Walk-in pantry: Wood shelves or wire shelves?

try_hardDecember 31, 2007

Good morning. I am building a house and will have a walk-in pantry off my kitchen. I think it's about 6 feet by 5 feet and will include some built-in wood shelves. I've seen these shelves in the model home and they are very sturdy and plentiful. However, I think a wire shelving system (such as an Elfa system) would be more flexible since it's completely adjustable and configurable. My question is - has anyone out there dealt with this same decision and what did you choose? How did it work out for you?

If you aren't familiar with wire shelving, see this link:





Here is a link that might be useful: Container Store

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have the adjustable type in our current house although not alpha. It is adjustable but we've rarely made adjustments in 12 years. I also find it kind of flimsy or something. It's not wobbly or weak but I just always feel like it's less substantial than if we had used wood.

We're using wood this time. We're just putting shelves up and a half wall countertop. Nothing fancy or cabinet-like. Just utilitarian. I'm not sure if I'll like it better or not but I hope to.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 12:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This may be a personal preference thing, but I *hate* wire shelves.

Or maybe everybody hates them. Lets see if somebody here likes them.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 12:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

we have older shelving of the adjustable type in our closets (from the previous owner). somehow it got grimy (they were smokers) and it is VERY hard to clean. our pantry is wood shelves, some about 8 inches deep and others only 4 inches deep. we measured food jars before we put it up and won't be adjusting. a plus for the wood shelving is that it can hold very small or skinny items without them falling through (box of food coloring, etc)

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 12:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't like wire shelves, too much stuff falls over. I think wood shelves are much more versatile.

I had wood shelves put in my new pantry. They are adjustable, but I haven't need to adjust them. With wood shelves, I can add little cabinet shelves, without having them fall through the wires. I can also hang under-shelf baskets on wood shelves.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 12:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love Elfa. Plus, Container Store puts it on sale this time of year!!!!

I had it in my old pantry and I intend to use it in this one too. You will probably not adjust it that often, but it is nice to have the option. All my closets in my new to me house have them now, as well as the linen closet. I am short, and I find it really helps me to be able to see through the shelving. I have never had a strength problem--they hold tons of cans, jars, recycling bins, etc.

As for clean-up--I have cleaned inches of dust off wood shelves. That just doesn't happen with the Elfa. My guess is that it might be more difficult with oil heat, which does tend to leave a coating that dust sticks to. It certainly would be easier to take Elfa shelves down and use some Dawn and hot water to clean them than it would be to clean oily/dusty wooden shelves.

BTW, I am in pantry envy! That's a huge space!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 1:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have wire shelves which work okay but I would much rather have wood shelves. We chose the closet maid shelving system because it is quick and easy to create and it is very flexible - more so than having just plain wood shelving. That said, things do fall between the spacing and the shelving is L-shaped rather than I-shaped so you have to watch the vertical spacing a bit.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 1:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Point to consider: Wire shelves gather no dust.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 1:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like the look of wire shelves but prefer wood shelves. Easier to clean nothing falls through including spills.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 1:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had wire in my last house and they drove me crazy. Things were constantly falling over. I ended up getting containers for EVERYTHING, which did help.

In my new house, I have wood. We are yet to move in, but I already *know* they will be much better.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 1:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In a linen closet where you want ventilation, wire shelves are preferable, (also if they are deeper- ours our 20" deep- you can see what's in there better). In a pantry, where you may have small items, wood is easier cuz you don't have to do a balancing act, everything can go where there is space. Plus, weight CAN be an issue. For resale, I would think MOST people would prefer wood over wire, so that may be a consideration too.

I bet if you did a poll with pantry owners, 0-5% ever adjust their shelves once set. If you're building the wood shelves, they will basically be 'adjustable', cuz you'll be putting them where you want. AND, you could build wood adjustable anyways, if that was your biggest reason for going wire.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 1:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm in the 'wire for looks, wood for practicality' school. Since I don't spend a lot of time looking at my pantry, I'll be using wood...

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 3:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For anyone reading this way in advance...

