Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Closet Storage Systems: Elfa vs. Rubbermaid vs. Closetmaid

While closet systems might not be the most mod thing I can imagine, they definitely meet the criteria of those who pioneered modern design:  readily available materials used to affordably benefit the masses.

Also, I am constantly emphasizing the importance of maximizing storage space in modern homes… to keep that orderly/clean appearance, you’ve really got to be able to cram your stuff out of sight!

MountainHouseRecently we stayed in a vacation home in the mountains.  While the home was a little more “contemporary” than what I tend to really like, it was cool nonetheless, and I was really impressed by some of the details (like all of the cabinetry, and there was a lot, utilizing SOLID WALNUT doors).  One of the things of which I really took note (for future personal use) was the closet system utilized throughout the house’s bedrooms.  Of course it was Elfa, which means it cost around 5x what a similar Rubbermaid or Closetmaid system would have run.

But as I started researching and comparing the different systems, I realized there was money to be saved in combining systems!  All three of the main contenders (Elfa, Rubbermaid, and Closetmaid) utilize a double channel hanging rail that accommodates most of the other brand’s accoutrement.  That means if you mix ‘n’ match you can save some coin.

Comparing systems directly is a little tricky, because it’s not exactly apples to apples (length of tracks, available accessories, kinds of shelves, etc.).  But hopefully the information below helps people sort things out and make some decisions.

 

Where to Purchase

So let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I’m not even considering Ikea’s Algot system. First of all, it’s not interchangeable with the other three brands (it uses a different track system), but MOSTLY because their “hanging clothes rod” is so awful.  It’s more like a wire than a rod.  It’s just bad (functionally and aesthetically). So no matter how much less expensive the Ikea closet system might be, and it isn’t that much less expensive, to me it just isn’t even worth considering.

While Lowe’s and Home Depot technically carry both Closetmaid and Rubbermaid, in my market (Boulder/Denver) Lowe’s pushes Rubbermaid while Home Depot pushes Closetmaid.  You can also purchase Rubbermaid and Closetmaid on Amazon.  Sometimes the prices are better (especially the kits), sometimes they are not (hanging wire drawers).

Elfa is available online and at The Container Store.

 

The Hanging System

It may seem odd, but the horizontal rail and vertical hanging tracks (the support structure) on all three systems cost about the same (even the Elfa).  Rubbermaid’s super-economy line is a bit cheaper, but the hanging rails mount directly into the wall (not hanging from a horizontal support).  This limits where your vertical rails can go on the wall, and also seriously hampers flexibility*** (being able to move those vertical rails).  The cheapest “hanging” rail option is actually Closetmaid’s garage system.  It’s the most sturdy, and the cheapest (except for the Rubbermaid direct-mount rails).  Unfortunately, it sports a painted on (well, baked on, I assume) “hammered metal” look.  It’s good that it’s dark, but it’s definitely a more industrial and less refined look.

***[update] After actually mounting a system, it has become evident that the position of these rails is less flexible than first anticipated.  It’s best to anchor the vertical tracks that hang from the horizontal support to the wall in one or two places to keep them from swinging out or sideways.  This doesn’t effect the flexibility of positioning brackets and shelves, but it does affect using Rubbermaid/Closetmaid and Elfa drawers interchangeably.  Elfa needs 24” between vertical rails, and Rubbermaid/Closetmaid utilize a 22” spacing.

White is the cheapest (for everything), but I don’t think it’s as nice a look.  It’s much more “utility room,” “mud room,” or “washing machine area” than classy closet system.  So I say, if you have the option, spend the extra few dollars and go with the silver (it will be called either “nickel” or “titanium”).  Elfa’s “titanium” looks a little more like bare metal or “brushed steel” (it is metal covered in enamel) while the other two contenders have a more “plastic-y” (but still fine) gray/silver powder-coat finish.

There is significant savings in purchasing a Rubbermaid kit (see some pricing examples below), but the kits contain the “HomeFree” line and the vertical supports are a little less thick (by less than a 1/4”). It doesn’t make them that much “flimsier” (if at all), but it does mean there are a couple of Elfa garage components that will not work with the HomeFree vertical rails.  None of this makes any difference in regard to the brackets and pieces that just fit into the slots.

Elfa Track System (garage components)

 

Rubbermaid FastTrack, Elfa, and Closetmaid MaxLoad all are the same thickness/depth (and probably a little sturdier than the HomeFree line).

Elfa Top Track (horizontal rail) Platinum 32”, 56”, 80” $14, $17, $20

Elfa Hang Standard (vertical rail) Platinum 20”, 36”, 60” 84” at $11, $14, $17, $20

Rubbermaid FastTrack 47.5” uprights in Nickel $11

Rubbermaid FastTrack Horizontal Hanging Rail 84” for $25 at Lowe’s (48” for $10 and 84” for $17 at Amazon)

Rubbermaid HomeFree 48” Horizontal Rail is $16

Rubbermaid HomeFree vertical extension 25” $9

Rubbermaid FastTrack 25” vertical extension in Nickel $9

 

Hanging System Winner: Rubbermaid FastTrack (Elfa is a VERY close 2nd), but the Rubbermaid Homefree “kits” win hands down for price

Ventilated Shelves (wire shelves)

Elfa “platinum” (silver) shelves come in a maximum length of 4 feet and depths of 12”, 16”, and 20” (standard widths for all makers, though the Rubbermaid FastTrack brackets are slightly different –by a fraction of an inch).

