Introduction: 1 Girl, 2 Days, Loads of Storage

My garage was in desperate need of some organization. As a teacher, I'm out for the summer and decided to use some of my time building some shelves, but I had to do it without any help while everyone else I know is at work. So, I built these shelves all on my own in only two days. Can you tell I'm proud?

I used these shelves for inspiration and ideas before I started. Thanks Jzbowmannz!

You can do it too! Tame that mess!





1" nails*

2.5" screws*

measuring tape



gloves (optional) I always get splinters when handling plywood and I despise it. Gloves help avoid that.

large zip ties

stud finder (very helpful but not completely necessary)

Electric saw (I used a handheld skill saw but a circular saw would work nicely as well.)

Electric drill

*I have not indicated how much lumber or hardware is needed because it depends greatly on the size and shape of the space you will be building in, but I will discuss how I came to the numbers that I used, so that you may figure out what you need.

Step 1: Design Concerns and Material Math

My garage was a pretty blank slate, but there were a few things that I needed to consider.

1. Look around for anything that is large or awkwardly sized. Will it fit on the shelves or do you need to find someplace else to put it? Do you need to build the shelves to fit the items?

I had a few items that could not be moved and they dictated the way I built the shelves. The bicycles and potter's wheel had to be accommodated as well as a trash can full of bricks and a can full of very tall pipes, tubes, and rods. Another reason for building the shelves was to make room for a scooter between the two cars and the potter's wheel was in that position, so it would have to be moved.

2. Preliminary measurements
Measure the width of your space and decide on the depth of the shelves. I could not build them any deeper than 2.5 ft. because of the bicycles. I later decided to make them 2 ft because it was economical with regard to the plywood. I'll get into that later.
3. How many 2x4s do you need?
I did a very rough sketch to get down all the items that needed to be accommodated and how many sections I would have. I would put a vertical board every 4-5 ft. Once I had this rough sketch, I was able to do some math to figure out how many 2x4s I would need. I bought 8 ft. boards and that was the height of my ceiling. If you have a different height ceiling, you need to consider that when doing your math.
(# vertical boards x 2)
+ (width of space x avg. number of shelves in each section)(x2)
# of 2x4s needed (or a very close estimate)

4. How many 1x3s
This math is much easier. When deciding on the length of the board consider what will fit in your vehicle. I cannot fit larger than an 8 ft. board in my car. You could use 2x4s instead of the 1x3s but the smaller lumber is cheaper and isn't carrying much weight, so I went with the cheaper (and lighter) option.
(depth of shelves - 3 in.) / (length of board) = # of pieces per board
(Total # of shelves x 2) / (# of pieces per board) = # of 1x3s needed (or a very close estimate)

Step 2: Day 1: Getting Started

1. Clear all the stuff away from the area you want to build in. Make sure you have plenty of clean space in which to work.

2. Lay out a 2x4 on the floor in the general area that you want each vertical section. Look back to your sketch to consider your awkward items that need to be accommodated. I sketched right on the wall where I would need these vertical 2x4s to be.

3. Decide on the height of each shelf, measure and mark where each shelf will be on the 2x4s on the floor. Imagine that the ends touching the wall are the bottom. When I had a shelf that was staggered, I drew arrows indicating which direction that shelf measurement was for.

Step 3: Day 1: First Section

1. Finalize the width of each section and cut 2x4s for each shelf width.

2. Lay them out on the marks you made earlier.

3. Screw them together with one screw at each joint. This will allow the frame to flex a bit and make sure you can make adjustments as the whole thing is fit together.

4. Find and mark a stud that is within the first section

5. Lift the first section up and screw it to the wall on the stud.

6. Now, that the section is square and where you want it, put an additional screw at each joint so the section will no longer flex and shift. (Thanks to shambuda2000 for reminding me that I did this.)

Step 4: Day 1: Build More Sections

1. Cut and attach the horizontal boards to the next section.

2. Raise the next section and screw it to both the first section and the wall.

3. Repeat until all sections are up on the wall.

Step 5: Day 1: Repeat

Now you need to make a second set of the same configuration of boards as before. This time, however, the horizontal boards need to be attached under the horizontal instead of on top.

As you raise each section, use a zip tie to hold them up while you work on the next section.

By the end of Day 1, you should have the front and back of the shelves fully assembled.

Step 6: Day 2: Plywood

How much plywood?

I highly recommend choosing to make your shelves 2 ft in depth as the plywood sheets can be cut in half lengthwise at the hardware store to reduce your cutting dramatically. A sheet of plywood is 4'x8'. If you have it cut down to 2 pieces of 2'x8', you only have to cut the width of each shelf. It also makes it possible to load them into a car without help. I am assuming you will be taking my advice and going with the economical 2 ft. shelves with the following math.

Measure the width of each shelf, write them down, and add them all together. This is the total number of inches of plywood that you need. You can use the following math to estimate the plywood that you need, but to be sure, you will need to do a little sketching.

(# of inches) / (96) / (2) = estimated # of plywood sheets

Once you've estimated, look at your numbers again and sketch out each piece of plywood. You may not be able to use the plywood as economically with the width as you can with the depth. Remember that each sheet will be cut in half lengthwise. See image to see how I did it.

In the end, I needed 3 sheets for the shelves on one wall. The shelves on the other wall ended up using the remainders pretty well.

You might be able to cut the wood differently to better match the size of your shelves. You could also use the remainders and piece them together into the sizes you need, but I didn't want to deal with that.

Step 7: Day 2: Adding Depth

This is the trickiest step. Please be careful. If your shelves are very wide, you may need help with this, but I did it alone with the width of my two car garage and it wasn't too scary.

1. Cut a couple 2 ft. pieces of 1x3 and start a screw in each end.

2. Find a spot where you can screw a "bracer" into the back section in a couple places.

3. Once you've screwed them into the back, cut the zip ties and inch the front section forward and screw the other end of the bracer into the front section.

4. These boards are only for holding the front in place while you cut and install the plywood.

Step 8: Day 2: Shelf Supports

1. Cut your shelf supports from 1x3s. If you chose 2 ft. shelves, they will be 1'9". If not, they are 3 in. shorter than the depth of your shelves.

2. Start screws in each end before installing to make it faster and easier.

3. Screw the supports inside the front and back frames making sure that the top is flush with the 2x4s.

Step 9: Day 2: Installing Plywood

1. Measure and cut each section of plywood and slide them in.

2. Nail around the edges to keep them snug and strong. I put about 6 nails in each. Do whatever makes you comfortable.

Step 10: Clean Up and Done!

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