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Garage Storage Systems

This garage wall hanging storage system makes every inch count. You can easily store all kinds of tools, bikes, garden equipment and even add shelves and bins for smaller stuff. It's easy to build with a circular saw, router and drill and is easy to adapt to any garage.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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    You'll need one weekend to cut and mount the basic wall system and a second weekend to assemble various types of hooks and shelves.

Garage Storage Systems

This garage wall hanging storage system makes every inch count. You can easily store all kinds of tools, bikes, garden equipment and even add shelves and bins for smaller stuff. It's easy to build with a circular saw, router and drill and is easy to adapt to any garage.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Project overview and design

The wall space in your garage is way too valuable just to hang rakes, bikes and garden hoses at random on nails, hooks or shelves. To make every square inch of that wall space work for you, we designed this wall storage system.

Our system is made entirely from plywood and standard hardware. It's easy to build and easy to customize to suit your needs. You can install it to fill any size wall or cover only part of a wall. You can hang shelves, bins or hooks and arrange them to make efficient use of wall space. With special store-bought hangers, you can hang hard-to-hold items like bikes or wheelbarrows. Best of all, everything hangs from sturdy rails, so you can rearrange the wall in minutes without any tools. Some store-bought systems provide the same versatility, but they can cost two or even three times as much as this homemade system.

The only power tools you'll need are a circular saw and a drill. Other tools—a table saw, router, miter saw and brad nailer—will save you time, but they aren't necessary. All the materials you'll need are available at home centers. If you don't expect to hang anything from the lower half of the wall, you can cut time and expenses by covering only the upper half. If you completely cover a large wall as we did, expect to spend a weekend building the system and another finishing it and assembling shelves and hooks.

Wall-hanging system

Figure A: Wall System Parts

The design includes 1/4-in. plywood backer and a plywood rail mounted to the wall. Various hanger assemblies then hook over the rail.

Note: You can download Figure A and enlarge it in the Addendum below.

Step 1: Cover the wall with plywood

You could nail and glue the rails directly to bare studs or drywall, but we chose to cover our wall with 1/4-in. plywood, for three reasons: First, the birch plywood matches the rails and gives the whole system a rich, finished appearance. Second, plywood won't scratch, gouge or dent as easily as drywall, and third, you can quickly clean it with a damp cloth.

The sheets of plywood should meet at studs, so start by locating studs with a stud finder. Chances are, you'll have to cut the first sheet lengthwise so the edge aligns with a stud's center. Then you can use full sheets until you reach the end of the wall and cut the final sheet to fit. Your cuts don't have to be perfect and the sheets don't have to fit tightly into corners because you'll cover the edges with trim later (see Photo 2).

If you're installing the plywood over drywall as we did, run a bead of construction adhesive around the edges of each sheet and cover the middle with a zigzag pattern (Photo 1). Use at least half a tube of adhesive per sheet. If you're fastening plywood to bare studs, apply a heavy bead of adhesive to each stud. Nail the sheet to studs with 1-5/8-in. paneling nails to secure the plywood until the adhesive dries.

Frame the plywood-covered wall with strips of 3/4-in. plywood (Photo 2). Make the strips using the same techniques used to make the rails (see Photos 3 and 4). Rip 3/4-in. plywood into 1-1/2-in.-wide strips, chamfer one edge with a router and nail them into place with 16d finish nails.

Step 2: Combine thick and thin plywood to make rails

Begin rail construction by cutting strips of 1/4-in. and 3/4-in. plywood. If you don't have a table saw, make a simple ripping guide to ensure straight cuts. Cut a 3-5/8 in. spacer block to position the ripping guide (Photo 3). Tip: If you make the guide from 1/2-in.plywood, you can rip two sheets of 3/4-in.plywood at once. Cut a 2-5/8 in. block to position the guide when cutting the 1/4-in.plywood strips. You'll get 13 rails from a sheet of 3/4-in. plywood; 18 strips from a sheet of 1/4-in. plywood. We made twenty-three 8-ft. long rails for our 8 x 20-ft.wall.

The chamfers on the rails are optional (Photo 4).The two on the face of the rail are purely decorative. The one on the back lets the aluminum cleats slip over the rail more easily. Instead of chamfering the edge, you can simply round it slightly with sandpaper. For appearance, we also chamfered our shelves and hook mounting plates.

Fasten 1/4-in. strips to each rail (Photo 5).To save time, finish the rails before you install them. We used water-based polyurethane. But don't coat the back side; construction adhesive will grip bare wood better than sealed wood.

