Wire Closet Organizing Systems

Michelle Radcliff
Walk-in closet interior

Wire closet organizers provide a simple yet highly efficient and functional solution for closet storage. Whether you have a reach-in or walk-in type of closet, wire organizing systems come in numerous configurations that can be modified to fit any size or type of closet.

Adjustable Wire Organizers

Adjustable wall mount wire organizers offer the most flexibility with hardware designed for numerous components and easy modification. These organizing systems can be purchased in complete kits for convenient installation while also offering open stock for those wanting additional accessories or further customization of their closet organizing system.

Components and Accessories

The system is held in place by hardware that includes horizontal bars called rails or hang tracks (depending on the brand). Hang tracks are screwed into wall studs or attached to drywall using bolts with toggles. Vertical bars known as uprights or standards are then clipped to the hang tracks but must also be screwed into the wall at one or two lower points once you have them spaced where you want them. Uprights have multiple slots running up and down the length, designed to hold brackets for wire shelves and other closet accessories such as:

  • Baskets
  • Mesh drawers
  • Shoe racks
  • Hooks for clothing rods
  • Tie and belt racks

Top Brands

The following brands are the most common names associated with wire closet organizing systems. The wire systems of the first two manufacturers install and function in practically the exact same way:

  • ClosetMaid - Look for ShelfTrack adjustable kits and open stock hardware available on ClosetMaid.com, Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe's.
  • Rubbermaid - Rubbermaid offers the Configurations and HomeFree customizable closet systems and the FastTrack adjustable closet, available at Rubbermaid.com, Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe's.
  • Elfa - A brand exclusive to the Container Store, Elfa reigns as the luxury option for wire closet organizers. Combining many of their wire systems with solid birch wood pieces, expect to pay a lot more for an Elfa closet.

Fixed Mount Wire Organizers

Fixed or direct mount wire organizers are very similar to adjustable mount wire organizers - the main difference is a lack of hanging rails. Installation is more challenging because each piece must be leveled individually. With some systems, the shelves and brackets mount directly to the wall. It's not as easy to reconfigure your closet design later if your needs change but you can add on additional accessories if you have the space.

Top Brands

Manufacturers that offer adjustable mount wire organizers often have fixed mount kits as well. When buying add-on accessories, make sure you are getting pieces that are compatible with the original kit you purchased.

Rubbermaid offers direct mount components and closet kits in varying sizes as does ClosetMaid. The Algot brand is exclusive to IKEA and offers a number of different wall mount closet storage systems that are adaptable to other Algot storage components.

Comparable Systems

Compared to solid wood or laminate closet organizers, wire organizers are much more affordable and easier to install. In addition to the standard white finish, you can also find metallic finishes in satin chrome, nickel and epoxy coated steel. Freestanding wire organizers offer a similar savings but are less attractive and much less versatile with fewer, if any, options for customization.

Pros and Cons of Wire Organizer Brands

While there are too many differences for a direct comparison of closet systems, detailed consumer reviews and reviews from Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping help uncover the pros and cons of different closet organizer brands.

Pros

Each of the four brands have their own positive features.

  • ClosetMaid - Free design tool and inexpensive professional help is available through ClosetMaid. The shelves can be cut to size. ShelfTrack kits are available in multiple finishes and optional shelf liners prevent wire indentations on clothes and keep small items from slipping through.
  • Rubbermaid - Both Configurations and HomeFree kits were noted for best price, easy installation, and customization.
  • Elfa - Free online design tool and assistance is available through Elfa. It is noted for best DIY closet system with high scores for assembly and construction and for the best aesthetics and functionality.
  • Ikea - Competitive pricing is available on direct mount kits.

Cons

Know what others find difficult to deal with before you purchase a system.

