Introduction: Ceiling Storage Solution

I'm a bit of a hoarder, I must admit.  Not like, at the level of mental illness or anything, you won't be seeing me on Hoarders any time soon, but I have a tendency to collect bits and pieces of things I think maybe someday I'll use.  Maybe.  Just in case that interestingly shaped piece of whatever might need to be hot glued to a proton pack or something.  You know what I mean.

What this means is that I've got a lot of knick knacks and doodads in my shop.  There are never enough shelves or spaces to store things, so I'm always looking for a new place to sequester my thingamajigs.  All the walls and shelves and cupboards are jam packed, so I went to the only place that wasn't full up:  the ceiling.

Several months back, I swear I saw an instructable about something really similar to what I've done, only using a purpose built track and full sized rubbermaid containers.  I went looking to thank the author for the inspiration, but I was never able to find it again.  I'm starting to think I dreamed the whole thing up, but if you know what I'm talking about please let me know so I can properly give them credit.

**** UPDATE:  clide has informed me that I did see this somewhere, but it wasn't on instructables!  To see the inspiration for this instructable, check out this link.  ****

My solution was to use the bare rafters as a starting point to hold several small plastic storage containers.  It's worked out fantastically well for me and really helped me to clean up and organize my workshop!  I hope you find it useful and build something similar, and as with all of my instructables, if you build this or are inspired by it, post a picture of your own version (or a link to the instructable you submit) and I'll send you a profile patch!


Here's a quick demo video:


Step 1: Stuff You'll Need


     1.  A shop with exposed rafters
               I suppose you could rig up some sort of rail system on the ceiling, but that would be a lot of work.  I suppose you'll also need to have a low ceiling, a step stool, or just be tall.

     2.  Some scrap wood
               Something flat and long that you can rip to the desired width

     3.  Nails

     4.  Plastic tubs
               I found mine at the dollar tree, but they're sold just about everywhere.  You'll need to do some measuring to figure out how many you need to fill your rafters.  Make sure to get the kind that are see through!

     5.  Handles
               You could buy these premade, but handles are shockingly expensive and I couldn't find any in a size I liked, so I chose to build them from PVC and bolts.

Step 2: Handles Part 1 - PVC

The plan for these handles is simple, one long PVC bar with two short PVC standoffs all bolted to the bottom of the tubs.  Since you are building these yourself, size the handles so they are comfortable for you to use.  I really wasn't happy with anything available at the store and this method worked very well, producing something that is perfect for this application.

The long bars are the width of my hand at its widest point, plus the width of both the standoffs, plus about an inch for give, all told about 7-8 inches wide.  The standoffs were about 2 3/4" long.  Make sure when you buy the bolts and other hardware you consider the OD of the handle pipe, the length of the standoff, and include some extra space for a washer and a nut.

After cutting all of the pieces, use a dremel tool to cut a groove into each side of one end of the standoffs (see picture).  This helps center the handle and prevents it from slipping while moving the tubs.

Finally, drill a hole in each end of the handles, large enough for the bolts and spaced in from the end of the handles exactly where the center of the standoffs will be.  Since I used 1/2" bore PVC, the outside diameter is a little over 3/4" and therefore the holes were drilled a hair over 3/8 of an inch from the ends of the handles.

Step 3: Prepare the Tubs

The tubs need holes for the handle bolts.  Taking one of the handles, place a sharpie or other pen in each hole and mark the bottom of the tub.  Then drill a hole large enough for your bolts at the marked points.

Step 4: Handles Part 2 - Assembly

The pictures are perhaps a bit different from what you will use for this project--I happened to have a bunch of threaded rod and nuts from work so I used those instead of buying bolts.  All I had to buy was washers to protect the thin plastic of the tubs.

Insert the bolts through the handle, through the standoffs, through the tub, and then through the washers, then use a nut on each to hold it together.  Tighten slowly and make sure everything is aligned properly, it's easy for things to start sliding around at this point.  Don't overtighten the nuts, it is possible to crack and destroy the tub if you overdo it.

Once these are all finished, your tubs are all ready!

Step 5: Build the Rafter Rails

The rafter rails are strips of wood nailed to the bottom of the rafters that stick out far enough for the lip of the storage tubs to catch on. 

Measure your tubs at the widest point below the lip, then add maybe 1/4" of play.  This is how much space you need to leave between the rails.  Measure the space between the rafters, subtract the tub width, and divide the result by 2, that is how much lip you will need on each rail.

If you're making a single row of rails, you'll simply need a strip of wood sticking out that far from each side.  If you decide to make several rows like I did, just add the width of a rafter to twice the lip measurement and cut your strips of wood that wide. 

Once everything is measured and cut, nail your strips to the rafters.  I probably used more nails than were strictly necessary, but I had plenty and didn't want to run the risk of a collapse.

