10/22/2012

How to Build a Shelf for the Garage

Winter is coming.

Which means that it's time to clean out the garage, or else it will never get done.  Actually i wanted to make room so that Karrie could park her car in there and not be covered in snow.  A few months ago it was completely packed full of stuff.  Since then i've given away my old broken Snapper riding lawn mowers and a bunch of other junk.  I also moved some boxes to the basement, cleaning that mess is definitely a job to be done this winter.  But for the rest of the stuff, i decided that a big wood shelf was needed to store it all.
google sketchup garage shelf, wood shelf for garage tools, wood shelf design 
Now i could have just bought plastic shelves at Meijer or Lowe's but they are expensive and wouldn't provide as much space.  I have a couple of really nice heavy-duty plastic shelves in the basement.  They are great for small stuff but the wood shelves i planned on building would be stronger, larger and cost a lot less.

A few weeks ago i made a tool rack for all the garden tools and hung that on the wall in the garage.  So far it's been great.  The big PVC pipes are easy to use and strong.
garage shelf, tool rack, garden tools, hang on wall, shovel, snow shovel, rake, broom

Seeing how well this tool rack worked out gave me an incentive to get the rest of the stuff in the garage cleaned up.

My plan was to build four 8 foot shelves made of pine 2x4's and OSB (oriented strand board - sometimes called particle board).  8 foot just makes sense because there will be less cutting since they all come in 8 foot sections. I decided to use 2x4's because they are cheap.  And decided on OSB because it's relatively cheap but really strong.  They make OSB in 7/8" and 1/2", they were only a few dollars different in price so i went with the 1/2" thickness.

I first drew up the design on paper but then i decided to get more detailed and use Google SketchUp.  I've used Google SketchUp before to draw the two twin beds.
google sketchup bed, bed design, sketchup twin bed

SketchUp is great for several reasons.  It's free.  It's easy to understand, which means it doesn't take hours trying to learn how to draw, though it does help if you spend 8 hours a day using AutoCAD.  It's just a really nice program that lets you draw 3D object very quickly.  And there's tons of Youtube video's that you can watch and learn different tricks.

I not only wanted to get the shelf right, but i wanted to make sure that it fit in the garage.  So i measured my garage interior dimension and then drew it up.  I added the two side doors and the big front garage door.  Then i drew the shelf itself and tried different orientations. The first picture at the top is what i came up with after lots of fiddling around.  But here's the dimensions for the final shelf design.  This was probably version 6, and the third time i redrew it.
google sketchup wood shelf design, wood shelf dimensions, 2x4 shelf how to

If you want to download the actual Google SketchUp files, which are .SKP and .SKP, i uploaded them to my Google Drive.  You can download them from these two links:
I actually got a bit carried away with what i could do.  Here's an early version  where i though about covering all the walls in the garage with shelves.  This was also when i thought that i should attach the 2x4's to the floor and ceiling.
how to make a wood 2x4 shelf for the garage, build wood shelf plans

But this is why Google SketchUp is great, it lets you zoom in and actually see what it will look like when you are done.  It gives you any perspective view from any angle.  That is when you realize things like, will the door shut, how tall will it look, do i need 4 shelves or only 3.
3D view of shelf design, garage shelf pattern, plans, design, layout

Now having said all that, the funny thing is that i didn't check was whether or not a car would fit.  It turned out to be ... not really.  If i pushed the shelf all the way over to the right a car could maybe fit, but there wasn't enough room to open the driver side door. 
google sketch up garage car shelf, how to make, build, dimensions

So even though this was my final designed drawings, the final location for the shelf was for it to be flat against the on the right. 


Material List:
Description     Height     Width     Length     Quantity    Price         Total
2x4                 2"            4"          8ft           15         $2.50        $37.50
OSB               1/2"          4ft         8ft            2          $13.00      $26.00

Also i ended up using around 200 - 2.5" deck/drywall screws, which cost around $4. 

The total cost with tax was just under $70 which seemed like a lot at first.  But then you figure that a cheap plastic 4 foot high shelf cost around $40.