12” deep at 2’, 3’, and 4’ wide is $10, $14, $18

16” deep at 2’, 3’, and 4’ wide is $12, $17, $22

20” deep at 2’, 3’, and 4’ wide is $14, $20, $26

Elfa shelves require the Elfa bracket, because the shelves sit in little notches that keep them from sliding.  The end of the bracket is flush with the edge of the shelf, and is preferable to the other two makers whose brackets jut through the edge of the shelf (it looks bad, and things can get snagged on the end of the bracket).elfaVentShelfPltnm1000_x

 

Elfa is also the only system that has a basket/shelf hybrid.  These “shelf baskets” are 3-5/8” deep and pricing is as follows:

12” version: $15 for 2 feet, $19 for 3 feet

16” version  $20 for 2 feet, $25 for 3 feet

You can also buy two-packs of “dividers” as shown in the photo below.  There are clear plastic ones for $9 and $13 (12”, 16”) and 16” metal ones for $15 in either walnut or birch.Elfa Wire Shelf Basket with Dividers

 

Rubbermaid Fasttrack wire shelving is $14.75 for two 12” deep 4ft. racks and requires the Rubbermaid Fasttrack brackets.  You can also buy a Rubbermaid 26” Add-On Shelving Kit (2x 26” shelves and Four Brackets) for only $20.  I really don’t like how the bracket with Rubbermaid FastTrack and HomeFree protrudes through the front edge of the shelf (whereas the Elfa is flush at the end of the bracket).  You can get the Closetmaid and Rubbermaid FastTrack shelves in longer lengths and cut them to size to save a little money if you don’t mind doing the cutting yourself (you obviously also can also span greater lengths if you wish).  Also, the Rubbermaid FastTrack and Homefree shelves are made to overlap (the brackets specifically accommodate this) to you don’t have to cut them to length.

You can purchase lengths of Rubbermaid/Closetmaid up to 10, maybe even 12 feet.  The maximum length of an Elfa shelf is 4 ft.

Rubbermaid FastTrack:

Rubbermaid Fasttrack Bracket and Shelving

071691459309

Rubbermaid’s ventilated shelving comes in Linen (regular), Wardrobe (no wires on the front rail), FreeSlide (built in wire hanging “rod”), and TightMesh (tighter spacing of the wires).

Closetmaid shelves come in SuperSlide and Maxload.

Closetmaid SuperSlide in nickel is $6.40 for 48”, $9.60 for 72”, and $12.80 for 96”. Maxload is slightly cheaper, but I could only find a maximum length of 6ft.

That means the Elfa ventilated shelf is 3x as expensive as the Closetmaid (but the Elfa is sturdier, the edge looks nicer, and you’ll need to cut the Closetmaid down from a larger piece to achieve the savings).

Again the Rubbermaid kits win hands down for pricing.

Ventilated Shelf Winner: Depends on Application

Brackets

Oddly enough, brackets all cost about the same, with Elfa edging out the win on price because their 20” bracket is $9 instead of $10 like the others.  12” are $5, 16” are $7 and 20” are $9/10.  You may find a little variety here, but it’s pretty much the same across the board.  So again, the main factor is how the brackets match your pieces (the wall mounting stuff and the accessories you end up going with).

The Elfa bracket have a couple of notches to hold the wire shelves in place.  So do a couple of the varieties of Rubbermaid.  The Closetmaid brackets have no notches (just flat on top, but open like the Elfas.

The Rubbermaid and Elfa brackets are open on the top edge.  As far as I can tell, this serves no purpose for the Rubbermaid components, but Elfa accessories actually sit down inside the top edge of the brackets (so Rubbermaid FastTrack brackets should accommodate Elfa accessories that don’t need the Elfa notches).  The Closetmaid brackets are closed on top and will not work with Elfa.

The Rubbermaid HomeFree and FastTrack brackets as well as Elfa brackets have slits in the underside for clothing bar hangers and are necessary for their clothing bar system.  As mentioned previously, the Rubbermaid HomeFree bracket only has a slot for the clothing bar in the 12” bracket.  The Rubbermaid FastTrack has slots for the clothing bar hanger in the 16” and 20” as well. 

NOTE: the HomeFree brackets are stamped/embossed with the Rubbermaid logo (kind of tacky but not really noticeable once they’re in the closet).

 

Bracket Winner: Depends

Hanging Clothes Bar

There are two factors to consider with the hanging clothes bar/rod:  how it looks, and how it functions.  Elfa wins both categories, but Rubbermaid is acceptable.