Step 6: Final Thoughts


That's it, you're done!  Load the tubs and put them away, just overhead within easy reach!

A couple of people who saw my show your work space instructable mentioned that they liked the idea of these storage containers.  I tried again to find whatever it was that inspired me but failed, so I thought I'd share the process here.  I hope someone out there finds it helpful!  I've really loved these things ever since I've installed them, they're full up with doodads, and since they're see through it's easy to tell what I've put in each.

Please take a minute to rate, comment, and follow me!  Let me know if I've left something out or could clarify anything.  As with all my instructables, if you post a picture of your own version of this project, I'll send you a digital patch!

Comments

author
CameronRobertson made it!(author)2014-11-11

I don't know about you, but this ceiling storage idea gives me the creeps! I'd be so worried that the drawers would fall out! Better to have them angled a bit?

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2014-11-11

Eh, only happened once, and it missed me! That time it was because I'd put waaaaaay too much weight into one of them. Really, it's pretty safe as long as you don't make poor decisions.

author
MoserLabs made it!(author)2014-03-01

excellent instructable! And please keep up the good work! It's ones like this that get people's creativity rolling

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2014-03-02

Thanks, glad you liked it!

author
uloixia made it!(author)2013-09-13

Ah thanks! I checked this Instructable out at work and all videos are blocked, so I can never watch videos.

I think I may try this out in my garden shed, and in my garage after we get a new roof on it! Thanks!

author
uloixia made it!(author)2013-09-12

hi!

My one question is how do you remove the bins? Let's say I want bin #6 out of a row of 12. Do I have to leave a space at the end and slide 5 bins out to get to #6, or is there some other way you're doing it so that I only need to take out the one bin I'm interested in?

Thanks!

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2013-09-12

Nah, it's super easy. Watch the video, about 10 seconds in I show how you get one of the tubs out.

Are you planning on doing this yourself?

author
DeanAshby made it!(author)2013-07-30

Wow, I didn't know you could do that at your ceiling! I thought the only storage you could build at your ceiling is to add an entire compartment like a huge box or platform. But to have small individuals drawers like these is just amazing. I guess the most critical process of this DIY project is to measure the width of the plastis tubs to ensure they are held firmly by the two wooden rails. Else, the drawers might just slip off from the rails and drop to the floor easily.

author
tinker234 made it!(author)2012-02-27

i wonder if i could make these out of scrap wood do you know how to remove a suspend ceiling also a magnet could be use as the handle to unlock it so the front is completely smooth

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2012-02-27

I'd be worried about using a magnet for the handle--if it's easy to detach, then you'd run the risk of having it twist off while the box is over your head.

Scrap wood would work, and you could definitely get a more appealing look that way. The only downsides there would be added weight and not being able to see inside, and that could be worth it if you want them to look nice!

author
tinker234 made it!(author)2012-02-28

yeah just a thought i think plywood with a plexiglass window could work if your organzied but these you can see whats inside be very helpfull

author
BreakFix made it!(author)2011-08-27


Props! I love seeing Instructables that make me palmface and wonder why I never thought of that.

Much thanks ^^

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-08-30

Awesome, glad you liked it! I'm happy to instigate a facepalm whenever possible!

author
zack247 made it!(author)2011-08-27

i would love to get that done in my basement but theres a suspended ceiling now..

its so amazing, im surprised no ones patented it yet!

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-08-30

Thanks zack, I'm glad you liked the idea.

Believe me, If I thought there was a way to make money on this, I'd be out there like the oxyclean guy hocking this all over the place!

author
Geoffrito made it!(author)2011-07-30

Ah what a weird coincidence, I was floating an idea like this around my head this morning. I have the same problem as you do and over the past ten years or so my workshop has gotten completely out of hand. Thanks for the instructable!

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-07-31

No prob, I'm glad you found it useful!

author
E_MAN made it!(author)2011-07-03

I am thinking about mounting this to the bottom of a shelf......

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-07-03

Awesome, I'd love to see some pictures if and when you do!

author
nutsandbolts_64 made it!(author)2011-06-19

Oh come one! I don't have a basement, neither can I reach the ceiling in any way. I think I'll go do some 3D design... I'll just describe what I'm thinking in case anyone who's adult and not a minor with awesome resources can do it, since I can't. It's basically a drop-down file cabinet (kinda like the stairs to the attic that just drops down) that's hinged to the ceiling then you've got some strong pulley system for it.

