Help Closet Pole Collapsed, Now What?


Situation

What occurs when you place too much weight on the normal residential closet pole?

It collapses, and many times in the middle of the night, awakening the entire household with the commotion of all the clothes crashing to the ground.

Cause

The majority of residential, and even commercial closet poles, are not meant to take the weight of a full closet. The closet poles are designed to allow the hanging of several garments, however, when a household is full, and storage space is at a premium, what happens? The closets become crammed in with multiple heavy garments. There is no additional place for the garments to be stored, so they are jammed onto a small, normally wooden closet pole which is held in place with inexpensive plastic end supports.

Reason for the collapse

When you have the opportunity, take a look at the normal closet pole installed within your home. It is probably supported by two, very thin plastic end supports, that are simply screwed into the wall. In most cases, the wall has been reinforced with some blocking, hopefully, in other instances the screw is merely attached into sheetrock. The wooden closet pole, which is extremely brittle, is normally only a pine dowel and is positioned between the two plastic supports. One of the supports is a disc, with a full perimeter raised trim ring, while the other has a half rim, to allow the pole to be inserted into the fully enclosed end first and dropped down into the end support at the other side of the closet.

What is the actual structural integrity of this installation?

  1. ) The weakest point of the assembly, is normally the small plastic rim that supports the bottom of the closet pole, on both ends. This is the point of the support trim ring that takes the entire weight of the clothes hanging on the closet pole. Simple structural evaluation indicates that if there is 200 pounds of clothes on the closet pole, each end support will be required to hold a minimum of 100 pounds. This is based upon the loading of the entire pole in a uniform fashion, and also assuming the closet pole is installed in a horizontal level position. Any deviation could cause the load to shift to one side or the other, increasing the loading of the support.

b.) The next weakest point, is the poles structural stability, into the side walls of the closet. If the end supports are merely screwed into sheetrock, the downward pressure of the clothes on the bracket, will cause the bracket, to fail at the sheetrock wall. If there is blocking in the wall, then the weakest point, is the small screw that actually fastens the brackets into the side walls. There is a lot or reliance on the integrity of a very small fastener, at each side of the closet.

c.) The third weakest point is the wood closet pole itself. This pole will simply snap, if the stresses exceed its ability to support the clothing. Wood is not a strong material in tension, and will snap quite easily, if improperly loaded.

Suggested solutions

a.) The first and foremost solution to providing a closet pole that can support additional weight, is to ensure that the end supports are firmly supported by wood or metal blocking, located under the sheetrock, on either side of the closet. This blocking should be installed during the construction of the structure, or can be retrofitted into the end walls, after the sheetrock is installed. Due to the fact, that in most cases, the end wall conditions of a typical closet are hidden from view, the lamination of a piece of plywood, over the surface sheetrock, is the easiest, and most efficient manner of providing end blocking support. If the blocking is properly installed, whether inside the wall, or as an overlay on the top of the sheetrock surface, the end closet pole supports can be firmly attached to the blocking. This application is much better than merely installing the end supports into the sheetrock surface. If possible use a larger installation screw than what is normally provided with the brackets. A nice small lag bolt is recommended, however the plastic bracket should be, predrilled to allow the lag to slip through the drilled hole. Do not force the lag into the existing hole, you will simply crack the plastic.

b.) Once the blocking is adequately installed on both ends of the interior closet walls, then the brackets can be attached directly to the blocking. Another very strong method is to install a piece, of either 1X3 trim, or a full 2X4, horizontally, at the height you prefer your closet pole to be. The closet pole is then positioned over the top and in the center of this horizontal support. Additional smaller pieces of blocking can then be attached to the horizontal blocking to keep the closet pole in the center of the entire end assembly. The secret of increasing the capability of the support to hold the weight of the clothes is to increase the strength of each end support.

c.) If additional end support is required, or it is necessary to ensure structural stability, a vertical leg can be installed beneath the horizontal support piece, that extends all the way down to the floor. This vertical leg, can be another 1X3 of 2X4, and should be glued to the surfaces of the end walls, or simply screwed into the walls. There is no structural requirement for these fasteners, their only function is to ensure that the vertical support remains vertical, and directly under the end of the closet pole. If this application is performed, the end supports will not fail. There is no weight of clothes that would be capable of collapsing the end supports, if this technique is used.

d.) Now, the closet pole itself. The limiting factor, for load capability, is now the actual closet pole, if the end conditions are rigid and structurally stable. The wooden dowels that are normally supplied in the hardware and builder supply stores, are extremely brittle and will snap, if too much weight is placed on the pole. The best method to ensure that the pole will not fail, is to use a piece of galvanized pipe or heavy galvanized conduit found in electrical supply stores, or fencing supply depots. The pipe can be a smaller diameter than the actual wooden closet pole, and will be both rigid and non bending, when the clothes are hung from the assembly. No one is going to snap a galvanized piece of pipe!

e.) If this is still not enough strength for your clothes, you have some very heavy clothing! The next step for additional structural stability, is the application of a vertical center support, under the closet pole itself. This support can be a 2X4 with a V cut into the top, to allow the closet pole to rest within the V, or the end of the support can be drilled, to allow the closet pole to penetrate the top of the support. Whichever method is preferred and easiest for the installer. Caution must be taken to stabilize this middle support. I suggest the installation of a piece of trim along the floor, extending from the back of the closet wall to the bottom end of the vertical support. Attach the vertical support with an angle bracket to the trim piece attached to the floor. This assembly will ensure that the vertical support will remain in place, and not be knocked out of plumb.

