Extending the shelf life of my linen closet.
August 29, 2008 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Home improvement gurus: I'm planning on installing shelving in my linen closet. What hints can you give me to make this task a roaring success?

The closet is 22 1/2" by 37 1/2", and I'd like to install three or four shelves of these dimensions (or close to them) to accommodate lots of towels and sheets.

Problem is, my stud-finding-fu isn't working (nor is my electronic stud finder). Is it possible that there are no 16" on center studs in the closet?

If that's the case, I can secure the shelving to supports along the four corners. I've heard that there are vertical, metal shelving supports that will facilitate this. Do they exist, and will they work for this project?

Also, if you were in my shoes, what type of lumber or plywood would you use for this project?
posted by Gordion Knott to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
It's unlikely that there are no studs, but it wouldn't be surprising at all if they were in odd locations.

The easiest way to do it might be to run 1x2 boards around the closet edges, to support the plywood or pine shelves. Those can be screwed into whatever studs you find, or supported with hollow wall anchors.

The vertical metal supports work fine, and can be bought at any hardware store in a variety of lengths. The advantage of those is that you can adjust the shelving height by simply moving the shelf supports up and down on the metal tracks; if you screw 1x2 to the walls, the shelf is staying in that one place forever.
posted by Forktine at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2008

Wire shelving systems like closetmaid don't need 1x and don't need studs, at least not for normal use. Just drill the holes, bang in some mollies, and screw in the hardware.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:03 AM on August 29, 2008

Seems unlikely there would be zero studs along 37".

ROU_X is right: you can use sheetrock anchors to install your standards. I've been happy with the elfa system, where you only screw in a hanger track along the top—if there's a header, you could screw into that, but it can also use sheetrock anchors.
posted by adamrice at 7:52 AM on August 29, 2008

If you are going to use 1 x 2 wood shelving cleats, you can mark a line where you want to attach them. Then just use a small nail or small electric drill bit and poke holes 1 inch below the line until you find a stud. Your test holes will be covered up by the cleat so it doesn't matter how many of them you make. Once you find one stud, the others should be 16 inches away. There are also sure to be studs in the corners because that is what is holding the drywall. You may have to angle the nails in the corner to reach the studs.
posted by JackFlash at 8:26 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

make sure the pine or plywood is slatted (gaps) to allow for better airing of the towels & sheets.
posted by Wilder at 9:17 AM on August 29, 2008

I have done all of my closets with Rubbermaid Closet Maid and loved the look and function. The supports is attached along the top of the closet (in a small linen closet the studs are not usually 16" apart, the best place to find studs are in the corner) then the shelf supports are suspended from this top anchor. Hope that this helps.
posted by saradarlin at 10:18 AM on August 29, 2008

First, an aside…if you have any magnets lying about (rare earth preferred, which can be found in a discarded hard drive) you have the start of a stud finder. And a stick. And some tape. And some sense for what the thing your magnet is finding might be.

Aside from what's been said, one touch I added to our linen closets was a back panel of cedar. I had to build cabinets so I needed a back anyway. Because the material is of a wafer-board style (i.e. not smooth) I covered the panel in a light weight fabric.
posted by Dick Paris at 10:23 AM on August 29, 2008

I redid all of the closets in my house. For most of them I used the ClosetMaid wire shelving. There are two "grades" of the wire shelving available at Home Depot. The more expensive kind uses a metal track that mounts horizontally near the ceiling, and the standards hang off of this track and are also secured to the wall. In a closet where the studs were unevenly spaced, I drilled holes in the track centered on the studs. This method can hold a lot of weight (piles of books).

However, for linens, which are relatively light, you can probably get away with just lower grade track shelving with only the standards and drywall anchors. After some experimentation I've found that the plastic screw in sheetrock anchors work best. These are white plastic and look like large tapered screws. The trick with these is to drill a pilot hole for the plastic tip, then just screw the anchor in place using your drill and a low clutch setting.

I find wire shelving somewhat unattractive, so I did the master walk-in closet with plywood shelving instead of the wire shelving. You can get furniture-grade plywood at HD or a lumberyard for around $40/sheet. Furniture grade plywood comes in a variety of veneers (different kinds of wood), and usually has a nice side and a not-as-nice side. Keep the nice side up. :)

You can then get iron-on edging in the matching wood to cover the plywood edge and then finish it however you want. Clear water-based polyurethane is really easy, though.
posted by kenliu at 9:33 PM on August 30, 2008

I forgot to mention that HD/Lowes sell melamine (coated MDF or chipboard) shelving which is about the same quality as you'd get from IKEA. You can buy shelving standards and supports for use with melamine instead of the wire shelving.
posted by kenliu at 9:35 PM on August 30, 2008

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