  • ClosetMaid - Unclear instructions and mislabeled parts make the ShelfTrack system tricky to install; brackets for shelves may not be sturdy.
  • Rubbermaid - Reviewers had trouble attaching some of the accessories on the HomeFree kit; Configurations found to be lacking accessories such as a drawer kit.
  • Elfa - Elfa is considerably more expensive than the other brands; the written instructions for installation can be confusing.
  • Ikea - The Algot system took the longest time to install, according to a CR test on timed assemblies; incorrect directions resulted in spacing problems, no screws or wall anchors were included with the kit, and the drawers didn't fit properly.

Be sure to read all the instructions and take inventory of all the parts included in your kit before you start to assemble it.

Design and Planning for a Wire Closet Organizer

Although a number of retailers offer online design tools for planning a closet design with built-in organizers, most of them only offer options in wood. This is where ClosetMaid shines as one of the few retailers to offer a free online design tool for their wire closet organizing systems. Elfa's online design tool is another option you can take advantage of to get ideas for organizing clothing, shoes and accessories in your closet.

Cheap or Free Design Services

Another good option offered by ClosetMaid is their professional design service. Provide the dimensions of your closet and answer a few simple questions. For only $5 and a few days wait, you will receive two professional design variations that include a product parts list and resources for where to buy.

Elfa offers a free design service by chat or phone. You can also complete the Elfa Closet Makeover Guide to take to a retail location for professional help and advice.

Closet Shelving Layout Recommendations

When planning your own closet design, guidelines from professional builders and professional installers of closet systems can help ensure you include all the basic components for a well-functioning storage space.

  • Long hang or single shelf and pole - Accommodates long coats and dresses hanging more than 40 inches below the pole; the bottom of the shelf should measure 66 inches from the floor or 64 inches for the pole.
  • Double hang or double pole - Accommodates pants folded over a hanger, usually about 34 inches from the bottom of the shelf above, and shirts which hang about 40 inches from a shelf above; typical spacing between the poles is 42 inches
  • Sweater shelves or tower shelves - A tall narrow column of shelves, cubbies, baskets, slide-out mesh drawers or a combination of such elements; spacing should begin about 16 inches from the floor with subsequent shelves spaced about 12 inches apart
  • Top shelf - Typical recommendation for the top shelf is 84 inches above the floor, leaving 12 inches of space between the shelf and an 8 foot high ceiling; ClosetMaid recommends installing the top hanging rack at 84 inches
  • Shoe shelves and racks - Typical 12 inch spacing not required; 7 inches can accommodate high tops and pumps; start shelves 16 inches from the floor to accommodate tall boots

DIY Installation

Wire closet organizers are typically designed for self-installation. However, you will need a few carpentry tools to get the job done. If you don't have the tools or the skills to use them, a local handyman may be a cheaper alternative to hiring a professional installation company to install the hardware.

  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Drill with driver bit
  • Pencil
  • Ladder or step stool
  • Stud finder
  • Bolt cutter or hack saw (if using ClosetMaid shelves)
  • Safety glasses

Before you purchase a wire closet organizer, measured the height, width and depth of your closet to ensure you choose a system with the right fit.

Installation Tips

When you're ready to install the hardware, empty the closet completely and use the following guidelines for a secure system:

  • Use a stud finder and lightly mark the wall with a pencil where each stud is located. Align the screw holes in the hanging rack with the marks on the wall. Use a toggle bolt on any holes going into drywall.
  • Use a level to check the straightness of the hanging rack before securing all the screws.
  • Install the upright or standard bars no more than 24 inches apart. Use a level to make sure the bar is plumb before screwing it into the wall through the center hole.

Once the supporting framework is securely attached to the closet walls, the brackets, shelves and other accessories attach to one another by clicking, locking and sliding into place without the need for additional tools. ClosetMaid shelves can be cut to size using a bolt cutter or hack saw.

Get the Most Out of Your Closet Space

If you're comfortable using a drill, a screwdriver, and a level, you should be able to install a wire closet organizer. Make it a weekend project instead of trying to cram it into one afternoon. Utilize the free online design tools no matter what system you ultimately go with - it will help get you started on organizing your closet clutter and give you ideas on the features you want.

Wire Closet Organizing Systems