If you’re tired of trying to make your groceries fit in limited storage space, it might be time to consider upgrading a regular closet into a pantry. A pantry is a much nicer option than tucking away your non-perishables in random and inconvenient places. We’ve thoroughly researched the best approach to converting your closet into a pantry, start to finish. All you have to do is follow along.
To convert a closet into a pantry, make sure your closet is dark, dry, cool, and empty. Then follow these steps -
- Gather your tools and supplies.
- Uninstall any closet rods or shelving that you don’t want in your finished product.
- Spackle over holes. For painting the walls, choose a cheery color. Another great option is removable wallpaper.
- If your closet doesn’t have an overhead light, install one. We recommend battery-operated LED lights that are simple to stick on or screw in.
- Measure the length and depth of the closet and plan out where you want your shelves to be. Your shelves will need support, either in the form of ledges (boards that run along the sides of the closet) or brackets.
- Install your shelves to their supports, and get busy setting up your new pantry!
You could get a professional to do all this for you, and even add in fancy features. But, if you can get a great result by DIY-ing it, why not save the money and have a little fun along the way? Keep reading to know how to get the best results possible.
Qualities of a Good Pantry
Not every closet is meant to be a pantry. Pantries need to be cool in temperature, ideally under 70° F.
Your pantry shouldn’t be next to appliances that give off heat, and it will be better off on lower levels of your house. Be careful about areas that get lots of sun, too. Light can also deteriorate the quality of your food. Most closets are dark, so you’re probably in luck here. The only light your pantry should see is when you’re in there looking around for an ingredient.
Finally, your closet needs to be dry. Humidity can lead to mold growth.
If your closet doesn’t fit those requirements, don’t worry. There are still options for you, like a freestanding pantry, and we’ll touch on some of those towards the end of this post.
What Tools and Materials Do You Need To Build a Pantry in a Closet?
So, you’ve determined that your closet will make a good pantry. Before you get started, make sure you have the right supplies. Also, take an accounting of your budget, then decide what you want to splurge or conserve on.
- A drill
- Wood screws (and possibly wall anchors)
- A level
- A stud finder
- Measuring tape
- Supports: brackets or ledges, or both
- Plywood planks for the shelves – here’s a YouTube video that explains the different types and grades of plywood
- Stain and protective finishing for the plywood
- Overhead light fixture
- Spackle & spackling tools
- Paint roller & tray
- Removable wallpaper
- Painter’s tape
- Bins, baskets, and hooks for organization
How Much Does It Cost To Turn A Closet Into A Pantry?
If you decided to buy every single item in the lists above, you’d end up spending well over $700. The good news is most of us don’t need all these things! An average person might spend $400 on this project.
The tools you already own or can borrow will make a massive difference in your budget. Many people already own a power drill, a level, a stud finder, and measuring tape. Think about purchasing these essential tools if you don’t have them, since they really will come in handy beyond this project.
Investing in a circular saw, or even renting one, is unnecessary for this project. Your local hardware store, especially if it’s one of the larger chains, should be able to cut your wood to size for you.
The quality of your materials impacts pricing, too. If you choose higher-quality plywood or upgrade to cherry or oak, that will cost you more. You need to calculate the appropriate price range for your household. Remember that the primary purpose of a pantry is not its aesthetics, and it’s rare to need anything sturdier than plywood for holding foodstuffs.
3. Prepare and Paint the Walls
A pantry’s polished feeling is all about crisp and bright walls, so spend a fair amount of time on them. Any screw holes should be spackled. Here’s a YouTube video all about spackling.
To paint the inside of the pantry, you’ll first need a layer of primer on top of the dried and sanded spackle. When you’re ready to paint, use painter’s tape to avoid accidental splotches on floorboards, light switches, or doorframes.
If you’re nervous about painting, or you’d like an easier option, removable wallpaper is the way to go. It comes in all kinds of striking patterns, and it won’t make a mess.
Again, the pantry needs to be dark in general. However, when looking for that tiny jar of capers or the spices that rarely get used, an overhead light is perfect. The LED light linked here is motion-sensor operated, has rechargeable batteries, and sticks to the ceiling with strong adhesive. Other options would require an electrician or cords running to the nearest outlet.
5. Determine Your Shelving Needs
Measure the inside of the closet from left to right and front to back. Write these down. When you go to get the cuts of plywood, take a few inches off of that depth measurement. Shelves that don’t come to the front of the closet leave room for hooks on the walls, and make your supplies easier to see and grab.
(If you do end up with hard-to-reach spaces, you’ll want to check out our best tips for organizing a pantry with deep shelves.)
Painter’s tape is useful at this step to visualize the positioning of the shelves. The spacing between shelves should vary according to your needs.
When you purchase the planks, you also need to get wooden ledges or brackets to hold them up. 1x3-inch blocks of plywood or pine will do the trick for your ledges. They’ll eventually look like this:
If you purchase brackets, read the packaging to see how much weight they can hold. Brackets can also be merely ornamental, as additional support to the ledges.
Depending on the planks you purchased for your shelves, and your personal preference, you may want to stain them or give them a protective finish. Here’s a YouTube video about staining wood for beginners.
6. Install Your Shelving
Here’s the part you’re either anticipating or dreading: installing your shelves. Don’t worry; it’s not as hard as it seems.
How Do You Build Pantry Shelves in a Closet?
- Use your stud finder and a pencil to mark the location of studs along the walls. They’ll be the sturdiest places to attach supports. If there aren’t very many studs, wall anchors in the drywall will work.
- Next, use the level to draw where the shelves will go. You’re ready to start screwing in the supports.
- The planks can rest on their supports or get nailed into the ledges. Leaving the shelves loose allows you to remove them for cleaning while nailing them in avoids any chance of them sliding around.
How Do I Organize My Small Pantry Closet?
A brand new, empty pantry! There is tons of advice on organizing your food, but it’s really up to personal preference. The essential things are: put newer food in the back of the pantry, put like foods together, and seal everything tightly. Labels can also be helpful.
Click here to read our post on all the benefits of lining your pantry shelves.
Everything else is your choice. Under-shelf trays, shelf risers, coat hooks, lazy susans – anything you can think of!
How To Build A Wooden Pantry
This post is all well and good for someone with an appropriate closet. But if you don’t have a closet near the kitchen, or all of your closets are full, you can have the next best thing.
You can try your hand at a freestanding cabinet-type of pantry, like this:
To build something like this, follow the steps below.
- You’ll need to measure and cut plywood for the back, sides, and doors, as well as the shelves.
- First, nail together the top board to the sides, and use wood glue to secure. Once that dries, you can add the bottom board. At this point, you’ll have a hollow square -- no back, no front.
- Secure your shelves in with nails and glue as well. The back edges of the shelves should be flush with the sideboards, but shouldn’t come to the front.
- Fasten the backboard with nails and glue. You should nail in at all the joints; nailing in the back to the shelves will also provide extra support.
- The doors are a bit tricky, and you might want a hand to keep them straight (use your level!) while you attach them to hinges. You can use a magnetic closure to keep them tidy and secure when shut.
This YouTube video goes into a lot more detail, including exact sizing.
For the less handy, look in thrift stores for a bookcase, and add cabinet doors.
This guide has given you all the information you need to transform your old coat closet into a pantry fit for a star chef. Now, make use of that semolina flour you forgot you had!