We re-used our old Corian countertops, cutting them down to make countertops and shelves for our walk-in pantry. They are so easy to clean and have a nice look to them.

Just something to consider to avoid putting all that plastic into a landfill.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 3:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

short answer: wood, painted in a semi gloss for easy wipe downs. wire? why?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 4:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wood stained. Won't scratch, like paint. ;)

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 4:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Definitely wood! I have wire shelves in our kitchen pantry and I hate them...they get dirty and are difficult to clean. If something spills it keeps going until it's covered everything below it. The worst was when the molasses somehow had a lose cap and, since it's hard to balance things on wire shelves, the inevitable happened...it fell over and EVERYTHING was sticky below it...all the way to the floor!

When we put in an overflow pantry in the basement we put in wood shelves and I LOVE them! Very easy to keep clean, no more tying to balance things between two or more wires, etc.

In our remodel, we're replacing the wire with wood...

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 5:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Definitely in the minority-love my Elfa shelves. Had nice wood shelving in a pantry for 30 yrs and intended to do the same in our new house. However, that was a detail left undone and I was in a hurry so went with the wire system. Love them-ended up doing every closet in the house. They are incredibly sturdy. I lined my wood shelves after awhile to ease with spills etc. I hated relining them and find it much easier to wipe spills that go through. I have not had balancing problems as I seldom store anything really small in there. I have readjusted various shelves as I got used to the new house and realized that things could be improved if changed. Very happy with the arrangement I originally considered second choice.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 5:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have wire shelves now and think we'll be doing wood in the new house pantry. I think it looks cleaner. I also hate how my wire shelves tend to bow especially if they are holding heavy cans.

What's the standard depth of a wood shelf?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 5:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My GC wants to do adjustable Melmine..What do you think?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 6:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think adjustable melamine would be great- is it over particle board, MDF or plywood? BTW, the particle board shelves we replaced in our old kitchen cupboards were 3/8 or 1/2" thick and NEVER bowed, took up less space than my present 3/4" plywood, and aside from being ugly, were very functional. IF I'd had those shelves covered in melamine, it would have been a huge improvement over the painted with plastic edged ones I lived with for 11 years!

Now, that I think about it, we had made twenty linear feet of built in floor to ceiling storage cupboards in our previous home, using melamine covered MDF which I ironed on edging- God, how could I have forgotten that?! It was great- nice and bright and a breeze to clean! DH made all those shelves adjustable... boy what I wouldn't give to have those storage cupboards back again!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 8:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We used 3/4" birch laminated plywood (came sanded on both sides) for ours and the front edges are trimmed out with a 1x stripped down to size. I had the framer build the table to my dimensions and measured food boxes at home to tell him how far apart I wanted the shelves. They are very sturdy. fyi, we used the same thing in all bedroom walk-in closets.

He had to work around an HVAC return (lower wall, right side of pantry). That wall is deeper than it looks - the shelves above the return are two cereal boxes deep and the shelves to the right (closest to the door) are almost as deep.

We've been in our new home over two years and I wouldn't change a thing. I don't find fixed shelves a problem like some (in previous threads), maybe since we planned ahead.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Pantry

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 8:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like the wire w/ Plexiglas on them ... things don't fall through and I can see up underneath and don't miss anything.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 11:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have had both and I very much prefer the wood shelves. I currently have wire and I HATE them. Yes things always fall down and I think they look cheap.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 12:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a mini pantry behind the door in my utility room that is one can deep so there's no searching. I love it.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 6:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have had both and much prefer wood. Yes, things tip over so much with wire shelving. Also, things with narrow bottoms are almost impossible to keep upright unless you put something solid underneath. Also, things have a tendency to try to slip through the cracks with wire.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wood, hate wire.

Our Kraftmaid pantry with rollouts is hi-density particleboard rated for 75 lbs per shelf, covered in extremely high quality melamine (yes, there are different grades of melamine too!). Completely adjustable for various heights, which was extremely useful in the beginning as I adjusted a couple of the shelves several times before I got it "just right!"

Love 'em - everything comes clean with a spritz of Windex and a regular sponge, no need to even use the scrubbie. And I can put dishes away wet in my cabs, with no problems on the melamine.