Both Elfa and Rubbermaid utilize a rod support that hangs underneath the shelf suspended from the bracket.  The Rubbermaid HomeFree hook will ONLY fit in their 12” bracket (there is no slot for the hook in the HomeFree 16” bracket) and cannot be used with Rubbermaid FastTrack or Elfa brackets (the HomeFree hook has two vertical tabs and only the HomeFree 12” bracket has two corresponding slits).  The Elfa hook works in both their 12” and 16” brackets, and will also fit in the Rubbermaid 16” and 20” FastTrack brackets (though it’s a bit loose).  The Elfa hook will NOT fit in the HomeFree brackets (the slit is too small).

Closetmaid utilizes a giant plastic hook that looks awful and seems like it will eventually break (it’s plastic!).  It also juts out in front of the shelves, so it doesn’t look as elegant/streamlined (not to mention it’s so far forward it could interfere with the doors in a shallow closet).  The Closetmaid plastic hook ONLY works with the corresponding Closetmaid shelving, because it attaches to the two wire-rails at the very front of these shelves.  Finally, the rod that works with these hooks is spindly and ugly, and makes the whole system look bad. 

http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/productImages/400/d7/d7ad5cb6-e7ef-487f-a40d-94b1f79ed284_400.jpg

 

The Elfa hanger is made of metal (with silver enamel coating that makes it look like bare metal from a distance).  It has a much lower profile than either of the other brands, and only costs $2.  It’s definitely a look I prefer.Elfa Platinum Closet Rod Holder

 

The Rubbermaid hook is acceptable (though as you’ll see in the photo, the Rubbermaid end cap on the clothing rod is hideous).20140513_134826-002

 

The Rubbermaid and Closetmaid hooks allow hangers to slide all the way across the bar and over the hook, while the Elfa hook acts as a stop.  Thus, the Rubbermaid and Closetmaid bars require an “end stop,” which isn’t as nice/sleek a look (though sliding a hanger all the way across a longer bar and its support hooks might be preferable to some people).

Elfa’s clothing bar comes in 2’, 3’, and 4’, lengths at $4, $6 and $8 respectively.  I was a little surprised by how thin the metal is.  I assume this won’t affect strength (the bars aren’t that long) and helps keep the cost down.  Elfa utilizes chrome end caps that insert into the end of the rod for $.50/pair.  The Rubbermaid telescoping 48” clothing bar (two 4ft. pieces) is $10.74 at Lowe’s, so almost half price.  The Elfa chrome end caps are a tight fit, but you can get them into the Rubbermaid bar (though they will no stop hangers from sliding off the end of the bar).  Since the Rubbermaid bar is telescoping, one is slightly larger than the other.  The thicker bar is tight in the Elfa hook (which is best), and the thinner bar is a little loose, but both still work.

Here’s where it’s at (Elfa)…http://www.containerstore.com/catalogimages/89264/PltElfaClosetRodHldr_xl.jpg

The bar hangs under the shelf, the finish looks nice, and the clothes bar is chrome, thick, and sturdy, with a nice chrome end plug.

 

Clothing Bar/Hook Winner: Elfa

Clothing Basket

Elfa usually charges $16 for the wire basket. HOWEVER, you also need the $30 rolling drawer frame.  Plus you’ll need two 16” brackets to mount it on. $30+$16+$14=$60 for a functioning Elfa Hanging Wire Basket.  The “kit” with those exact same parts offers no price break whatsoever (it’s the same price as just buying all the piece separate).

You’ll need a different frame (much more expensive, at $50) if you want a drawer to match your wooden fascia (see pricing in the “fascia” section of this post).Elfa Wire Basket Hang Drawer

 

Rubbermaid’s sliding basket kit is around $40 at Amazon and Lowe’s.  The kit includes everything you need.  I also actually kind of like the chrome bar at the front of the drawer, so for the wire baskets, Rubbermaid wins for price and also aesthetics.Rubbermaid wire basket 

Closetmaid wins the price war with a 4 drawer kit that sells for $70, but there is just a “wire/rod” that slides in a metal groove (screeeeeech), so the Closetmaid drawers don’t have the same nice feel as the Elfa and Rubbermaid “rolling” drawers.  Closetmaid also has canvas and wicker options, but without the smooth rolling mechanism, I can’t even consider the Closetmaid “sliding” (screeching) anything.95ec4f3a-f049-4b65-9e48-a0539d8dbeb2_400

 

Sliding Wire Basket Winner: Rubbermaid

HOWEVER

Elfa makes a wire mesh basket that in my opinion is FAR superior (functionally/aesthetically) to the wire basket.  The mesh basket is $21 (compared to $16 for the Elfa wire), and can be purchased as a complete kit for $66 (which again is the exact same price as all the separate components).  So add $26 more for an Elfa sliding drawer with the mesh (instead of wire) basket.  That’s going to have to be a personal call (I’d love to go with the mesh drawer, but I don’t know if I can justify $78 extra dollars for only three drawers –three rubbermaid drawers are already $120, three of these are $200!!!).ElfaDrawerFrameWalnut_x

