Wasted Space: High Garage Storage Shelves




Introduction: Wasted Space: High Garage Storage Shelves

About: Build instead of buy....most of the time.

Most garage spaces contain a lot of unused space along the top edges of the walls. This is a great location to build some easy storage shelves that will greatly increase the amount of square footage that you can use for storage. While I do have a nice shop setup you can complete this project with just a few common tools:

  • A circular saw for cutting the plywood shelves to size and for crosscutting the lumber to length
  • A speed square used with your circular saw will result in nice square cuts.
  • A drill for all of the screws and predrilling holes.
  • And of course a drill bit for predrilling holes. If you have a similar sized nail you can use it to predrill holes as well. It works surprisingly well.

The exact materials will depend on your situation. You will need:

  • Enough 2x2 material to span the entire length of your wall three times. I have a table saw so it was cheaper for me to purchase 2x4 material and rip them right down the middle to create two roughly 2x2 sized boards.
  • Enough 2x4 material to create vertical supports for your shelves. I suggest no more than a 4' span without a vertical support.
  • Enough 3/4" plywood to create your actual shelves.
  • About a pound of 3" screws. I used decking screws.
  • A handful of 1-1/4" screws. I used drywall screws.
  • Wood glue.

Keep in mind that not all structures or garages are created equal. Before starting on a project like this make sure your garage can indeed support weight from below. If you are unsure consult a professional.

Step 1: Prepare

It's always best to establish a plan of attack for your project. Figure out exactly what is needed and the order in which you will complete the project. There is no perfect planning method that works for everyone but I tend to use SketchUp to make sure I have all my ducks in a row before I start. Here's an overlay of my plan. The grey lines represent 2x2 boards. The orange lines represent the vertical 2x4 supports. And the green area represents the plywood shelves. Then it was time to get all the crap out of my way to start in on the project.

Step 2: Start Cutting

Like I said, it was cheaper for me to rip 2x4 boards right down the middle so that's what I did. This isn't a high end joinery project so "close enough" is good enough for determining how long to make the 2x2 boards. I needed a break in my shelves for access to my attic but if you have no obstructions you can just make these span the entire wall. To the right of my attic access door was just shy of 12' which is longer than what my miter saw station can handle so I cut these to length with my hand saw.

Step 3: Install the Wall and Ceiling 2x2 Boards

To help position the wall 2x2 exactly where it needs to be I cut a scrap piece of wood that I could use against the ceiling to get a constant distance from the ceiling. From there I installed two cleats. These are just more pieces of scrap wood that will hold the final 2x2 board to make securing it easy. The 2x2 board is placed on the cleats and secured with 3" decking screws into each wall stud in the wall. After it is secured the cleats can be removed.

My ceiling joists are running the same direction as the shelves I am installing and the screws that were used to install the ceiling panels are clearly visible. This made locating a ceiling joist super easy for me. If your ceiling joists are running perpendicular to the direction of your shelves you may have to spend some time figuring out where the joists are. I drove 3" screws about 10" apart halfway through the ceiling 2x2 while it was still on my workbench to make things a little easier while it was above my head. When installing it onto the ceiling secure it with one of the middle screws first. Then measure and make any adjustments necessary to keep the 2x2 parallel to the wall. Finish driving all of the ceiling 2x2 screws.

Step 4: Add the Vertical 2x4 Supports

The distance from the ceiling to the bottom of the wall mounted 2x2 is the length you need to cut all of your vertical 2x4 supports to. In my case I believe this was around 20" or so and I cut enough to have no more than 48" of space between the supports. I believe my largest span between supports was actually around 40". Predrill for two screws 3/4" from each end of the supports. Using wood glue and 3" screws secure the vertical supports to the ceiling 2x2 where necessary. Use a square to make sure they are perpendicular to the ceiling.

