Heavy Duty Shelf Brackets




About: I've always been intrigued by coming up with new ways to accomplish task. I am an entrepreneur at heart. I've owned my own Construction business that specialized in Historic properties, I've flipped home, ...

So I wanted to create some storage in my garage. I saw there was a lot of unused space at the top of my walls.  So I decided I could make a 24" deep shelf all the way around to store my plastic storage totes. I priced out the heavy duty brackets at 24". They ran $10 a piece. I needed 17 so I just made my own using 2 x 4 lumber and screws. Each bracket cost me less than $3.

20 brackets x $10 equals $200
20 brackets x $3 equals only $60
That is a $140 savings on just 20

It took me about two hours to make 17 brackets. While I watched my four year old son ride his bike outside.

Here are some products that inspired me to make my own.


This even cost more!

Step 1: Tools

1. Drill and bits
2. Tape measure
3. Speed square or small framing square
4. Saw (I used my compound miter with a stand and stop block setup.)
5. Work surface (I had a clamp on my table that helped a lot.)
6. Extension cords if needed.
7. My wife also insist on a shop vac to clean up my mess.
8. I insist on a hot cup of coffee.

Step 2: Decisions Decisions

1. Decide how big your shelf needs to be. There are a couple things to consider

A. Ceiling height
B. Clearance needed above shelf
C. Clearance needed below shelf bracket
D. Depth of shelf.
E. Thickness of plywood and length of bracket you are making.
F. Bracket spacing depending on plywood thickness. Helps to estimate your number of brackets.

Planning is the most important step in any project. So take you time, think it through. Then you can execute a perfect project that fits your needs. Here where my decisions based on what I laid out above.

A.124" available clearance
B.20" for my plastic bins with wiggle room
C.79" for my shelving units
D.24" I decided on this because 24 is a good depth for my bins and I could get Lowes to rip my sheets in half for free. Length wise of course.
E.19/32" this is fairly cheap and strong enough to spread my brackets.
F.4' is what I felt was efficient for my needs. I can hang between my bracket spacing any it doesn't sag much. For me this is all I need. I weigh 175 lbs!

Step 3: Bracket Layout,Cutting,Building

Note:  I didn't feel the need to glue my joints, but some feel it would be an idea to consider.  I explain more about this at the end in the IMPORTANT: section.  If you would like you can glue your joints.  A glued joint is a stronger joint, but is unnecessary for this project if done as I have.

I'm going to just use the bracket size I decided on in my explanation, but I will explain how I came to certain measurements.. I decided to make a 24" wide x 24" long bracket arms with a 45 degree brace. I also decided I needed 17 brackets.

I like to use stop blocks to cut my pieces. If you are not familiar with a stop block. It is simply a stopping point on your compound miter saw that you adjust to your length of cut. Then you just bump your lumber up to it, cut that piece, put it in a stack, then cut the next piece. It greatly increases your speed and accuracy of cuts. If you still don't understand this just YouTube stop block on miter saw.


(this will change if you are making different size brackets. But it will inform you of my thought process. So you can figure out your own cut list)

So for 1-24"x24" bracket you will need
1. 1-24"
2. 1-22.5" (This is how I came to this measurement.) 24" (Length of bracket) minus 1.5" (2x4 thickness)
3. This will be cut with 45's through the width of the board. Refer to photos. 1-32" long to long \45 45/. (This is how I came to this measurement the easy way. Go to step a through b)
4. 2-1" spacing blocks (3.5"-1.5" equals 2" divided by 2 equals 1") These blocks are used to space your brace up to the correct height while mounting the brace to the bracket arms.  


(You can skip step B if you are making a 24"x24" bracket. Just use my measurements. If you are making a different size the step b tells how I came up with the brace length.)

