How to Build U-Shaped Wood Closet Shelving
U-shaped or wrap-around closet shelves help to maximize your storage space by providing horizontal storage while still allowing you to hang garments on the closet rod. Because the shelf is U-shaped and is held in place by horizontal support planks attached to three adjacent walls, shelving brackets are not typically required for installation. This project may be completed in less than two hours and requires no special tools or advanced woodworking skills.
Measure and note the length of the back wall of the closet. Subtract 1/4 inch from that dimension, then mark that length on a shelf plank. Rotate the blade on the miter saw to make a 45-degree cut to the right. Trim the left end of the shelf plank. Rotate the blade on the miter saw to make a 45-degree cut to the left. Trim the right end of the shelf plank. The end cuts are convergent, not parallel.
Mark a shelf plank to the desired length of the side portions of the shelf. The side shelves will be cut at 45 degrees on one end and at 90 degrees on the other end. The length of the long side of the shelf plank is equal to the distance from the corner of the closet to end of the shelf. Trim the shelf plank. Measure, mark and trim another shelf plank with the same dimensions.
Assemble the U-shaped shelf on a flat surface. Align the mitered end cuts on the planks to form three sides of a rectangle. Apply wood glue to the joints. Place a brick or other weight against the edges of the side shelving planks to hold the joints in place. Allow the glue to dry according to the manufacturer's directions.
Rotate the saw blade to make a 45-degree cut to the right. Place a 1-by-3-inch plank on the saw table with its 3-inch surface against the guide fence. Trim off the left end of the plank. Measure the length of the mitered joints between the three shelving planks. Subtract 2 inches from that length to calculate the lengths of the narrow planks that will be used to join the shelving planks. Mark that dimension on the long edge of the trimmed 1-by-3-inch plank.
Rotate the saw blade to make a 45-degree cut to the left. Trim the other end of the 1-by-3-inch plank. The end cuts will be convergent, not parallel. Measure, mark and trim another 1-by-3-inch plank to the same dimensions.
Center a joining plank on a mitered shelf joint with its longest side against the shelf. Using a drill and 1/8-inch drill bit, bore pilot holes through the joining plank, into the underside of the shelf. The holes should be evenly spaced, no more than 2 inches apart and about halfway between the mitered joint and the edges of the joining plank. Screw the joining plank to the shelf, using 1 1/4-inch drywall screws. Repeat to affix the remaining joining plank to the remaining mitered shelf joint.
Mark the back wall of the closet at the height you intend to install the shelf. Use a carpenter's level to scribe a horizontal line on the wall at the mark. Continue the horizontal line to the side walls of the closet. Use a stud finder and pencil to locate and mark the positions of the framing studs about 3 inches below the horizontal line.
Set the saw blade to make 90-degree cuts. Measure, mark and trim a 1-by-3-inch plank to the length of the closet's back wall. Position the trimmed plank on the back wall with its upper edge aligned with the horizontal line on the wall. While holding the support rail in place, drill 1/8-inch pilot holes through the rail, into the wall and framing studs. The rail should be attached to each stud with two evenly spaced screws. Use a drill and driving bit to screw the back support rail to the wall with 2-inch drywall screws.
Measure, mark and trim the support rails for the side portions of the shelf. The rails have 90-degree end cuts and are 2 inches shorter than the long edges of the side portions of the U-shaped shelf.
Align a side-support rail to the horizontal line on a side wall of the closet. Butt the end of the rail against the end of the back support rail. Drill pilot holes, then screw the rail to the wall and framing studs. Repeat to install the remaining side support rail on the opposite wall.
Install the shelf by resting its edges on the installed support rails. The joining planks face downward. Nail the outer edge of the shelf to the support rails, using 1 1/2-inch wire nails, spaced about 6 inches apart.
- The shelf will be 1/4 inch narrower that the width of the closet. This will allow 1/8-inch clearance on each end of the shelf to facilitate installation. End-to-end wood joinery typically requires sophisticated equipment and advanced woodworking skills. The method of using joining planks or mending plates produces a functional simple shelf.
Denise Nyland "Denisen" is a long term resident of Panama City, Fla. She studied radiologic sciences and education and has published articles in multiple professional journals and contributed to various educational texts.