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Organize Your Garage in One Morning

Maximize your garage storage space quickly and easily with simple and inexpensive shelves, baskets and hooks. And it will only take you one morning to achieve garage happiness.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine


There are lots of ways to create more storage space in your garage, but you won’t find another system that’s as simple, inexpensive or versatile as this one. It begins with a layer of plywood fastened over drywall or bare studs. Then you just screw on a variety of hooks, hangers, shelves and baskets to suit your studs. And because you can place hard- ware wherever you want (not only at studs), you can arrange items close together to make the most of your wall space. As your needs change, you’ll appreciate the versatility of this storage wall too; just unscrew shelves or hooks to rearrange the whole system.

We used three types of storage hardware: wire shelves, wire baskets, and a variety of hooks, hangers and brackets. Selecting and arranging these items to suit your stuff can be the most time-consuming part of this project. To simplify that task, outline the dimensions of your plywood wall on the garage floor with masking tape. Then gather all the stuff you want to store and lay it out on your outline. Arrange and rearrange items to make the most of your wall space. Then make a list of the hardware you need before you head off to the hardware store or home center.

Money, materials and planning

The total materials bill for the 6 x 16-ft. section of wall shown here was about $200. Everything you need is available at home centers. We used 3/4-in.- thick “BC” grade plywood, which has one side sanded smooth. You could save a few bucks by using 3/4-in. OSB &lrdquo;chip board” or MDF. But don’t use particleboard; it doesn’t hold screws well enough for this job. Aside from standard hand tools, all you need to complete this project is a drill to drive screws and a circular saw to cut plywood. You may also need a helper when handling plywood—full sheets are awkward and heavy.

This project doesn’t require much planning; just decide how much of the wall you want to cover with plywood. You can cover an entire wall floor-to-ceiling or cover any section of a wall. We left the lower 3 ft. of wall and upper 18 in. uncovered, since those high and low areas are best used for other types of storage. To make the most of our plywood, we combined a course of full-width sheets with a course of sheets cut in half. If your ceiling height is 9 ft. or less, a single 4-ft.-wide course of plywood may suit your needs.

Cover the wall with plywood

When you’ve determined the starting height of the plywood, measure up from the floor at one end of the wall and drive a nail. Then measure down to the nail from the ceiling and use that measurement to make a pencil mark at the other end of the wall. (Don’t measure up from the floor, since garage floors often slope.) Hook your chalk line on the nail, stretch it to the pencil mark and snap a line (Photo 1).

Cut the first sheet of plywood to length so it ends at the center of a stud. Place the end you cut in the corner. That way the factory-cut edge will form a tight joint with the factory edge of the next sheet. Be sure to place the rough side of the plywood against the wall. Fasten the plywood with 10d finish nails or screws that are at least 2-1/4 in. long (Photo 2). We used trim screws, which have small heads that are easy to cover with a dab of spackling com- pound. Drive screws or nails every 12 in. into each stud. If you add a second course of plywood above the first as we did (Photo 3), you’ll have to cut the plywood to width. You can’use a circular saw, but a table saw gives you faster, straighter cuts. Some home centers and lumberyards cut plywood for free or for a small charge.

With all the plywood in place, you could go ahead and mount your hardware. But we took a few extra steps to dress up our wall: First, we added 3/4-in. cove molding along the lower edge of the plywood. This gave us a neater look and covered up the chalk line and screw holes left by the support blocks. We also framed the window trim with doorstop molding to hide small gaps between the trim and the ply- wood. Then we caulked gaps between the sheets of plywood and filled screw holes. Finally, we primed the plywood, lightly sanded it with 100-grit sandpaper and painted it.

Sturdy and inexpensive shelving holds a lot and
won’t collect dust.

Use baskets for items that can tip, spill or roll off
a shelf.

Hang odd-sized tools and ladders on their own
hooks and brackets.

Place liquids in a leak-proof box when storing
on shelving.

Storage Supplies for Every Need

Wire closet shelves are sturdy and inexpensive, and they don’t collect dust like solid shelving. They come in lengths up to 12 ft. and you can cut them to any length using a hacksaw or bolt cutters. Standard depths are 12, 16 and 20 in. You’ll get more shelving for your money by cutting up long sections than by buying shorter sections. Brackets and mounting clips (Photo 4) are usually sold separately.

Wire baskets are perfect for items that won’t stay put on shelves (like balls and other toys) and for bags of charcoal or fertilizer that tend to tip and spill. They are also convenient because they’re mobile; hang them on hooks and you can lift them off to tote all your tools or toys to the garden or sandbox. You’ll find baskets in a variety of shapes and sizes at home centers and discount stores. You can use just about any type of hook to hang baskets. Heavy-duty mirror supports fit our baskets perfectly.

Hooks, hangers and brackets handle all the odd items that don’t fit on shelves or in baskets. Basic hooks are often labeled for a specific purpose, but you can use them in other ways. Big “ladder brackets,” for example, can hold several long-handled tools. “Ceiling hooks” for bikes also work on walls. Don’t write off the wall area below the plywood—it’s prime space for items that don’t protrude far from the wall. We drove hooks into studs to hang an extension ladder.

Hang ladders on hooks below the plywood for
easy access.

Drill a hole at a 45-degree angle and turn in a screw
hook to hang a bicycle by the front wheel.

