Elfa vs. ClosetMaid track shelving

As a Taurus-identified person, I am very particular about my surroundings, to the point where it’s hard to tell whether my home is a coping strategy for ADHD or just the manifestation of my tendencies towards hedonism and sloth, which can be more reliably indulged in comfortable spaces that are easy to clean. Over the past 5 years I’ve dropped some serious money on Elfa shelves, since I’ve found that they are actually pretty renter-friendly. The installation can seem intimidating, but the modular aspects more than make up for the initial outlay of time spent installing the track (which you can reliably get installed for <$100 with posts to neighborhood listservs or Craigslist, if, like me, you are short and tend to make crooked holes if you are holding the drill above your head). The expanding wall anchors work like a charm in all walls, and I'm pretty sure I've mounted them into some kind of plaster - my last apartment was definitely pre-war and NOT drywall although I hadn't been bitten by the Elfa bug when I lived in a Craftsman with horsehair plaster walls, so I can't comment on that. You can skip a few holes and still get the tracks up pretty securely, and any screw will work if you hit a stud along the way. Here's the Elfa setup in my bedroom (TV in the bedroom is bad feng shui but IDGAF, laziness rules all): image

I have gotten my security deposit back after removing the shelves. If you can’t get the anchors out of the wall, you can generally spackle over them and/or they are high enough above eye-level that property management companies maybe don’t care, although if I had a tenant moving into my current room I’d definitely offer to just leave the rail for them.

So, I have wanted to do my laundry room for some time, and had read that ClosetMaid and Elfa are compatible, component-wise. (I need to spec out, still, how much this would have cost with Elfa). This is probably true and ClosetMaid has some neat stuff (like hanging hampers and drawers) that Elfa doesn’t totally have, BUT, oh man, a few painful lessons:

– the Elfa tracks are CLEARLY superior – NOT worth the few dollars as the top track warped a bit with installation meaning that the vertical track on the right POPPED OUT OF THE BRACKETS.

– we resolved this by purchasing screws and anchors at the hardware store and securing the vertical tracks – this was a pain both because Home Depot could have easily sold mounting kits to this end at the point-of-service AND because it was obnoxious to mark the walls through the tracks themselves – pencil did not fit since the holes were small! Ugh!

– the instructions for ClosetMaid are SPOTTY AT BEST

– did I mention we had to drill holes in the wall in addition to the top track – this rather defeats the renter-friendly points I’ve identified with Elfa, above. HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS

– also, the 6-foot shelves, while cheap, are a MAJOR PAIN to install, you have to clip the brackets on them first since it’s tricky to get them onto the brackets after the brackets are on, meaning that any alteration to the configuration is by necessity a 2-person job so like I guess it’s nice to have the option but if I’d known I were going to drill this many holes shit I would have just thrown up some plywood with brackets, fewer holes and less of a pain

– REPEAT: Elfa’s tracks are better designed so the vertical posts DON’T POP OUT OF THE RAIL, I have done three or four installations and NEVER had to drill the vertical tracks in although I might consider it if I were using it to store vinyl or other very heavy objects

I think the best course here would have been to run an Elfa track and then use the ClosetMaid mesh shelves since they are indisputably cheaper and I wouldn’t have resented the shoddy design as much if I hadn’t reached my max for daily irritation installing this janky two-bit industrial design abortion

My laundry room looks tight though


(Thanks to Kevin C for being my rent-a-boyfriend for the afternoon. Also if anyone wants to help me with SEO or analytics I’d appreciate it, I feel like this is the review of Elfa versus ClosetMaid that I was hoping for before I bought this junk, so I want to make sure people can find it, you’re welcome Internet, please do leave a comment if you’re here visiting since I don’t know how to tell how much traffic this post is getting)


  1. Tiffany

    Hi, thanks for your images. I have a question about your bookshelves. Did you really only attach the top track and not at all down the standards? what width is your shelving? I’m wanting to do exactly this: create 4 or 5 bookshelves on the wall above my radiator. The top track can hold them with no additional wall anchoring?
    Thank you!

    • Hi, this is at a prior residence but you absolutely do not have to attach the top track although if you can drill it into a stud that is obviously a plus. There are pre-drilled holes on the tracks at regular intervals. The Container Store sells anchors that are a little different from what you can get at the hardware store. I have moved this setup many times and you can absolutely get it into most walls by using those anchors outside of studs (anchors not necessary if you do hit a stud). The Elfa shelves have a few different widths depending on whether you place the shelf in the middle or at the end. You can also use your own wood or MDF or whatever and drill your own holes and then use them with the Elfa hardware, or buy off-brand hardware that works with the tracks at various hardware stores (highly recommend using the Elfa horizontal and vertical).

      You can set your own vertical width if you decide to use your own materials. I’ll make a new post with current office, this post is apparently still very popular!

  2. Jeanne Tanis

    Thanks for posting this article. Have you use Elfa brackets and shelf’s with ClosetMaid track and rails?

    • I think I ended up putting Elfa components on ClosetMaid track and rails in a different room in the house in this blog post, but I would recommend doing it the other way around (ClosetMaid accessories on Elfa), the track and rails were really precarious, it’s really a huge difference in quality

    • It worked fine, I think the spacing between their components is a little different so it might be difficult to hang components from a different brand on the same brackets. I think probably you’d have to double up so that you have them at the right intervals and you wouldn’t be able to necessarily have them on the same horizontal row because of spacing differences and slight differences in the mounts. I assume that most of the hardware store alternatives to this (Menard’s has a store brand) would work with the same track and there is some variation between what is available. For clothes Elfa seems superior. In my new house I have Elfa top tracks and vertical posts with brackets and shelves from Menards and it saved quite a bit of money, I should probably do a new post :)

  3. Sunila

    Hi Anita, great to see that this post is still alive !
    Had a couple of questions based off of your suggestions:

    “…You can also use your own wood or MDF or whatever and drill your own holes and then use them with the Elfa hardware, or buy off-brand hardware that works with the tracks at various hardware stores (highly recommend using the Elfa horizontal and vertical)…”

    Have you found any off brand brackets that fit the Elfa standards( verticals) ( Closet Maid/Rubbermaid etc) ?
    I know that you recommend Elfa verticals but have you tried standards ( verticals) from other brands that fit the Elfa hang rail (horizontal) ? Elfa verticals start at 60 “ and needed half the size for my project … ( 3 shelves 30” long 60” wide )
    Know they would cut them, but …

    👍🏾👍🏾 for the in-depth info and observations!

    • Hi Sunila, hopefully you receive this – I’m not sure if I understand your question, but I think the ClosetMaid components might only be compatible with the vertical standards rather than the horizontal track. I’m pretty sure all these systems are interchangeable when it comes to actually putting the hardware on the vertical supports because of the size and spacing of the holes on the vertical standards.

      I would really not feel comfortable using the ClosetMaid stuff for anything very heavy. I’m looking at the pictures of ClosetMaid now online and I think I can see why – there is something about the way that the notch on the Elfa track lets the tracks hang right against the wall that I think is superior.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *