Wood or Wire Pantry Shelving, Which is Better?


A top question pantry owners want to know is, "Which is better, wood or wire pantry shelving?"

Wood pantry shelving is preferred by homeowners and perceived as the best pantry shelf type.  They are desired because of durability, attractiveness and practicality.

Choosing between wood or wire pantry shelving is a personal choice. However, wire shelving is more commonly seen in residential design because it is more economical than custom-made wood shelves and can be installed quickly. Wire shelving is the contractor's first choice when building a spec home (new, move-in-ready home built by home builders across the country).

Note: alternatives to solid wood pantry shelves are particle board, MDF or plywood (or versions covered with melamine).  The strength of these types are debatable compared to solid wood shelving, although wood alternatives can bring the cost down. For the sake of this article, the term "wood" will also include wood varients.

This article first presents the psychological benefits of wood in home design and the overwhelming social proof of the popularity of wood pantry shelving. After that, we dig into the pros and cons of wood or wire pantry shelving so you can decide for yourself which pantry shelf is best.

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Pschological benefits of wood or wire shelving

Marjut Wallenius, a Docent and Doctor of Psychology at Finland’s University of Tampere, says, “Wood has psychological effects on people and a similar stress-reducing effect to nature.” Having wood in an environment can decrease blood pressure, lower heart rate, and can be calming in general.  Dr. Wallenius adds, “Wooden surfaces make a room feel warmer and cozier, and they also have a calming effect.”

Studies have shown that touching metals at room temperature and even plastic caused increased blood pressure.  The presence of wood in a room also decreases the skin’s ability to conduct electricity.  “Based on studies carried out so far, we can say that wood reduces stress in a person and has a calming effect. This is based on the positive emotional experience that wood causes, such as proximity to nature, warmth, homeliness, and a relaxing effect,” explains Wallenius.

The study of wood materials versus metal materials translates as well when comparing wood or wire pantry shelving. Wood is valued for it's psychological warmth and comfort, metal is not.

Marjut Wallenius, PhD, Docent in Psychology at University of Tampere, evaluated the results of several studies of the effect of wood on people at Honkarakenne's (aka Honka) request. Honkarakenne is a Finnish manufacturer of high-quality log houses.

Social proof of poplularity of wood or wire pantry shelving

One of Everything Pantry's favorite resources is Gardenweb, a home and garden community site (previously a non-commercial entity taken over by Houzz in 2015). Lots of everyday people and professionals with real-life experience chime in, giving freely of home advice that is often highly detailed. Hands-down, these homeowners vote for wood shelves in the pantry. Viewing numerous discussions on the topic "wood or wire pantry shelving" the winner is always wood. Reasons range from wood being more attractive to easier to manage food items.

Another clear indicator that wood shelving is more popular than wire shelving is the consumer actively seeking "wood top for wire shelving."  Pantry owners are trying to cover up their wire pantry shelves, either because they don't like the look of wire shelves, or they don't like all of the issues of dealing with wire shelves. Take a quick tour on Pinterest of ideas for "wood top for wire shelving" - you'll find some very determined examples of homeowners trying to convert to wood. 

kitchen owners debates between wire or wood pantry shelving

A well-designed pantry in new home featuring wood shelves.

Pros and cons of wood pantry shelves

Although the argument for wood shelving is strong, there are a few cons, too.  Learn about all the reasons to consider wood or wire shelving.

This content was originally posted on EverythingPantry.com. If it appears on a website other than EverythingPantry.com, it is a copyright violation owned by EverythingPantry.com.

Tip: make wood shelves adjustable for max benefits

Have all the benefits of wood shelving, while enjoying adustable shelves, too! Installing shelf tracts give you the added flexibility of getting your pantry shelf plan "just right." Adjustable shelves keep the pantry functional - they grow with you as your family's needs change. 

PROS OF WOOD PANTRY SHELVING

  1. You can refurbish wood shelves any time you want.  
  2. Wood shelving looks "cleaner" - they are a more attractive and have a timeless look.
  3. The smooth surface of wood shelves are easier to clean compared to multiple surfaces of wire shelving; if something falls over or is accidentally opened, the mess stays on one shelf rather than dropping through all shelves.
  4. The smooth surface of wood pantry shelving allows for easier moving/shifting of food items on shelves.
  5. Wood shelves can withstand heavy weight, you can feel confident storing glassware,  heavier dishware, and small appliances.
  6. Wood pantry shelving can easily be made adjustable using any number of 'track' systems and shelf clips.
  7. Wood material has psychological benefits that reduce stress and make the user feel more calm and at ease.
  8. For resale, most people would prefer wood over wire pantry shelving.
closeup of wood pantry shelves compared to wire shelving

Close-up of wood pantry shelves.