ElfaHangMeshDrawerFramePlat_l

 

Shoe Rack

I’m not a fan of rails instead of racks for shoes.  Elfa does rails that hold nine pairs of women’s shoes for $45 (plus, you’ll need two 16” brackets).  They also state clearly: “Accommodates only shoes with heels; not designed for flats or athletic shoes.”  (This is why I don’t like rails).Elfa Gliding ShoeRack Platinum

 

Luckily, Elfa also makes a proper shoe shelf ($45 plus 16” brackets), but it only holds four pairs of men’s shoes.ElfaGlidingShoeShelfPlatinumC_x

 

The Rubbermaid Homefree 10” shoe rack kit is two 2ft. shelves and includes all the brackets for around $25 at Lowe’s.  This is a pretty significant savings over buying four brackets and a two pack of Homefree shelves ($8x4 + $15 = $47).  Obviously, it’s also a significant savings over the Elfa shoe rack ($45).  The downside is that each 26” shelf will only hold three pairs of men’s shoes plus an extra shoe.071691459316

071691238294

071691238294_03020833071691238294_03020832

 

There is also a Rubbermaid 22.5” “Fasttrack” shoe bracket for $3.26 at Lowe’s.  IT works with Linen and TightMesh shelving.  This bracket is superior for looks and function, because it doesn’t come up over the edge of the shelf (and get in the way of your shoes).  It is, however, a little less sturdy.  Unfortunately I can’t find this bracket in silver.071691426639

 

I am not a fan of the Closetmaid “ShelfTrack” shoe rack.  Having to precariously balance your shoes on a rail is a pain.Closetmaid shelf track shoe rack

 

However, Closetmaid also makes a ShelfTrack bracket that can utilize a regular shelf.  You just flip the shelf over so the edge turns up and holds the shoes on the slanted rack the same way as with the Rubbermaid shoe shelves.  Like the Rubbermaid FastTrack shoe bracket, this bracket is a little more visually pleasing than the Rubbermaid HomeFree shoe bracket, because it’s more out of sight (underneath the shelf and only half the depth).  The Closetmaid brackets are around $7 a pair at Home Depot.  There is also a kit with a shelf for $13.48.  They hold 3-1/2 pairs of men’s shoes.

This Closetmaid bracket is a little less sturdy than the Rubbermaid FastTrack shoe bracket, and much less sturdy than the Rubbermaid HomeFree shoe bracket (the Closetmaid bracket wobbles/bounces back and forth if you grab the shelf), but it also has a much lower profile and doesn’t stick out over the edge of the shelf, so it looks better and doesn’t get in the way of your shoes.

Closetmaid shoe bracket

 

Elfa also carries a solid (but very thin) metal shoe shelf that mounts directly into the vertical rail slots and runs $29.95 for a 2 ft. wide and $39.95 for 3 ft. wide.  For some reason they are hard to find on the website (not found with a search for “shoe shelf”), but they’re there.20140516_104959

10062398AngledSolidMetalShelf2ftPlat

Shoe Rack Winner: Rubbermaid Two Shelf Kit ($25) (though I like the low profile of the Closetmaid bracket a little better, even though it’s flimsier)

 

Pants Rack

Elfa is pretty much the only game in town when it comes to pants racks.  Pants racks are cool.  If you’ve got the space, you gotta have pants racks. At $70 a pop, they’re definitely a “save up for it” kind of item, but look how fancy!14_EL_Walnut_White_Details_RGB15_x

ElfaDecorGlidingPantRackWalnut_x

 

There is a Rubbermaid pants rack, but it’s hard to find (Amazon is your best bet) and is advertised as only holding 7 pairs of pants.  I guess it could hold 9 because there are two rods which are positioned over the sliders (for looks), but that makes me nervous that the pants would get caught and tear (or at least get a grease mark). Also, it’s white (even the “titanium” one in the photo above has white rods).81SjsCbMymS._SL1500_

 

Pants Rack Winner: Elfa

Tie/Belt Rack

elfaGlidingTieBeltRk_lvs.071691458593lg

While the $30 Elfa on the left may look a little nicer and the mounting is probably a little more stable/secure, I’m going with the $15 Rubbermaid on the right.Rubbermaid 3H98 Titanium

Belt/Tie Rack Winner: Rubbermaid

 

Fascia (finishing touches)

If you’re going for looks, then you’ll need to “finish” your closet system.  Rubbermaid rolling hanging drawers have the chrome bar that actually looks pretty good (it looks like the clothing bar), so if you’ve gone the Rubbermaid wire basket drawer route, you’re probably fine there.  But if you want the edges of your shelves and drawers to have a nice, “furniture-like,” cohesive look, you’ll need to add fascia.  Elfa’s is certainly the nicest, though after taking an up close look, I don’t think it’s nice enough to justify the price.  Elfa walnut fascia costs $15 for 1 foot, $18 for 18”, and $20 for 2 feet.  The Elfa fascia will not fit on the Rubbermaid or Closetmaid shelves.  It’s solid birch that is available in natural, walnut, or white, and the examples hanging in the Container Store display were all very worn on the edges (betraying the “solid wood” look).  See how the edges of the shelves and fascia are all much lighter in the photo below…

20140516_110858

 

Closetmaid’s fascia is particle board with a thin foil finish; it’s absolutely out of the question.

