In DIY Projects, Preparation

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My garage shelves left something to be desired.  Years ago, I had purchased five sets of generic shelves with a steel skeleton and particle board surface shelves.  We store most everything in clear labeled plastic tubs (about 60 quart size) and some of those can get a bit heavy.  Over time, the particle board shelves filled up and became inadequate for quantity and weight capacity.  

Shortcomings of the old shelves (see first image):

  • Limited depth – 24″ deep by 48″ wide only allows 3 tubs per shelf (narrow ways) or 2 tubs per shelf (long ways)
  • Wood shelf is 1/4″ particle board so it will easily warp with too much weight or liquid damage
  • Sharp metal edges slice skin easily if you are working on the shelf
  • Overall height is 6′ tall so you can’t take full advantage of 8′ garage ceilings
  • The cost for our 5 shelves that we bought over time was $75 each.  That’s $375 for a limited shelving solution.

With those thoughts in mind, I decided to build shelves that would replace these limited shelves.  To the right you can see the wooden replacement shelves: much stronger, double the storage capacity while reducing the garage space required, and a total cost of just over $200!  The two biggest improvements with these new shelves were to the height and depth.

The old shelves were 24″ deep allowing only one tub deep (longways) per shelf.  I increased the depth by 12″ and that allowed tubs to be stacked two deep (see second image).  This made a huge difference in storage capacity without crowding the car parking area.

I took the height up to the full 8′ length of the stud to keep cutting and waste to a minimum.  I also kept the total span of the shelving at two stud lengths for a total of 16′ – again less cutting and waste.  Each shelf consists of 6 – 2 x 4s laid flat, each spaced 1.5″ (2 x 4 scrap piece on its side) apart.  The shelf legs are made up of a single uncut outer piece to which the inner spacers are nailed.  The span rests on the inner spacers and the next higher inner spacer is built right on top of that span.  This gives a good amount of strength without having to take the time to measure and cut 40 dadoes (5 per leg).  Building this way means that my cutting was minimized. I had only 4 lengths of wood for this build:

  • Full length, uncut studs
  • 14″ inner spacers (for all shelves except bottom)
  • 18″ inner spacers (for the taller bottom ‘shelf’ called my garage floor)
  • 34″ spans that make the depth out from the garage wall.

With those limited variety of cuts, the cuts go quickly after the template is set up.  It’s always good to dry fit proof of concept so you don’t have to curse a bunch and drive back out to the lumber store.

If you don’t have a pneumatic framing nail gun yet, I highly recommend it.   Read my post on pneumatic nailers for more info.  You’re pain-free elbow will thank you.

List of materials:

  • 2″ x 4″ x 8′ boards – 75 @ $2.88 each
  • 3.25″ nails for nail gun – already had (you do have a stock of screws and nails on hand, right???)
  • bolts to attach shelves to wall studs – 4 @ $1 each
  • foam to wrap shelf areas for head bumping / clothes catching (already had from another project)

Total Cost – $220

I am hoping to recover some of the cost by reselling the old steel shelves.

Overall, I’m very happy with the project.  From tear down to finish, it was probably about 15 hours.  I didn’t track the time well, but my estimate includes reorganizing and fitting everything into the new shelves.  The only thing I would have done differently is to build these in the first place and never have purchased those steel shelves!

Above: The old shelves - no longer getting the job done
garage shelves
Above: New Shelves - 2 bins deep, 2 bins wide between posts
Garage Shelves – Cheap and Strong
Above: Protect skin and clothes with foam where folks are walking
Garage Shelves – Cheap and Strong
Above: The span and how it attaches to the posts

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