CONS OF WOOD PANTRY SHELVING

  1. Wood shelves can bow (the type of wood material, particle board, MDF or plywood, thickness, humidity and shelf support are varying factors that contribute to the bowing/sagging of a pantry shelf).
  2. Regarding particle board: cheap ones sag under weight and need additional support in the middle. Moisture or wetness may rot boards.  This material tends to soak in smells more than wood.
  3. If the pantry shelves are stationary (fixed design), the pantry owner has no options in adjusting for height of food items. You will have to do careful pre-planning and measuring before committing to a final design. Stackers and other organizers allow you to better maximize your space and provide more flexible storage options.
  4. Closed-in wood shelving creates hiding places for pests compared to wire shelving.
  5. Although do-it-yourselfers can build wood shelves themselves, it requires carpentry skills.

Make sure your pantry shelf doesn't sag!

Check out "The Sagulator" - an online calculator that can determine potential sag in a shelf based on just a few basic pieces of information.

Pros and cons of wire shelving

A consistent complaint of wire shelving is that food items keep tipping over.  Pantry owners find it challenging to try and balance things between two or more wires. There are horror stories of jars tipping over and leaking  through every wire shelf until it reaches the floor (try cleaning up that mess!).  

To be fair, there are some very happy wire shelving users. Some closet system/shelf system companies have hit the sweet spot in shelf flexibility, durability, and wire spacing to remove some of the frustrations of the "tippy item syndrome."

PROS OF WIRE PANTRY SHELVING

  1. Wire shelving gives a modern look to the kitchen.
  2. Psychologically, chrome shelves can evoke the feeling of a sanitary, clean environment.
  3. Wire pantry shelving doesn't hold dust like wood shelving does.
  4. Wire shelving is less expensive than wood shelving, both to install (labor) and from a materials standpoint.
  5. Food/crumbs, etc. fall through to the floor easily with wire shelving.
  6. Light passes through wire shelving easily for better visibility than wood shelving.
  7. Wire shelves allow for better ventilation than solid shelving.
  8. Do-it-yourselfers can often do the installation themselves.
  9. Shelving systems on tracks are very flexible to accommodate storage needs.
wire shelves versus wood shelves in pantry

Comparing wire pantry shelves to wood pantry shelving.

CONS OF WIRE PANTRY SHELVING

  1. Wire shelving is difficult to clean if a spill occurs (think molasses or spilled rice).
  2. Jars and boxes topple over easily on wire shelving - this can be relieved with the use of plastic matting (some pantry owners have even covered up their wire shelves with wood). Observe that narrower 5/8" spacing of wires is more successful for supporting food storage vs the 1" spacing for linen or clothing shelves.
  3. Wire shelving leaves grid/wire marks if storing cloth.
  4. Cheaper plastic wire shelving may become sticky or tacky over time - this is due to poor formulation of the plasticizer ingredient in the plastic which migrates to the surface over time; not an issue with more expensive plasticizers.
  5. Plastic-coated wire shelves can flake off and rust.
  6. Poor quality shelving can be flimsy and even bow if holding heavy cans.
  7. Wire shelves get dirty, too.  For a thorough cleaning, the shelves have to be removed completely from the pantry and hosed down and scrubbed to reach all surfaces of the wires.
  8. Not all wire shelving is adjustable.  You may have individual shelves attached to studs in the wall (no tracks are used).
  9. Pantry wire shelf systems can be expensive!  Especially the ones that have more options,

What Are Spec Homes?

Spec means “speculative,” another word for an educated guess. Builders buy specific tracts of land where they think communities will develop or where someone might one day want a home... Someone who wants a home on the land might contact the builder to custom design the home, in which case the spec home shifts toward being a custom home. More often, builders will start building quickly off of their own design – before they have a buyer. [The builder] can often customize many of the features and finishes the home has. Or the builder might complete the home before there’s a buyer and put it on the market.


What Are Model Homes?

When a builder plans to develop homes across a wide tract of land, such as in a subdivision, they won’t make every home completely unique. This would be inefficient and expensive for them. They’ll rely on several different floor plans, each tailored to a specific family size... This increases their productivity, their speed, and reduces the material cost of building these homes.


-Credit: Synergy Homes

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. Years of being a stay-at-home mom and supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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