Rubbermaid does not have a fascia option.

Since I have tools and skills, I will likely end up making my own fascia from real wood.  This also means I probably won’t be using that uber-expensive Elfa walnut drawer frame.  Elfa looks nicest at first, but once the edges of the shelves wear off, it looks as cheap or cheaper than bare shelving.  Using the birch finish (instead of the walnut I prefer) would minimize the appearance of this wear.

CG1791_16A

Fascia Winner: Elfa is the best off-the-shelf option, but it has it’s problems, so I’m making my own

 

Conclusion

As I mentioned before, it’s difficult to do an apples to apples comparison of the different brands (they come in slightly different lengths, etc.), but the Rubbermaid 4-8 foot kit (which is a considerable savings over even the Rubbermaid components bought separately), is a huge savings over a comparable Elfa composition.  Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the Rubbermaid 10 foot kit (even more savings) is not available in silver (Rubbermaid’s mind-bogglingly awful website, and I can’t convey just how awful it is, actually says NONE of the kits are available in silver).

4 to 8 Feet Rubbermaid Kit in Titanium $109 on Amazon:

  • 3 26.25” shelves (8ft. shelf $18)
  • 2 36.25” shelves
  • 2 36” telescoping hang rods
  • 2 26” telescoping hang rods
  • 2 36” hang rails
  • 5 41.5” upright rails
  • 11 12” brackets
  • 9 clothing rod supports
  • 4 22” rail covers
  • hardware41RKVWR7HNL

Comparable (not exactly the same) Elfa pieces $256:

  • 3 24” shelves $30
  • 2 36” shelves $28
  • 2 36” clothing rods $12
  • 2 24” clothing rods $8
  • 80” top rack $20
  • 5 60” Hang Standards $85
  • 11 12” brackets $55
  • 9 clothing rod supports $18

So the Rubbermaid kit is less than half price (you could buy two kits and have all the extra stuff for still less than the comparable Elfa components).

However, use the 84” FastTrack (which is a little better than the HomeFree parts) instead of the Elfa hanging components and you’ve already knocked $33 off the Elfa system. Sub in the Rubbermaid HomeFree clothing rods and you’ve saved a couple more bucks, but you’ve also got an extra 4 feet of clothing bar.

Another advantage of any component system like these is that you don’t have to purchase everything all at once.  You can purchase the bare necessities (the hang rails and brackets for clothing bars, and then ad components (drawers, tie racks, more shoe shelves, etc.) down the road.  Not only do you get to spread out your investment over time as you add each piece, but you can see what might be most useful as you interact with your closet system!

Our 106” reach-in closet ideal solution would total $417 using the ideal combined parts.

  • 2x Rubbermaid FastTrack 48” hanging rails at $10 each – $20
  • 6x  Rubbermaid FastTrack 70” uprights at $14.30 each – $86
  • 1x HomeFree telescoping 48” bars (each 48” package is actually two 48” rods) – $11
    (I will also be able to reuse the 106” bar that is already in the closet)
  • 9x Elfa Rod Support Hangers at $2 each – $18
  • 6x Elfa 12” brackets at $5 each – $30
  • 2x Elfa 16” brackets at $7 each – $14
  • 1x Elfa 16”x 2’ basket/shelf – $20
  • 4x Elfa 12”x 4’ ventilated shelving at $18 each – $88
  • 2x Rubbermaid HomeFree 4ft. kits for shoes (four 4 ft. shelfs with brackets) – $50
  • 2x Rubbermaid Sliding Drawer Basket – $80

 

As I sit here and ponder all this, I can’t imagine NOT just “giving up” and going with the 10ft. Rubbermaid Kit.  It’s unbelievably cheap (more pieces than I can use for less than half the price of the closet I designed with a combo of Rubbermaid and Elfa parts), it’s not that much less attractive, and the build quality is almost the same as the Elfa components.  Why would I spend $417 when I can spend $179 and get more pieces?

Rubbermaid HomeFree 10ft. Kit ($179):

  • 3x 48.25” shelves
  • 7x 26.25” shelves
  • 6x 47.5” uprights (vertical tracks)
  • 3x 25” upright extensions (vertical tracks)
  • 19x shelf brackets
  • 1x 48.25” horizontal hang rail
  • 2x 36” horizontal hang rail
  • 10x rod support hangers (clothing rod hooks)
  • 2x 48” clothing hang rods
  • 2x 26” clothing hang rods
  • 4x shoe shelf brackets
  • 5x 22” rail covers (these go on the horizontal hang rail and help with spacing the vertical tracks)071691404705

Final Thoughts

In the end, I did in fact go with the 10 foot Rubbermaid HomeFree kit.  I’m a little bummed that I couldn’t get it in a silver finish, but the white isn’t that bad after all, especially when considering I’m saving more than $200.  Plus, the doors of the closet are always closed, so it’s not like we’re really “featuring” this item in our home.

