Introduction: Handy Pop-up Trunk Shelf
My family's SUV is great, the third row seat gives plenty of room for friends and passengers but it makes for a short trunk area. That leaves two options when we have a load of groceries; either fold down the third row seat, or stack the groceries in the back. Here's the problem, if we fold down the third row it leaves a cavernous space and the groceries (or sports items on the weekend) roll around and get smashed plus its my job to crawl around back there to gather the groceries when we get home to unload. If I stack the groceries instead, invariably the bread/fruit/eggs/chips get squashed and when we open the lift gate at home the items stacked on top fall out to the ground.
What we really needed was a two shelf system to help separate delicate groceries or keep muddy cleats away from everything else. But, it had to stow away flat when we need to haul bigger, bulkier items.
My solution is a Pop-up Shelf. It saves money by not having to replace grocery items, effort by not having to clean mud off of our sports items, and frustration by giving me easy access to everything without digging through a pile of stuff to find what I need. I also feel more secure about hiding shopping bags or purses out of sight when we need to leave them in the car. Want to build your own? Check out this Instructable you're on your way.
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
To make this shelf you'll need the following supplies:
1. Open Wire Closet Shelf - I bought a 48" piece from Home Depot that fit perfectly in my trunk ($6.00)
2. 2 Legs - I used a pair of legs made for fold down seating on boats. They are lightweight and very strong plus they lock in place in the up and down positions(17.99 each online). I splurged on these legs but you could easily substitute wire folding locker shelves at $4.99 a piece.
3. Grey auto-grade carpet - I bought a 4' x 3' piece at Home Depot ($4.92 / .41 per sq. ft)
4. 8 zip ties - I had some in my garage but they are cheap and widely available.
5. 2 teacup hooks - I had these in my garage too, but they are also cheap and widely available (Target, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc)
1.A needle and thread - I used a heavy duty upholstery needle and heavy duty thread.
2. A hacksaw - to trim the legs if needed.
3. scissors and/or a box cutter
Step 2: Trim Shelf and Legs to Fit Your Trunk
Measure your shelf to your trunk. The shelf should be deep enough to reach from the back of the seat to within an inch of the lift gate when the lift gate is closed. The shelf should be mounted high enough to allow it to fully hinge down against the back seat, but low enough to allow the backseat to be a back wall (you don't want groceries rolling over the backseat). Be sure to hold the shelf at the height it will be mounted to get the correct length, most vehicles narrow from bottom to top. The shelf should be long enough to reach from side to side of your vehicle. Pre-cut 48" shelves work for many vehicles, ours included.
Now measure for the correct height for the legs. You want your shelf to incline ever so slightly towards the front of the car. This prevents items from rolling off the shelf when you open the lift gate. My legs needed to be trimmed. I used a hack saw to trim the length and then sanded the cut smooth. I removed the rubber plug from the trimmed off section by pushing it with a wooden dowel and then re-installed it to the remaining leg.
If you use the option of folding wire locker shelves they are often usable as-is. The reason I chose the tube legs is for their ease of use and strength, plus I like the way they look.
Step 3: Add Shelf Hooks and Secure the Legs
Now that your shelf and legs are sized, we will add the mounting hooks and secure the legs to the shelf.
Take your shelf and hold it where it will be mounted in your trunk. Screw the teacups hooks into place at either end of the back of the rear seat to mount the shelf. The back of our seat is a board covered by carpet as are many seats. It easily accepts small screws. Mounting the shelf on hooks makes it easy to remove (if you ever want to completely remove the shelf).
With the shelf hung in place, pull the shelf up and prop it up with the legs. Position the legs far enough away from the sides of the vehicle and each other to allow you to easily fold the legs up and down without obstruction. When you've positioned the legs to your satisfaction fasten the legs to the shelf with your zip ties. Run the zip tie through the screw holes on the leg bracket and pull it tight around the wire of the shelf. The zip ties do not hold any weight, they are only used to keep the leg firmly in place.
Now the structure of your shelf is complete, time to make it look nice.
Step 4: Upholster the Shelf - Cut the Carpet
At this point your shelf is functional but not pretty. If you want to make it look nice you'll need to cover the shelf with carpet to match your vehicle's interior. I used a gray carpet that was slightly darker than our interior. It was inexpensive and right in front of me at Home Depot so I bought it. I may switch it out at a later date to a more exact match but for now I like it well enough.
Take your shelf off of the hooks and bring it to a big flat surface. The kitchen island is my go-to work surface but tables work too. Place your carpet piece face down and put your shelf down on top of it, aligning it with the edges of the carpet. You are going to cut notches into the carpet so it will wrap tightly around the shelf.
Pull one edge of the carpet up over the back end of the shelf and fold it up to the back of the shelf's overhang on the front end. I clamped the carpet in place nice and tight to hold it in place while I cut out notches to fit the carpet around the legs. Next, cut notches on the short side of the carpet flap so the carpet can wrap around the front edge of the shelf. Only cut the sides of the front notches, do not remove the flap you've cut. You will tuck the flap under the leg bracket.
Step 5: Upholster the Shelf - Sew on the Carpet
To secure the carpet to the shelf you will be sewing it in place. If you do not sew you can substitute a strong glue, upholstery glue or carpet glue will do. Sewing will be a longer lasting option.
Start by folding the flap over the back of the shelf and stitching a line along the back edge of the shelf from the left edge to the right edge. I used the clamps again to hold the carpet nice and flat to make the stitching quick and easy. A simple running stitch will do the job. I used black thread which sunk into the carpet, so the stitching did not show. This is a plus because my stitching was quick and effective but not necessarily aesthetically pleasing.
Next fold the carpet over the front end of the shelf, taking care to tuck the flaps under the leg brackets. Tuck the front flap under the flap from the back edge of the shelf. Use the clamps to hold it in place. Sew another running stitch from the shelf's right to the left edge along the short overhang of the front of the shelf. This stitch will hold the carpet tight to the front overhang on the shelf.
Next fold down the back edge flap over the front edge flap. Sew a running stitch down the middle of the shelf from the right to left edge of the shelf. Sew another running stitch just behind the overhang to hold the front edge of the flap securely. Finish by sewing the left edge upper and lower carpet together and then repeat on the right edge.
Step 6: Add Holes for the Hanging Hooks
Your shelf is wrapped in carpet, but you need 2 small holes to be able to hang the shelf on the hooks. To do this, first bring the shelf to your trunk and mark the location of the hooks onto the shelf carpet. You want your holes to line up with your hooks, so don't just eyeball the measurement (this is the voice of experience talking).
Bring the shelf back to your work space and use a blade or scissors to cut out a small hole at the back of the shelf. Cut through the top carpet layer first and then the bottom carpet layer. Now to finish the hole, stitch around the edge of the hole to pull the top and bottom carpet layers together tight. Repeat this for the second hole.
Now go back to your trunk and hang your shelf.
Step 7: Popping Up the Shelf
To pop up your shelf just grab one side and pull it up towards you. Push the button on the leg and swing it down into position until you hear it click into place and lock. Do the same for the second leg.
To fold the shelf down push the button on the leg and fold it back up until it clicks into place. Do the same thing for the second leg. Swing the shelf down and let it rest against the back off the rear seat. It will snug into place. You can leave it up or down when not in use.
Enjoy your new shelf.