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How to Replace Wire Shelves with DIY Custom Wood Shelves

I will show you how replacing your wire shelves with custom wood shelving can make a big difference!

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.

Take closet shelving, for example.

It’s meant to be functional. To provide a service to you in your daily life of storage needs.

But functional or not, I really can’t stand wire shelving.

Our whole house was full of wire shelving. Which, if you love it, power to ya. Then you’ve come to the wrong blog post. Because truly, it’s my least favourite storage solution of all the choices.

Things fall between it. It leaves marks on your clothes and linens. And it just doesn’t feel solid.

So once I got started on our linen closet organizational makeover and had everything out of the closet and sitting in the hallway… I realized, that what I really wanted was new shelving. And paint. EEK!

So once again, the organization project got just that little bit bigger

But it was totally worth it, don’t you think?

Side by side photo of a wire shelf and a custom wood shelf.

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To build these custom shelves, I went to my local hardware / wood store and purchases two 8′ lengths of solid pine shelving (16″ deep), and had it cut into 32″ lengths (the width of our closet). I also purchased two 8′ lengths of 1×2 to use as the shelf support brackets on each side; and then two 8′ lengths of a thin trim board to beef up the look up the shelves along their fronts.

We also used drywall filler, a putty knife, DAP, our caulking gun, our (Dad’s) nail gun and air compressor, 1.5″ wood screws, a small level, our drill, and our mitre saw. For painting, I used Kilz Primer and Simply White Paint by Benjamin Moore.

Our linen closet looked like this when we started…

The wire shelves in a closet.

Okay, actually, it really looked like this:

The wire shelves covered with shelf liner paper.

I had disliked that wire shelving so much that a few year’s ago I had used foam board and contact paper to cover it.

The one advantage it had was in giving us a solid shelf surface in our linen closet. But I knew. In my heart, I knew. It just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t the real thing. I really wanted to switch those bad-boy wire shelves out for some custom looking solid wood shelves.

So we did!

Wood Shelves

We started by taking out all the old wire shelving (which I plan to donate); and then marking on the wall where the new custom shelves will go. I just stayed with the same spacing because it had worked before, but this is the perfect time to switch up your shelf spacing if you want to.

We also filled all the old holes from the previous wire shelving hardware with wall filler.

Patching holes in the wall.

Hubs used a level and marked on the wall where the shelves would go. We used pieces of 1×2 that had been cut to the length that we wanted the shelves to be (depth). We used our mitre saw to make the cuts, but you could use any saw, even a hand saw to cut these pieces to length.

We predrilled and added screws to the 1×2 – as you can see in the corner. That screw is on an angle because we wanted to screw it into the stud in the corner of the closet wall. The other screw is hidden but you can see it peeking out underneath my husbands right thumb in the picture below:

Using a level for the new shelves.

Then he predrilled on the one side, where the shelves would not go into a stud and we needed to add a drywall anchor.

Drilling into the wall.

And we put in a drywall anchor to hold the screw on that side of the bracket.

Hammering in a post for the shelf.

Next, it was time to actually screw the open shelves in. We first attached it on the outer side (into the drywall anchor) and then used the level to make sure the brackets were straight.

There is a level on the wall in the shelf.

And lastly we screwed it into the corner stud…

Using the power screwdriver for the shelf.

Next, a few things happened that I don’t have great pictures of!

I sanded off the walls and gave the closet two coats of bright white paint.

I painted one coat of primer and two coats on each side of the pine shelves that I bought at the hardware store – I used our dining room table with a drop cloth as a surface, and used a foam roller. It dried pretty quickly so I was able to paint one side, dry, flip it and paint the other side, etc. in a fairly short period of time. I didn’t paint the edges of the pine because I didn’t want them to get thicker and not fit in the closet properly – and on the front we were going to be putting a facing so it didn’t need to be painted.

Once the shelves were dry to the touch, we placed them in the closet…

Placing the wooden shelves into the closet.

Time to give them that custom wood shelf look!

We added a piece of trim moulding to the front to make them look thicker. We used our nail gun, but you could also just use some small finishing nails and your regular old hammer.

Applying the trim board to the front of the shelves.

The trim board was slightly wider at the top and then tapered at the bottom. I only chose this one because it was such a small depth so we had enough space for it in the closet once attached to the 16″ deep pine shelves.

The closet door open.

As I said… nail gun. But you could use a regular hammer and small nails.

Using a nail gun on the trim.

Lastly, a few more jobs that I didn’t show:

We filled the tiny nail holes and let it dry. Then I used some DAP (my favourite caulking tool) to fill around each shelf and wooden bracket so they all looked solidly attached to the closet.

