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DIY Storage Shelf Attached To Studs In Garage.

DIY Garage Storage Project:

Building A Heavy-Duty Shelf Unit
Attached To The Garage Studs

An Economical And Easy Do-It-Yourself Project To Provide Extra Storage In The Corner Of An Unfinished Garage

 
In This Article:

A "half ladder" is built and nailed to a wall stud, then horizontal "stretchers" are added to form another edge of the shelf. Add some cleats for the back and side, apply some OSB or plywood, and you've got yourself a quick'n'easy shelf unit.

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Skill Level:
2-3 (Basic +)
Time Taken:
About 3 Hours
Author:
Project Date:
December 2000
 
 
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Who Doesn't Need More Storage Space?

The Starting Point:
Corner of typical unfinished garage, with bare studs.

In my own garage I had a corner that was not very well organized. I badly needed some way to better utilize the space, to store tools, equipment and miscellaneous household stuff.

 

 

The plan is to use the studs in the exposed garage wall to support the shelves, with only one additional stud or post needed.

Shelf Frame Materials:

 

I began by cutting the vertical post and the front and side support "joists".

The post was made 80" long. The front shelf supports ended up being 48" long (half of an 8' 2x4), though they could have been perhaps an inch longer and still fit just fine.

2x4 materials for a sturdy garage shelf unit.
 

 

The exact dimensions of each piece of lumber will depend on the particular garage's stud layout, so what you might build will almost certainly have different dimensions than what I built here. But the principle is the same, and that's what I'm going to show.

Support post for built-in garage shelf unit, shaped like half a ladder.

I began by assembling a "half ladder", which was nothing more than the vertical post with the short side supports nailed to it.

 

 

At the desired height of each shelf space (plus 1/2" for the shelf plywood) I made a line to mark the bottom of the next 2x4 support.

Marking layout lines for horizontal supports on tall support post for garage utility shelving.
 

 

Support Post & First Sides:
Vertical support post and side supports for heavy-duty utility shelving.

 

The "half ladder" assembly.

It is much easier to nail (or screw) boards together on the workbench.

Note how the support post protrudes beyond the lowest side support (at the bottom of the picture). I placed the lowest side support about 6 inches above the bottom of the post, to give me space to store stuff on the floor.

 

 

I nailed the "half ladder" to a stud about 4' away from the corner.

Fastening pre-made shelf structure to studs in garage wall.
 

 

Layout of horizontal shelf supports was made to avoid electrical wire running through wall.

I deliberately planned the horizontal support layout so this board would not interfere with the electrical wire that ran through the wall.

 

 

I used Quick-Grip clamps to hold the boards in place while I nailed them. This is especially helpful when hand nailing or driving deck screws to attach 2x4's.

Clamping the shelf structure to the garage wall studs.
 

 

Part of shelving structure attached to wall of unfinished garage.

After a few minutes the "half ladder" was installed. Once it was attached to the wall stud, it more resembles a "full ladder".

 

 

I clamped the front support to the frame and nailed it.

Long front shelf support board held in place with Quick-Grip clamp.
 

 

Overlapping 2x4 boards can be joined easily to form a strong connection.

This method of fully overlapping the boards is perhaps the strongest and simplest method I know for joining wood together.

 

 

After clamping each horizontal support in place, I made sure it was level before I nailed it.

Making sure each shelf front support board is level before fastening.
 

 

Nails driven near end of board often cause the wood to split.
When Nailing At The Ends...

This split (red arrow) is typical of what happens when nails are driven close to the end of a board. Ardox (spiral or twisted) nails are thinner than common nails and are less likely to cause splitting. When I use deck screws in places like this I pre-drill the holes, which usually eliminates the splitting problem.

 

 

Half-Way Done:

The front and side horizontal supports have been installed.

Frame of storage unit that is attached to garage studs.
 

 

Shelf support board fastened to studs in garage wall.

The other side supports (red arrow) were simply nailed to the wall studs.

 

 

Supporting The Back Of Each Shelf:

The back cleat: I clamped the ends to the other supports and nailed the board to the wall studs.

Rear shelf support 2x4 board being fastened to garage wall with bare studs.
 

 

Poor Man's Air Nailer:

If a framing nail gun seems too expensive, I recommend trying a pneumatic palm nailer, such as the Senco PC0781 Pneumatic Palm Nailer. I bought one of these in 2003, and it's very handy because it can reach into tight places where you couldn't swing a hammer.

It's not like any nail gun... you place any loose nail into the magnetic tip and push the tool into the board to start the hammering process. A palm nailer doesn't have a trigger... pushing the tool triggers it. It makes a loud rat-a-tat-tat sound, like a machine gun, so hearing protection is advised.

