How to Install Closet Shelf and Rod

To add a shelf and rod to a closet follow these step-by-step directions and learn what tools and materials you need before you start.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required

  • Measuring tape
  • Carpenter's level
  • Stud finder
  • Hand saw
  • Hammer
  • Step ladder
  • Electric drill with bits

Materials Required

  • Shelf
  • Rod, supports with screws
  • Bracket with screws
  • 1x4 wood cleats
  • Nails

Before You Begin

A simple closet shelf and rod consists of the shelf, cleats attached to the back and side walls and a bracket to support the center of the shelf and the rod at the midpoint. Your layout, bracket position, shelf length may vary, but the principles are the same.

Depending on the brackets you use the shelf is either secured to the brackets and cleats or, sometimes, it just rests on top of them. A wide single shelf typically has at least one intermediate bracket fastened to the wall framing; more brackets may be needed for longer shelves or to support the end of a shelf that does not terminate at a wall. Simple shelf or shelf-and-rod brackets come with installation screws and are available in hardware stores and home centers.

Follow these directions to install a closet shelf and rod supported with one bracket and wall cleats.

  • Step 1 : Measure and mark

    Using a carpenter's level, draw a level line that is 3/4 inch (the thickness of the shelf) below the desired shelf height across the back wall of the closet and on the two adjacent side walls.

  • Step 2 : Find the wall studs

    Use a stud finder to locate the wall studs and mark their location just above your three lines. Use a small tick mark at the side of the stud and an "X" to indicate the center of the stud.

  • Step 3 : Cut and fasten wall cleats

    Cut the 1x4 side cleats so they extend at least as far as the first stud from the corner. Position them with their tops aligned with the shelf layout line and screw or nail them to the studs. Nail at an angle into the corner(s). To avoid splitting the wood when nailing close to the ends, drill a pilot hole for the nails.

    Cut the back-wall cleat to fit between the side wall cleats, and fasten it to the studs in the same fashion.

  • Step 4 : Install the brackets

    Hold a shelf support bracket in the middle of the wall. Use it as a template to mark the location of the mounting screws. Secure the bracket to the cleat with screws.

  • Step 5 : Install the shelf

    Secure the shelf on the cleats with finishing nails and secure the bracket to the underside of the shelf with short screws. Attach the closet rod brackets to the side cleats with the screws provided. Cut your closet rod 1/8-inch shorter than the inside dimension between the brackets and set it in place. Secure the bracket to the pole with a screw through the mounting hole.