The Five Most Common Closet Mistakes

Posted by admin on April 14, 2018

Shoe shelves

It seems like at least once a week we look at a job in a brand new house that has fatally flawed closets. It's as if the builder is committed to making the home's closets as dysfunctional as possible. I know this is not true. Builders are proud of their work and want their clients to have the best home possible. So why the disconnect?

Here's what I think: While builders and homeowners are familiar with the fact that there are companies out there that install closet systems they don't fundamentally understand what a closet system is. Most closet companies use a 32mm system that employs vertical panels to support components like closet rods, shelves, drawers and accessories. These systems are efficient, functional, versatile, and flexible, however, there are some fundamental requirements for installation into the closet space. Like a back wall. Certain depth, height, and clearance requirements. The fact is that all homeowners are budget conscious and the more outside-the-box a closet company needs to go, the more it costs. There is a point where function begins to suffer as well. We always encourage builders and homeowners to begin their closet planning early in the project so that framers, electricians, finish carpenters and any one else involved in the project are on the same page.

It's the closet company that  takes the heat for problem closets when really a little information in advance could avoid most common pitfalls. Here's my list of the top five pitfalls to avoid to insure that the outcome of your closet meets your expectations:

  1. Back wall in a sloped ceiling closet: A closet system is made up of panels between 24" and 72" long that need to be attached to a wall. Many builders and homeowners mistakenly believe that they are losing storage space by sacrificing floor for wall space. Lets do some math. In a 5'x5' closet you get 25 square feet of cluttered storage space that you need to fight your way into. Build a 4' high knee-wall into that same space and you have 25 square feet of neat storage space within arms reach.
  2. Irregularly shaped closets: A big octagonal walk-in closet may be interesting, but odd angles in a reach-in closet are a complete waste of time, space, and money. Even if you custom fit a shelf or a rod into a 45 degree corner in a reach-in the clothing won't fit! Look at the money you waste: it takes the framer longer, it takes the dry-waller longer, the finish carpenter, painter---right down the line to the closet installer. You spend all that extra money to create a space hidden by a door that has no functional value! Have the framer build corners at 90 degrees---closet systems work best in square spaces.
  3. Tunnel Closets: These are reach-ins with returns at the sides of the doors that extend beyond an arm's reach. I've seen these extend to 4' deep. Think about the clothing on a hanger requiring 24" of depth. Apply simple math: if the closet is 24" deep, you can't fit yourself in to reach clothing, let alone see what you are reaching for.
  4. Closet depths: We've been asked to design reach-in coat closets that are built 18" deep. It's that math thing again. A winter coat on a 17" wide hanger gets squished into the closet sideways. The builder couldn't spare 6" in a 2,500 square foot house? The minimum depth of a reach-in closet is 24". In a walk-in, less than 6' wide makes it difficult to use both walls for components.
  5. Doors: There's nothing worse than the need to close yourself inside a small walk-in to access your clothing. Swing walk-in closet doors out if possible. Pocket doors are often a good choice. For reach-ins: a pair of out-swing doors is the best option if they fit into the room. Sliding doors only allow access to half the closet at a time and limit some accessory options. Bi-folds use up 10" to 12" at each side limiting your view and reach into the closet.

Visit the ClosetPlace blog for more tips on closet planning, design and closet systems. Gather all the information you need to do it right the first time or you may be consigned to closet hell for all eternity. Call or write if you have question. We always welcome your ideas, questions and closet stories.