• Elisabeth Bachmann

How to Build Shelves in a Closet for Your Art Room

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

This weekend I built shelves for my art room/home office. I have a closet that was uniquely sized and relatively deep, but I don't need to hang my dresses in my office. Therefore, I decided to turn it into something a little more practical for my needs.

One thing to note: I am NOT an expert builder, carpenter, or DIYer. I am just a girl on a budget with access to power tools and a patient boyfriend who showed me how to turn them on and not cut off my fingers.

So, for this project, I made three shelves. I needed:

  • 3 pieces of 3/4" plywood cut to 24" by 33"

  • 4 8 ft pieces of plywood that were 2" by 1.5"

  • A 25 pack of 2.5" wood screws

  • A level

  • A stud finder

  • Access to a table saw

  • A drill

  • An impact driver

I was also buying a pegboard for an unrelated project, so that's why it's in the image.

WOO! That's a substantial list. If you can get pre-made shelves, that's going to be a lot easier, but I needed something custom, so here we go.

First things first, I got the 3/4 in (the actual shelf part) cut at Home Depot, where I bought the supplies. If you have access to a heavy-duty, moving table saw this isn't necessary, but the one at our home can only cut about 6 in. If you're really smart about your measurements, you can get everything cut as long as the cut is more than 12 inches per their safety policy.

I cut my supports at home because my closet is weird, and the walls aren't even, so I wanted to check for fit as we went along.

My supports are 33 inches the back. Each of the support pieces on the side is 22.5 inches because I needed to subtract the depth (1.5 inches) of the back support from the ones on the side. I did not do this right on the first shelf, and honestly, it's not the end of the world, but it will make it look better.

Next, you need to pre-drill your holes. You don't want the wood splitting while you are screwing it into the wall. For the screws I used, we drilled with a 3/16 drill bit.

A quick note on drill bits: they do get old, broken, and worn down. This project will be a nightmare if you aren't using functional drill bits. Why? Because it will take half an hour to drill each hole, and you have a lot of holes to drill. About a third of the way through the project, I started complaining that it was taking FOREVER and kind of assumed my lack of experience was the cause. However, my boyfriend pointed out our drill bits were old and not of excellent quality. I went back to Home Depot and bought a $10 pack of DeWalt drill bits, and I finished the last 2/3 of the project in half the time. Seriously, check your drill bits before beginning.

You can pre-mark where you are going to drill if you care about where the screws go in the final project. I made three holes for the back support (one on the left, center, and right) and two holes on the side supports (one on the left and right).

Then, I started with the back supports. I placed the level on top of it and adjusted it until it was leveled. In case you are unfamiliar with levels, this just means I wanted the bubble in the middle of the small yellow liquid tube that is lying horizontally. Once I have the support where I want it and leveled, I pre-drilled again through the holes and into the wall. Next, through some work of sheer gymnastics, I switched the battery from the drill to the impact driver while holding the block of wood in place, got a screw, and screwed the support into the wall. Make sure that the support stays level while you are screwing. If it doesn't, you will have to readjust, and that's easier if you aren't already done. I recommend you start with the center screw on the back support because you can still tilt it level without completely undoing your work.

Place the side support where you want it and make it flush with the back support. You should still place the level on the side support as an extra check. If you have a long enough level, try keeping one end on the back support and the other part on the side support to make sure it is all level. (Highly recommend)

Then, drill your starter holes through your pre-drilled holes and screw them into the wall, as described below. Repeat on the other side.

Make sure your doorway to the closet is large enough to fit your shelf piece in without tilting too much. If it isn't, wait to screw in the second side support until all of your shelf supports are built and then install the shelf. As each shelf piece goes in, install the second side support.

My shelves are built with differing amounts of space between them per my needs. The top shelf needs to hold canvases up to 20 inches, so I made it larger. The other two are smaller (approximately 6 inches) because I want my varnish/resin to dry in there away from any dog hair or other debris in the house. I will probably install plastic barriers around all sides of the shelving for varnish/resin drying time.

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