Another method of reducing the stresses on the normal closets within the livable areas of the home, is to assemble a large hanging apparatus in the basement, or in the attic spaces. The following describes, my method of constructing this apparatus.

a.) Purchase lengths of galvanized tubing from the local builders supply or hardware store. These galvanized tubes can be purchased in various diameters, I would suggest one inch diameter tubes. In addition to this tubing, purchase eye hooks that are capable of screwing into either the ceiling joist in the basement or the roof rafters in the attic. I would suggest , 4 inch eye hooks, that have a threaded shank. To finalize the purchasing, buy 100 lineal feet of 1/2 inch nylon rope plus a package of zip ties.

b.) Select an area in the attic, or the basement, that is free of obstacles, does not have ductwork in the way, and will be out of the way from any future use of the space. I find that this has always been along the eaves of the attic, or along the rear wall of the basement. This area should be as large as you intend to make your clothes hanging apparatus.

c.) Once the area is selected, layout the locations for the installation of the eye hooks. I suggest that the hooks be placed every four feet, along the length of the location you are to hang the galvanized tubing. These hooks should then be evenly installed, by pre-drilling the ceiling joist or the roof rafters, and installing the eye hooks. Make sure that the majority of the threaded shank is embedded into the joist or rafter. These connections will be taking the entire weight of your clothes and they will be subjected to a tensile force, pulling down on the connection. The deeper the embedment, the more threads are utilized, and the stronger the actual connection.

d.) This installation should be repeated, for each section of tubing, that you intend to hang. Remember to allow enough space between the hung tubing, to allow easy access to the clothes once they are hung on the galvanized tubing. You will be constantly moving between the several lengths of tubing, and you do not want to have to push yourself through the front clothes to obtain the ones hung in the rear.

e.) Determine the length of the rope support, that will be required, to properly hang the tubing at the proper elevation, as determined by the users of this apparatus. This is a totally custom decision, that can be made to accommodate the user. The tubes can be hung at different levels to also accommodate long dresses, coats, shirts, etc. I suggest that the ropes are then all cut to an equal length, to aid in hanging the tubing as horizontal as possible. This may not seem important, however a pole that is out of level, will cause the clothes to slide down to the lowest point of the tube. This is not good, and due to the fact that this is not a rigid method of hanging the tubing, the entire assembly will kick up as the clothes slide down. Not a pleasant situation.

f.) The tying off of the tubing to the eye hooks, is another totally custom method. I like to double the rope, tie off one end to make a loop, attach this loop to the hook that has been installed in the joists or rafter, and adjust the height of the tube by adjusting the tie off point of my rope. Once I have secured all of the ropes on one piece of tubing, I guarantee that the tying will hold, by wrapping the rope with a few zip ties to ensure that the entire assembly acts as one support.

g.) Remember that I have cautioned you, that the hanging assembly is not a rigid support, but is a support that will lift up and cause your clothing to slide down to the lowest point of the assembly. If you feel that this is an issue, a piece of rigid wood, or a piece of the galvanized tubing can be installed between the top of the horizontal tubing and the bottom of the joist or rafter at the two ends of the horizontal tubing. This vertical support can either be tied off to the horizontal pole, or zip tied, to ensure it remains in place. The top can be zip tied to the hanging eye hook which will keep the vertical support in place. In this manner, if the closet pole becomes unbalanced and has a tendency to lift up, the vertical rigid supports will provide the stability, to ensure that this does not occur.

Obviously the assembly of an alternate hanging apparatus, for clothes in the attic or the basement, will offer the potential of relieving the stress within the primary closets within the remainder of the home. If only the current clothes being used by the household are stored in the primary closets, and the surplus, is stored on the hanging apparatus in the attic and / or the basement, the ability of the primary closets to structurally accomplish their intent is more probable.

This is not a bad problem to have, because there are several areas in the world that are not as blessed to have an over abundance of clothing requiring storage.

The other alternative, is to donate your additional clothing to Goodwill Stores or a local charity or church. This donation will allow people less fortunate, to benefit from your generosity, and reduce the stress on your closets.

REMEMBER, IF YOU HAVEN’T WORN IT THIS YEAR, YOU PROBABLY WILL NEVER WEAR IT, GIVE IT TO SOMEONE WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM YOUR PROSPERITY!