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How to Remove Shelves in Closets

Todd Campitelli

Is your closet in dire need of a makeover? Are you trying to create the closet of your dreams? Or do you just need to get organized? Whatever your reasons are for fixing up your closet, one thing is for sure–taking out the shelves isn’t always easy. Relax, there’s no need to call a professional and bust your budget.

You can learn how to remove shelves from any closet yourself, in just a few steps.

  1. Decide whether you want to preserve the shelves and determine how they were installed. If you don’t care about preserving the shelves, you can simply cut through them. However, if you are looking to keep them intact, it’s important to know whether nails or glue (or both) were used to attach these shelves. You should also take the time to see if the shelf has been inserted into a slot.

  2. Pull out nails used to hold the shelves in place with the back of your hammer and pliers. It may be hard depending on how deep the nails are driven. If it is too difficult to pull the nails out, you can also pin punch the nails all the way into the shelf you want to remove.

  3. Remove the glue in between the shelf and the actual closet. Check if the glue is water-based by adding a few drops of water. If it dissolves it, you can add more to soften the glue up. If it does not dissolve you can try softening it up with turpentine. Make sure you use small amounts at a time and apply it with care.

  4. Detach the shelf from the closet completely by running your knife or chisel in the space between the shelf and the wall. Do not force it–if you find it difficult to move your knife or chisel add more water or turpentine to soften the glue further.

  5. Tip

    If you can’t get the shelves out with these methods, you can use a high-powered tool such as an electric saw fitted with a flush-cut adapter that can cut through wood, glue and nails as well.