Handy Hooks

When you’re out shopping, you might find elaborate hangers designed to hold specific toys and tools. These specialty hooks are neat, but you don’t have to spend money just to hang a bike or garden tools. With a little ingenuity, you can hang just about anything on simple screw-in hooks that are inexpensive. You can place hooks anywhere on your plywood wall. If you don’t put them on the plywood, be sure to locate them at studs.

Place new GFCI electrical outlets below the shelves for
easy access to power.

Editor’s Note: Now’s the Time to Add Outlets

I have a gripe with the National Electrical Code. It requires only one outlet in a garage—and a single outlet is all most builders install. That’s an insult to all of us garage dwellers and our beloved power tools.

If your garage has bare stud walls, adding outlets is easy anytime. But if your walls are covered, our plywood storage wall makes adding outlets or extra circuits easier because you can cut big holes in the drywall to run wire and cover up the damage with the plywood. No patching needed. Since the plywood itself will be covered with shelves and hangers, place new outlets below it for easier access. If you have an existing outlet that will be covered with plywood, cut a hole in the plywood about 1/8 in. larger than the junction box and add a box extender (see photo). All garage outlets must be either GFCI outlets or connected to a circuit that’s GFCI-protected, so you may need to replace your existing outlet with a GFCI version.

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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.

    • Tape measure
    • Circular saw
    • Stud finder
    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Drill/driver, cordless
    • Chalk line
    • Drill bit set

Required Materials for this Project

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

    • 3/4-in. plywood / OSB chipboard / MDF
    • 10d finish nails or 2-1/4-in. trim screws
    • Shelves / baskets
    • Masking Tape
    • Brackets/hooks

Comments from DIY Community Members

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

1 - 9 of 9 comments
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October 27, 3:11 PM [GMT -5]

I'm surprised someone hasn't commented on this project. If you can afford to buy the materials, this will be a nice and easy DIY project. It will look nice and serve the purpose. Just don't forget to plan it out in advance, you can make drawings to get an idea of how and where you would like your set up to be.

July 12, 10:00 PM [GMT -5]

NO THANKS I'll stick to putting my shelving and screw hooks into wall studs. That way I know the shelves & hooks can take a LOAD. Besides if I'm storing that heavy, it won't be on wire shelves anyway. They aren't built to take HEAVY loads. And also, where did they find white wire shelving CHEAP? REMEMBER: You get what you pay for. The stuff is OK for clothing, lightweight stuff, but anything over30-40 lbs. NOPE
Anything real heavy goes on shelving that sits on the floor, not anchored to the walls. The shelving might be braced to a stud with 3" drywall screws, but the load is transferred to the floor.

July 12, 7:26 PM [GMT -5]

Simpler solution to hanging wire shelves over drywall (this method supports and stiffens the back of the shelf) :

Draw a level line at the height of the shelf. Find the vertical 2x4s. Nail or screw over the drywall (at each 2x4) a 1x2 in. wood cleat at shelf level and at least as long as the shelf (end cleat on a 2x4 and drill holes for end fasteners to avoid splitting). Note: If you plan to paint the bracket/wall, now is the time.

Lay the shelf on the cleat. Use pan head screws (1 and 3/4 in.). Put a screw at a downward angle through the drywall at each 2x4 to hold the back edge of the shelf down.

Put as many metal shelf brackets/supports at each 2x4 as required to hold the weight you plan to put on the shelf.

If the shelf ends at a wall, eliminate the end bracket and put a 1x2 cleat to hold up that end. Notch the end of the shelf so the front end of the cleat ends on a 2x4.


July 12, 3:41 PM [GMT -5]

To say that the white wire shelving is inexpensive is a lie.. i can buy 3/4" OSB for $15/sheet and have it ripped into 4 ea 12" x 8' shelves at the store.. thats a lot of shelves.. cheap. Just gotta fab brackets out of scrap or 2x4s.

Those with damp cement walls.. i would put PT 2/4s behind the plywood vertically on 24" centers first, then screw the plywood to the new "studs".

for hooks, hangers, etc i usually just use a box of 3" drywall screws.. hold your equipment against the plywood, and put a screw wherever is needed to hold it up and straight. Trace it with a black magic marker to remember what goes there later.

March 12, 2:10 PM [GMT -5]

I like the plywood idea too. I would mount the extension ladder at shoulder height so it's easier to remove and replace without bending over.

February 18, 9:58 AM [GMT -5]

This would be perfect for my one concrete block wall in the garage. My problem is that the wall is half underground, and tends to sweat. If I seal the concrete, then install something like this....am I asking for mold issues behind the plywood?

February 16, 8:53 PM [GMT -5]

Great idea for the plywood, I like it. If you have concrete block walls you can still do the plywood you will just have to use concrete anchor screws and some liquid nails. You will have to pre-drill the holes for the screws; some brands even come with the correct drill bit for the job. For the shelving I like the Closetmaid system with the hanging brackets that go into a rail at the top and use adjustable shelving brackets for the shelves. That way you are not stuck on the shelving heights and can adjust them for what you need to store there. Then down the line if you want to change something it is no problem.

February 16, 1:42 PM [GMT -5]

Great idea. I love the plywood idea, as it really makes this flexible. I will say that it pays to be a little careful with this type of shelving as I had it drilled into studs and even then it pulled off the wall when I filled it up with too many 12-packs of pop/soda and water.

February 16, 11:51 AM [GMT -5]

I never thought of plywood. I have a 10 x 14 shed and right now I have pegboard up on the wall. The prolem was the hooks would come of until I wired them to the pegboard Needless to say, the pegboard will come down soon.

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