A. Take your two bracket arms 1 @ 24" and 1 @ 22.5". Clamp the 22.5" down to your work table. Take the 24" and lay it perpendicular to the 22.5". The 24" will cap the end grain of the 22.5". Take your 3 1/2" screws and screw the two pieces together. The clamp will hold the 22.5" in place so you can line everything up nicely. I used two screws.
B. Now lay down your square in the crotch of the two boards. Make sure everything is square. Then measure from the point A to point b. This is the long points on the 45's.
C. Now that you have everything cut. After step A you continue to this step. Lay down your spacer blocks where the 45' meet the bracket arms. Lay the brace in place on top of the spacers.  Screw in with  2 1/2" screws. I used two per brace end.

Your brace is now done. I used #10 3 1/2" screws to mount the brackets, #9 2 1/2 for mounting the bracket arms to the braces;  and #8 1 1/4" screws to mount my plywood to the brackets.

Note: the screws I chose are self drilling so I didn't have any problems with would splitting.  I would suggest using these type screws unless you pre-drill your pieces first.  If there are splits then the integrity of the brace is compromised.


Please make sure you orient the brackets as I have in the photos for installation.  To get the full potential of the bracket you need to install it so that the short bracket arm is screwed to the wall, and the longer bracket arm is screwed on top of the shorter one.

If you install these the other way they will do great but the new orientation will change the pressure points and angles on the joints.  Thus making the top joint weaker due to the pulling effect that may because by pressure on the outter most point of the shelf.  The downward force on the 45 degree brace will leverage out on the top bracket arm.  If installed correctly it will cause shear force on the fasteners.  The fasteners I chose will have no problem taking care of this.  If you flip the bracket it will cause extrusion force on the fasteners.  The fasteners I chose will have no problem taking care of this, but other may not carry the load so well.  

Butt joint are considered weak by some people due to the leverage that can be created if a brace isn't present.  In my design there is no concern for this if properly installed.

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62 Discussions


4 years ago on Introduction

I'm making these brackets as we speak. I am a beginner at everything carpentry related and that is what drew me to this design. My garage already has drywall up.


1. Would lag screws with wide washers be ok to mount the brackets to the wall?

2. If so, where would the optimal placements be?

3. Or combine a lag screw with #10 4" screws? Placements?

My concerns arise from my lack of confidence in correctly mounting the finished brackets to my wall. More precisely, in driving the screws through the brackets, through my drywall and into the studs. I was thinking I would need 6 screws per bracket to feel safe. I was planning on screwing them into the face of the bracket against the wall and angling inward to catch as much wood as possible. Two top, two middle, two bottom. Am I over thinking this?

4 replies

Reply 3 years ago

If it supports weight the best rule is to use nails that are twice the depth of the wood being driven through, so long as the depth of the material it is ending up can accommodate it. Safest method.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Revised comment.

I like your plan of using lags. I feel two 1/2" x 4" lags are efficient. You should pre drill pilot holes through the bracket (9/16" drill bit, this will give you some play in placement Also pre drill your pilot hole into the wall (5/16" drill bit).

If you have already built you brackets. I would install two lags on center. Measuring down from the top of the bracket one at 3.5" and the second at 14". Personally I would make a quick drill guide or jig. To do this I would first cut a 2x4 to the over all bracket arm length of 24 1/16". (I made this a little larger so when you add blocking it want be to tight to work efficiently.) I would mark this with a center line, write top on one end (Mark with spray paint), measure down the 3.5" and 14" measurements. Mark those on center. If you have a drill press it will make this next part easier and more accurate. Take a 1/4" drill bit and drill at these marks. (The 1/4' drill bit is easier to center then starting with the larger bit!)Try to stay perpendicular (square) to the guide board. (A drill press will keep you perfectly square but it isn't completely necessary just take your time on the guide and get it as close as you can) After you finish both holes move up to the 5/16" bit. Drill both holes. Now you can use this guide to make corresponding holes on your wall. Also mark one side of the guide with spray paint, this is only really necessary if you didn't use a drill press. the will make sure you free handed holes match up with the exact angel on both the bracket and wall.

