11 Frequently Asked Questions about Custom Closets You Need to Know to Avoid 5 HUGE MISTAKES
How complicated can it be you ask? It’s only a closet.
As a guy who leads a custom closet design and installation company, I wish I could tell you how unbelievably smart I am. And I’d like to tell you it takes a genius to design a walk-in closet, but that’s not exactly correct. And here’s one example to show you I’m no genius. I’m the same guy who went to the wrong theater to see Dumb and Dumber. Yes – and I thought was so close to being invited to join Mensa with my IQ in the 98th percentile (OK…I lied).
However, I’m also someone who’s gets a birds-eye view of HUGE CLOSET MISTAKES which are constant sources of frustration to those ‘trying’ to find their clothes and shoes without pulling their hair out.
You may be asking, “What are these big-old mistakes?” Well, even though I’m not the reincarnation of Johnnie Carson here’s my top 5 list of closet problems:
- Huge closet mistake #1 – A bad design – If you have ‘Bermuda triangle corners’ with clothes bunched against clothes, dead space at the top or bottom, or feel your closet is a ‘corn maze’ you need to plow through YOU’RE LIVING WITH BAD DESIGN.
- Huge closet mistake #2 – Your closet isn’t flexible – OK – I’m not talking about ‘yoga flexible here.’ I’m talking about the ability for your closet to adjust to style changes. Are you wearing casual clothes and boots but your closet is ‘designed’ (Yes – I’m using the term loosely here) for long dresses and has no place (other than a pile on the floor) for your boots and shoes? Why can’t your closet ‘flex or adjust’ as your clothing and shoe choices change?
- Huge closet mistake #3 – You spent more than you expected on your last closet, and it closet STILL DOESN’T WORK WELL! – Your builder brought in his trim carpenter to build your closet. He said the carpenter would ‘take care of everything.’ And while the space looks nice, its function is only slightly better than your previous closet (and that’s AFTER you spent a ton of money). Here’s one ‘trim carpenter special’ (sarcasm intended). Notice the ‘dead space’ above the top shelf and how NOTHING is adjustable.
- Huge closet mistake #4 – Your cheap builders-grade shelving and rod fell off the wall and you’re picking up the pieces– Sure, the builder saved money when he slapped in the cheapest wire shelving he could when your home was built 10, 15 or 30 years ago. Now you’re (literally) picking up your pieces of clothing off the floor as your wire shelving came loose from the wall. It’s so obvious, ‘cheap only lasts so long.’
- Huge closet mistake #5 – You thought you knew what you were buying, until the day the closet was installed. Then it was too late! How well can you visualize the following picture being your finished closet? If you say you’ve got be kidding, I’m with you. This is (in closet industry terms) a hand-drawn 2-dimensional drawing of a ‘custom closet’ some companies ‘create’ for you to buy a custom closet. And below that you’ll see a 3D version of the same closet. Which one helps you see what you’re getting better?
The question becomes how do you prevent these 5 big mistakes (and many others also)? How do you buy a custom closet which not only works for you, but fits your budget and stands the test of time?
In plain English…
You need to be knowledgeable about custom closets BEFORE you spend your money.
And here’s how you can do it. Read these 11 frequently asked questions (and the 12th secret bonus FAQ you’ll find at the end) so you can push the B.S. button on any closet designer or salesperson who is leading you down the wrong path.
Knowledge is power. My goal in this article is to deepen what you know so you get the best (and sharpest) closet for your money. I want you to avoid dumb mistakes you’re forced to live with for years. Let’s check out the 11 Frequently Asked Questions (and stick around for bonus FAQ #12 if you’re really serious about this project).
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #1 – How can I save money on a custom closet so I can get my tight-wad spouse to let me buy a closet organizer system?
If you’re not living off your Bill Gates Trust Fund, I get it. Neither am I. So, when it comes to custom closets here’s the challenge. You need a closet which works at a price you can afford. Here’s an idea to make this project friendlier on your budget.
Use a wall hung closet. This is a closet which is mounted to the wall. It’s not as fancy as a floor-based unit, but it works and saves money. (note for more information read How to Choose Between a Wall Hung and Floor Mounted Closet Organizer.)
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #2 – How do I kill dead corners?
Master closets where your clothes smash up against clothes in the corner are the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of storage! It’s where clothes come to NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN!
There’s 2 simple ways to kill your ‘dead corners.’
- Use corner shelves.
