How to Measure Your Closet Like a Pro


Closet design and planning requires careful measurement throughout the process, beginning with the exact dimensions of your closet space.

All closet measurements are from inside wall to inside wall. If the final wall covering has not been installed, you must allow for the wall covering in your measurements. For example, if the wall covering will be 1/2" gypsum drywall, subtract 1/2" from each wall. Better yet, wait until the drywall is installed before you measure.

Closets come in two basic configurations: reach-in closets and walk-in closets. A walk-in closet is a small room, usually with just one door and no windows. It is measured just like any other room. (To learn how to measure a room, see How to Measure Your Kitchen and Other Rooms).

A reach-in closet, especially a reach-in closet to be converted to a wardrobe wall is another matter entirely. This small area requires more precise measurement.

A reach-in closet is usually just 24" or 25" deep, but within this space there may be considerable variation. Walls are usually not perfectly plumb, floors and ceilings are seldom perfectly level. Nor is any corner likely to be a perfect right angle. In a large space, minor variations make little difference. But in a small area like a reach-in closet they can greatly affect closet design.

The pros measure any space assuming it is neither square nor plumb. Here's how they do it.

Diagram 1 shows a typical reach-in closet with a hanging clothes rod and top shelf. We will likely remove the shelf and rod, so disregard them in your measuring.

Step 1: Measure the Overall Space
Draw a diagram of your closet, locating the door(s) in their approximate positions. Note on the drawing the overall wall lengths of each wall. (See Diagram 1)

Notes:

  • All of your measurements should be in inches. For example, if you measure a wall that is 10 feet, write it as 120 inches — a quotation mark (") denotes inches. All measurements should be to accurate to 1/16th of an inch. For any measurement between 1/16th inch marks on your measuring tape, round down, not up.
  • If the closet doors are to stay, indicate which way the door opens. For doorways with hinged doors, draw the door according to which way the door swings. For bifold doors, show which way the door folds — in or out, right or left or both sides. If the door is a bypass (or sliding door), show which of the doors is in front.
  • Do not include any current poles, rods,, shelves, cabinets or organizers in your measurements.

  • Step 2: Measure the Width
    Diagram 2 shows how the width of the space is measured. Width is the side-to-side dimension.

    You are going to take nine width measurements: At the top, middle and bottom of the closet, and at the front, middle and back of the closet. Use a chart like the one shown at the bottom of this page to keep track of the mea­sure­ments.

    Be pre­cise. If your clo­set is too wide for one per­son to mea­sure ac­cu­rate­ly, draft your significant other to hold the other end of the tape measure. (The other end is called the "dummy end", but don't tell that to your S/O.)

    Step 3: Measure the Height
    Measure the height of the space from the floor to the ceiling. If the space is to be carpeted, measure the the subfloor (the floor under the carpet). If the floor is a wood or tiled floor, measure from the finished floor.

    Getting accurate measurements from floor to ceiling is tricky. Pros measure from the ceiling, reading that the tape at the floor. But, it is easier for most people to measure from floor to ceiling, reading the tape at the ceiling. You may need a stool or ladder to get high enough to read the tape. Measure to 1/16th of an inch. If you cannot hold the tape steady, again draft your spouse to hold the other end tight against the floor.

    You will again take nine measurements, right, middle and left at each of the front, middle and back of the closet space.

    Write your measurements on a chart like the table shown below.

    Step 4: Measure the Depth
    For a wardrobe wall space, measure depth from the back wall to the outside of the side walls. Measure on both sides. See Diagram 3. For a reach in closet, measure, measure the inside space between the front and back walls on both sides of the door. See Diagram 1. If you have two closet doors, measure on both sides and between the doors.

    As always, measure at the bottom, middle and top of the wall, and write down each measurement in a chart like the table below.

    Step 5: Doors and Shoulders
    If you are installing closet organizers in a reach-in closet, you will also need to measure the width and height of the closet door (or doors), and the width of the shoulder area on each side of the door. Measure each shoulder area separately. See Diagram 1. In measuring door height, follow the steps outlined above. Measure from the subfloor for carpeted floors, and from the finished floor for tiled and wood floors. Measure the door height and width in at least three places.

    Download a PDF Chart

    Closet or Wardrobe Wall Measurements
    Width Measurements
    Back/TopBack/MiddleBack/Bottom Middle/TopMiddle/MiddleMiddle/Bottom Front/TopFront/MiddleFront/Bottom
              
    Height Measurements
    Left/BackLeft/MiddleLeft/Front Middle/BackMiddle/MiddleMiddle/Front Right/BackRight/MiddleRight/Front
              
    Depth Measurements
    Left/TopLeft/MiddleLeft/Bottom Middle/TopMiddle/MiddleMiddle/Bottom Right/TopRight/MiddleRight/Bottom
              
    Shoulder Measurements (Closets Only)
    Left/TopLeft/MiddleLeft/Bottom --------------- Right/TopRight/MiddleRight/Bottom
              
    Door Measurements (Closets Only)
    Height/LeftHeight/MiddleHeight/Right --------------- Width/TopWidth/MiddleWidth/Bottom