Did I mention I love these cabs? Wish they still made them this good, but KM doesn't. Bummer!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 12:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

sweeby, that's brilliant. I'm going to try to wait until I get lucky at the local salvage and see if I can make corian shelves.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 2:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My GC would have put wood shelves in my pantry but they wouldn't have been adjustable. That wasn't going to work so I have the Elfa system from Container store. The wires are close together, nothing seems to fall over for me. They do also sell "shelf liners" which are like little plastic mats that go over the wires but I haven't needed these.
I've been happy with the Elfa shelving. Works great for me and adjusts easily. I think I would have preferred the look of wood shelves, but the wire shelving is very functional.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 4:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"My GC would have put wood shelves in my pantry but they wouldn't have been adjustable. "

Wood shelves can easily be made adjustable using any number of 'track' systems and shelf clips.

Plywood make a very poor shelf.
It is not as stiff as the same thickness of even pine.

Knapp-Voight shelf systems are easy to install and the shelf brackets come in multiple depths.
The brackets can interfere with tall items on the shelf below though.

Smaller clip systems are available but can be overloaded.

Here is a link that might be useful: shelf hardware

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 5:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have wire in our pantry. While I'd love to switch to wood, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the wire system, besides the whole small bottles falling over. I think we will be getting some plexiglass here shortly. The wooden shelving that I like also has slats, and I'd imagine would have a few problems with things falling over. I just think the wood is more attractive.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 6:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ditto. I hate the wire ones in this rental home & can't wait to go back to wood.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 6:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Brickeye, regular plywood would not make a good shelf. It will warp over time if not right off the bat. But laminated 3/4" plywood is laminate on both sides and much thicker - much stronger and will not warp. Ever.

In our last home, we had solid 1" wooden boards for our closet shelves. Some of them were even warped a bit.

Pine is a soft wood, so I don't think it would be good to use for shelves.

fwiw, I've had wire shelves before also. Couldn't pay me enough money to have them again.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 6:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Brickeye, regular plywood would not make a good shelf. It will warp over time if not right off the bat. But laminated 3/4" plywood is laminate on both sides and much thicker - much stronger and will not warp. Ever."

Not true or correct.
Half the plies in a sheet of plywood are going to be parallel to the depth of the shelf and provide very little strength.

Do a search for 'sagulator' and you can find a tool that estimates shelf sag as a function of span and load.

Adding a thin layer of laminate to the plywood stack adds no approachable strength.

Even Baltic birch plywood makes weak shelves unless additional support is added at the front and back of the shelf over the span.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 7:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have both! And I have to say I love having both. I had a walk in pantry in a previous home with all wire shelving, and I had a closet type pantry with all wood shelving.
Now I have both. I have a wall about 6' wide with wire closet maid type shelving from floor to ceiling. And another wall about 5' with three rows of wooden shelving about 14" deep for casseroles and heavy dishes. And on the floor I put a clear plastic runner under the wooden shelves for large kettles and a space for the dog dishes.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 7:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Our builder put in only solid stained wood shelving in our house 20 years ago. The pantry shelving is 15" deep by 32" wide with 13" of space/height. A big box of Cheerios can fit on a shelf. It is highly functional, looks good, and there is no dusting issue to speak of. The wood shelves are removable if you want to paint the walls since they rest on wood strips(3/4"x 1 1/2") screwed into the studs on each side. I would never wish for any other type of shelving.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 7:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I never said you could use just the wood for shelves and not have any type of additional support. We finished off the front (as stated in my first post) with a 2" strip. (I stated 1" above, but DH corrected me.) Also used a 2" strip at the bottom/back of shelves, which can be seen in my photo link provided. The trim carpenter also added metal L brackets, just in case I went crazy, on the shallow shelves. ;)

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 7:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hey, I had a jar of molasses tip over on my Elfa shelving, too. What a pain to clean up! Of course it was on the top shelf of that unit.

