Introduction: Build Easy Free Standing Shelving Unit for Basement or Garage

Moving into a new house, we need quite a few shelving units to store stuff. We don’t have a finished basement, and we haven’t figured out how it would be finished yet, so we need some free standing shelving units that are not attached to the wall, and also have some options to move around later on.

Another reason for the free standing units was because of the flexibility. The storage section of a finished basement is normally not all completed with drywall, part of it will be concrete so it’s a bit difficult to attach something onto.

Step 1: Materials

(6) 2x4x12' Beams
(6) 2x4x7" Vertical supports
(3) 2x4x10' Frame pieces
(2) full sheet 4'x8' 3/8" plywood, plus additional 2'x4' piece (or you can use 1/2' OSB) cut to 2'x8' (actually they will be 23 7/8" x 8') Shelving surface material
3" drywall screws or 3" nails
Some 1 1/4" drywall screws

Drill or impact driver
Tape measure
A pencil
Speed square
A hand saw or miter saw / circular saw

The picture is showing my folding sawhorse in use of holding a bunch of 2x materials to make this shelving unit.

Step 2: Dimension

Our basement has 9' ceiling, based on your application, the shelving units could be different than what I have here.

We have a lot of file boxes that will fit into 3’ space when they stack together, so that's what I chose for beam spacing.

We wanted to have the bottom shelf a foot above the ground in case of water heater tank rust out or some other water damage (we all have that experience).

Normal sheet goods from home center comes in 4’x8’ size, so it’s kind of nature to cut them in half – 2’x8’, only make sure to tell the person in the store to count in the width of the saw blade (1/8”), otherwise, you are going to end up with two half sheets that are not the same dimension in width.

Step 3: Lay Out

I lay-out everything with tape measure, speed square and pencil before put anything together.

·Mark where vertical supports are on the beams.

·Mark where the cross frame pieces are on the beams.

·Mark where the frames are on the vertical supports.

Things to note,

·Lay out everything on one board, double check all dimensions, then transfer every marking to all samegroup pieces at once by putting them together side-by-side with ends aligned.

·Draw two lines to represent two edges of the adjacent board instead of the center-line to have a better alignment.

·Do not do anything with cross frame pieces at this stage.

Step 4: Cut Frame Pieces

The only cut we had to make was the cross frame pieces. In my case they are 21”, as they should be 3” short of 24” counting for the 2x4 beams at each end.

I cut them on the miter saw with a stop block clamped at left side of the fence so I don’t have to measure 15 times and align marks to the saw blade every cut - all of them should be machined in one set up to speed up the process, as well as ensure the same dimension so the final frame should be square.

Step 5: Assemble Frames

Assembly process is fairly easy. With all the lay out marks, just align the parts and screw them together. I was lucky enough to have a friend who owns a framing nail gun that he is willing to let me use, so my build went quickly than I expected, makes me thinking about buying one of them big powerful thing…

·Align cross piece to the beam at the marks and put one nail or screw at the joint first.

·When the frame has all the elements, lay down to a fairly flat surface to make sure it square and not twisted (check for the square by measuring diagonally, two measurements should be the same). Adjust if needed.

·Then nail (screw) it together with one or two more nails (screws) at each joint to lock it firmly.

Step 6: Final Assembly

·Stand up three frames with long side on the ground and parallel to each other with about 3’ spacing, doesn’t have to be precise but close enough.

·Align vertical support piece to the marks on the frames (a little adjustment here and there is needed), and hold the speed square to ensure the alignment, shoot a nail (or a screw) through

·Continue until two end supports are in place. Lift the frame a little and slide two vertical pieces under the assembly, repeat the second process.

·Now you can stand up the whole unit on it's 4 vertical legs. Check the square by measuring diagonally. If all square (which I was luckily), fire up your nailer or screw gun to lock it down.

·Attach the two middle support after the unit is all square and secured.

·Drag the whole thing into the place you want, shim at the floor under the vertical support for level.

·Put all your plywood pieces into place and screw them down to the beams and cross pieces with 1 ¼” drywall screws every 16”.

Step 7: After Thought

The project took me about two and half hours to complete, not counting shopping for material, (but did include a couple of “12oz-lifting” event), thanks for the powerful nail gun. I missed the pictures of the assembly process as I was trying to get it done, and once it’s in the grove, it would be hard to stop and take a picture.

The most important step of the build was the lay-out process. As long as the 2x4 are fairly straight, everything would fall into places without too much problem. You shouldn't be forcing anything and the unit would be level and square.

Attach the unit to the ceiling or wall if you see the possibility of tilt or tip over. Once it got leveled, the unit seemed very stable due to its weight, but I will secure it with a couple of board to the ceiling just for the safety measure. We have two little guys and nobody knows what they are going to do next…

Please have all your safety protection gears on while you are working, I do all the time, even with hearing protection on. If you work alone, when something doesn’t look or feel safe to you, then it’s NOT. Please be safe.

If I purchase the units this size at home center, it would cost me at least three times as much, and they could be possibly not fit my spacing need. So in my case, it would make sense to make my own.