Plywood rail details

Figure B: Plywood Rail Details

Assemble the rails from 3/4-in. and 1/4-in. strips of plywood.

Note: You can download Figure B and print it, see the Additional Information section below.

Step 3: Nail the rails to the wall

Attach rails with two beads of construction adhesive and a 16d finish nail driven at each stud (Photo 6). Cut rails so that the ends meet at stud centers. For better appearance and strength, avoid putting rail joints at plywood seams.

Use a level to make sure the lowest course of rails is straight and level. Then use a pair of spacer blocks to position the rest of the rails. You can space the rails however you like. The closer you position them, the more flexibility you'll have when hanging shelves or hooks. We began with a 10-in. space between the bottom strip of trim and the lowest rail, then spaced the rest of the rails 6 in. apart. When all the rails are in place, finish the entire wall with a coat of polyurethane.

Step 4: Mass-produce hanger cleats from aluminum stock

The cleats that hook onto the rails are made from 1/8-in. thick aluminum stock that's available in 2- to 8-ft. lengths. Use 3/4- in. x 3/4-in. angle for shelves and 2-in.-wide flat stock for mounting plates (see Photos 9 and 11).Cutting and drilling aluminum is fast and easy. Cut the aluminum with a metal-cutting blade (Photo 7).We cut all our cleats 4 in. long, but you can vary the length to suit your needs. Drill 3/16-in. screw holes and 3/8-in. recesses with standard drill bits (Photo 8). Wear eye protection when cutting and drilling aluminum.

Step 5: Make a dozen sturdy shelves in an hour

The shelves are made from aluminum angle cleats, 3/4-in. plywood and brackets that are available in a range of sizes. We made shelves 6, 12 and 15 in. deep and 24 in. long. You could make yours longer than that, but remember that long shelves are less versatile than short ones. To keep shelves from sagging, place brackets no more than 30 in. apart. We chamfered three sides of each shelf with a router and coated them with water-based polyurethane before adding cleats and brackets (Photos 9 and 10).

Shelf hanging system

Finished Shelf Unit

Make shelves any length with this system.

Step 6: Plywood mounting plates let you hang just about anything

Mounting plates are just pieces of plywood that hold hooks, bins, drawers or anything else that you'd want to mount on a wall. Cut 4-1/2 x 4-1/2-in.plates for small hooks. Glue and nail a 1-1/2-in.-wide plywood hanger strip across the back of each plate. Coat the plates with polyurethane. When the finish is dry, position the aluminum cleats about 1/4 in. from the upper edge of the hanger strip and fasten it with 1-1/4-in. drywall screws (Photo 11). Finally, screw hooks to the plates (Photo 12).We also made larger mounting plates for bins, drawer units and a bicycle holder.

Small mounting plate

Large mounting plate

Finished Plate Units

Use small mounting plates to hold various types of hooks. Use large mounting plates to support drawers and bins.

Step 7: Hang the plates and shelves

Don't hang plates or shelves on the rails until the polyurethane has dried for at least 24 hours. Otherwise, the fresh polyurethane can “glue” parts together. We put our deepest shelves near the ceiling where they would be out of the way. That out-of-reach space is the best place for stuff you don't use often and a good spot for child hazards like lawn chemicals.

Photo 14: Clamp storage

Custom Racks, Too Few Hooks and a Missed Opportunity

Editor's note: One of the things I like most about this storage system is its adaptability. With a little ingenuity, you can make special holders for all those oddball items that don't fit conveniently on shelves or store-bought hooks (Photo 14). But before you make a custom holder, visit a home center. I spent a couple of hours building a bike rack only to find a better one at a hardware store for $7.

I also wasted time on the storage system project because I made too few mounting plates for hooks. Assembling five or six extras would have taken just a few minutes. Instead, I had to drag out my tools and run through the whole process a second time.

But here's my biggest mistake: Like most garages, this one has too few electrical outlets. I could have hacked holes in the drywall to easily run new electrical lines. No need to patch up the wall, since it was about to be covered with plywood anyway. Unfortunately, this occurred to me just as I nailed the last rail into place. I'll know better next time.

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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
    • Circular saw
    • Caulk gun
    • Drill/driver, cordless
    • Drill bit set
    • Router
    • Safety glasses

You'll also need leather gloves, a metal cutting blade, a chamfer router bit and a circular saw guide.