Next you need to mark the wall placement. Find the studs mark a level center line of each stud you will be mounting to. On one end of the wall mark the bracket height (top). Take a line level or builders level and stretch it from the marked bracket top across the wall and mark all the bracket heights. I like to set both ends then come back and pop a line. Orient the guide with the top up and the MARKED side AGAINST the wall. This way if your guide has a slight angle in the pre-drilled holes they will be angled correctly. Line the guide top up with the bracket top line and center the guide on the center line. ( to help with this it maybe easier if you have extended you stud line on the wall above the bracket top mark and below the 24" length of the guide, then mark the top of the guide and bottom of the guide with center lines ( on the end grain of the guide). Also drill a 1/8" hole 1" from the top and 1" from the bottom on center. You can use these holes to temporarily mount your guide while drilling the lag pilot holes. This will help with speed accuracy and over all hassle. Now correctly temporarily mount the guide top to wall brace height and marked side to wall with 3.5" screws. Pre-drill holes with 5/16" bit onto wall. Now that your done with the wall placements move onto pre-drilling the brackets.

Now we need to drill the 5/16" holes out larger with the 9/16" bit. so drill out both holes this time the drill should follow the correct path but do your best to stay square with the guide. Next take the guide and add some scrap pieces of wood to the top bottom and both sides. This will ensure you get exact placement on every bracket and boost you speed on completing multiple brackets. (Take note that the top of the guide is at the top of the bracket and the marked side is visible.) Now you can hold or clamp (I prefer clamp) the guide in place while you drill the holes with the 9/16" bit. Drill all your brackets. Or if you want just to be sure your work is correct you can do one at a time.

Now you should be ready for installation. Install your brackets with 1/2" X 4" lags with 1/2" washers.

Special Notes:

1. This guide is for building the brackets exactly like I built them. If you changed the size or angle of the brace arm. You may need to check you placement of the lags. Just lay out your bracket or pre-build it. Then measure out perpendicular from the part of the brace that attaches to the wall. Make sure you clear 5" to 6" in the opening for the bottom lag. This will ensure you can fit your lag and socket.

2. You could add a third lag on-center if you would like but I feel two are plenty. The main thing with fasteners is you don't want to overload the the wood. Three wouldn't over load it but I feel it would be over kill. If you want you could add the third just put it in between the other two. Use the same steps and just add it to the guide.

If I think of anything else I will add it or if you run to another question. I'll do my best to answer.

When I dry wall my garage I'm going to use this method. Thanks for the new idea on mounting hardware.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Thank you for the response. I had already bought 1/4" x 4" self drilling lag screws. They have about a 1/2" head on them. My plan was to mount two of those per bracket (per drilling the bracket but NOT the wall/studs). Holding everything else the same as you described in detail, do you think the screws I have will suffice? I can easily return them for 1/2"x4" lags.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Edit: This is what I have and was referring to above:



5 years ago on Introduction

Why not eliminate one of the adjacent sides of your triangle bracket and screw it directly to your garage upright wall wooden support, thus savings of an extra third.

5 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Thank You theo67 for taking the time to ask such a good question. I personally decided not to build my bracket that way due to a couple reasons.
1st. I wanted a bracket I could easily mount and then later remove when I decide to finish out my garage walls with drywall. If I built them the way you mentioned, all my work and lumber would be a waste.
2nd. Building the brackets as I decided to actually are quicker then taking the time to hold up a board level it with other braces, then level it and add a cross brace. Building them in an asmebly line fashion using a consistent building process with jigs to keep them all the same, will flow much smoother. Then when you install them all you need to do is hold the brace up to your level line and mount it. For the pennies I'd save in material, I made that back with build quality and time saved. I built all my braces in two hours, I installed all braces in 45 minutes. I couldn't imagine piece milling them together in that time.
3rd. To build them as you mentioned, the construction would change. First, I'm guessing you would turn the top board on its side side instead of as I have it. This would reduce your screwing edge on the top from 3.5" to 1.5". Second I'm guessing you would leave the brace on its side. Now here is where you would have to make a decision on the joint you would use. Would you use a lap joint or a butt joint with a toe nailed screw. If you use a butt joint with a toenailed screw. I would definitely follow up with laminating a piece of .5" plywood cut to into an equilateral triangle to reinforce that joint. Laminating means to screw and glue for those of you who are not familiar with the term. That would make a great brace and could work fine for exposed wall studs. But for me that is more work than what I did. The other option I mentioned was a lap joint, the only problem with that is when you make the lap joint one of the pieces of wood will be pushed out by the thinckness of the other piece. Lets say you use 2x4's, you mount the top board directly to the stud then you mount the brace board to the side of the top board with a lap joint. Now your brace can't be twisted to meet back up with the stud or you will weaken the integrity of the joints. So now you will need to mount a spacer block to the side of the stud. Then you could mount the brace nice and tight to both the stud and the mounting block to create tight lap joints. This is also a nice option. But it take just as much material and more time.

