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Garage Storage: Space-Saving Sliding Shelves

There never seems to be enough storage space in garages, but rollout shelves and sliding bypass units can make more efficient use of the sidewalls of your garage.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Garage Storage: Space-Saving Sliding Shelves

There never seems to be enough storage space in garages, but rollout shelves and sliding bypass units can make more efficient use of the sidewalls of your garage.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Overview

Let’s face it. No matter how big your garage is, there never seems to be enough room to store everything. But by making ultra-efficient use of the narrow area on the sidewall of your garage, this storage project can help.

The heart of the system is a series of double-sided rollout shelves that allow easy access to everything that can be stored in a narrow space. With these rollouts, you don’t have to store your paint cans, nails, screws and other stuff four layers deep and then shuffle everything around to find what you’re looking for. When the shelves are pulled out, everything is in full view and easily accessible. Plus, the garage looks neat and tidy when the shelves are pushed back in.

Don’t worry if you’ve also got some large items to store. The 16-ft.-long top shelf is 32 in. deep to hold big storage containers, and there’s a 3-ft.-wide section of 16-in.-deep shelves for medium-size items. The storage unit is 16 ft. long, 84 in. tall and 16 in. deep.

The cost of the materials for this project is about $800. If you want to save some money and don’t require as much narrow storage space, just reduce the number of rollout shelves. Each rollout, including hardware, costs about $75.

Expect to spend three or four days building this project. It’s not complicated or difficult, but there are a lot of parts to cut out and assemble. For the most part, we used standard carpentry tools, but we used a table saw to cut the particleboard and a biscuit joiner and pocket screw jig to assemble the rollouts and bypass unit. The latter tools are optional, though. You can cut parts with a circular saw, but it’ll take longer and won’t be as accurate. And you can substitute screws and glue for the biscuit joints. You can also nail through the face of the cabinets to secure the divider rather than use pocket screws.

The particleboard and framing lumber you’ll need are available from home centers and most lumberyards. The bypass door track and three-wheel rollers we used to support the shelves may be hard to find locally, but you can order them online at johnsonhardware.com. You can also buy the shelf standards and leg levelers online at wwhardware.com.

Sports gear

Supplies

Sliding storage = More convenience, more space

The rollout shelves provide better access and make small stuff easier to find. They’re versatile, too. You can set the divider wherever you want to create different-depth shelves.

The bypass unit adds 50 percent more storage for long-handled tools and all sorts of items that take up too much wall space. You simply slide it to either side to access the stuff behind.

Map it out on the wall

Mark the location of the top shelf and columns on the wall before you start building (Photo 1). This allows you to check for obstructions and double-check the height of the columns. Start by deciding where the endpoints for the 16-ft. storage unit will be. If you have leeway, you could adjust the position so that the end columns land over wall studs, but it’s not necessary.

Next, use a level to see if the garage floor slopes. Measure 81 in. up from the highest point on the floor and mark the wall. Draw a 16-ft. level line across the wall from this point. We used a laser level to establish level reference points on each end of a 16-ft. line, and measured up from these points to mark the endpoint of the horizontal layout line. Then we snapped a chalk line between these points to indicate the bottom edge of the shelf and the top of the columns. You could also use a line level or step a 4-ft. level across the wall to mark the level line.

If your garage floor slopes more than 1-1/2 in. from one end of the unit to the other, you’ll have to build some of the columns a little taller. Check this out by measuring down from the level line at each end. Finally, using Figure B as a guide, carefully mark the location of the wall cleats that anchor each column, and draw plumb lines down from each mark (Photo 1). Now you’re ready to build the columns and wide shelf.

Figure A: Garage storage system

Figure A: Garage storage system

Figure A shows the construction and parts of the garage storage system. Modify the size to fit your space.

Figure B: Top shelf details

Figure B: Top shelf details

Align the frame and the column locations.

Assemble the columns and shelf

Cut out the parts according to the Cutting List (the Cutting List and a Materials List are available in pdf format in Additional Information below). Then build the columns. Photo 2 shows how to assemble the columns using wood glue and finish nails. Let the glue set. Then install the leg levelers (Photo 3). Mount the cleats on the wall at each of the column locations. Use toggle-type hollow wall anchors to anchor the cleats if there aren’t any studs to screw into. We used Toggler Snaptoggle anchors, which are easier and faster to install than standard toggle bolts.

Mount the columns by slipping them over the cleats and driving screws through the sides into the cleats (Photo 4). We had to notch the bottoms of the columns to fit around the protruding foundation block. If you have a similar situation and the block is more than 6 in. above the floor, make sure to either shorten the rollout shelves or make them narrower so they don’t run into the protruding foundation.

