Introduction: Garage Shelves

Picture of Garage Shelves

This is an easy and affordable method I've used to build all my garage shelves. They are extremely strong and will support anything I put up there.

In this instructable I’ll walk you through a step-by-step process of how to build shelves with a little bit of engineering insight to add to your understanding of building strong structures.

Step 1: Supplies, Tools, and Cost

Picture of Supplies, Tools, and Cost

Supplies & Cost

  • 2x4x8 $2.79 ea. (9 used)
  • 2x4x10 $4.30 ea. (2 used)
  • OSB 4x8 (3/8 th.) $10 ea. (2 used)
  • Screws (2.5 in.) $10
  • Framing Angles $0.50 ea. (4 used)
  • Joist Hangers $0.75 ea. (4 used)

Total: $68.71 + tax


Tools:

  • Drill
  • Level
  • Framing Square
  • Miter Saw

Time Needed:

The time to complete this project was about 2.5 hours, for the two of us, once we had all the materials needed.

Helpful Tip:

Most home improvement stores have a saw to cut down the OSB which eliminates the need for a table saw. I, almost always, have them cut it down for me.

Step 2: Marking Up the Walls

Picture of Marking Up the Walls

To make things easier I measured out lines for each and drew them on the wall using a level. This way all I needed to do was line the 2x4's up with the marks that were already made level. The only thing to really consider is the thickness of the 2x4 AND OSB that serves as the top surface of the shelf. Both of these need to be accounted for when spacing out the shelves.

Step 3: Cornered In

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A square and level can be used to continue the line onto the adjacent wall.

Step 4: All Lined Up

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As a result, you should end up with a wall full of level lines to guide the placement of each 2x4.

When securing the 2x4's up to the wall, be sure to pre-drill each hole with a bit that is slightly smaller in diameter than your screws. Doing this will help prevent the wood from splitting. I chose to place 2 screws in each stud (in the actual wall) to provide maximum support.

Note:

You can actually use 2x3's in this step to save approximately $0.80 per board.

Step 5: Building Each Shelf

Picture of Building Each Shelf

Each piece of OSB was cut to 8ft x 20in

The 2x4's were cut down by about 3in to allow the top surface to overlap the boards already mounted on the walls. Therefore a 1.5in space should be made on each side of the shelf. Once aligned properly and flushed up to the edge the OSB was secured to the 2x4's using some wood screws.

Step 6: Hanging Shelves

Picture of Hanging Shelves

Each shelf can the be place in position on the wall and supported on the loose end with a 2x4 acting as a pillar.

Clamp the shelf to the pillar and tack a few screws along the back of the shelf to safely secure it to the wall. Repeat this process for each shelf.

The reason for only using a clamp in this stage is to allow for leveling the shelves but also giving the freedom to plumb (vertically level) the supporting pillar.

Step 7: Tying It All Together

Picture of Tying It All Together

Once the pillar is plumb each shelf can be leveled across the top and screwed to the pillar. Also, I chose to give the added support of framing angles on the pillar side and joist hangers on the opposite end.

Doing this is probably overkill but it eliminates the possibility of splitting the wood (at the screws) due to excessive weight on the shelf and thereby maximizing the strength of the 2x4 beams. This is better explained in the nest step.

Step 8: A Bit of Engineering Flavor

Picture of A Bit of Engineering Flavor

To further explain the reasoning in the previous step you should realize the area moment of inertia (resistance to bending) of a rectangle beam is equal to (base x height^3)/12. This means the greatest single contributor to the strength of a beam is the height of the cross-sectional area, since it's to the 3rd power. This is why an I-beam is tall and skinny. Therefore, by supporting the 2x4 beam from underneath, the strength is significantly increased.

Step 9: End Supports

Picture of End Supports

Finally, boards were cut to fit the loose end of each shelf. Doing this provides a little more stiffness across the midsection of the OSB.

Step 10: Enjoy!!

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Now you have a very strong shelf to hold all your storage items. I've stood on these and bounced with little to no deflection in the 2x4 beams. Better yet, there are no pillars in the center obstructing the storage space.

Hopefully you were able to get something valuable out of this. If you liked it please vote for this project in the Shelving Contest.

Comments

PhilS43 (author)2017-01-17

Shelving is a much trickier business than most people think.

There are three dimensions (axes) that shelves have to be right.

If you have access to, a laser self-leveling level with horizontal and vertical cross-lines is invaluable.

Supporting shelves again is underestimated. Slinging a length of chipboard across some brackets is bad engineering, like a bad bridge design.

I like CLS (4 x 2 or 3 x 2 inch nominal) as an underframe, then you can use anything within reason as the surfacing - how often do you see library shelves sagging under the weight of books - the back edge might be supported by a batten, but the front edge is not.