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-06-19

I would absolutely love to see your interpretation of my system, please post some pictures!

author
aggrav8d made it!(author)2011-04-27

1. Glue/nail jar lids to ceiling.
2. Put things in jars.
3. Screw them onto the lids.

author
burnerjack01 made it!(author)2011-04-27

Not to say that's not a good idea, BUT, I'm 52 and that was an old ( and good) idea when I was very young. That should be made known.
"That which is old shall be new again"

author
rocketguy made it!(author)2011-04-28

Yeah, I knew about that one long ago, and was humbled to find that my Grandfather used it in his shop as well, long before I could reach a work bench.

I think it's one of those tricks that's been around for at least 100 years, probably started with canning jars if not before even then.

(If anybody has an example from an ancient roman workbench, that'd be hilarious).

author
hyratel made it!(author)2011-06-11

+1 for AWESOME.

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-04-27

I've got a few of those above my workbench, all full of nails and screws and such. Sadly, I've been over torquing the jars when I put them back and a couple of the lids have started shredding.

author
Nemesis201077 made it!(author)2011-04-27

Hey, love that idea, simple to do but effective. Like the magnetic spice rack instructables.

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-04-27

Oh yeah, I've been meaning to make one of those for a while . . . thanks, you may have just pointed me to my next project!

author
talonts made it!(author)2011-04-28

You really should use screws instead of nails to hold the strips to the rafters. Unless you used ring shank nails...regular nails will pull loose over time. Not good for stuff over your head.

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-04-28

Probably true, but there isn't a lot of weight in them, and as I mentioned I used a lot of nails just to be safe. I'll recant the first time a tub full of DC adapters lands on my noggin!

author
hyratel made it!(author)2011-06-11

+1 because I've had one land on my foot. and then there's the BIG old supply from out of a dot matrix printer, 42v no-load....

author
NachoMahma made it!(author)2011-05-01

. +1.

author
Broom made it!(author)2011-04-28

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

What he said!

author
Susieknitster made it!(author)2011-04-28

I think this is a great idea, I only have one problem. The ceilings in my basement are 10 feet, yes you read that right, 10 feet tall.

author
michaelmacnz made it!(author)2011-05-02

Hey wow... my ceiling is really low... would you consider sending me the spare 2' of headspace?.. I'm in New Zealand ... maybe you could airmail it to me? lol..

author
finton made it!(author)2011-05-27

Hey, I'm in NZ too michaelmacnz! I don't suppose you'd sell me a foot of Susieknitster's spare space to lift my basement ceiling also?

author
michaelmacnz made it!(author)2011-05-28

Well.... I asked for 2' (but I only need 1'... so I could fax you the spare 1' ... waddya think..

author
finton made it!(author)2011-06-03

Well, thanks mate! Just let me raise my house a foot to accomodate it (ah! Queen's Birthday Weekend project!) and I'll be back to you...

author
eulaliaaaa%21 made it!(author)2011-05-30

Mine too!

author
DIY-Guy made it!(author)2011-04-28

Susie, would you consider using longer lengths of PVC as handles? :)

author
JrRRr made it!(author)2011-05-07

Lol!

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-04-28

Wow, that's a tall basement!

author
tinker234 made it!(author)2011-05-31

love it

author
wwlaveck made it!(author)2011-05-08

I very much like you project. I think I will copy it. However, I will just use single 4" pieces of PVS or 4" strips of wood, just enough to grip the tub.

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-05-08

Great, I'm looking forward to seeing pictures of your project!

author
Dragonbone made it!(author)2011-04-28

Couple of suggestions - use uPVC pipe, elbow bends and solvent cement - much easier and neater than bolts - and fit each tub with two such handles so they can sit on the bench flat, and you can lift them overhead and keep them level with two hands.

Of course, my workshop HAS to have a pitched roof.....!

author
depotdevoid made it!(author)2011-04-28

How would you attach these handles to the tubs? I know it would look a lot nicer if I'd used elbows, but I don't see how you'd actually attach them to the bottom of the container if you're not bolting them.

author
Dragonbone made it!(author)2011-04-29

If the tubs are PVC, then the solvent cement would probably suffice, especially if you put a washer around the base of the pipe to support it. Otherwise, plug the end with some wood dowel and put a screw through from inside.

On reflection, I wonder whether you need to have handles at all? Let's go for the simple solution!

On the subject of loading, it's wise to check the figures if you aren't in the basement - ceiling joists are usually much narrower than floor joists and have a correspondingly lower loading, and with heavy stuff it's surprising how quickly you reach the pounds-per-square-foot limit. I needed two square metres (21sq ft) of bearers to support a 300Kg (660lb) water tank. But a one-ton waterbed spread over normal floor joists is well within the safety limit, and you don't have a lot of weight in those boxes. Just don't fill them with nails....

author
gemtree made it!(author)2011-05-07

Being a shorty like I am, handles would be necessary to reach the boxes. I had my shed built tall enough for my ex to walk without bashing his head.

author
gemtree made it!(author)2011-05-07

Or build a work bench with a slot for the handle...

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