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You're ready to bring order to your closets, basement, or garage, but don't have a bundle to spend? The shelving systems that probably represent the best value available today are epoxy-coated wire components. Here's how to buy and install these customizable organization systems.

wire shelving, RubbermaidRubbermaid

Walk down the organization aisle of your local home improvement store and it may seem like all the wire shelving systems look alike, but the opposite is true. Big improvements have been made to wire shelving systems during the last decade -- notably in their durability, but also in the way you can configure them to fit and maximize just about any space.

What's Wire Shelving Made Of?
Wire organizing systems are made of steel shelves coated in epoxy, a corrosion-proof resin. The material is relatively lightweight and easy to keep clean. The systems are designed to use space efficiently, promote good visibility of stored items, maintain good air circulation, and stand up to moisture. You can use them to transform just about any place in the house, but the most popular locations are master bedroom closets (as shown above), kitchen pantries, linen closets, basements, laundry rooms and garages.

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Types of Wire Shelving Systems:
There are two basic types of wire shelving systems: rail mount and direct mount.

Rail mount:
Rail mount systems are far superior to their direct mount predecessors. These modern systems are anchored by a horizontal steel hanger rail is fastened through the drywall to the wall studs with screws. Then, standards (vertical slotted steel bars) are hung from the hanger rail at 2-foot intervals. Shelf brackets can then be inserted in slots on the standards at the desired heights. Hook-shaped supports can even be attached to the shelf brackets for hanging closet rods.

Rubbermaid, shelving systemRubbermaid's expandable rail-mounted shelving systems require no cutting. Photo: Rubbermaid

An interesting innovation in rail-mount wire systems are those from Rubbermaid, which have shelves and rods that can be adjusted without having to use a saw. The shelves nest together so you can increase or decrease the widths by simply sliding in one direction or the other. The rods are telescoping and offer the same versatility.

Direct mount: These systems have been upstaged by the more recent rail mount systems. Direct mount systems use diagonal shelf braces, which install directly into the wall instead of into a track, along with rear shelf clips and drywall anchors to hold the screws in place. By their very design, direct-mount systems offer less stability -- which is why they're responsible for giving wire shelving systems a bad reputation.

wire shelving, RubbermaidDirect mount systems rely on drywall anchors, such as those shown here, to install diagonal braces and shelf clips. Photo: Joe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

So why are some manufacturers still selling direct mount systems? As one closet company vice president (who asked to remain nameless) told us, "We still sell the old style because that's what some contractors want when they need to install shelves quickly at at very low cost." In a relatively short time, the shelves and racks may tear apart from the walls and give out. DIYers, consider yourselves forewarned.

(Tip: If you're ever installing a direct-mount system and happen to hit a stud, count yourself lucky and use a screw in place of the supplied drywall anchor; it will give you at least one secure point.)

How to Install a Rail Mount System
Begin an installation of a rail mount system by finding a stud in the wall. You may use an electronic stud finder, or you can repeatedly drive a finishing nail into the drywall until you strike a stud. Then mark 16-inch intervals to locate the other studs (that's the approximate distance between studs). Or, even easier, you can rely on the hole spacing of the hanger rail. It will automatically give you a hole every 16 inches. Then follow the steps below.

drill, power toolJoe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

1. Level the rail, and fasten it to wall studs every 16 inches.

wire shelving, RubbermaidJoe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

2. Hang standards (vertical members) on the rail at 2-foot intervals. They have precut notches that slip over the rail lip.

wire shelvingJoe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

3. Insert shelf brackets into the standard slots at the desired heights.

4. Then install shelving (shown) or other accessories on the brackets.

wire shelvingRubbermaid

5. Adjust the shelves. With some systems, shelf lengths can be adjusted (within a range). This photo above left shows how the bottom shelf layer nests inside the top one. This innovation reduces or eliminates the amount of cutting required. With some products you may need to use a hacksaw to cut shelving to the desired length.

6. Attach rod hooks to shelf brackets where you desire a hanger rod. Expand the rod to the desired length and snap it in place.

Shelving Accessories

Manufacturers of wire closet organizing systems offer a host of accessories. There's a variety of shelving types, including deep 18-inch shelves for bedding and towels, fine mesh shelves that allow you to store small items without having them topple or slip through the wire struts, and slanted shelves that make it easier to see footwear.

Pullout bins, in canvas, plastic, wire mesh or natural fibers (baskets), may also be attached to the brackets. Pullouts make it easier to see and reach stored items. In addition to bins, there are other kinds of pullouts. They include tie and belt racks, shoe racks, hampers, and valet rods (which give you a place to hang clothes while assembling the day's outfit).

Some wire closet companies offer fiberboard accessories that can enhance your wire system. Popular components include laminate drawer modules and cubby modules.

Many closet manufacturers offer planning and design help on their web sites. Use it to draw up a plan for your closet or storage area and then buy exactly what you need.

In addition to your local home improvement center, some retailers that specialize in wire shelving systems include:
The Container Store

  • Christina Love

    This is all nice but I'd never keep all my shoes in the same closet as my clean clothing, Shoes belong seperate in their own closet... Especially that they are all worn all over the dirty streets!

  • Brenda

    Get real, lady, do you have any idea what the real world is like. Send some $ to the rest of us so we can have a 'seperate' closet just for our shoes..

  • targa82

    You really can't be serious! A separate closet for shoes??? Do you have a separate one summer shoes and then one for winter shoes? Give me a break.

  • Jane

    You must be Mrs. Monk. A closet for your shoes because they have walked on dirty streets? I don't generally rub the dirty soles of my shoes on my clean clothes.

  • Debbie

    I have these type closets all over my house. Don't put too much weight (like a lot of coats or suits) on them. You'll be woken by what sounds like an earthquake when the metal bends and the whole thing comes crashing down!

  • Patti M

    Debbie - I agree, we moved into a brand new home with walk-in closets. All done in the above wire shelving. One night we were watching TV and I thought someone had run into our garage door, a big boom from the back of the house. The entire closet system had pulled out of the wall, we couldn't get the door opened as it all fell forward! Finally my 7 year old, at the time, was able to squeeze in and get things moved away from the door.

    Also, how "fake" are the "after" closets? The have like half of what people actually have in their "real life" closets. If that is all the hanging clothes someone owns then I doubt they need a closet make-over.

  • billy

    do just like i do i wash my shoes before i puit them back in the closet...i dont like dirty shoes in my closet either. but how many people really have a separate closet for shoes. get real!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jilly

    Just once I'l like to see one of these closet wizards do something with a closet that is smaller than 8fr x 10 ft. Millions of us live in older homes that have one closet per bedroom, it's 3 feet deep, 5ft long and has a single door at one end. Anyone with a closet the size of the one in this article who can't keep it neat and organized is simply lazy.

  • Russ

    Wow this is a rough group, but perhaps rightfully so I'm not judging in fact I hate to admit I find it sorta entertaining. Maybe you guys can share some strong opinions at another clutter related website

  • Jayne

    I love this article, looks great! has everything like this, they have chrome wire corner kits too.

  • 10 Comments / 1 Pages

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