Here's all the wood i bought.  Actually i only needed 14 - 2x4's but i got one extra, just in case.
wood 2x4 and osb particle board, wood shelf material, cost, plans

This is what the garage looked like before i started.  I made a 360 degree panorama of garage, combining around 18 pictures to make this one.  
(click to enlarge)
360 degree panorama garage, indoors, rotate view, iPhone 5

The first thing i did was to clear the area where the shelf was to go.
garage before begin work, wood shelf, how to make

And right away i ran into a problem.  Measuring from the back wall to the old wall hanging shelves i got 7.5 feet.  Which meant that i would have to cut at least 6" off.  So i cleared everything off the shelves, unscrewed them from the metal brackets and cut off 10", just to be sure.  
construction in the garage, saw horse, cut shelf to size

While cutting the shelves i decided to also lower the bottom shelf for more room. There used to be a board with weird hooks which in the way.  I never used it, so i just took it off the wall.  Before the bottom shelf was only 8" from the shelf above it.  By taking off the board with hooks i was able to drop the metal brackets all the way down.  You can compare this picture with the one a couple above and see the difference.
setting up shelf in garage, organize, 2x4 plans

Moving all of the junk, putting everything back, cutting the old shelf and all that was a lot of work, but when i was done it looked the same as when i started.

The next day i cut the short end boards and started to lay out the shelves.  These would be the vertical end pieces.
2x4 wood end pieces, how to build a wood shelf

After taking this picture i realized that i had the screws flipped backwards.  It might not seem like a big deal but if i left it like this then the screws which connect the side boards would hit each other.  So i had to remove these screws and flip them horizontally.  You will see what i mean later when i attach the front and back 2x4's.
screw pattern for wood shelf, wood cross piece

That's when i decided to make a pattern for each of the different screw layouts.  It was a great idea that saved me tons of time in the end.  The top pattern is for the shelf boards i would cut out later.  The left pattern is what i needed for the boards above.  The right pattern is for the front and back facer boards
cardboard pattern for wood shelf, how to make a wood 2x4 shelf, plans

With the end pieces all screwed together i set them in place just to see how it would look and see if it all made sense.
prefit 2x4 boards, garage shelf

Then i screwed in the first front and back shelf boards and stood everything up.
half way through building wood shelf, organize garage

Here's the way i connected all the boards together.  Had i not changed the screws earlier, all 4 or these screws might have hit them.
the best way to fit 2x4 at corner, screw, wood, shelf, end, no glue

The interlocking way in which the 2x4's all fit together was a design i decided on with some help from John.  When Karrie and i went to Katie and John's cottage, he drew this out on the computer. 
catia design, wood shelf, screw pattern, layout, dimensions

This was my original idea.  It seemed simple, but isn't as strong, since there aren't as many faces touching and screws holding it together.  The final version is more compact and everything interlocks with each other.
computer CAD shelf design, screw, wood, garage shelf, 2x4

Next, using a jig saw, i cut out the U-shaped notches using the cardboard pattern from earlier. 
1 shelf wood, 2x4 frame, osb shelf

Here's a closer look of how the OSB shelf fits into the 2x4 support posts.
detail for wood oriented strand board shelf, how to make a wood shelf

Looking at this picture you might think i forgot a few steps, but actually i didn't.  Putting the OSB shelves in before attaching the 2x4's was necessary.   If i didn't do that first then i would have never been able to get the shelves in.  
prefitting the shelf boards, wobbly shelf i made

That's because i had to actually pull the 2x4 uprights apart to be able to slide the shelf boards in and if i screwed the 2x4's in then i wouldn't have been able to pull them apart.  Luckily i realized that before attaching all the 2x4 cross beams.

But after cutting all the shelves and fitting them in place i was then able to screw the 2x4 front and back supports together.  To make sure it was all square i screwed them in with the shelf on it's side.  By this time it was getting pretty big and heavy so i had to get karrie's help to put the shelf down and stand it back up.
wood shelf, garage, organize, heavy duty, strong, 2x4 shelf

But i was able to push it into place by myself and take a look at it.  I knew from the start that i was going to have an issue with the shelf not being level because the concrete slab in the garage is much higher near the back wall.  You can see the crack in the slab underneath the shelf.
level shelf, garage storage, how to organize you garage junk

I thought about all the different ways i was going to make sure it was level.  I though about making the front legs longer or maybe trimming the back legs.  But i decided that the best idea was to just make the shelf square and level and then deal with the uneven floor afterwords.  It was off quite a bit.
not level, bubble not centered

