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Easy How To Build Closet Shelves Tutorial In One Hour

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Are you tired of dealing with a messy closet? Let’s take a look at how to build closet shelves with plywood and create a functional tidy space. DIY closet shelves will also save you money compared to buying expensive closet systems.

Let’s check out the transformed closet space we crafted at the ranch house we are currently renovating.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood
learning how to build closet shelves will save you money vs purchasing expensive already made shelves

What Kind Of Wood To Use For Closet Shelves

For these diy closet shelves we used 3/4″ plywood. For closet shelves, plywood and MDF are popular for their affordability and ease of customization, while solid woods like pine or oak offer superior durability and a premium look.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood
how to build closet shelves

Questions to consider during the planning stage:

  • How much space do you have for shelves in your closet?
  • Do you want to include a hanging rod for clothes?
  • What are the dimensions of your closet space?

Consider the weight of items and your budget when choosing, as each wood type has its unique benefits.

During our ranch kitchen renovation, we realized we needed more storage for pantry type items so we decided to convert a nearby hall closet into a kitchen pantry with wood shelving. If you missed the kitchen renovation post, be sure to click through this post, white kitchen cabinets with white countertops (before and after).

The original closet was dark, had a closet rod and a thin top shelf. The side of the closet was wasted space and not functional.

Once you have removed everything from the closet, make a list of supplies that you can purchase at your local home improvement store.

Materials Needed

  1. stud finder
  2. measuring tape
  3. pencil
  4. level
  5. 3/4 inch plywood
  6. 1×2 pine cut to shelf length
  7. wood glue
  8. brad nailer and nails
  9. 3″ wood screws
  10. circular saw
  11. bin primer
  12. paintable caulking
  13. wood filler
  14. pure white paint (satin finish)

DIY Closet Shelves

Step 1: Measure and Plan

The first step in building closet shelves is to assess your closet’s dimensions and layout.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood
how to build closet shelves – mark with a pencil

Determine how many shelves you need and mark the walls with a pencil or painters tape to determine a visual of where the shelves will be.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood
DIY closet shelves are so simple to install!

Be sure to take into consideration what type of items will be stored in the closet to create the bottom shelf at the appropriate height to accommodate taller items that will be on the floor.

Step 2: Find the Studs

Locating the studs behind the wall will help ensure that your shelf brackets are securely fastened to the wall. If you cannot find the studs, you will need to use drywall anchors to hold the shelf braces in place.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets
use a level when building closet shelves

This step is crucial to make sure your shelves are secure and will not collapse.

Step 3: Cut The Shelves To Size

Purchasing a large sheet of plywood and cutting your shelves to size is the cheapest way to build shelves.

Cut your shelves to size with a circular saw and use a sanding block to sand off any rough edges.

Step 4: Cut The Shelf Brackets or Cleats

We used 1×2 pine strips to create our shelf brackets (also known as cleats). We wanted a floating shelf look which means the brackets are not shown.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets
How to build closet shelves with brackets and plywood

We cut the pine strips to the length of the side walls and back wall.

Step 5: Attach Shelf Brackets To Wall

The next step is to nail the pine shelf brackets to the sides of the wall with a nail gun to hold in place. Be sure to use a level to make sure the brackets are straight. You don’t want crooked shelves!

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets
how to build closet shelves using a brad nailer

Next, reinforce the brackets with 3″ wood screws to the wall. Depending on your closet and if you are using drywall anchors, you will need to pre drill a pilot hole for the anchor.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets
how to build closet shelves with pine brackets

We screwed the pine shelf brackets directly to the studs.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets

Step 6: Place Shelves On Top Of Brackets

Place the shelves on top of the brackets to ensure they fit. Once you are sure they fit, remove and apply wood glue on top of the brackets and place shelves back on top of the brackets.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets

Be sure to whip any excess glue that may seep from under the shelves.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets

You will notice that the brackets are on all sides of the closet which provides extra support.

Finally, nail the shelves to the brackets.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets

Step 7: Add Pine Face Frame To Shelves

We opted to add a face frame to each shelf as the plywood is somewhat thin and we wanted a more custom look.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets

Be sure to sand any rough spots on the wood before priming and painting. You may need to sand again once the primer dries as well.

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets
how to build closet shelves with a face frame

We cut a 1×2 strip of pine for each shelf that we nailed to the front of each shelf to give a finished look and also hide any gaps between the shelf and the wall.

Step 8: Prime and Paint

The last step is to caulk (use paintable caulking) any gaps between the shelves, wall, face frame and fill any nail holes.

This small closet went from non functional to a DIY custom closet on a dime that is now perfect for kitchen pantry items. These simple shelves took under 1 hour to make plus painting and dry time.

The entire closet is now modern, fresh and looks great!

how to build closet shelves in a small closet using plywood and pine brackets
how to build closet shelves with plywood

Once the caulking is dry, add your second coat of paint. If you opted to not prime and apply 1 coat of paint prior to installing the shelves, you will need to follow the priming and 2 coats of paint.

Shelving Paint Tip

The best way is to prime and paint on coat on shelves and brackets before installing.

Is It Cheaper To Build Your Own Shelves

Building closet shelves with plywood is an excellent way to maximize your closet space while saving money.

Whether you have a linen closet or a master closet, these easy closet shelves will provide ample storage and is by far the biggest bang for your buck.

If you are new here and haven’t downloaded our latest “project toolkit” freebie, you can find it below!

Get caught up on the rest of our ranch home remodel by visiting the links below.

More Ranch House Renovation Series Posts

More DIY Closet Shelving Posts You Will Love

Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.

3 Comments

  1. I received and was able to view the shelf video.

  2. How do you find the anchors when the brackets are nailed in? Excited to start this project but a bit confused.

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