Adjust the leg levelers until the tops of the columns are even with the horizontal line. Then set a level against the front edge to make sure the column is plumb. You can slide narrow shims between the wall and the back edge of the column if necessary to plumb the column. When the column is plumb and the top is even with the level line, drive screws through the side and into the cleats. The next step is to build and install the horizontal shelf.

Screw 2x4s together to make the top shelf using Figure B as a guide. It’s easier to attach the aluminum tracks to the shelf before you lift it onto the columns (Photo 5). Use Figure B as a guide for marking the track locations. Cut the tracks to 32 in. with a hacksaw. Then drill holes for the mounting screws. Attach the tracks with 2-in. pan head or washer head screws.

Mark the stud locations on the wall. Then lift the shelf onto the columns and screw it to the studs with 4-in. structural screws or lag screws (Photo 6). Screw 3/4-in. particleboard to the top of the shelf frame. Check with a framing square to make sure the columns are at a right angle to the wall before you toe-screw the front of the columns to the shelf frame.

Build the rollout shelves and bypass

Photo 7 shows how we used a biscuit joiner to slot the sides of the rollouts. For more information on this “bench reference” biscuit joining method, see “Building cabinets with biscuit joints.” Mark the orientation of the parts by putting a piece of masking tape on the side facing you. When you assemble the parts, face the tape to the inside of the rollout. Glue and clamp the sides to the top and bottom (Photo 8). Glue a second layer of particleboard to the top for extra strength and to allow for the 1-1/2-in. roller mounting screws. Photo 9 shows how to support the center divider with spacers while you attach it with pocket screws. If you don’t have a pocket screw jig, just drive finish nails through the front and back of the rollout to secure the divider. You can adjust the position of the divider to accommodate your items. We moved one off-center to allow for 7-in.-deep shelves and built another unit with full-depth shelves. Use the same method to build the large bypass unit.

Finish the rollouts by attaching the roller mounting brackets (Photo 10) and the metal shelf standards. Draw lines 1 in. from the edge as guides for the brackets. Drill pilot holes and attach the brackets with 1-1/2-in. screws. Position the shelf standards about 3/8 in. from the front and back of the cabinet. We used 1/2-in. No. 4 flat head screws to attach the standards, but you can also use the small nails usually included.

Mount the rollouts and bypass

We used different techniques to hang the rollout shelves and the bypass unit. For the rollouts, it’s simpler to connect the rollers to the top of the shelf first and then slide the wheels into the tracks (Photo 11). For the bypass unit, install the rollers in the track before you mount it, and then hang the bypass by sliding the rollers into the mounting brackets.

To prevent the rollers on the rollout shelves from bumping into the face trim, screw 1-1/2-in.-square blocks of particleboard to the outside end of each of the rollout shelf tracks. After all the rollouts are hung, adjust the rollers until the spaces between rollouts are even and the faces are flush when they’re pushed in. Use the small wrench included with the rollers to turn the adjusting bolt located just below the rollers.

Finish up with trim boards

Complete the project by nailing strips of particleboard trim to the face of the columns and to the face of the top shelf (Photo 12). Two 8-ft. trim pieces will just cover the front edge. Then overlap the side pieces at each end. We also screwed sheets of particleboard to the wall behind the bypass unit to provide an attachment surface for hooks and other hanging hardware. We stained the columns and trim black, and the face of the rollouts and the bypass unit with Cabot Early American stain. When the stain was dry, we brushed two coats of Minwax Oil-Modified Polyurethane finish over the whole works to provide a little sheen and extra protection. If you plan to stain and finish the storage unit, consider doing it before you assemble the parts. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort.

Back to Top

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Hammer
    • Miter saw
    • Air compressor
    • Air hose
    • Brad nail gun
    • Cordless drill
    • Circular saw
    • Stud finder
    • Biscuit joiner
    • Countersink drill bit
    • Level
    • Framing square
    • Jigsaw
    • Stepladder
    • Orbital sander
    • Pocket hole jig
    • Safety glasses
    • Table saw

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

See Additional Information at the end of the Step-by-Step section.

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 10 of 10 comments
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April 18, 4:28 PM [GMT -5]

I completed a mini version of this project. I only had 6 feet of wall space, so I omitted the bypass unit, and only made two roll-outs. I can fit 3 105L plastic totes on top. Painting before final assembly is a good idea.