Neither one of these options are cheaper or easier. Both options in my opinion are less likely to look as good as this simple brace. Both of the referred optional builds are not easily reusable if you decide to repurpose the brackets, or to later add drywall or some sort of finished wall.

Once again thank you so much for asking such a great question. I completely forgot mention the reasoning for my decisions on building the brackets how I did.

But now that you mentioned it. I you need a stronger bracket then you may consider designing a laminated bracket. It will have way more strength then my design. I don't know exactly how much weight this design will hold. But built the way I built them with the screws I chose I know they carry 200 lbs each. Which is good enough for me. I also wanted the options to utilize the openness. Maybe I'll put up another instructable showing what I end up doing with these spaces.

I personally appreciate the 3 piece design, thus allowing the brackets to be easily removed and repositioned to other areas, without splitting materials.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

A fine craftsman solution you have suggested. My method was just a rough and ready quick fix solution for an old shed.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I'm sure it work just fine for your needs. Thanks for taking the time to ask a question and leave a comment. Have a great Labor Day.


5 years ago on Introduction

I have similar shelves, and one bugbear has been losing things over the back of the shelf, through the void. So I have been using a lot of boxes/old drawers to put things inside.

A better solution for me would have been to ether have a toe-stop across the back, or to put the shelves right inside the wall as well as across the front.

5 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Just cut insets to accommodate the studs in the topping piece of plywood and add the difference to the overall depth of the piece.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I'm using my sleeves for large items. But if I was worried about things falling between the self and the outer wall. I would staple medium duty plastic sheeting (3 mil) to the studs above the shelves. It would be cheap and wouldn't eat up your shelf real estate depth wise. I would run it up 6" to 12" stapled to the shelf and up the wall studs every other stud. You could staple through some old ribbon if you planned to remove it at a later time. This way instead of pulling out all the staples you could just pull the strips of ribbon thus removing the staples limiting the work and minimizing the damage to your plastic sheeting.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Another approach to this problem would be to install horizontal "fire blocking," installed flat between the studs, so that their top face is at the same height as the finished shelf. These are 2x4s cut to the inside dimensions of the stud cavity, end-nailed from the outsides of the studs, with a little angle on the nails where necessary. The cut doesn't have to be precise, just adequately short so you can get them into place. The usual procedure is to mark a piece of 2x4 in place with a pencil, i.e. hold it up against the gap, with one edge of one end against the inside of one stud, and mark it along the inside front edge of the other stud. Shouldn't take more than a minute apiece.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Nice thinking. that is an excellent suggestion. I'm in the middle of another project that involves plastic sheeting so my mind tend to drift to the covering instead of filling. Thanks for your in put. bo88y!


8 weeks ago

I just want to say it's been 5 years since I made these. They worked amazingly, but I took them down in favor of a "better" way and needed more shelves. Now I'm taking that mess down and needless to say, I'm back on this thread. I'm making 8 more brackets and going back to this type of storage. Thanks again to OP for a timeless, simple, functional, inexpensive option for storage.

1 reply

Reply 8 weeks ago

Wow, thanks for the compliment, I’m glad this instructable has helped so many Creative and get it done kind of enthusiast. It is very encouraging to hear how my design has become timeless. Hopefully I’ll get a move on the stack of other instructable projects I have drafted. Have a blessed day!


1 year ago

I like the plan just the way it is.