So i lifted up the shelf on the right side and, after trying a series of different thickness boards, found out that using two 2x4's would make the shelf almost perfect.
level 2x4 boards, wedge, shims, uneven floor

Close enough for me.
level, bubble, shelf, how to

I pushed the shelf back into the corner as much as i could and did a few things to make sure it wouldn't move.  I screwed the floor 2x4's together and attached the upright to them with just one screw
secure wood 2x4 to floor, screw down

Then, so that the shelf didn't tip over, i screwed it to the wall in a few places.
how to attach shelf to wall with screw, tip over

Here's the finished shelf in place, level and secured to the wall.
wood garage shelf, storage, organize, 2x4, simple, strong, easy to build, plans

I actually got really lucky.  The second shelf cleared the handle of the old door by a couple of millimeters.  I totally didn't think about the door handle until i went to push it in place.   If it didn't fit i guess i would have had to trim a few inches off the legs.
lucky door knob, handle, saved, old

Then it was time to start loading up the shelves.  Hopefully it will have enough room for everything.  otherwise i'll have to build another one.
need to organize garage junk, stuff, shelf, rack, tools

I took a break, then came back a few hours later to start hanging stuff on the wall.  I used those rubber coated hooks and screwed them into the studs behind the drywall.  I admit that i got a little crazy hanging the wood bench i made for Karrie on the ceiling, but it did save a lot of room.
garage shelf, hang from wall, ceiling, storage, space, inch 

Over the winter Karrie and i are going to go through all the stuff we have in boxes in the basement and sort them.   Some of the less important stuff can go on these bottom shelves.  I haven't totally fill it up just yet.


EDIT:   UPDATE
Here's a summary video of the storage shelf being built
And here is a link to another storage shelf for the basement.


EDIT:    
New Step-By-Step video of the storage shelf being built




EDIT:  PDF Templates
Some very nice anonymous person in the comments made a PDF of the the template.  Here's a link to it  Shelf PDF Templates




 

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Used your plans today to build a shelf in the garage. Worked perfect.

Dave Wirth said...

Sweet.

Here's a youtube video i created to kind of summarize the whole process:
Build Garage Shelf

Mike Cliff said...

Awesome ! Very nice clean job !

Derek said...

David, I can't thank you enough for this. This worked out amazingly well. I also find it crazy that you live in Sterling Heights - I'm from Grand Rapids, and just moved up to Rockford. I threw you a shout out in my own reno blog, since your step-by-step was so fantastic. Thanks for being awesome.

fmgist said...

Thank you so much for the detailed pictures of how you constructed the shelves and for making your plans public!! Enormously helpful : )

Ed said...

Are 2x4s overkill for this project? I'm planning on building a similar set of shelves but I'm thinking about using 2x2s.

This would be cheaper and leave more accessible space on each shelf (since the horizontal support piece would block less space).

Thanks.

Dave Wirth said...

You could try using 2x2's for the horizontal boards. For the Legs i would stick with the 2x4's though.

I'm not sure how much cheaper 2x2's are compared to 2x4's. And i always found it difficult to find nice straight 2x2's that didn't have bends or splits in them. I was able to buy 8' 2x4's at Lowe's for something like $2.50 each. And in my opinion 2x4's are the right thing to use, i wasn't afraid of putting anything heavy it. Each shelf could easily support a few hundred pounds.

But in terms of space, ya it is a bummer the 3.5" that you lose from the boards hanging down, maybe for that a 2x2 would be better.

Shawn B said...

Great write up, Dave. I have been tossing and turning about buying some nice industrial strength shelves from Depot or building shelves and this write-up may have made the difference. I will be doing this on my day off tomorrow.
Shawn
Livonia, MI

Leonard Ferron said...

HI Dave. Great plans. Did you screw the OSB to the 2X4s?

Dave Wirth said...

No.

I was originally planning to but it didn't need it. The shelf was strong and rigid enough without screwing the shelves down.

Leonard Ferron said...

Thanks for the reply...

Two suggestions to consider from the other materials comments by others earlier:

Could consider gluing the assembly as you screw it. I understand that the joints are strong enough that once dried, you can take the screws out.

