There are several closet construction techniques to choose from when designing your DIY closet. Suspended, floor-based, or a combination of techniques can all be used. But how do you choose the best closet type for your situation?

Types of Closet Construction

So, you’ve decided to design and build your own custom closet. One of the first decisions you will have to make is the construction technique you intend to use. Make this decision before you start your design to save yourself a lot of headaches. Closet construction can be generalized into three closet types: suspended, floor-based, or a combination of the two. But which one to choose?

3 Basic Closet Types

  1. Suspended Closets

    Suspended closets are supported by a suspension rail that is firmly secured to the wall studs every 16 inches. All of the structural closet components then hang off of the rail. The weight of the system is carried by the home’s studs and is very strong. You may have or see old-fashioned closets that feature wood rods suspended to a wooden cleat that spans the entire width of the closet. This is another type of suspended closet. But the metal suspension rail with sections of various closet organizers is the modern way to build this type of closet.

    Many homeowners prefer this type of closet due to its ease of installation and price. Because components don’t go all the way down to the floor, it is the least expensive way to build. Choose this closet type if your walls are made of drywall/wallboard placed over wood or metal studs and you will be using the closet for clothing, linens, or light weight accessories. Most closets will work with suspended construction, making it the most popular way to build. However, do not use suspended construction for bookshelves, wine storage, pantries that are going to hold a lot of heavy cans and bottles, or garage cabinets used for heavy car parts. Even though this type of closet is strong, it is not strong enough for those items.

    Example of suspended closet construction
    Example of suspended closet construction. Notice how none of the closet sections touch the floor.
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  3. Floor-Based Closets

    As the name implies, floor-based closets are supported by the floor. In addition to the suspension rail, this closet type includes a cabinet base box that raises the system a few inches off the floor. (Like your lower kitchen cabinets).You will need to do a little extra work if you choose this closet type. Mouldings like base boards should be removed prior to installation so that the closet sits flush to the wall. Alternately, you can cut the vertical closet panels at the bottom to go around any baseboard that you do not wish to remove, but this doesn’t look as nice. You will also need to provide cutouts in the closet panels to avoid blocking any heating vents, attic access doors, light switches, or electrical outlet, etc.

    This type of closet construction is somewhat more expensive to build because you have more time and material involved. The advantage is that the finished closet will be able to hold more weight due to the additional support of the floor. You can also add crown and base moulding plus backer board to give it more of a furniture look. The crown will hide any areas where suspension rail is visible. And this type of closet construction works in any home no matter how it is built. It is the required construction method for older homes with plaster and lath walls. Although you will still need to attach this type of closet to the wall, the greatest weight will be supported by the floor. It is the combination of the two techniques, floor base plus suspension rail, that gives this type of closet its incredible strength.

    Example of floor-based closet construction
    Example of floor-based closet construction. Notice how all the closet sections sit on top of a cabinet base that raises them off the floor.
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  5. Mixed Closets

    A mixed closet system used a combination of both suspended and floor-based components. Use this closet type when you want to create the greatest functionality along with the most beautiful appearance and value. For example, hanging sections are often easily suspended while cabinet and drawer sections might be floor-based. This presents more of a high-end furniture look to those components.

    Mixed closet systems are the most popular type of custom closet. Many homeowners feel you get the best value for your money with this type of construction because you only use floor-based components where you absolutely need them. Use this construction method(s) when certain shelves or sections of the closet need to hold very heavy items. Build out those areas with floor-based construction. Save money by using the suspended method for all the hanging areas or sections where weight is not as much of a concern.

    Example of a mixed construction closet with suspended and floor-based sections
    Example of mixed closet construction showing some sections that are floor-based, while the hanging areas are all suspended from a rail.
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DIY Closet Construction Tips

An important tip to remember about the different types of closet built-ins is that they must all be attached to the wall in some way. Even your floor-based closets include a suspension rail to holds them against the wall. If they weren’t, they’d be considered freestanding pieces of furniture rather than built-ins.

Select the right technique for the job. This will be determined by budget, type of home construction, and what you plan to store in the closet. Remember, suspended is cheapest and easiest to install. Floor-based is most expensive but can hold the most weight. Mixed systems offer the best of both worlds through their combination of different techniques for different sections of closet. Still having trouble deciding what method is best for you? Watch our installation video of a mixed closet system before starting your DIY closet project. It will give you a good idea of what is involved in all three methods of closet construction.

Decide on what type of construction you need before laying out and designing the closet. Most design tools will require this information before you begin to layout the closet. Don’t try to change your mind after you’ve started to build by attempting to adapt a suspended closet section to become floor-based or vise-a-versa. It simply won’t work well. Make the decision up front. However, you are bound to be pleased with the outcome no matter which construction technique you end up with. Everyone loves an organized closet. Absolutely everyone — with no exceptions. Why not start on the path to organizational bliss by getting your own custom closet today? No regrets. We promise.

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