Lastly, a final coat of paint on the walls, along all the DAPPED edges, the wooden faces of the shelves, and on the shelf surfaces themselves.

Aren’t they pretty?

I mean, for closet shelves??

The custom built shelves.

Our linen closet is in our hallway sandwiched between the door to my craft room and the door to our laundry room / mud room space.

Now I can’t wait to fill it back up and show you our newly organized linen closet! I’ll be back tomorrow with those details!

The white shelves in the closet.

Want to switch out the wire shelving in some of your closets?

Don’t forget this tutorial!

This is awesome! Pin it to remember it!

Easy DIY poster.

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20 Comments

  1. Hi, what a difference! Great Job! I’m in the process of doing the same thing to the linen closet in the Master Bathroom. Only difference is I’m using either reclaimed wood or barn wood and staining it. I have the same question someone else asked and I’m not sure if it was answered. On the ‘edging wood’ to give the look of thicker shelves, since it’s obviously wider than the shelves, there must be a ‘overhang’ on the bottom of each shelf. I can’t tell from any of the photos. Would you kindly photograph beneath the shelf? I HATE THE WIRE RACKS. WE HAVE SOME ON ONE SIDE OF THE CLOSET IN THE MASTER BEDROOM. CAN’T SLIDE HANGERS BACK & FORTH WITH THEM! Again, Great Job! Look forward to your reply……..Diane/Boston MA

    1. Hello Diane,
      We no longer own that house so I can’t send you a picture of it, unfortunately, but you are correct that there is an overhang at the front. The overhang also helps to hide the boards on the side and along the back that the shelf rests on. Hope that helps!
      Krista

    2. Hi Krista! What a sweetheart you are to reply, and so quickly! Thank you. That makes sense to me, hiding the wood that’s holding up the shelves. So young and so talented! I wish you, your husband and yours all the BEST. Be safe, be blessed through these difficult times! (HUGS) Diane/Boston

  2. I have a closet in our media room that I want to use for games, puzzles, etc. I wanted movable shelves but really want wood versus wire. Can you recommend something to line the right and left walls so that I can drill holes in it and then use shelf brackets instead of permanent shelves? Thanks!
    Doreen

    1. Hi there,
      It took us a few hours of time and I think it might have cost $50-100 in materials. Hope that helps,
      Krista

    1. Hi there – I’m confused by your question. Can you clarify what you mean by blind door? thanks!

  3. I’m doing this project currently and wondering about paint. Did you use the same paint for the walls and the shelves in the same finish? I was thinking of using semigloss but I dont know how that would look on both the wall and shelves.

    1. Hi Wendi, I did use the same paint for the walls and shelves – it was a satin or eggshell finish. Semi-gloss is a bit more washable, but I wasn’t really concerned about that. It just depends on the look you want – semi-gloss would definitely be glossier but also have a shiny, crisp look. Good luck with your project!

  4. Hi there, would like your opinion. I have a builder grade pantry (basically a closet) with the same wire shelving you have in your pics. The difference is, when you open the door there is about a foot depth on each side going into the closet that is totally unused. I have thought about taking out the shelving and putting in shelves on the sides so essentially the middle would be gone but on the sides there would be shelves and you could actually put maybe a small spice rack in. Have you ever seen this done?

  5. Thanks for this post. About to embark on a bathroom remodel and we’re turning the existing shower stall space into an extra deep linen/storage closet. This is exactly the look I was wanting so this could not have been found at a better time. Also, nice to know I’m not alone in my pure hatred for wire shelving. My house is full of it and slowly, but sury, it will be replaced.

  6. Very nice. I have a question, why u didn’t cut the 1×2 the size of the shelves for more support and is the trim pieces only attached to the top of the shelves. Can u kindly take a picture of the trim work underneath and post it. Thanks

  7. I LOVE the wooden shelves, thank you for the information on the piece for the front of the shelves. There is ONE thing that would just bother the heck out of me though, the top of the door molding on the right isn’t even with the top of the molding on the panty! Everything else, perfections.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean. It’s hard to tell from these images, but the closet door is lower then the two doors beside it (they are regular sized doors that lead to our office and our laundry room). I don’t think it would be possible to change the door sizes, and the builder elected to put the same trim on both so the closet looks lower. Kinda strange!

  8. your shelves look beautiful and so functional. Wire shelving should be outlawed. Lucky you, now your linens will look perfect.

  9. Thank you so much for this post, I’ve wanted to do this forever in our closets, now that I can see how yours was done, I think ours can be updated the same way. Another project on my to-do list!

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