I would go with wood and get some hanging wire accessories or on-shelf wire accessories that you can buy at the Container Store or the bed/bath stores.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for all the opinions and suggestions! I gave serious thought to how I would use my pantry and the kinds of things I would store there and I think that wood shelves will be best. I plan to sketch out the size/height/depth of shelving I need and give that to the trim carpenter as a guide.

I don't like the idea of spending hundreds of dollars for wire shelving right now - we will have enough expenses with the new house as it is!


    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 9:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

DH made us a pantry filled with wood shelves and used a track system which makes them completely adjustable. He also finished the fronts of each shelf and it's a beautiful space. In fact most people who come over go nuts over the pantry above anything else!

We have Elfa in our master bedroom closet, and it's terrific. But I wanted wood in the pantry. We've adjusted the shelves twice, since filling the pantry and have not had to adjust since. I think we've got the configuration we'll need for some time. I'm glad they're adjustable. You want to be able to maximize every inch of space to the extent possible.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 9:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

pirula--------how about a pic???

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 1:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Gosh, I haven't taken any pics of the pantry! Let me do that now and will try to post them later tonight or tomorrow. How do I insert vice just link it?


    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 9:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh cool!!! I'm currently throwing ideas around about shelving for my walk-in pantry and would like some pics for inspiration. There's 10 different ways to do something like this and it gets highly confusing as to how to execute!!!!!!

I've never posted a pic here so maybe some other brainy person here can assist you.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 10:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Check out SharB's pantry...inspirational!

SharB's Pantry

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 1:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

To post pictures:

1. Open an account on a free picture hosting site such as Photobucket, Webshots, Flickr, etc.

2. Make your album "public" so others can see your pictures
.....In Photobucket: Click on "Account Options" (top right corner)
..........Next, click "Edit Album Settings"
..........Then, where it says "My album is", be sure it says "Public" (if not, change it to "Public")

3. Using camera software that came with your camera or other software like Microsoft Picture Manager, resize the picture so it's less than 600 pixels in both directions. It's best to resize based on a percentage (like 20%) so the picture dimensions remain consistent (not stretched out vertically or horizontally!)

4. Upload the picture to your account (see #1)

5. If you use Photobucket, when you see your picture on the site, copy the link from the box labeled "HTML Code" (I don't know where the link is in Webshots, Flicker, etc.--I use Photobucket)
.....[BTW...You can also resize your pic on the Photobucket site]

6. Simply paste the link from the "HTML Code" in your message...you're done! When you preview your message you will see the picture.

Is this understandable??? [Please let me know if it's not so I can re-work the instructions!]

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 4:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have wood shelves in my current home. It's been great because we found a clear contact paper with texture embossed in it for easy wipe up. The new house we are moving into has wood shelving as well. I want to paint the wood white and I am trying to find that contact paper again to no avail. I am googling like crazy trying to find it again.

How does everyone have hardly any food in their pantrys? I must be a food hoarder cause I always have a packed pantry. LOL

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 4:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Annabellesangels, here's one with lots of food...and this is our "overflow" pantry!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 7:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We just finished our pantry, and I just made the same decisions you are. I hate wire, love the wood. We had grand ideas for beautiful shelving, but alas the money began to run short, so we compromised. Here is what we ended up with- it's 13'x4' with 12" shelves on one side and 8" shelves on the other.

It's working well for us to have the shelves be shallow.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 9:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Pabiabi, that's a great looking pantry! The method you chose to have the shelves adjustable is very strong & efficient.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2008 at 1:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Great posts people. We have to make a decision about a 4 wide X 5 deep walk-in pantry; something we've never had.
Our GC says dead corners can be a problem?? Any ideas or opinions on that?

Thanks so much

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 8:17PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
The perfect pad for a kitchen runner!!
I use a 12' long runner in my kitchen. It is an old...
Where do you keep your Aprons?
While DD is cleaning out all our kitchen cabinets,...
Help with kitchen mat-awkward area. Custom?
What we would ideally like is a mat with a 45 degree...
how to deal with delays
our cabinets were supposedly on pace to be delivered...
lmgch (formerly on GW)
IKEA kitchen nearly done- so delayed
We've been extremely delayed!! The granite is going...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™