For many people the purpose of the garage has shifted from being the place where our cars stay protected from the weather into a place holding piles of “junk” and “stuff”. This “stuff” varies from kids toys to bikes to garden tools and so on. Of course all that junk is way less valuable than the cars sitting all day in the sun (or snow if you live in Canada).


The smart thing to do is to actually keep your cars protected in the garage. But what to do with all the other “junk”? The solution is to organize the space in your garage on the vertical. Build shelves and hang stuff on the walls.

This article focuses on how to build sturdy inexpensive and good looking shelves that will hold lots of “stuff” – even the heavy pieces – without crumbling. Then, by moving all the “junk” (hopefully in labeled boxes) onto the shelves, your cars might be able to sneak into the garage again.
Believe me, building such shelves will give you lots of advantages. Your wife and kids will respect you more. You will be able to actually find something in the garage. Your cars will live longer with less problems and less money spent on repairs.

By the way the shelves are not bound to stay in a garage only. You might as well build them for the basement or for your shed.

You might ask “why build it myself when I can go to [name-of-favorite-hardware-store] and buy pre-made shelves in a box?“. And my answer to you is “that is lame, real men build their shelves with their own two hands!“.
Other less important but valid reasons might be:

  • save money
  • use the space in your garage optimally
  • build exactly what you want and need
  • pre-made shelves are usually crap unless you pay a lot of money
  • you’ve got to use those tools you bought during the years to actually build something and prove to your wife how useful they are (she might even allow you to buy more!)

So let’s get started. We have to talk about:

  • design based on your specific conditions
  • materials you need
  • tools you need
  • results

Since conditions are different from garage to garage this article just describe a very specific situation (mine). You can modify everything to sit your needs.

Design

I had some design goals when I started:

  • build shelves that will still allow the car to fit in
  • leave some space on the side to be able to store tall narrow objects like 2×4 pieces of wood
  • be able to store taller things like bikes under the shelves

This is how the final result looks like:

Shelves

Materials

I decided to build my shelves using wood since it is cheap and easy to work with. You could use metal but you need to do a specific design that will involve welding or some screw based solution for keeping everything in one piece. I am sure you can figure out how to do a similar design using metal profiles.

For my wood shelves I was able to buy conveniently shaped wood at the local “Home Depot”.

  • wood studs for the legs, horizontal beams, transversal joists and the shelf surface (various sections and lengths – 2×4, 1×2, 1×4)
  • joist hangers (12 for each shelf unit in my case – 3 shelves x 4 hangers per shelf)
  • wood screws (various sizes)

Tools

  • saw (manual or electrical – be careful and smart, don’t cut your hands)
  • drill to drill holes for screws and to drive in the screws in
  • level
  • measuring tape
  • pencil

Where to begin

You decided what kind of shelves you want and where you want them in your garage. Now it is time to do a detailed design on paper. Draw the shelf and think about all the details like how you are going to assemble the whole thing.
Based on this detailed design you can calculate all the materials you need. Keep in mind that you can optimize the use of wood you buy (thus saving some money and the Earth in the process) by sometimes making some slight changes to the dimensions to better fit with the predefined wood sizes at the hardware store. If you calculate your dimensions carefully you can even minimize the number of cuts you have to made. Cutting the wood is the most time consuming activity here.
As the result of your detailed design you should know exactly how much wood, how many screws and of what dimensions and how many joist hangers to buy.

Now go to the store and buy everything. Actually buy a bit more since you can return the extra stuff at the end.

With all materials back in your garage this is the time to start building the shelves. Since every situation is slightly different I will explain what I did and you will have to adapt to your case.

Steps

  • Mark the position of the rear horizontal beams on the wall (3 for the 3 shelves in my case)
  • Cut the rear beams at the desired length (they have to be longer than the front beams to accommodate joist hangers)
  • Attach rear beams to the wall using screws (I had to find the studs in the wall with a stud detector)
  • Attach 3 joist hangers on each rear beam (for the transversal short joist that will support your shelves)
  • Cut front legs at the desired length (take into account possible slope in the floor)
  • Measure and cut side transversal joists
  • Attach joist to each front leg at the measured height using screws. Make sure they are perpendicular on the legs
  • Shelves

  • Put the joists into the joist hangers attached to the horizontal studs on the wall and fasten them with screws
  • Shelves

  • Add front beams to the legs at the same level as the transversal joists
  • Place an additional transversal joist at half distance between legs using joist hangers. Depending on the length of your shelf you might need more than one transversal joist
  • Shelves

  • Create the shelf surface using 1×4 and 1×2 pieces of wood (you could use plywood but be careful with the assembly order)
  • Shelves

  • Add end shelf stoppers from 1×2 pieces of wood. This will prevent small objects to fall off the shelf on the sides
  • Shelves

The shelf is ready!!!
Shelves

The job is straight forward but it takes a bit of time. I estimate the time needed to build one shelf at about 4 hours but this can vary with your specific situation. Help from a friend is advisable. This way the beer has a better taste.

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