There are only three 25” vertical extension in the kit (the additional vertical rail that goes almost all the way to the floor), so I had to buy two more of those.  I also added a few more shoe shelves (and again, the Rubbermaid shoe shelf kits are vastly cheaper than purchasing individual components).

All in all, for a little over $200 for a 10 foot wide closet, I am extremely happy with the Rubbermaid HomeFree kit, which is a substantial savings over purchasing components from any of the three brands individually.

If you’ve got money to burn, I still like the Elfa stuff a little better.  But if you’re on a budget, you’re not missing that much by going with a Rubbermaid HomeFree kit, and you will save quite a bit of money.

UPDATES

Consider the finish! (9-3-14)

It has come to my attention that there is another important factor in considering which system to go with.  Elfa and Rubbermaid are epoxy coated (powder coated, the finish is actually baked on), while Closetmaid is PVC dipped.

If you have ever touched old Closetmaid shelves, you may notice that they are sticky or seem to be overly dirty.  This is because oils used in the dipping process leach out and attract dirt and grime.  This does not happen with the epoxy finish.

The epoxy finish is supposedly more environmentally friendly as well, as PVC is a less environmentally friendly compound and process.

I’m not sure who has created this site, but since they are lumping Elfa and Rubbermaid into the “good” category and not promoting one over the other, I’m assuming they are at least modestly trustworthy (unless there is just some extremely anti-Closetmaid group out there!).

53 comments:

  1. Really fantastic article--thanks so much for taking the time to write this up. I found it while looking for information about pantry configurations but it was so interesting that I read the whole thing!

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  2. The Rubbermaid Homefree 10' kit is currently priced at $139, down from the original $179. Lowe's lists the price as "new lower price" so presumably the price change is semi-permanent and not just a temporary sale price.

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  3. If that price stays there, it is a CRAZY price. I wonder if it's a mistake though. When I was pricing out systems, the first day I was looking I saw the same tag ("new lower price $139"). I went back two days later to buy it, and the tag had been replaced with the original $179. Maybe they are now making it permanent, but if you're thinking about buying, I'd say buy now! ;-)

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  4. Does the Rubbermaid 12x24 driftwood solid shelves work for elfa brackets? Does the Rubbermaid shelves require a connector like elfa? You speak about the wire shelving but not solid shelving.

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  5. What a great, incredibly useful article. Thank you so much for doing this research and SHARING it! I've linked to your article on my Houzz profile. I love clearing my client's clutter by improving closets. I use Elfa and I will probably continue to just because I like the more finished look of their product, but it's so nice to know that rubbermaid and closet maid can be used in sync with Elfa if needed.

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  6. What a great, incredibly useful article. Thank you so much for doing this research and SHARING it! I've linked to your article on my Houzz profile. I love clearing my client's clutter by improving closets. I use Elfa and I will probably continue to just because I like the more finished look of their product, but it's so nice to know that rubbermaid and closet maid can be used in sync with Elfa if needed.

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  7. Wow - so thorough and informative. Thanks a lot!

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  8. Wow - so thorough and informative. Thanks a lot!

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  9. Thanks for the thorough overview -- exactly what I was looking for. One question about shelf depths... You mention Elfa offers three different wire shelving depths: 12", 16", 20". Do the Rubbermaid systems offer shelf depths other than 12"?

    Been trying to find this info on the Rubbermaid website, but as you say, it's quite horrible.

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  10. I believe Rubbermaid offers two shelf depths, but 12" is the standard (there is a deeper shelf and arm that can be used for the higher shelves).

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  11. Do the Elfa brackets work with the Rubbermaid shelving?

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  12. WOW... you really did your research! Thanks for the great article. I have always used elfa because it's incredibly sturdy and versatile, but I watch for it on craigslist. Have scored some great deals that way. Installed a whole wall of shelving for my craft room for $200!

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  13. Very thorough and well written overview of the three systems - I'm so glad to have found this and found it infinitely helpful. This is exactly the kind of information that the companies don't want you to know - the best of all the components for use and cost! I left a question on the Loewe's website re: whether the Homefree bracket works with Rubbermaid. Guess who answered? Rubbermaid! And said Pat Answer: Homefree is made to work only within it's designated system...Balderdash! I now have an Elfa closet rod hanging off of my Rubbermaid Vertical Tracks. Thanks!

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  14. This is a great article. Thank you so much for your research. I know Elfa goes on sale a couple of times a year. If you factor in their sale would you still go with rubbermaid?

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  15. Opps. I forgot to have it notify me.

