May 14, 2021

How to Select the Perfect Shelving Product

Empty shelves in walk-in pantry

Shelves are the backbone of every home storage and organization strategy. For most people, there can never be enough. But there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many options to consider including floating shelves, corner styles, adjustable versus fixed, pull-out, rotating shelves, and more. So how do you know which is best? There's no hard and fast rule. The right home shelving solution for you or your customer will depend on multiple factors including location, construction of the home, use, age of family members, space constraints, and personal style preferences.


The various types of shelves can be grouped into six basic categories. Each category may have multiple subtypes. That means there are a lot of shelves to choose from. To make the best decision, you need to understand the basics of each kind of shelf. This includes how and when it should be used. The six basic types of built-in shelves for the home include fixed, adjustable, corner, rotating, pull-out, and floating shelves. Manufacturing of your shelves is typically available in a variety of materials depending on type including wood, laminate, MDF, and glass. Wood veneer and laminate shelves will be edge banded for a finished look.

1. Fixed Shelves:

Your fixed shelves are part of the structure of your system. You can't remove or change their position without unscrewing or releasing the locking cams. The top shelf is always a fixed shelf as it the bottom shelf in a floor-based closet. Depending on height, a middle shelf may also be fixed. There will also be a fixed shelf between every three draws in storage systems that include drawers. Fixed shelves are generally laminate, although wood veneers and MDF can also be used. Glass is never used for fixed shelves.

Installation of fixed shelf for closet
The top shelf is always a fixed shelf.
Tightening of fixed shelf for built-in
Fixed shelves are locked in place and aren't easy to move.

2. Adjustable Shelves:

Unlike fixed shelves, adjustable shelves are easy to move around within the storage system. They sit on a set of four pins that slip into the pre-drilled holes of the vertical panels that make up the structure of your storage system. It's easy to just lift the shelf off its pins and relocate it by moving the pins to new holes. Adjustable shelves are usually installed flat, meaning all pins are at the same height. However, shoe shelves are often installed tilted, meaning the back pins are higher than the front. This always the shoes to be viewed more easily. However, shoe fences must be used when shelves are installed on an angle so that the footwear doesn't slide off. Adjustable shelves can be made up to 30-inches wide in almost any material, including glass. Shelves wider than 30-inches should use a shelf stiffener installed along the long edges to prevent sagging.

The choice of pins to hold the shelves is very important. Shelf pins come in several sizes to fit different hole diameters. Different manufacturers can choose between several standard drilling patterns/hole diameters for their panels. It's always best to order all your components from a single manufacture so that drill patterns remain consistent. You also have choices to make when it comes to the pins that support the shelf. There are different types of pins based on the shelf material and application. For example, glass shelves always require special pins designed to keep them in place. Additionally, there are simple straight pins versus the child-safe pin-in-place variety that keep shelves from tipping.

Choose adjustable glass shelves for display or when you are using a lighting system that needs to shine through the shelf.

Installation of adjustable shelf for closet
Adjustable shelves are easy to move.
White closet shelf
Adjustable shelves are supported by four pins that support each corner.
Built-in shelves can be adjusted
Use fences with slanted shoe shelves.
Decorative glass shelves
Adjustable shelves are available in every material including glass.

3. Corner Shelves:

Corner shelves can be a bit tricky to get right. Measuring must be spot on when you design a storage system with corner shelves. There are several types of corner shelves to consider including straight shelves with shelf connectors, curved corner shelves, inside and outside corner angled shelves.

  • The most popular way to connect two perpendicular walls of closet shelving in the corner is with standard rectangular shelves. These are the same adjustable shelves used on your flat walls. They simply meet in the corner with a butt joint. You must use a shelf connector at the joint. A shelf connector is a kind of plastic sleeve that slips over the edge of both sections of shelving at the joint. It provides a smooth transition between the shelves and extra support at the joint. It comes in seven different colors to blend with the color of your closet. This is the simplest and least expensive way to join shelves from adjoining walls in the corner of the closet.
    There’s a trick to corner shelves and they require some basic carpentry skills to install. No home has floors and walls that are perfectly straight and there is no place that this is more evident than in the corners. Therefore, one side of the closet corner shelves will always be shipped oversized. This is so that you can cut them to size on-site. We recommend using a table saw. Rent one for the day if you don’t own one. Cutting on-site provides just enough wiggle room so that you can get clean, professional results with your corner installation.
  • If you don’t want to see the plastic shelf connector in the corners of your closet, use curved shelves instead. A curved shelf requires more hand-tooling than other types. Therefore, it costs a little more than the straight shelves with connectors, but the look is worth it. Use them when your shelf corners will be highly visible, such as an open pantry. Installation is a little less work than the straight shelves because there is no cutting involved. They install with a shelf pin in each corner just like a regular adjustable shelf. The only difference is that the vertical panels are perpendicular to each other. However, you need to be very precise in your measurements and installation practices with these shelves. They will be shipped to size and there is no room for error.
  • Angled shelves are another type of shelf used in corners. A straight cut triangle shelf is a great way to finish the ends of a wall unit or other storage system. An inside angled shelf offers a little more shelf space than a curved shelf for inside corners. It has similar measuring needs to a curved shelf, so you need to be very exact.
90 degree corner shelves
Straight corner shelves using shelf connectors.
Curved corner shelves
Curved corner shelves.
Angled exterior corner shelves
Outside corner angled shelves work great on the ends.
5-sided interior corner shelves
Inside corner shelves have 5 sides.

