready to paint.

Our closet hadn’t been painted in years so we used the opportunity to paint it while it was empty.

(1) First we emptied the closet and removed the doors so that we had better access to the space.


Adjustable shelving includes the wall mount strips and brackets.

This is what our strips looked like. They come pre-drilled for screws and in a variety of colors. All you do is mount them and set the brackets and shelves in place.

(2) After removing the items in the closet we decided it needed painting so we spent an afternoon with a brush, roller and a can of paint before putting up our shelves. We’ll talk more about painting in a future home project tip.


(3) I located the studs in the walls next. If you don’t own a “stud finder” lightly tap the wall, slowly moving across it from left to right. The studs are located where the sound changes from a more hollow knock to a solid one. Once you think you’ve found a stud, take a small nail with a head and pound it through the sheetrock. Don’t pound it all the way in. All you want to do is locate the stud and then remove it. Remove the nail carefully to avoid marring the sheetrock. You can fill in pin holes afterwards with some lightweight spackle available wherever paint is sold.


Locating my studs.When your nail hits solid resistance and you’re certain you found your stud, mark the spot with a light pencil and then measure in both directions (i.e. left and right) 16 inches. Studs are typically spaced at 16 inch increments center to center so if you find one stud you should easily find the rest.


We're mounting our strips.

It’s important to mount strips level, otherwise the shelves tilt. Mount one strip first then mark across using a level to locate where to mount the next strip.

If you aren’t concerned how much weight your shelves will be holding, or you want to locate a strip in a spot that isn’t backed by a stud you can always mount them with a molly or wall anchor. These often come with the shelving or will be separately packaged and sold on the same aisle at the store. You can ask for assistance from your hardware helper if you need it.


Mounting adjustable shelves.

After you set the shelf in place secure it with a screw to keep the shelves from accidentally falling off the brackets. Take care not to screw all the way through the shelf itself.

(4) Once the paint was ready and we knew where our studs were located, I hung the metal strips that hold the shelf brackets. The big issue here is making certain (a) all the strips are mounted the same, (b) to align all the strips so they are “plumb” (i.e. straight up and down), and (c) to line up the holes in the strips so that the shelves will be level. Another issue may come up if you use more than two strips. I wasn’t sure how much weight my wife intended to load on these shelves so I added an extra strip in the center. That provided a slight challenge in lining up the holes on all three strips since a center strip positioned slightly too high or low meant my shelving wouldn’t lie flat across the brackets. Think teeter-totter if you have a hard time picturing this.


You may not have to cut your shelves, but a saw like this one always comes in handy.

My closet was slightly shorter than my shelves so I had to cut them. Use a “fine” cutting blade and wrap the shelving with masking tape first to protect the delicate edges.

The best option for installing more than two strips is to mount the outside strips first. Next install a shelf bracket on each strip. Before laying the shelf on the brackets, hold the third strip in roughly the correct position against the wall. Now lay your shelf across the brackets. If you don’t set the extra strip behind the shelf like this you won’t be able to get it in after the fact (unless you have really tall ceilings). Once the shelf is set in place (a) first test to see if it is truly level and then (b) estimate exactly where you want to mount the third strip.


Screwing into the wall.

A portable drill is a must for a job like this one. Borrow a friend’s drill if you don’t have one.

Use a portable drill with a screw bit to screw the metal strips in place. Once all strips are mounted it’s time for the shelving. This goes fairly quickly if you mount your strips correctly. Just insert a bracket in the same holes on each of your strips. Now lay a shelf across them. Finally, screw from underneath through the bracket into the shelf as needed. This final step keeps the shelf from tipping or slipping off the bracket. One other hint: Start high and work your way down as you mount your shelves on the brackets. It’s much easier attaching brackets to shelves this way since you can get under them without contorting your body.


Adjustable shelving is relatively easy to install.

This photo breaks it down. I used an extra strip because I was concerned about my wife loading up her shelves with too much weight. You may or may not need one. Since this is a closet I wasn’t concerned about locating my third strip exactly midpoint between the others. I wanted the extra support I’d get from mounting directly to a stud.


(5) Once we finished our project we rehung the closet doors. That’s it. Job well done.


My wife is arranging her storage containers on her shelves.

Now we can pull a container out without disturbing the others above or below. We turned our inefficient storage space into super efficient storage space in one afternoon.

Shelving like this is just one option for making storage space more functional. There are other options like cabinets or special racks that sit within a space. However, we wanted something that (a) wouldn’t be hard to put up and (b) didn’t have a risk of falling over.


This Is Better!


This project turned out well for us. Now we can pull a container off a shelf without having to disturb all those other containers above or below. And once we finish labeling all the containers, finding the items needed for future projects will be easier than ever. Got a mess? Think about adding some shelving.


For other home improvement ideas be sure to visit our Home Project Tips page.

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