How to Add Shelves to a Closet

You can never have enough storage space in a home, but many people ignore one of the best options for adding storage to their home, building shelves into an existing closet.

Add Shelves to a ClosetAdd Shelves to a Closet
Just think about it, most hall closets and even some bathrooms have a single shelf near the top and with lots of room below to store tall items. Here's how you can add some functional, strong storage to one (or more) of your closets.

Plan how you will use your extra storage. You want the shelves to be far enough apart to accommodate the things you plan to store. A good distance is about 18 inches apart. You might want to place the first shelf up about 24 inches from the floor and then space the remaining shelves 18 inches up from each other.

Measure up from the floor 24 inches and draw a line all around the walls of your cupboard. From that line measure up 18 ¾ inches (you need to allow for the thickness of the MDF board) and again draw a line around the walls of your cupboard. Keep measuring and drawing lines to accommodate all of your shelves.

Find and mark the locations of the studs in your cupboard walls. Here a stud finder comes in very handy, but you can also use the manual method of tapping the wall to find where it sounds solid and then driving a small nail into the wall to be sure you've found a stud.

Measure the distance across the back wall of your closet. You want to cut pieces of the 1 by 2 inch into lengths about ¼ inch less than this width (to accommodate walls that aren't true). Now, toe nail these back supports into the corners of the cupboard. (You'll be sure to have studs in the corners of a cupboard.)

Measure the length from the installed back support to the front of your cupboard and deduct about 4 inches. (You don't want the side supports coming all the way to the front edge of your cupboard.) Measure and cut the side supports.

Install the side supports by toe nailing one end into the back corner stud and also into the side wall studs.

Measure the width of each shelf at the installed support locations, deduct ¼ inch to again allow for uneven walls and cut the MDF board to width.

Starting at the bottom, install the shelves by holding up one end and sliding it into the cupboard and placing the lower end onto the shelf support, then lowering the other end into place. (This will stop the shelves from scaring the walls.) If the shelf won't lie down, your walls are probably uneven and you can cut a little more off one edge to make it fit.

Finish your shelves by adding caulking to fill the gaps along the edges at the walls and back of the cupboard.

Things You Will Need

  • ¾-inch-thick MDF boards
  • 1 inch by 2 inch boards
  • Tape measure
  • Circular or table saw
  • Screws or nails
  • Stud finder
  • Level and straight edge


  • If you're going to be painting your shelves to match the interior of your cupboard, you can save some aggravation by painting the supports and MDF boards before cutting and installing them.
  • It's a good idea to allow painted shelves a good week before placing anything on them to be sure the paint is totally dry.


  • Be sure to use nails or screws that are long enough to go through the drywall and into the underlying studs.

About the Author

I learned home repair and maintenance hands on. Over the past 30 years I've built sheds, decks, fences and gates and planted numerous trees and shrubs. Inside I've done all the common jobs like repairing and installing toilets, plumbing and light fixtures plus I've transformed three basements from bare concrete floors and walls into warm , bright family rooms. I write on home maintenance and repair for and answer maintenance and repair questions online at