Thursday, December 20, 2012

Building Shelves for the Garage

Full shelf in garageHaving enough storage always seems to be an issue.  The last home we owned had a half dozen of those metal 6 foot by 4 foot metal shelves when we moved in.  We took them with us when we moved to our homestead.  The metal shelves just don't cut it for me.  Our garage has 10 foot ceilings and we have a lot of plastic tubs that are too big for the metal shelves.  I also would like a place to put large items like my table saw and generator.  If I put them against the wall, I loose the vertical space.  Therefore, I decided to build some strong shelves.

I went to Home Depot and bought the following:

  • 2 X 3/8"x4x8' composite board @ $10
  • 18 X 2x4 studs @ $2.15 - 8 for the legs, one for a support, and 3 per shelf
  • 5 lb of 2 1/2" gold screws @$10 (enough for two or three projects).

I had some 3" gold screws and 1 1/4" screws on hand, but I would recommend 1 pound of each.  I always buy extra screws so I have some for the next project.

In a few hours I built an 8' X 8' X 2' shelve that I attached to the studs in the garage.  All I needed was:

  • Drill
  • Stud finder
  • 4 foot level
  • 6 foot ladder
  • Miter saw
  • Skill saw

Building the legs:
  1. To make a leg, use the 2 1/2" screws, screw two of the 2x4s together so they make a right angle.  I screwed about every 18 inches.  Repeat for the other 3 legs.
  2. Find two studs located 8 feet apart in the garage wall.  
  3. Stand a leg up against the stud. The L of the leg opens inward to the direction of the shelf because the shelves will screw into the L.
  4. Vertically level the leg.
  5. Screw into one of the studs with a 3 or 4 inch screw.  You might need to drill a pilot hole.   I used a screw every 2 feet. My goal was to hold the leg during assembly and prevent possibly tipping if someone hangs on it; less to support the shelf like the metal shelves require.
  6. Screw the other leg into the other stud, make sure to vertically level again.
  7. Find a stud in the middle of the two legs.  
  8. Stand a 2x4 up against the middle stud.
  9. Vertically level the stud. 
  10. Screw it into the stud with the 3 or 4 inch screws.
  11. For the next part, I cut two 2 foot pieces of 2x4.  
  12. I then attached one end of the 2 foot piece to the leg that was attached to the wall at height of 44 inches and extended toward the front of the shelving unit.   I screwed in the piece with one 2 1/2 inch screws almost all the way. This board is just temporary. Repeat for the other leg.
  13. I then stood one of the other legs up and vertically leveled it.  Then attached the 2 foot 2x4 extending out of the rear leg into the front leg with the 2 1/2 screws.  I repeated for the second leg.
Build and attach the shelves  
  1. Cut 3X 8 foot 2x4s into 9X 21 inch lengths.
  2. Attach the 21 inch pieces using 2 1/2 inch screws between 2X 8 foot 2x4s, so the width across is 24 inches total.  3 per shelve,  one on each end and one in the middle.  I used 2 screws per attachment, one on top and one on bottom about 3/4 inch from the edge for 12 total.
  3. Using a skill saw, cut the 2X 4x8 sheets of composite board in half, so that there are 4X 2x8 sheets.  This doesn't have to pretty, the rough cut part will just go on the back against the wall where it will not be seen.
Attach the shelves
  1. Pick one of the frames and place it on the two temporary boards in between the legs.
  2. Before screwing this shelf in place, ensure that it is level for the length of the shelf.  It should be level from front to back because the temporary boards are level, but if adjusting for the length of the shelves these might have to be releveled as well.  I have shims on hand to wedge between the shelf and temporary board to hold it level while I screw.
  3. Screw in the first shelve with 2 1/2 inch screws.  I put two screws in each corner into the sides of the legs and one screw into the front of the legs.  I then put two into the vertical 2x4 that is in the middle back of the shelf for added support. 
  4. Take one of the 2x8 foot sheets and put it in position on top of the shelf.
  5. Screw it down to the 2x4x using 1 1/4 inch screws every 24 inches or so.  I like to put the smooth side up.
  6. Remove the temporary boards and reattach on the next level.  Because you are building the shelves you can decide the how tall each shelf is.  I would advise you to consider what is going on each shelf and measure it first, then set the shelf height to your needs.  Remember a 2x4 will shorten the opening in the front by 3 1/2 inches.  If going 24 inches for each shelf screw the temporary pieces 20 1/2 inches above the first shelf.  20 1/2 inches is then the opening width. These shelves are so sturdy, I was able to stand on one to do this step.  I weigh 185 lbs, try that with those metal ones.
  7. Now repeat these steps for the rest of the shelves.
I now have an insanely sturdy shelf that holds roughly 150 cubic feet of stuff.  I have roughly 18 inches above the top shelve to the ceiling.  Those metal shelves hold roughly 36 cubic feet of storage supposedly at about 80-100 lbs per shelf.  They also cost about $30 to $50.

Because you are building this shelf for yourself, you can make the shelves as tall as you want and add as many as you want.  I needed about 40 inches of clearance for my table saw which is why the first shelf started at 44 inches.  Remember though, the 2x4 and 3/8 inch composite board takes up 4 inches when doing the measurements.  So, in my example, I have a clearance of 44 inches, but the first shelf starts at about 48 inches.  Nothing is going to be super exact in a garage because your floor most likely slopes a bit.  Therefore leave another inch clearance for leveling.  I imagine using 2x3s for the shelves would provide solid strength, leave a bit more room and lower the cost by a few dollars.

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