- Put hanging on one wall and shelving on the wall 90 degrees in the opposite direction.
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #3 – Why shouldn’t I buy an ‘off-the-shelf-closet organizer’ from a big-box store, DIY the job and save some cash?
If you want to buy a standard closet from a big box store its certainly an option, however, it has its limitations.
First, these systems only come in standard sizes. Standard closets force you to do one of two things:
- (A) Stop your storage short and not go ‘wall to wall’ since the last section likely won’t be an exact fit to the amount of space you have at the end of the wall or
- (B) You’ll need to do A LOT of cutting (i.e. cutting the last section to size to fit the space you have left).
Second, these systems have limited depth. Most are designed with 12” deep shelves and up to 16” deep drawers which hardly fit ANYTHING.
Third, you get all the ‘fun’ (sarcasm intended) of installing with ZERO installation guarantee.
On the other hand, most custom closet companies offer a lifetime guarantee. In addition, the labor charge is only 10 to 15% of the entire cost of the project. Why put yourself through this DIY hassle while ‘pretending’ you’re a custom closet designer (and creating a sub-standard design) just to save (theoretically) a few bucks?
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #4 – What’s the best way to get more clothes in the same space?
Most of us are trying to fit 10 lbs. of you s*** (as my Dad used to say) into a 5 lb. bag in our closets. The place is a MESS! And even after ‘Marie-Kondo’ing’ (AKA decluttering) you still have too much stuff. What can you do? Here’s 3 quick ideas:
- Idea #1 – Double hanging. It’s smart and not very expensive.
- Idea #2 – Use walls behind doors. Smart accessories like hook boards or over the door shoe organizers gain space where none existed before.
- Idea #3 – Add drawers. You’ll fit 2 to 2.5x more stuff in a drawer than hanging and your closet will look more organized and stylish.
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #5 – How can I see what my finished closet will look like BEFORE buying it?
The best way to make this happen is to insist on seeing a 3D closet design. Don’t accept a 2D penciled drawing. Don’t buy what you can’t see or understand.
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #6 – I love my shoe collection. How do I get more pairs in my closet and actually be able to find them?
The average woman owns 31 pairs of shoes. Now mind you that’s only the average woman, not the exceptional woman (or guy – don’t want to be sexist here) who has waaaaaay more than that! You need a plan to effectively store more shoes and boots.
First, here’s what YOU DON’T DO. Don’t use slanted shoe shelves (like you’ll see below). Sure, they look cool. However, they make storing a lot of shoes impossible – unless you have a HUGE walk in closet or a specialized shoe closet (a la Kim Kardashian).
To get more shoes in less space use flat adjustable shoe shelving. Insist on a system with holes on the side so you can move shelves up and down and adjusts to the different height shoes you wear. If you want more shoe storage tips read 13 Wild, Wacky and Workable Shoe Storage Tips You Need to Know.
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #7 – What’s the cost of a custom closet?
Custom closets range from $2,000 to $40,000. Yes – that’s a crazy-wide range but here’s a few factors which impact pricing:
- The height and width of the closet
- What pattern is used for a laminate system (note – white will be cheapest)
- If it’s a wall hung or floor-based unit
- If it’s made of wood or laminate
- The number of drawers vs. hanging vs. shelving (note hanging is least expensive, followed by shelving sections with drawers costing the most).
However, the more common price range is between $2,000 to $8,000. (Note – I will be writing an in-depth article on pricing of custom closets soon and will add a link here when it’s done).
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #8 – I’d like to paint the walls and may change my flooring also. Is it better to put the closet in first, or paint and install flooring before installing the closet?
Since custom closets are attached to the wall, it’s simpler to paint the room BEFORE you install the closet.
Regarding the floor, if you’re using a wall hung system you can do the floor either before or after the closet is installed. If you’re using a floor-based system, it’s best to put in your finished floor so the closet system can rest on it.
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #9 – How long does a custom closet installation take?
Since most laminate custom closets are manufactured in a plant using CNC equipment and pre-made into sections (and the drawer boxes are pre-assembled at the shop), they’re generally installed in one day.
However, if you use a trim carpenter to build a wood closet expect it to take multiple days since the wood will be site cut and installed.
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #10 – What’s better, a wood or laminate closet?