Amazon also sells a mini palm nailer, the Senco PC1195 Mini Palm Nailer, which is about half the price. However, the heads of some larger nails may not fit into the tip. I would recommend the full-size palm nailer as a first purchase, and consider the mini nailer later.

 

Completed frame of built-in shelf unit in garage.
Completed Frame:

The completed frame. This was so easy, I can't even call it work. (I know... I'm spoiled... the air nailer does take a lot of effort out of this type of job)

 

 

Installing The Shelves:

I cut pieces of oriented strand board (OSB) to fit on the shelf framing. Each piece was about 44" x 22", so I was able to get all 4 shelves from a single sheet of OSB. I nailed the OSB to the frame, spacing the nails about 4" to 6" apart.

Fastening OSB or plywood shelf to structure of shelf unit.
 

The best length of nail to use would be 1-1/2" long. Unfortunately the shortest nails available for my framing nailer are 2-1/2" long, which is not really a problem as long as the extra length does not cause any problems such as splitting the 2x4 framing. As a general rule, one inch of penetration into the 2x4 framing is all that is needed to adequately hold the OSB.

Garage storage shelves made from 2x4's and OSB.
Finished Shelf Unit:

 

I gave the shelf unit a little "stress test" and climbed on the shelves. There was no deflection (or "give") to the shelves at all. That makes me confident that this will be plenty safe.

 

 

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Loading The Shelves:

It took no time to fill up the four shelves. These shelves are very sturdy, strong enough to easily hold a heavy air conditioner.

Household items stored on heavy-duty do-it-yourself shelving.
 

 

Height of shelves was customized to fit certain large bulky items.
Customized Shelf Spacing:

The bottom shelf spacing was designed to accommodate this large round kerosene heater. I often custom-design such storage spaces just for a certain item.

 

 

A Note On Fasteners:

I used a pneumatic nail gun on this project because... I have one and it saves time. Granted, most do-it-yourselfers don't have nail guns (what's the matter with you people anyway?) but old-fashioned hand-driven nails work just fine, of course. I have traditionally used Ardox (spiral) nails for framing. In fact, I have a hard time finding common nails around my shop because I just don't buy them.

For the past few years I have done much of this type of framing work with 3" deck screws. My favorite is the "Deck Mate" brand sold at Home Depot. While expensive, the square-Phillips drive works great, and the screws have a really durable coating. (I've also bought similar screws at Menard's.)

Cost:

This shelf unit was quite cheap. It used seven 8' long 2x4's, and one sheet of 7/16" OSB. These materials cost less than $20 when I built this project in the fall of 2000. I have never seen any store-bought shelf units this sturdy for anything near this price.

 

Variations On A Theme:

Other Shelf Design Ideas:

There are two obvious variations that could be tried.

One is to use two wall studs to support one side of the shelf unit. I have made such a shelf unit, placing it about 5 feet from the corner of the garage. It uses two 2x4 studs to support the opposite end, which sticks out about 3 feet from the wall.

The second variation is to make a shelf unit completely free-standing. I built a free-standing shelf unit similar to this but made the shelves removable so the unit could be taken apart for moving. It wasn't as sturdy as I would have liked, until I bolted it to the wall in the garage. There is a danger in building free-standing homemade shelf units... the thing can fall over and hurt someone. Any shelf unit that appears shaky or unstable should be secured to a wall or other sturdy structure. Children like to climb things, and a child could be seriously harmed by being caught underneath a falling heavy shelf unit. Take a few extra minutes and secure any wobbly shelf unit. Personally, I wouldn't have a shelf unit that was not sturdy enough for me to climb on.

Longer Shelves:

If I was going to build shelves longer than 5' or 6',  I would use 2x6's for the front supports. The drawback of this is the reduced usable shelf room because of the deeper "joist" that supports the shelf.

Tighter Spaces:

I have also used 5/4x6 deck planks, ripped in half on a table saw, to create 2-3/4" deep joists for supporting plywood/OSB shelves. This saves 3/4" of headroom above each shelf, which could be valuable sometimes. The last deck boards I bought cost $3.77 for 8', and 2x4's cost $1.78, so half of the deck board costs $1.89, a whopping 11 cents more than a 2x4. Considering the time needed to rip the deck boards, I'm not sure it's worth the hassle.

More Info:
Tools Used:
  • Hammer, Tape Measure
  • Speed Square
  • Quick-Grip Clamps
  • 2' Level, Torpedo Level
  • Pneumatic Nail Gun (Optional)
  • Power Miter Saw (Optional)
Materials Used:
  • Lumber, 2x4x8'
  • Nails, 3" (Or Deck Screws)
  • Oriented Strand Board (OSB)
 
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