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  16. Even with the yearly Elfa sale I'd still go with Rubbermaid if price is the biggest consideration... but remember, there is the caveat of the Elfa system definitely *looking* better in many ways (less utilitarian, more "polished"). My systems are in closets with closed doors where visuals aren't *that* important. The Rubbermaid system isn't *ugly,* per se, but it's definitely not as "slick" as the Elfa stuff. When you purchase a Rubbermaid kit/system from some place like Amazon, the price is untouchable, even if Elfa was holding the craziest sale they've ever had. [wink]

    My advice would be purchase the Rubbermaid kit from Amazon or Lowe's, and then maybe use some Elfa stuff judiciously (when it goes on sale) to improve the looks of your system, if that is a priority.

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  17. Thanks for such a great comparative review.

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  18. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! We are redoing our closets and I really didn't know if Elfa was worth it. I'm going to check out the rubbermaid stuff this weekend!

    I think it's worth noting - for anyone considering whether to go with elfa - that every year the container store has a 30% off sale (this year - 2015 - it supposedly starts on Christmas eve, according to a sales associate at the Nashville store).

    We already have some elfa components in our home (my desk, a spice rack), so I was planning on waiting for the sale... but now I'll check out Rubbermaid before we buy.

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  19. I thought I had mentioned the "once a year sale" in my post, but looking through... I didn't! Thanks for bringing it up. I will say, though, even with the "major" sale, the Rubbermaid is still WAY cheaper, especially if you go with one of the "bundles." Plus, it's nice to be able to walk into Lowe's or Home Depot and get a decent price at all times of the year, instead of getting locked into Elfa when they have their sale (which is presumably *why* they do it). [wink]

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  20. Thank you so much for writing this! We installed Elfa system for 2 reach in closets with the 30% off sale. It was still pretty pricey. I wanted to do my master walk-in, but the pricetag was coming in close to $2500! Now that I understand how simple the Elfa system is and how the other brands compare, I think we can end up doing our master closet for only a couple hundred dollars with the Rubbermaid kit and few extras added in! Again, thank you for your insight and sharing your comparisons. It is a HUGE help!

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  21. I'm looking very closely at both systems for (2) 5' long shelves and (4) drawers that will be visible in an attic bedroom. I've used Rubbermaid before and agree that the drawers are really good. However I'd like solid, not wire, shelves, but I priced out Elfa and it's $600 on sale! Are there solid shelves for Rubbermaid? Could I use the solid Elfa shelves on the Rubbermaid system?? Or, do I need to 'make my own' like you were going to make your own fascia? Thanks!!

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    1. There are solid drawers by Rubbermaid, but I haven't check the function/quality (just saw the box at Lowe's yesterday). Probably not quite as nice as Elfa, but cheaper. They call them "cubes," and they come with 2 drawers or without the drawers (two solid shelves in the cube).

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    2. You should be able to use the Elfa drawers with the Rubbermaid kit, but Elfa uses a 24" wide system and Rubbermaid is 22", so any "proprietary" things will need to conform to this. What this means is that for Elfa things you need to space vertical rails 24" apart, and for Rubbermaid they will be 22". It won't make any difference at all for shelves that just lay across brackets, so for what you're proposing you should be fine.

      p.s. Right now Lowe's has the white 4-8 foot kit on "special purchase" sale for only $99 (even cheaper than Amazon which is $120). I bought one for the parts (this kit is cheaper than if you'd just buy the brackets that are in it).

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  22. Very Helpful. If you get the basic closet "Box" and doors from IKEA, can you put the Elfa or Rubbermade components in it? Thanks.

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  23. You would need to measure the depth of the Ikea "box" you wanted to use to make sure. I know I don't really like the Ikea hanging system, but there's no reason you couldn't mount Elfa or Rubbermaid hanging rails inside the cabinet (unless the cabinet you select is too shallow).

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    1. Only use the pre-drilled holes in IKEA wardrobes. That is the only place the material is reinforced to hold weight. The floor manager told me that.

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  24. The research that you did writing this article should win you some kind of really huge award. Very detailed, no extra fluffy words and this information was not wasted on me. Thank you so much for this information and your opinions.

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  25. I owed this review! So helpful! Do you have any thoughts on the shelf liners? Looks like closet maid has a role and Elfa comes in small sections. The closet maid reviews are mixed, but also has the advantage of clips that fix the liner onto the shelves. Any thoughts?

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  26. Thanks, Matthew. I do all my shelf liners DIY. I get adhesive backed cork in a role, and adhere it to a custom cut 1/4" piece of MDF or other material that won't warp. If you take your measurements to Lowe's/Home Depot, they should be able to cut the MDF to size for you (usually for free if you ask nicely). [wink] For the couple of pieces that wouldn't stay put, I drilled small holes and used tiny zip ties to fix them to the wire shelf.

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  27. You could also use the tiny adhesive backed cable management clips on the underside of the shelf liner if you didn't want to drill holes.

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  28. Your research is immensely helpful to me. I'm going to re-do all three bedroom closets, and this comparison of the three systems is exactly what I was looking for so I can make good decisions. Thank you!

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  29. Thank you SO SO much for this!! My closet shelf and rod collapsed yesterday since the support pieces were held up with finishing nails (don't even get me started). I wasn't sure what the difference was between ClosetMaid and Rubbermaid, and your review really went through every last detail. Much appreciated!

