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Making a Shoe Rack From an Old Dish Rack

Updated on October 2, 2016
Nathanville profile image

My aims with DIY projects around the home are looking for innovative space-saving ideas and saving costs on materials by recycling.

Bespoke shoe rack
Bespoke shoe rack

Repurpose a Dish Rack to Make a Shoe Rack

Another zero budget space saving idea I had; this time, by utilising wasted space in one of the wardrobes and making use of an old dish rack to resolve the problem of too many shoes in the house. With our shoe rack in the porch overflowing with too many shoes my wife and I were looking for solutions to reduce the number of shoes kept there, to tidy it up and make it easier and more functional to use. We did weed out a few old worn-out and broken pairs but we still needed somewhere to keep shoes that are less frequently used.

So as usual I sat down with a cup of coffee and put my thinking cap on; and in doing so the idea formed that floor space in one of our wardrobes which was then underutilised may just be ideal for a shoe rack. Previously I had already reclaimed wasted space in the bottom of the other wardrobes for storage and shelving so this was just a natural progression to utilise the remaining wasted space in our wardrobes.

The next step was to source potentially suitable materials for making a shoe rack, formulate a design using these materials and make it fit into our wardrobe; preferably on a low or nil budget. For this I grabbed another cup of coffee and headed for my shed to sift through my store of scrap wood and look for ideas. In doing this I came across an old dish rack we no longer use because it took up too much valuable worktop space in our kitchen and now keep all our dishes in one of our kitchen wall units. I finding the dish rack I could instantly see its potential as a shoe rack and therefore sat down in my shed to finish my coffee and in my mind’s eye formulate the design. The step by step guide below is my concept and how I carried it out to repurpose a dish rack for a shoe rack. All photos in this how-to guide were taken by me during its construction and installation.


  • Hand saw
  • Tape measure
  • Square
  • Pencil
  • G-Clamps
  • Drill/Drill Driver
  • Drill bits
  • Screwdriver bits
  • Flexible shaft screwdriver bit holder

Time required: 3 hours

Difficulty: easy

Cost: $30


  • Old Wood and dowel dish rack
  • 1/4 inch (6mm) plywood, 12 inches by 4 feet
  • 8 feet of timber batten e.g. 1 inch by 1 inch planed
  • 12 inches by 2 feet pine board
  • Wood glue and wood screws


1. The first step was to gather all the required materials together; the redundant dish rack, a large piece of 1/4 inch (6 mm) plywood, some timber for battens and a piece of wood for the top. This is all spare material I had in my shed so by repurposing the dish rack the project was going to cost nothing other than a bit of my time. The ideal thing about the dish rack is that it uses dowel in a wooden frame strong enough to support dishes so (as shoes are not as heavy) with a few modifications it would also be ideal for storing shoes. I could have just shelving to store shoes in our wardrobe but shoes need to breathe so making a shoe rack with open slats or dowel to allow airflow and allow the shoes to breathe is an essential part of the design.

2. Before reconstructing the dish rack, transforming it into a shoe rack, it first has to be carefully disassembled without damaging it. Sometimes in repurposing household items this can be difficult but for the dish rack it was easy; just a case of undoing a few screws.

3. Having disassembled the dish rack I had three sections of framed dowel, each section being a different size but (with a bit of imagination) the potential to be reformed to make something new. It was just a case of deciding how to best utilise them e.g. to re-join them with the dowel going horizontally from side to side or virtually from front to back. Time for another coffee and a think; no point in rushing these projects; the best inspiration comes from contemplation.

4. I decided to re-join the old dish rack so the dowel runs horizontally from side to side. Having made this decision it was a case of security re-joining two of the pieces together with wood glue and screws. To prevent the wood splitting I marked up and predrilled several pilot holes along the sides of each section where they would be re-joined.

5. Having glued and clamped the two sections together securing them with screws using a screwdriver or conventional screwdriver bit was not feasible e.g. with the wood not being that thick the screws would need to go in straight; not at an angle (slant), which is sometimes an option when you cannot get a screwdriver straight in. Therefore I resulted to using my flexible shaft bit holder, which fits standard screwdriver bits and is ideally suited for this type of job.