For real strength, don't use natural timber beams, but an engineered material like birch ply, if you can afford it.

Structural metalwork like joist hangers are hugely strong, as are herringbone trusses. I've used Simpson brackets etc. to build studwork and outbuildings.

tlp801 (author)PhilS432017-01-17

PhilS43,

You've made some good points. I would add that there are numerous other was to improve this design, at a cost. Your suggestions would easily double or triple the price of this project. What would you use it for? Are you looking to park a car on it or store a few boxes? What is your budget like? Does style or appearance matter? These are all things one should consider when designing a project, since "there are many ways to skin a cat..."

I contend this is a very effective design for the intended purpose, and certainly the best "bang for your buck".

PhilS43 (author)tlp8012017-01-18

Hi tip

Not meaning to be too critical as you have obviously gone the extra bit to improve the structural design of your shelves. Others might have to choose between buying budget shelving systems or fixing something totally unsuitable.

Plastered walls and drywalling aren't often flat, or true in the X, Y, or Z axes - even a good shelving system like Spur is going to be tricky unless you have a flat, plumb surface to start with.

Having fitted quite a few kitchens, out of true walls and floors are the norm - that's where the laser level comes in, one of the most cost-effective tools I own.

I too have organised my tools (some very heavy) and materials in storage boxes (I use either second-hand ex-removal company stacking boxes about 700x500x400 or 35-litre Really Useful Boxes, one of the strongest stacking boxes going). How often do you see shelves with tin of paint stacked on top of each other just waiting to fall, when a box is much safer?

The shelving in my garage is designed around the boxes to, as you say, maximise the space.

I can't agree with with your estimate of double or triple costing. CLS (Canadian Lumber Standard) or studding, is one of the cheapest, structurally-sound, finished, graded, dimensionally standardised timbers around - it has to be. Ideal for any type of framing, plus radiused corners mean no splinters.

Once you have a strong frame, you choices of shelving surfaces are unlimited - I often used 18-mm or 22-mm flooring grade (P4 or P5) - 2400 x 600-mm sheets are as cheap as you can get, like the OSB you have used. I agree that birch ply is horribly expensive now, but you need less of it. Far Eastern WBP or sheathing ply is cheaper, but experience has taught me that the FE stuff, apart from a nice surface, is often full of tool-wrecking crap in the core.

I never nail, either decent screws or builders brackets.

Personally, I think appearance does matter, even in a garage.

As for cats, couldn't comment, but having just dealt with a rat infestation (evil sods), you do do need many ways to see them off - now I have to deal with the trail of damage

mgrenzoni (author)PhilS432017-01-18

I think what "tlp" is trying to say is that his project is appropriate and safe for the audience it is intended for. That audience, myself included, is looking for inexpensive, safe shelving that follows function over form. This is not intended to be completely flush to the wavy walls. It is intended to simply and cheaply add storage space. I have an engineering background. With the dimensions and choice of lumber, these shelves are more than safe for general storage.

You could choose to use different materials and methods for yourself but there is nothing technically wrong with the design outlined here.

Tlp, thanks for the great instructable. I have a garage space a mirror image to the one you illustrated and plan to use this as a template for my shelving.

tlp801 (author)mgrenzoni2017-01-19

You're exactly right. Thanks, I'm glad this was helpful!

PhilS43 (author)mgrenzoni2017-01-18

Audience? Now the "engineers with background" are involved. Function over form? What the hell. Stick to bridges.

Jim_dJ (author)2017-01-17

For lack of a any other reason to space the shelves, consider the height of a banker's box (file storage box) plus an inch.

tiagolramos (author)2017-01-15

I made a very similar project, works great. I have all my Heavy tools in there for years.

I painted the shelves with acrylic paint it's a lot easier to clean.

tlp801 (author)tiagolramos2017-01-17

Painting is the next step. :)

Slbimrie (author)2017-01-17

Perfect! I've been scouring online for easy shelves for totes. This is by far the easiest with great instructions! You've got my vote!

tlp801 (author)Slbimrie2017-01-17

Thanks!!

controlsgirl (author)2017-01-17

Great how-to! I love that you explain why you did certain things and especially the explanation on the strength of beams. I've been curious as to joist hangers are stronger than just screwing a board in.

I am not sure if I overlooked it but how did you screw in the front beam on the top shelf to the left wall by the door?

tlp801 (author)controlsgirl2017-01-17

Thank you, I'm glad it was helpful! I used a joist hanger there as well, though I don't think it's in the picture.

JasonE (author)2017-01-16

Nice 'ible! Clear and easy to follow! Good work!

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Bio: My goal with every instructable is to be short & sweet with lots of pictures.
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