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  30. Glad to be of help! Getting ready to put up a couple more Rubbermaid systems today (one kit split into two closets). I got the 4-8 foot closet kit on sale at Lowe's for $119, but I see the price of the 6-10 foot kit just dropped to $139 at Lowes! (I should be getting a commission from Lowe's and Rubbermaid!) [wink]

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  31. you're amazing for collecting this info and sharing it. thanks so much

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  32. I agree with all of the compliments above. I have been researching this very thing for about 2 weeks. Looks like Rubbermaid wins!!

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  33. This is an excellent review! I went to the container store and to do 3 closets it was going to cost about 1,500. Now I plan on buying a Rubbermaid system. My question is this: what is the difference between the Rubbermaid Homefree series and the Rubbermaid Configurations Series. I have two 64" closets, and I am thinking of either buying the
    4-8 ft HomeFree series Closet Kit or the 4-8 foot Configurations Deluxe kit. Anyone out there have any thoughts or advice on the differences between these two kits besides price.

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  34. Regarding Homefree vs. Configurations... I think they may just be rebranding Homefree. I'm not positive about that, but everything I'm looking at appears that they are actually the same thing.

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    1. Homefree is only sold at Lowe's, while Configurations appears to be nearly identical but sold at multiple outlets (for slightly higher price than Homefree systems)

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    2. So again... same thing, just rebranded. ;-)

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  35. This is incredible! Thank you so much for the information! Any suggestions for a 12-foot reach-in closet with two bifold doors separated by a 24" section of regular drywall? I had a 12 ft hanging rod but it collapsed. Thanks!

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    1. I just moved into my new house and have the exact same situation.

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  36. I love this article. So much insight.

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  37. So informative! I was wondering your thoughts: I have the rubbermaid closet system and want to repurpose the hanging system (vertical wall rails) for a desk set up with adjustable DIY shelving. Do you have any suggestions for which type of brackets to use (and where to get them) if I want to make my own solid wood shelves, keeping in mind they need to fit into the Rubbermaid wall mounts? The ones that come with the kit have the notches on the tip (for the ventilated shelves) and I don't want to use them. THANKS!!

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  38. You could always just cut the tips off if you don't like the look, but the "generic" brackets (I think the "brand" is actually BlueHawk?) at Lowe's might also be more what you are looking for (closed end). Make sure you screw the "desk" into the top of the brackets or fasten them in some other way so they don't wobble back and forth.

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  39. Wow, great article that is so helpful to me. I am looking into storage basket/drawers for my craft room but now I really want to re-do our closet! Thank you so much for all this information.

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  40. Any thoughts on shelving 16 inches instead of the standard 12? I can't find a set that comes in 16 and buying it all separate is daunting! Also the lowes reviews seem to think homefree is being discontinued and says you can't find parts anywhere??

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    1. I have the 12 in Rubbermaid in one closet and 16 elfa in another. I strongly prefer the elfa in the 16 in. The deeper shelving is nice and the 12 doesn't quite hold the clothes the way I prefer to fold them. I like the flexibility of elfa as well as the feel of the components.

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  41. Have you actually used the Rubbermaid FastTrack and HomeFree pieces with each other? I am also looking at the $179 HomeFree kit, but I want the top shelf/hanging rod to be 16"d. Will I be able to replace it with a 16"d equivalent from the FastTrack line?

    Thanks for such a thorough comparison!

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  42. Hi, Keri. The arm brackets definitely fit both, and the 16" depth is just the depth of the shelf, so you can either just set the 16" shelf on the 12" arm brackets that come with the kit, or you can purchase 16" brackets along with the 16" depth shelf; either would work.

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  43. That's an interesting approach. So, I could simply use a FastTrack 16"d shelf on top of the HomeFree 12" bracket that accommodates the hanging rod?

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  44. It's been a while, so I can't say if the 16" shelves will actually *lock in* to the 12" brackets, but when I mix and match like this I will often simply zip tie the shelf in an inconspicuous place so it doesn't move around.

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  45. I just want to mention that in addition to the Elfa brackets being flush with the edge of the shelf, that the bracket and shelf design is much better.
    The brackets look much more refined, being smooth with no protruding hooks, etc.
    The shelves lock into the brackets in multiple places and are very secure - once locked the don't tend to slide sideways.
    And my absolute favorite - the Elfa shelves have double rod at the front and back which is stronger, and is slightly raised so things don't fall of the front of the shelf. (I had some threaded rod on a Rubbermaid shelf in the garage and it rolled off the front edge of the shelf and fell on me. :-(

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  46. Just wanted to mention that I have had the Elfa system with maple fascia in two closets for more than 10 years (I think one was installed right after Elfa came out with their excellent mesh baskets, so could be 15 years!) and there is absolutely no edge wear to the fascia-- or to anything. The whole system looks just as perfect as the day I installed it. Walnut fascia may be a different story... But retail wear is much harder on things than most home use.

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