With this question, I’m going to admit I’m biased because my company supplies and installs laminate systems only. Here’s why I like laminate over wood:
- The laminate boards are straight
- They’re made with adjustable shelving holes
- They’re lower priced than wood
- They require ZERO maintenance or painting
- With specialized laminate manufacturing techniques, you’ll see (and feel) laminate you’d swear (even if you don’t swear) are wood.
With this being said – for the ultra-high-end luxury market (where YOU’RE NOT doing the maintenance) some people love the feel and smell of real wood. They love the unique graining of each piece.
To gain more insight about the debate of wood vs. laminate read 7 Essential Factors to Compare Wood and Laminate Closet Systems.
Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #11 – What’s the warranty with a custom installed closet system?
Warranties can range from ‘nothing’ to ‘forever!’ Generally, if you buy an expensive wood-built system installed through a trim carpenter or your builder there usually is no warranty (or a standard 1-year builder warranty for a new home).
On the other hand, many custom closet companies offer a lifetime warranty not only on parts, but also on labor. This is a big reason saving 10 to 15% to DIY your own job makes little sense IMHO. For example, my Columbus custom closet company covers material and labor for the life of your home.
Bonus Frequently Asked Custom Closet Question #12 you’ll ask your neighbor, friends or family but NOT a custom closet company. Can I trust the company I’m looking to buy this closet from?
You need to trust your designer, supplier, and installer of custom closets. And like all industries, the companies you talk to will not be equally concerned about your long-term needs. Some will be more concerned about their short-term profits than your needs.
Since this is true some have ‘dirty little selling secrets’ they REALLY don’t want you to know. They’re ‘tactics and techniques’ – while not illegal, don’t have your best interests in mind. They’re business approaches used to get jobs closed. Do these ‘selling techniques take advantage of people? IHMO – yes. Here’s 3 (waaaaaay to frequently used) closet selling ‘tricks’ you need to be weary of:
- Closet Selling Trick #1 – Selling shallower shelving – The industry standard shelves are 14” deep (so your shoes and sweaters don’t hang over the edge and look messy). Some companies sell 12” shelves (which is 14% less material than the 14” product) so they can ‘give you a deal.’ They assume you won’t know the difference.
- Closet Selling Trick #2 – 40% off pricing – This is the classic United States pricing game. Give a big discount and tell you the ‘offer is off the table’ if you DON’T SIGN TONIGHT. High-pressure sales techniques and games should have gone out with the aluminum siding Tin Men sales guys featured in the following scene from the 1987 movie with Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito (watch it if you want a chuckle and see their ‘Life Magazine’ scam in action)!
- Closet Selling Trick #3 – The cheap drawer – Drawers aren’t created equal. Ask what the inside of the drawer box will be made of (is it plastic or wood?). Ask if the drawer slides have a slow close operation. Ask if the drawer box will use mitered corners or have a dovetail design. Simply said, “Any old drawer is not a good drawer.”
How can I (and my team) help next?
I’ll go back to the question I posed at the beginning of this article. How complicated can a closet be? And while I’ll admit a custom closet isn’t always complicated, I’d contend (especially as a guy who continues to learn more ‘closet’ everyday) there’s a lot to learn. And the more you learn, the better choice you’ll make to fit your needs and your budget.
If you’re in Columbus or Cleveland Ohio and want to learn more ‘custom closet’ and/or get a Free 3D Closet Design, me and my team would love to help. If you’re not in Cleveland or Columbus Ohio, I’d still love to help. I’ve got a lot of buddies in the closet business (and no, I can’t introduce you to Jay Pritchett from Modern Family yet!) and they would love to help with your job. Ask me for a referral. I may know a smart and caring closet designer in your town.
Here’s how to reach us
For professional design assistance and a Free 3D walk in closet design (or wardrobe closet in your bedroom) in the Columbus or Cleveland Ohio area call Innovate Home Org in Columbus at 614-545-6888 or in Cleveland at 216-658-1290.
If you’re into LinkedIn connect with me @MikeFotiLinkedIn. Thanks for reading!
Tags: Columbus custom closets, custom closet design, FAQ custom closets, FAQ custom closets Columbus, frequently asked questions closets, frequently asked questions custom closets, questions about custom closets
Sure wish you were in Georgia. I really do appreciate the tips. Our home was build in the 70’s so none of the closets are very large. The master is 37.5″ x 85″ and yes I am trying to put too much stuff in it.
Julia – I’m glad the tips were helpful to you. I do have a friend who leads a closet business in Georgia. Where are you located? I could see if her business could help you – Mike