How to Build a Closet Storage Unit

Add built-in shelving to your existing closet, or transform an unused space into a place for storage.

Built-In Closet Storage

Built-In Closet Storage

Transform an used nook into a closet with this easy DIY built-in storage unit.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

By: Chip Wade
Related To:

Materials and Tools

  • (2) 3/4" sheets of plywood (paint or stain grade)
  • (4) 1x2 x 10' poplar boards
  • wood glue
  • (1) roll iron-on 3/4" plywood banding
  • (6) European door hinges
  • (4) 2-1/2" cabinet lag screws
  • (3) door pulls
  • desired paint or finish
  • (3) magnetic door stops
  • chop saw
  • circular or table saw
  • trim nail gun
  • drill
  • 1-3/8" Forstner drill bit

Cut List

-Piece A - shelf back plate: (1) 46-1/2" x 46-1/2" plywood
-Piece B - bottom and top of unit: (2) 12" x 46-1/2" plywood
-Piece C - sides of unit: (2) 12" x 48" plywood
-Piece D - shelves: (2) 11-1/4" x 46-1/2" plywood
-Piece E - vertical dividers: (3) 11-1/4" x 15" plywood
-Piece F - horizontal face frame: (4) 3/4" x 46-1/2" poplar
-Piece G - vertical face frame on dividers: (3) 3/4" x 15" poplar
-Piece H - vertical face frame edges (for floating cabinet only): (2) 3/4" x 48" poplar
-Piece I - cabinet doors: (3) 14-3/4" x 14-3/4" plywood

Cut Plywood Pieces

Cut one piece to 46-1/2" x 46-1/2" for the backing, two pieces to 12" x 46-1/2" for the top and bottom of the unit, two pieces to 12" x 46-1/2" for the sides, two pieces to 11-1/4" x 46-1/2" for the shelves and three pieces to 11-1/4" x 15" for the vertical dividers.

Built-In Closet Storage

Built-In Closet Storage

Lay piece A on the ground, and glue and nail two B pieces to opposite sides of piece A from the outside of the box. Piece B should not be resting on piece A. Wipe away any glue drips on plywood face while glue is still wet.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Install Unit Base

Lay (Piece A) on the ground, and glue and nail (Piece B) sections to opposite sides of (Piece A) from the outside of the box. (Piece B) should not be resting on (Piece A). Next, place (Piece C) sections on the other two sides of (Piece A), and glue and nail into (Piece A) and (Piece B) sections. Your box should now be 48" x 12" deep (Images 1 and 2). Wipe away any glue drips from the plywood face while glue is still wet. 

Install Shelves

Glue and nail the sides and back of both (Piece D) in between both (Piece C), spacing them equal distance apart from both (Piece B) — 15". It is helpful to cut three 15" blocks out of scrap material to use as spacers to ensure the shelves stay square. Using a square, mark the center line of both (Piece D) on the outside of (Piece C) to give you a reference to nail through (Images 1 and 2).

Install Vertical Dividers

Glue and nail three (Piece E) vertically between (Piece B) and (Piece D) 15" off of the right side (Piece C). You can use the same blocks for spacing used in the previous step (Images 1 and 2). 

Install Facing

Cut three 1x2 x 10' poplar boards to 3/4" wide. Cut four (Piece F) sections, glue and nail to the top of (Pieces B and D) (Images 1 and 2). Cut three (Piece G) sections, glue and nail to the top of (Piece E) (Images 3 and 4).

Attach Banding + Apply Paint

Cut all (Piece I) sections, and iron-on edge banding on all four sides of the pieces. Apply clear coat, or paint all plywood pieces in desired finish.

Built-In Closet Storage

Built-In Closet Storage

Cut plywood I pieces, and iron edgebanding on all four sides of the three I pieces.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Attach Unit to Wall

Using the 2-1/2" cabinet lag screws, pre-drill four holes that align with studs, and attach shelf unit to the wall at desired height (Images 1 and 2).

Install Vertical Frame Edges

For a floating unit, cut two (Piece H) sections, then glue and nail in place on (Piece C). If the cabinet is against a wall, measure and cut (Piece H) width to fit tightly to wall. Fill any holes, and prime and paint all poplar trim to desired finish.

Built-In Closet Storage

Built-In Closet Storage

Attach chosen door handles, magnetic stops and hinges to manufacturers specification and attach doors to cabinet.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Attach Hardware

Attach door handles, magnetic stops and hinges according to manufacturers' specifications. (Images 1 and 2).

Attach Doors

Attach doors to unit with a drill and necessary hardware.

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