How to Build a Closet Shelf

Shelves are a great addition to any closet. They provide instant storage for hats, shoes, sweaters, or anything you want to store. After you build your first shelf, you may decide that you want more than one. A second shelf, built the same way, can be installed directly above the first one.

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Circular saw
  • Variable speed drill
  • Drill bits
  • 3-inch wood screws
  • 1 1/2-inch wood screws
  • 1-by-2-inch by 2 inch boards
  • Level
  • 1-by-6-inch board
  • 6-inch L bracket

Brace Boards

Measure the width of each end wall of your closet, and the width of the back wall. Add the measurements together; this is the total length of 1-by-2-inch boards you will need to support your shelf.

Begin on either the left or right end wall first. Measure from the floor up to 3 inches beyond your clothes rack. Make two measurements on each end wall, preferrably at the corners. This is where your studs will be located. Follow this step on the opposite end wall.

Measure the width of 1-by-2-inch board you will need for both closet ends. Mark the first measurement on your board and cut it with your circular saw. Repeat this step for the second board. You should have two boards that fit across the ends of your closet.

Pre-drill a hole in each end of your end wall boards. You will need a drill bit slighly thinner than your wood screws. Drill a hole 1 inch from the end of each closet end board. This will keep your brace board from splitting when you insert the screws.

Place a closet shelf end board on your pencil marks. Insert a screw and tighten it loosely with your drill. Place a level on the board. Adjust the board until it is level and then insert the second screw. Tighten it with your drill and finish tightening the first screw. Follow the same procedure for the opposite end wall. You should have a brace board on each end wall.

Meausre across the back wall to find the length of 1-by-2-inch board you will need. Mark this same distance on your board and cut it with your circular saw. Locate the studs in the backwall to secure your board to. There will be a stud in each corner and most likely every 16 inches. Use a stud finder to be absolutely certain. Mark the stud locations on the wall above where your brace board will be installed.

Cut your back wall board and drill a hole on each end. Place your board to the wall and insert a screw into one end; tighten slightly with your drill. The top of the back wall board should be level with the end wall boards. Secure the opposite end of the board and tighten both screws completely. Drill holes across the board where the studs are located. Your pencil marks for stud location should be above your board. Insert a screw into each hole and tighten it.


Measure the back wall from end to end. Mark the same measurement on your 1-by-6-inch board and cut it with your circular saw.

Place the shelf on top of your brace boards and secure it with the 1 1/2-inch screws. Insert a screw approximately every 4 inches. The screws should go through the top side of the shelf into the brace boards underneath.

Cut a 4-inch section of 1-by-2-inch board. Attach the board vertically to the wall underneath the center of the shelf. The top end of the 4-inch board should be up against the horizontal brace board.

Attach the back of the L bracket to the vertical brace with the 1 1/2-inch screws. Make sure the top of the bracket is supporting the underneath side of the shelf. The L bracket will help suppot the center of your shelf and keep it from sagging.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use pine for your shelf. It is stronger than plywood.
  • You can install a shelf by just using L brackets, but it will be sturdier if you use brace boards.

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