Required Materials for this Project

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

    • Plywood, ¾-in. and ¼-in.
    • Aluminum angle, ¾-in.
    • Aluminum flat stock, 2-in.
    • Construction adhesive
    • wood glue

Comments from DIY Community Members

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

1 - 12 of 12 comments
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November 08, 12:54 AM [GMT -5]

I cannot wait to do this to my garage!

March 16, 8:44 PM [GMT -5]

This is a little heavy duty for art.
I guess it depends on how heavy it is?

March 02, 3:51 PM [GMT -5]

I am looking for something like this project but for an interior hallway wall for hanging pictures and art. I assume that the major elements would be similar but would want something different for the the cleats/hanging features. Is there a project description like this already out there? I looked and did not see on DIY.


July 16, 10:32 PM [GMT -5]

Duct tape is for a shim.
If you get a tight cleat.
Not all 3/4 plywood is the same.
(in fact it is not 3/4 any more)

June 11, 3:50 PM [GMT -5]

I love the idea and have already started building it, I have one questions though...
In step 6 (Plywood mounting plates let you hang just about anything) it mentions putting duct tape between the cleat and the wood.
Why is this done?
I have never heard of doing something like this and am intrigued.

May 11, 4:51 PM [GMT -5]

This is a great idea to find extra storage in your garage. I have another option that is a do-it-yourself project.

http://www.overheadshelf.com/DIY-hanging-garage-racks.html has a variety of heavy duty overhead garage storage options that are sturdy and not overpriced. I installed some of these racks in my garage a few months ago. Their website has a garage rack installation page with videos and step-by-step printable directions. I listed the address above. You can't find that everywhere.

May 04, 9:43 AM [GMT -5]

I just finished this project. It took me 4 full weekends to do 2 1/2 walls (about 40ft). I was working by myself with only average skills.
Definately recommend adding additional outlets before covering the walls. I didn't add any to one of the walls and now i need them.
i used 2x4 wire protectors instead of the aluminum. They cost .15 a piece. saved a lot of time.
Very pleased with the results. My garage now looks like a room.

February 14, 9:23 AM [GMT -5]

I completed this project in one weekend. It took about 16 hours from start to finish, however I was working alone and did not have a table saw or router table. The table saw would have been especially helpful.

My garage has concrete for the lower 3-4 feet of wall, so I decided not to cover this. I ended up doing the upper 4 feet, and did a 16 foot span. I spaced 6 rails approx. 3.5" apart, with less space under the lowest rail. This would be too close if you were hanging bikes and larger items, but in my case, it's mostly tools.

I used 1/4" red oak plywood, just because I liked the look of it better. I also used wood filler to fill the holes from the nail gun (this means you'd have to poly it after you mount the cleats to the wall). The poly really brought out the grain and color nicely.

So far I've made mounts for about 10 hooks, a Lisle air tool holder, a few t-handle allen wrench holders, wood clamp holder, and a circular saw blade holder. For the circular saw blade holder, I used two half-circle cuts of 1/2" plywood, with a C-shaped cut of 3/4" plywood sandwiched between to make a pocket that the blades fit into. Making the plates in bulk saves a lot of time.

November 14, 9:43 PM [GMT -5]

Finished my 2.5 car garage / workshop with this system.
Very flexible & Strong
Plan ahead with additional electrical outlets prior to covering walls with plywood.

Hanging units on wall in plan were so so.
It takes time to build custom.
Result is one space two uses.

September 20, 9:55 PM [GMT -5]

I have not done this, but I am thinking that the aluminum pieces could easily be replaced with a 2" wide strip of 3/16" hardboard. The metal brackets could be replaced by double-wide plywood brackets, chamfered to match the rails. This would take a little more labor, but the cost will be reduced significantly over purchasing the metal products.

September 18, 4:21 PM [GMT -5]

I've had this project in my head since I first saw it in 2005. I bought the wall covering materials in 2005 and was sidetracked with all sorts of other priorities. In fact, I just noticed I need to dispose of construction adhesive, 12 month shelf life (:-(

I am now getting back to it. As I write, I am just about to fasten my 1st 4x8 sheet. I am using Luan. I came online to see nail spacing. I am strugging with the spacing of 10 inches for the 1st rail above the bottom trim. My concrete wall foundation is about 12 inches. That may waste too much wall space.

September 03, 12:42 PM [GMT -5]

Has any one attempt this project yet?

Any feedback? i.e. what you like or don't like about this setup?

Thank you in advance.

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