For added strength to the bypass units, I added pocket screws to the vertical back board. I also made both roll outs the full depth. I also made a jig for 1/4" holes that I used to drill holes in the roll outs and shelves to put 1/4" L-bracket shelve supports. They are only a few dollars for a bag of 12. Much cheaper than the shelves standards and clips to go with them. Also you can extra room because you don't have the shelve standard running verticle in your way.

For more added strength I screwed the bottom shelve in place to the two columns, and made the rest adjustable with the shelve support brackets.

Also to maximize shelve size, I went with 1/2" particle board on the columns, but I framed them completely with 2x2. I gained 1 1/2" this way. But I would definetly recommend 3/4" particle board for the rollouts. I made the rollout shelves with 1/2" and 3/4" cutoffs. Also made provisions on two 3/4" shelves to pocketscrew into place once rollouts are filled for added strength.

I added a couple small extra personal features like coat hooks on the front, and because a covered a receptacle on my wall, I added a plug on the outside of a column, plus added a switch for LED rope lighting under the trim. I also recessed the rollout tracks into the 2x4 frame which added an extra inch or so to the rollout height.

I spent $100 on the Johnson hardware online. About $500 on particle board, paint, screws, and other hardware. I also purchased a biscuit joiner, and Kreg pocket screw jig set to add to my tool collection. I spent about 4-5 hours a day for 6 days in total. A couple of days were priming and painting, so not as many hours those days. I wish I could upload pictures of it.

Best of luck.

February 19, 2:02 PM [GMT -5]

Thinking on the roll-out shelves?
I see by installing the "Divider" centered - this gives shelves of about 5 1/2 inches.
Would it affect the structure of these roll-outs by moving that divider over to one edge - thus providing deeper shelves?

February 17, 5:45 PM [GMT -5]

I'm looking at building this - just what I need.

I'm wondering if anyone has sourced a store to get the tracks and rollers here in Canada?

One of the hardware stores have them - but at $10.00 per Tri-Roller - without the tracks
That'll come to $240 just for the rollers?

I wonder if I could substitute cheaper Wardrobe Door Hanger Rollers?

Has anyone tried this at all?

September 14, 6:41 AM [GMT -5]

I would like to see a "Cutting Diagram" for all the particle board. It would be somewhat helpful to avoid waste, I hate having waste.

August 12, 1:03 AM [GMT -5]

I have just finished this project today with applying the facia boards with paint and varnish. It took me several weeks because I only worked 1-3 hours when I had the availability. It was as you say moderate complexity and I throughly enjoyed doing it. I used a biscut cutter for the first time and the experience was worth it. I ordered all the materials as you discribed and purchased local material from my home supply store. I was short on the tracks, I needed 1 additional 72 inch track to complete 6 pull-out units. However because of where I built it I could only use 4 pull-out units. any additional would have covered my breaker box and rendered it hard to access. I use biscuit and glue on the sliding unit and one pull-out unit, but I became concerned about the stablity of just using biscuts and glue so I used pocket screws and glue. I am not sure this made it any stronger but it made me feel so. All-in-all it was a great project and most important the wife likes it. So now I need to build one for me.

Keep these great projects coming.

July 29, 12:07 AM [GMT -5]

I really like this concept. I think that I will tweak it so that it has the pull-outs in the center and a Murphy bed style work bench on each end. That would give me the ability to have up to 4 bench top power tools set up at the same time. Thanks FHM!

July 28, 11:57 PM [GMT -5]

The reason for the track system is to keep them off the floor. You don't want them getting wet at the bottom from melting snow on your car in winter. Plus, it is easier to sweep the floor. If your book case system is inside the house, then you can use casters and roll them in and out. They do not need to be suspended.

July 25, 10:43 AM [GMT -5]

I would like to use the sliding shelves idea for bookcases that are 9" deep and 18" wide. Could that work? I have hundreds of books and not enough space to store them. This would give me lots of space in a small footprint. I don't know how to figuere out if they would be too heavy to pull in and out on these tracks.

July 14, 12:54 AM [GMT -5]

I would like to see a "Cutting Diagram" for all the particle board. It would be somewhat helpful to avoid waste, especially with $500 worth of particle board. What is the most efficient cutting plan.

December 27, 9:36 PM [GMT -5]

Looks GREAT!

Two questions. 1. My current garage door tracks are only about 3 inches above the top shelf - not the comfortable margin shown in the article. Would that be OK?

2. My garage wall exterior is cinder block, framed on the inside with steel studs with styrofoam insulation, then drywalled. How would I screw the top shelf part to the wall?

Thanks!

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