Sturdy Clutter-Free Garage Shelving

Sturdy Clutter-Free Garage Shelving

Unfortunately the garage is usually the last priority when it comes to thoughtful organizing. (This was certainly the case at our last home.) An organized garage can greatly improve productivity – from doing laundry to working on projects – everything is faster and more efficient with an organized space.

A few months after moving in, we still had lots of stuff (at least most of it was in boxes) on the floor of the garage. There was clearly a need for more above ground storage, so we started with a basic assessment of the space. On one side of the garage were metal shelves hung from the ceiling with wire. (Read as: not sturdy enough for real storage.) The other side had eight sagging underutilized shelves, a very shallow hanging cabinet, and an old pool table lamp. In the center of the garage was a 4’x2′ fluorescent light fixture that produced almost no light. (We had already added new LED lighting, so it was easy to simply remove this bulky light fixture.)

We then started to design a general layout beginning with the largest item in the garage (a pinball machine) and decided on a separation between home storage on one side and tools and a workspace on the other. We began with the home storage side as the design was more straight forward and a lot easier to complete by simply building some shelves.

Wall before painting.

Since the wall was already clear, we took the time to paint the wall with a coat of gloss white paint that we already had. Then, the pinball machine moved into place so that the empty space required to access the circuit breaker panel could double as a spot to stand and play pinball. We measured the remaining available space and sketched out a simple design with 2 shelves. We made sure to take into account the big items that we wanted to keep there. (A portable A/C unit, pressure washer and push reel lawn mower.)

Wall after painting.
Large items were put in place before determining shelf sizes.

The shelves are made completely out of 2×2 stock, with the internal “slats” placed at 6 inch intervals. They are assembled with glue and a single 3 inch screw at each point. We used this design for several reasons:

  • It’s easy to see the contents of each shelf (even from below).
  • The shelves shouldn’t gather small items which can clutter traditional shelving.
  • This design doesn’t create dark corner spaces for spiders to create homes.  (The dark bottom corners of the old shelving we removed were covered in spider webs.)
One side was assembled first. (This is a lot easier on a flat surface, but this one was built upright since everything that needed to be placed on the shelves were on the floor.)

After one side was assembled, the other side was prepared by marking at the same locations (every 6 inches along the boards), pre-drilling, and starting the screw. This minimized glue-up time and allowed the entire second side to be attached quickly.

Pre-drilled board with screws inserted. Glue ready to be spread.

To attach the shelf to the wall, a stud was located near each end of the shelf. The shelf was pre-drilled and screws were partially installed to keep them handy. One side of the shelf was attached to the wall, then with a level in sight, the other side was attached. (Temporary support was necessary for the front of the shelf at this point. An extra 2×2 standing upright on the ground and clamped to the front of the shelf worked very well.)

Using a level and a mark on only one end is more accurate than trying to mark both ends.

Supports were added down to the ground, between the shelves, and up to the ceiling joists. (Supports to the ceiling not pictured. Attaching to the ceiling was done in case the supports to the ground were to be damaged. If that wasn’t possible, we would have attached the legs to the ground with concrete anchors and angle brackets to prevent them from slipping.)

Completed shelf unit with some contents already placed!