Also, I have been considering the 2x3s. they are about $1 cheaper per each than the 2x4s; a compromise to the 2x2s mentioned by someone else. I have made similar shelves out of 2x2s along time ago and they turned out pretty well. I did glued those.

Thanks again for sharing.

Dave Wirth said...

Glue would definitely be better than screws. I was just thinking that one day i would have to disassemble the shelves. If we ever moved, or we were thinking of remodeling the basement and need more room. With all those boards glued together i would be screwed.

And 2x3's are a great idea. The 2x4's i used are probably overkill for anything i can fit on those shelves. You could even do 2x4's for the 4 legs then 2x3's for the cross boards. It would also cut down on the weight.

Good Luck.

Dave Wirth said...

Here's another picture of the patterns that many people had been asking about.

Cardboard Template Pattern

You don't really need to have templates like this to build the shelf. It just made it easier than measuring every time. The whole point of the screw pattern is so that the screws missed each other when being screwed in from the 2 different directions.

Jeff H said...

For the 3 hole template can you add the distance from the edge to each of the holes?

Dave Wirth said...

It would be at the center of the 1-1/2" board so that's 3/4" from the edges.

Kent said...

Thanks Dave! I just built a workbench using the technique you showed here. I just put in two shelves instead of the four you have, the bottom shelf for storage and the top one is the work surface. I also extended the back two legs up an additional 2 feet in order to attach some pegboard. It's a really strong design - I've put my whole weight on this thing and it doesn't budge!

Anonymous said...

I just want to be sure. How did you put on the top shelf?

Dave Wirth said...

The top shelf board is just sitting up there, no nails, glue or screws. So far it's been fine on the 3 shelves i've built. The friction and weight holds it in place more or less.

If you are worried it might move or fall you could use a couple of nails or screws to hold it in place

Anonymous said...

Nice shelf. I built one similar, but then had another idea for my west wall. I used 1x2's, and 16" wire shelves from HD. Made a ladder frame of the 1x2's, used more as uprights, screwed them into the studs, and lag bolted the uprights. The wire shelves were flipped upside down for a lip, and done. Wish I could attach a pic.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave, I've just made one following your instructions.

Jean Pant said...

Dave. I saw a great video earlier today where you build a moveable 'cart' with removeable boxes for nults, bolts, washers etc. i think 12 of them. Pretty neat. I'm thinking of doing the same thing!

BUT. The reason for writing is slightly different. I spotted your work benches in the background. Have you got videos and plans for them?

Thanks!

Dave Wirth said...

No actually i don't. I built those work benches a few years ago. They are basically the same "concept" as the shelves. For simplicity they are 8' long and 2' deep. The top is 3/4" melamine which isn't cheap, $32. The frame is 2x4's. Just a rectangular frame to support the top and two 'H' shaped legs with a cross bar for lengthwise for rigidity. Maybe i'll look and see if i have some pictures i took while building them.

Steven Summo said...

Dave,
Is there a printable template for the pattern you used for the shelves. I thought you indicated on your video that there would be a printout on your blog. Thanks

Dave Wirth said...

Here's what i have. I never got around to making a printable pattern but all the dimensions are on this: https://plus.google.com/+DaveWirth/posts/4ciUUnYxDiX

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave for the videos. I'm about to make one of these & made this PDF of your templates. Does it look right?

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwSKONsb-xIgUWFsUXJWY0dIR3M/view?usp=sharing

Also, do you recommend two 2x4's (vertically) in the middle or is this pretty sturdy?

Dave Wirth said...

Dude....thank you.
The template is perfect. I've been too busy/lazy to make one, and it seems like that's what people have the most questions about. I'll put a link to it in the blog so that people can use it. Thanks again.

As far as doubling up the vertical 2x4's, i haven't needed to. The 3 shelves that i have built have only needed to carry maybe 200-300 pounds and just the single leg has been fine.

Brian Ford said...

Thanks Dave..
I'm building these today! Great design..best I could find on the net.

The PDF template seems to have some dimensions wrong though as far as I can tell. Specifically the one that is 3"x4" (since the 2x4 is actually 3.5" in width). I could be wrong though. I was never able to get it to print at the exact dimensions either (maybe my printer's fault).