4. Rotating Shelves:

Rotating shelves are one of the best shelving solutions for eliminating dead corners. They've long been used in kitchen design, but have become recently become popular for closets, pantries, and other storage areas. Rotating shelves can be as simple as an old-fashioned lazy Susan, or as elaborate as an entire closet that turns. The 360 Organizer® closets, manufactured by Plus Closets, are the original rotating closet solution. Seven models are available that turn manually on a patented base for smooth and quiet rotation. All models include some sort of shelves. They can be placed along a wall, but the units are especially suited for maximizing storage in a corner. The design provides plenty of shelf space for both large and small items. Nothing ever gets "lost in the back". All four sides of storage can be rotated so that the item you want is always near the front. They require a little more floor space than other types of corner shelves, but the amount of storage they provide is phenomenal.

Rotating shoe shelves
The 360 Organizer® Shoe Spinner* is all shelves.
Rotating closet with hanging and shelvesThe 360 Organizer® Double Hang mixes two sides of shelves with hanging.>
Rotating closet with drawers, handing and shelves
The 360 Organizer® Valet* is all shelves.
360 Organizer rotating pantry shelves
The 360 Organizer® Pantries* are designed for corner or wall use.

* The Shoe Spinner and the Valet are available in freestanding models or built into an open cabinet as shown. Cabinet models can have doors added to enclose the storage. All models of 360 Organizer® are customizable to a certain extent by adding mirrors and other closet accessories. Each unit is tested to hold up to 9000-pounds.

5. Pull-Out Shelves:

Pull-out shelves can be made of wood, laminate or MDF. Use them on your deeper shelving systems to allow access to items stored at the back of the shelf. They are really good for maximizing shoe storage in a wardrobe closet as well as organizing other small items. There are different types of pull-out shelves designed for specific applications. The major types include standard pull-out shelves, sweater shelves, pantry pull-outs, and slide-out shelf/tables.

  • In addition to shoe shelves, the standard pull-out shelf can be used as a printer shelf. The ability to slide the shelf forward makes it easier to change paper and ink cartridges. Many other uses are also possible.
  • Sweater shelves are designed to hold folded clothing, towels, or linens. The low sides help to keep the stacks straight and prevent items from shifting when the shelf is slid back and forth.
  • Pantry pull-out shelves are a cross between a shelf and a drawer. The low sides function like a shallow drawer box with no front. No worries about items falling behind the wall unit when this type of shelf is used. They are good for organizing small pantry items like spice jars. Oversize cans and bottles can even be stored on their sides with no concern that they will roll off the shelf.
  • The pull-out shelf also makes a good table. Hide it away when you don't need it but pull it forward when an extra work surface is needed. They work especially when integrated into storage cabinets that surround a Murphy Bed. Other applications such as media centers, home offices, etc. are also possible.
Pull-out shoe shelves
Pull-out shelves used to organize shoes in a wardrobe closet system.
Pull-out sweater shelf
Pull-out shelf designed for sweaters.
Pull-out pantry shelves with sides
Pull-out pantry shelves have low sides to keep small items from falling off.
Pull-out bedside shelf
Pull-out shelves can be used as an occasional table.

6. Floating Shelves:

Plus Closets floating shelves are the latest development in our shelving product lineup. Use them for a contemporary minimalist look that keeps a space open and uncluttered. Our standard floating shelf is an easy-to-install laminate product that attaches to an MDF bracket mounted to a home's studs. It is recommended for use on painted drywall only. The shelf is hollow so that it can slip over the mounting bracket like a pocket, and it presents a 2-5/16" thick appearance. More than just cosmetic, this shelf is as substantial as it looks. Maximum weight load is 75-pounds per bracket. Shelves 48-inches and under require 2 brackets. Shelves over 48-inches require 4 brackets. This laminate floating shelf is easy to level and available in custom lengths. It comes in all our thermofoil colors. Depth is 10-inches.

The floating glass shelf has a maximum weight capacity of 13.2-pounds. This is a display shelf only. It requires special brackets to keep the glass shelf in place. The brackets are small but visible and chrome in color. Maximum floating glass shelf width is 36-inches.

floating shelf
Floating laminate shelf.
floating glass shelf
Floating glass shelf.

Plus Closets offers manufacturing for all sorts of built-in storage solutions. With over 30 years' experience designing and building custom shelving products for the home, we know a thing or two about shelves. We've done it all and can assist you in choosing the best custom shelving option for your customer.