One of the most common types of shelving support systems uses horizontal brackets that slot into vertical standards mounted to the wall. Shelving is then laid over the tops of the horizontal brackets. These systems are produced by many manufacturers, but while they may look the same, they are they often have subtle design differences. Some systems use brackets and standards with double slots and pins, while others use single slot designs. Even when systems look identical, the shape of the slots in standards made by one manufacturer may not readily accept the pins on brackets made by another manufacturer. Common manufacturers include Knape & Voight (K & V), ClosetMaid, John Sterling, ISS Designs, Rubbermaid, and Elfa (the Container Store's proprietary brand).
Few consumers keep track of the brand names of the shelf hardware they buy, and since some of these brands may be proprietary and offered only at specific retailers, it can be difficult to buy new parts for an existing system. Manufacturers can also go out of business, making it impossible to buy new matching parts. So it can be quite helpful if you are able to mix and match shelving standards and brackets from different manufacturers.
Mixing Shelving Hardware Between Manufacturers
If you are intent on the most elegant solution, you will likely need to do some research and seek out shelving components from a single manufacturer. But if simple functionality is your goal, parts from different manufacturers will often work together in an acceptable way, provided you are willing to compromise a little. If you have double-slotted standards, you will likely find that most double-pin brackets will fit into them, though they may not fit quite as smoothly. Inserting and removing the brackets, may, for example, require a bit of force.
Single-slotted standards an be a different matter, since the pins on the brackets from one manufacturer may be different enough in shape and size to prevent them from fitting into the slots on the standards. Or, the metal on the brackets may be thicker, so that the pins are a tight fit for slots on the standards. There is really no way of knowing if they are compatible, although careful examination of pin shape may allow you to make an educated guess. Often the parts can be made to fit, but future disconnection may be harder than if you had used matching parts.
When mixing and matching parts between different manufacturers, you may need to comprise on the aesthetics, as metal finishes and colors may vary. Or sizes can vary slightly: the brackets from one manufacturer might be 6 inches deep, for example, but 6 1/2 inches from another brand. This may not be a problem at all in utility situations or in applications where the parts aren't visible, but where appearance is critical, you will likely want to carefully match system components.
Choosing a New System
If you are buying shelving standards and brackets for the first time, it is a good idea to choose a system from an established manufacturer, such as Knape & Vogt (K & V), which has been in business for many years and is likely to be around for many more. Available from Woodworker's Hardware and online retailers, K & V offers a wide range of components that are compatible with one another. Other long-time brands such as Rubbermaid and ClosetMaid are also good choices.