Ceiling Storage Solution





Introduction: Ceiling Storage Solution

About: depotdevoid is short for The Depot Devoid of Thought, the place where you go when you lo...
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!

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    151 Discussions

    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?

    1 reply

    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.

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

    1 reply

    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!


    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?


    1 reply

    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?

    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.

    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

    2 replies

    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!

    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

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

    Much thanks ^^

    1 reply

    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!

    1 reply

    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!

    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!

    1 reply

    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.