Step 5: Add the Floating 2x2 Shelf Support

To make installing the next 2x2 easier I screwed one of the scrap pieces of wood from earlier to the bottom of one of the middle vertical supports (right next to the top of the ladder). This gave me a ledge to help hold the 2x2 in place as I secured it with wood glue and screws. I also clamped the 2x2 board to the vertical support just prior to driving those screws to also make it a little easier.

Step 6: Cut Your Plywood

I used 3/4" hardwood plywood for my shelves. These panels can be cut easily with a circular saw but I have a table saw so I used it. I had to trim one of my shelves to length so I used my miter saw and flipped the panel between cuts. Again, a cheap circular saw will accomplish the same task. I previously made an identical set of shelves on the opposite side of my garage over the garage door and used 3/4" Advantech OSB flooring which spanned a distance of 36" and I have yet to see any sagging in it. If your shelves do sag over time it's a super easy fix to screw 2x2 boards to the bottom of the shelves to straighten them out and stiffen the shelves.

Step 7: Install the Shelves

You may need a helping hand with this step. The easiest way to install the shelves is to raise them vertically along the back wall and then pull the bottom edge away from the wall once it will clear the floating 2x2 shelf support. When all of the shelves are in place secure them on the front and back with a few 1-1/4" screws. You don't need a lot of screws here as they are just there to stop the plywood from sliding around. The rest of the structure is what is holding all of the weight against gravity.

Step 8: Load It Up With Crap

Finally you can load the shelves up with anything you need to store.

If you liked this project and want to see more projects like it check out my website at jayscustomcreations.com I've been creating and uploading since 2013 and have over 400 post on my site that you might be interested in :) Have a good one folks.

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29 Discussions

How much weight will this hold. I have totes that are filled.

My storage shed is full of racks and shelves as I fully maximize my wall space rather excessively. I think it is time to upgrade to include even more storage by finally tackling the ceiling. I have always thought of it before but I thought it was too much work to ensure a sturdy foundation in order to prevent mishaps from occurring.

Would this design be sufficient to hold a second shelf in between the top and bottom? For instance, I have about 5-1/2' between my ceiling and the top of my garage side access door. I plan on spanning the full 5' with the 2x4 supports and adding a shelf in the middle to double the storage capacity. I plan on using 1/4" x 3-1/2" construction screws to mount. Thoughts?

Impressive shelving. Adds a lot of functionality to wasted space.

I really like this idea for high shelving! I took a different approach for a lower cantilevered shelf for my racing seats (http://did-it-myself.com/garage-shelf/) but I will definitely come back to this design for future garage storage.

Awesome - just awesome! Very clear and easy to follow. Hope to start on my garage soon and this will really help.

Excellent camera work (angle, placement, tripod use), editing, and sound clarity. You put a lot of thought into the final video for this project. Your video was a joy to watch. Oh and great woodworking too.

As some of the others, I too watch your YouTube site. I even built the Harbor Freight Dust Collection System with the mods you did (giving full credit to those you got some of the ideas from.) It is one of best DIY projects I have done. Great stuff and this is another one that I will use. Think you.

I put up shelves like these a couple of years ago -- one of the best things I ever did. Sadly, what they say is true, your stuff will grow to fill all available space.

Very nice work!

Do you have any suggestions on how/where to research load bearing limits for a flat roof? I was recently scared away from a ceiling supported shelve system because I don't know how much my garage can support (roofing + framing + shelves + storage items + some guy standing on the roof = possible collapse?).

1 reply

I have no clue on any specifics. I can only recommend you contact a professional for any technical information.

Hey Jay - just discovered you on youtube a couple months back, enjoying your vids! I have been wanting to do shelves in my garage that is really tall but haven't been sure on the design...this one looks pretty good! I might be putting some heavy stuff up there, just wondering your thoughts on how the 2x2s have held up vs 2x3 or 2x4...

1 reply

The 2x2s are plenty strong but there isn't any harm in over enginerring something like this.

Jay -

I loved the instructable. I particularly like how you pointed out tricks like the cleats for the long 2x2s.

Your website is excellent as well! Thank you!

1 reply