Wood Closet Shelving

Submitted by Ana White on Fri, 09/06/2019 - 09:48
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A reader favorite, our wood closet shelving plans are easy to build, easy to customize, and budget friendly!  It costs about $20 a linear foot (our 10 foot closet cost $200) to build.  You'll love our free step by step plans with full diagrams and lots of reader submitted photos.

Wood Closet Shelving

Do you need to organize your closets, but -

  • Want a truly custom closet organizer - perfect for your things and no wasted space or compromises
  • Want solid wood closet shelving (no particle board)
  • Want a freestanding closet, that does not need to be attached to the wall
  • Have minimal experience with tools, but are up for an easy and inexpensive project?

You can build your own wood closet shelving.  It's easier than you might think and you only need a couple of tools.

wood closet shelving how to steps

You simply build "legs" from 2x4s with 1x4s screwed to the outsides.  Then you add 1x4s inside the legs, at whatever length your closet is. You can do this!

And the end result is beautiful and functional!  Here's how my ten foot long closet turned out.

I also added a couple of smaller shelves in the middle, using the same method - 2x4 supports with 1x4s on top.

How much did it cost?

The cost was surprising too!  Here's what I spent -

  • Lumber (all new) - $120
  • Pipes for closet rods - $60
  • Stain and screws - $20

If I had used dowels for closet rods, this project would have been under $150.

I'd estimate between $15-$20 a linear foot to build your own closets.

Industrial Iron Pipe Rods

The iron pipes were a big part of the budget.  I wanted the look, and it is beautiful!

You can save alot of money (and it's easier) by just using wood dowels as recommended in the plans.  But we also wanted to provide instruction on how the iron pipes went together.

I used all 3/4" fittings.  Per each rod, I purchased:

  • (1) 36" pipe
  • (2) Ts
  • (4) 8" nipples
  • (4) end caps

This was definitely the most expensive part, but the splurge was absolutely worth it!  

Costs could be cut down by using a smaller pipe (1/2") or having less individual rods, and using longer pipes as the cost is in all the fittings.

But one thing to consider is the shelves above and below the pipes shouldn't span more than about 3 feet or they will start to sag, so I opted to make my closet rods using 36" pipes.

To get the closet to work with the 36" pipe pieces, I put the pipe fittings together first, then figured out how far apart I needed to space the legs.  Then attached the shelving to the legs so it worked with my measurements.

Freestanding Closet

This closet is freestanding, but we do recommend attaching to the wall just to prevent forward tipping.

It's nice because you can build it in the garage, and then just set it up in the closet, or even in your room.

Wood Closet Shelving Plans

The plans for our freestanding closet is below.

If you build, please share, we very much appreciate your brag posts!

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Wood Closet Shelving

wood closet shelving dimensions
This closet can be customized to any length. Leg supports should be placed about every 3 feet to avoid shelf sagging.

Note that this closet is most likely too tall to fit inside doorways and will need to be assembled in the closet (after you make the leg supports). If your closet is really tight, you may wish to shorten the entire closet by a few inches (measure you doorways).


Shopping List

PER LEG SUPPORT (You'll need at least two leg supports, and additional leg supports every 3 feet or so)

  • 2 - 1x4 @ 8 feet long (for the legs)
  • 4 feet of 2x4 for the legs with closet rods and upper shelves, 8 feet of 2x4s for legs with closet rods, upper shelves AND and extra shelf supports
  • I'd buy one extra 2x4 for things like supporting the closet rod (if not using the pipes) and for cutting around knots, cracks, splits etc
  • 2-1/2" self tapping screws for attaching the legs to the 2x4 ends, two per joint


  • 4 - 1x4 @ length of closet PER SHELF 
  • Additional 1x4s for smaller shelves if using
  • 1-1/2" self tapping screws for attaching shelving or brad nails (recommend two per joint)

Wood stain or paint - I stained all of my boards first, before cutting.  I let them dry overnight.  After completing the project, I touched up unstained areas (cut ends).

Common Materials
1 1/2 inch screws
2 1/2 inch screws
Cut List


  • 3 - 2x4 @ 15-1/2" (shelf supports - make sure you measure your pipes first to figure how deep the closet needs to be to work with the iron pipe closet rods)
  • 2 - 1x4 @ 81-1/2" (legs - you may wish to shorten these to pass through doorways)


  • Per each full length shelf - 4 - 1x4s cut to length of closet


  • 2 - 2x4 @ 15-1/2"
  • 4 - 1x4 cut to length of smaller shelf

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

Build leg supports using 2-1/2" self tapping screws and wood glue.  

Since I was using the metal pipe closet rods, I installed them at this step.

Step 2

I cut all my shelving to the length of the closet.  Then I threaded two shelving boards on bottom shelf and two on second to top shelf.  

I screwed the shelving boards to the outside leg supports, flush to the inside of the legs (will come back and add the middle shelving boards).  Once the two outside leg supports were screwed down, I used a level to place the remaining two legs, with the closet rod determining where the legs should go.

Then I added the remaining shelving boards, screwing those down.  Attach the outer shelving boards first, then evenly space the middle two shelving boards.  I used 1-1/2" screws here.  Once everything was tied in, it was pretty secure, but just for added security, I also screwed the shelving unit to the walls to prevent racking or forward tipping.

Step 3

Finally I simply measured the distance between the middle two legs, cut 1x4 shelving boards and more 2x4 shelf supports, and added two additional shelves.

Step 4

We love the look of the iron pipes, but it is expensive.

Here's a cheaper way that will function just the same.

Add more 2x4 @ 15-1/2" wherever you want a closet rod, but attach so the 2x4 runs tall, not flat and wide.  

Then use closet rod sockets and wood closet rods cut to length in between the 2x4s run tall.

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth. 

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.



Thu, 09/18/2014 - 07:41

This closet is SO beautiful! You're right, I can totally see this as a display shelf in an upscale store. Once again you hit it out of the park. Now I'm eyeballing my home wondering if there's a spot to fit this...


Thu, 09/18/2014 - 10:45

I love the look of your storage unit.  I have made similar things in the past.  Unfortunately mine do not look as nice because they are loaded with stuff.  Looks more like art when it is sparsely used and the clothing is sort of monochromatic.  Very nicely done and artistically presented.



Thu, 09/18/2014 - 11:31

Maybe I am that one person!  I've been debating building your other closet organizer but just haven't been certain I could haul around and install it due to the weight of it.  This one will do the trick and I love the industrial look!  Thank you!


Sun, 10/19/2014 - 17:51

Are those true 1x4s or 3/4x3.5s?

Wondering if 3/4" thick would be strong enough, especially once weighed down with items.

And did you just use regular 2x4 studs?






Mon, 12/29/2014 - 16:17

Liam, I hope it's ok for me to answer.
Any lumber you get from the home stores are going to have the smaller measurements, it's just easier to say "1x4". As far as being strong enough, the plan calls for 4 boards across, so the weight will be distributed, with each board taking 1/4 of the weight. Hope this helps.


Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:53

I like it was suprised to see no Kreg pocket holes!  But does that mean pocket hole joinery isn't strong enough for storage shelves?  If it is, what are the best methods for heavy shelves?


Mon, 12/29/2014 - 16:22

Back, (or is it Service?)
I think the industrial look to the shelf lends itself to the lack of pocket holes. As far as being strong enough, I built the "industrial rolling shelf" for my garage using the Kreg, and it's loaded to the hilt with no issues. I think this one was designed to be quick and easy. Pocket holes are great but they do add a lot to the time to build. Just my opinion. Thanks, David

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