Unlike other types of shelving units, building garage shelves is done for practical purposes. They aren’t made for decorations, and they don’t have to look good. Usually the only requirements for garage shelving are to be sturdy, and hold a lot of stuff. There are a couple different types of materials they can be made out of including wood and metal, but if you’re building your own, it’s easier and cheaper to do it out of wood. If you were buying a shelving unit, typically they would be some kind of metal, usually aluminum.
When building garage shelves, the goal is to build something that is sturdy and will not sag. Many kits that you can buy at the store, while convenient, are not the sturdiest structures. Our goal is to make shelves that can store your heaviest items without sagging, or leaning in any way.
To begin you’ll need to know how tall you want the shelves to be. Measure the largest item you have to store and add 4 and a half inches to that. Next, measure the amount of room you have from the floor to the ceiling and divide it by that number. The answer that you get is the amount of shelves you have room for. The number will probably not come out even, in which case you’ll have to make a couple of the shelves a bit smaller. I made a total of four, the two on the bottom bigger than the two on the top. This allows me to store the bigger, thus heavier stuff closer to the bottom.
Next we’ll need to find all of the studs in the wall. Take a stud finder to the bottom of your wall and mark every stud that you find. Do the same to the top of the wall, and make a vertical line that connects the top dots to the bottom ones. After that’s completed, it’s time to draw the horizontal lines. I used 20” shelves for my project, so I need to add the 4.5” for a total of 24.5”. Adding the extra few inches takes into account the space the wood takes up when it’s completed. Starting from the floor to the ceiling, measure the amount you wish for each shelve and draw a horizontal line to connect the dots.
For this project, the lumber should be pretty inexpensive to purchase. All we’re going to use are 2×4, 2×3, and some plywood. Once everything is measured and drawn on the wall, installing the shelves should go pretty smooth.
Cut each 2×3 to the width that you want your shelves to be. Screw each one of them evenly with the horizontal lines that you drew on the wall, leaving a screw at each stud (the vertical line). Now it’s time to put the vertical 2x3s on the ends. Cut them so it touches the floor, and goes ½” above the highest horizontal line to allow yourself room to screw on the shelves later.
The structure should now start looking more and more like garage shelves. It’s time to tack on the outer 2×3 and 2×4 pieces. This part can be a little tricky as it’s a bit of a balancing act. You should have a few 2x3s cut to the width that you want your shelves by now. Nail it to the vertical board that’s against the wall so that it’s perpendicular to it. Place something at the end of the board to balance it, and you can start laying more boards horizontally. Only put a single nail in the board for starters so you can move it around to level it out. Start from the bottom of the shelving unit and work your way up.
The plywood should now just lay right into your garage shelves. I suggest nailing or screwing it in for extra security. Put a nail into the 2×3 about every 12” for best results.
Building your own garage shelves has a few advantages, strength, and cost being the biggest factors. If you have some basic do it yourself skills, it’s pretty easy to do by yourself. One major advantage to buying kits at the hardware store is that they can be assembled and taken down in minutes. However, they’re nowhere near as durable, stable, or customizable as something you’ve built on your own.