The Compatibility of Shelf Standards and Brackets

Woman using closet shelf
Kate Kunz/Fuse / Getty Images

As I've mentioned many times in the past, my "go-to" shelving system consists of double-slotted metal standards and brackets. I'm writing this on a "desk" that consists of recycled closet doors resting on 24-in. long brackets attached to wall-hung standards. Several rows of bookshelves sit directly above the desktop. It's perfect for working, it cost very little, and if and when I need to move it, the whole thing comes down in a few minutes and fits in the back of my small car.

I've been buying double-slotted standards and brackets for over 20 years. My first big purchase was from a British company called Spur Shelving. It was very good quality shelving, although all the parts had metric measurements. I haven't seen Spur's shelving for a long time, but I have added to my collection with standards and brackets from Knape & Vogt (K&V), Rubbermaid, and one or two other brands. I've purchased them through mail order and at Lowe's and Home Depot.

I recently heard from a reader, Noah, who was wondering if all of these different brands were compatible. Could his ClosetMaid brackets fit into K&V standards, for example?

In my experience, the answer is yes, with a few minor qualifications. Most importantly, all of my double-slotted brackets fit into all of my double-slotted standards. But, each brand is slightly different, and sometimes the fit is a bit tighter. The Spur and K&V products are made with thicker metal and are probably able to support heavier loads than the Rubbermaid products, although the parts do fit together.

Aesthetically, it can be a slightly different story. The standards and brackets from different brands are shaped a little differently (as you can probably see in the photo), and their sizes are not always exactly the same. One brand may have 6-in. brackets, while another's closest match is 6 1/2 in.

These days, I try to restrict new purchases to K&V, and I usually buy them from Woodworker's Hardware, which has a large selection and good prices. Also, K&V has been around a long time, and I feel pretty confident that I will be able to find their standards and brackets for years to come. They're good quality, and they present no compatibility problems.

That said, it remains the case that most of my shelves are hybrids. They work fine, and I've never known anyone other than myself who noticed the slight variations in shapes and lengths.

For step-by-step instructions on building your own shelving, see Installing Wall Shelves with Standards and Brackets.