6. Having joined two sections together they needed to be cut to the right depth; about 12 inches is ideal for a shoe rack. The width of the two sections joined together was just over two feet, just slightly smaller than the width of the wardrobe; so without making any additional adjustments the width for this project was just ideal. If I had needed to make the shoe rack narrower to fit into the wardrobe I would have had to cut through the dowels at the desired width, knock out the excess dowels from the cut off side support and re-inserted the shortened dowels back into the side support, securing them with a dab of wood glue in each hole.

7. Part of the surplus cut off from the two re-joined sections and the third section were fixed underneath the newly created doweled shelf to act as shelf supports e.g. on its own the structure would not have the strength to support itself and would have a tendency to bend, especially at the points where the dowels are recessed into the wood supports. The ideal height for shoe rack shelving is between 5 and six inches for most shoes; albeit that would be too low for boots. To keep the whole unit low enough so as to not cause issues with clothes above (hanging up in the wardrobe) I opted for five inches plus the thickness of the doweled shelf support. For fixing I predrilled pilot holes and glued and screwed in the same way as I did for joining the two main sections.

8. Then using the construction so far as a template I cut a piece of 1/4 inch plywood to size as a back support making it the same width as the doweled shelving with a 1/4 inch overlap on either side to butt the side panels against. I cut the height of the back support to 11.75 inches, two times 5 inches for the shoes plus 3/4 inch for the thickness of the doweled shelf. I fixed battens (with glue and screws) to the underneath at the back of the doweled shelf and at the back of the two shelf support sections. These battens provided a solid from to which the back support panel could be glued and screwed.

9. I then cut and fitted the side panels in the same way. In my design I gave a slant to the top half of the side panels; taking it back three inches, so that when a solid shelf is fixed over the top those extra three inches gives better view and easier access to the shoes below. The doweled shelf itself, with the gaps between the spaced out dowels aids vision for seeing the shoes below so you do not have to bend right down to them. This visual aid in turn helps to guide your hand down to access your shoes without bending right over to see what you are doing.

10. Battens were glued and screwed around the top of the side and back panels to support the top. For the top I used a solid piece of wood which serves two purposes. Firstly, and most importantly, with the rest of the shoe rack being of flimsy construction the solid top serves as an anchor to solidify the strength of the whole unit. Secondly, it provides an additional handy and multipurpose shelf; the top shelf can be used either as part of the shoe rack for keeping more shoes tidy or as a general purpose shelf for keeping other small items on. This fits well with my philosophy of a place for everything and everything in its place.

For the top, which measures 25 inches by 12 inches I used a spare piece of 3/4 inch (18 mm) pine board; although I could have used any solid piece of wood e.g. a spare bit of kitchen worktop, thick plywood, mdf or even some conti-board. Copper water pipes (for the central heating system) run through the back of the built-in wardrobe, which prevents the shoe rack from being pushed right to the back of wardrobe. Therefore, although I set the top back three inches by sloping the top half of the side panels, I was still able to cut the solid top to 12 inches depth by having a three inch lip at the back. This would then allow the top shelf to be butted against the back of the wardrobe, over the top of the water pipes, while the rest of the shoe rack would be out three inches, in front of the pipes. This three inch overlap at the back also closes up the gap at the back and prevents the risk of anything stored on the top shelf from falling down behind the shoe rack unit.

11. Fully assembled; with the shoe rack unit being the same width as the inside of the wardrobe which Is wider than the doorway, the shoe rack is not going to just slide into place. And there was no way it would slot into place by moving it through the doorway sideways or on end and trying to turn it around into position once in the wardrobe.

The unit would have to be jostled into place without the top and the top fitted afterwards. Without the top the shoe rack itself was pliable enough to push and shove into position; with enough give for it to bend without breaking or snapping. Therefore I fixed a batten to the underneath of the top shelf, setting the front edge of the batten three inches from the back of the top shelf. The batten would provide a secure and solid way of gluing and screwing the back of the shoe rack to the top shelf; and with also gluing and screwing the two sides to the top the whole shoe rack unit would become solid and fit for purpose.

Salvaging wood from unwanted household items

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    • Nathanville profile image

      Arthur Russ 8 months ago from England

      Thanks Lucille, yes a valid point; I've since made similar shoe racks in each wardrobe in all the bedrooms, for individual family use; and made a built-in one in the front porch for communal use.

    • lucille12 profile image

      lucille12 2 years ago

      It all depends on the requirement of your family; a joint family needs a huge rack with multiple tiers on the other hand a nuclear family can be satisfied with a small rack too.