How to Build Garage Shelves Overview
Before Joe’s garage organization project
Plastic storage bins and simple shelves turned chaos into order—instantly!
After Joe’s garage organization project
I.D. bins the smart way.
Think about how you’d like to identify the contents of each storage bin. Some people use adhesive labels or write with markers directly on the bins. The best system lets you make changes easily. We like the adhesive storage pouches that come with cardboard inserts (or you can just use index cards). Changing the label is as easy as slipping a new card into the pouch.
Clearly labeled bin
Joe is the set carpenter for The Family Handyman magazine. He’s also a husband, new father, dog owner, hunter, pinball wizard, pool shark, fisherman and the proud owner of a brand new garage, which he built himself. But Joe had a problem— he’s got a lot of stuff, and he needed a way to organize it fast (because he’d rather be hunting!). But he has almost no time (see the above list for why) and almost no cash (babies and garages don’t come cheap). So Joe’s quick, easy-on-the-wallet solution was to build simple DIY garage shelves that could hold plastic storage bins. He built the whole project in less than a day, and it cost him $300 for 26 ft. of shelving (the bins were extra). His wife thinks he’s a genius and so do we. (Joe’s just happy he can go hunting.)
How to build garage shelves and assemble quickly
Photo 1: Mark the frame parts for quick assembly
Cut all your frame parts to length. Then mark where the rails are going to be screwed to each leg. Do the same thing to the 2x2s. This makes the whole thing go together in a snap.
Mark rail and leg parts after cutting your parts to length. (See Additional Information for a materials list and project illustration with measurements.)
Put the frame together
Photo 2: Assemble the frames
Working on top of a sheet of plywood helps keep each frame squared up. Use the edges of the plywood to line up and adjust things as you screw the frame together. It also really helps to pick the straightest lumber possible when you’re shopping.
Keep things square by assembling the frame on top of a piece of plywood.
Install the shelves
Photo 3: Screw on the shelves
Installing the DIY garage shelves in each frame is a lot easier if you have a helper to hold the frames. If you’re working alone, lean one of the frames against the wall and hold up the other frame while you screw the first shelf into place.
A helper makes installing the shelves a lot easier.
Screw the unit to the wall
Photo 4: Fasten the shelves to the wall
Screw each unit to the wall through the top rail using construction screws (GRK is one brand) spaced every second or third stud. This shelf unit is really sturdy. But make it ultra secure by screwing the units together through the front legs. Shim the legs if your floor is sloped or uneven.
Screw the unit to the wall through the top rail every second or third stud to make it very stable.
Install the middle cleats for the sliding bins
Photo 5: Install cleats for slide-out bins
To avoid stacking the small bins on top of one another, hang the top bins from cleats. Installing the cleats goes really fast if you start your screws in each cleat first and then use a spacer to mark the cleat’s location as you screw it on.
Hanging the bins from cleats means you don’t have to stack them on top of each other and you can easily slide them in and out.
Each storage unit is basically two frames tied together with plywood shelves. Buy your bins first so you can customize the height and depth of each shelf space. Remember to leave enough clearance space in front of your shelving units to open your car doors.
Small bins are great for storing screws, glue and painting supplies in the middle bays of each unit. The best bins for hanging are those with snap- lock lids. They allow you to hang heavier loads without worrying that the lid will come off.
The fussiest measurements are those for the center bay of smaller bins. If your width measurements are off by a quarter inch, the bins won’t sit squarely between the cleats or will be too tight to slide easily.
If your garage floor sometimes gets wet, nail plastic feet to the bottom of the legs. (A set of four nail-on plastic feet costs $3 at home centers.)
You can paint the wood to give it a classy look or leave it bare. Painting it before you put it together is a lot easier than painting it once it’s assembled.
Additional Information on how to build garage shelves
Required Tools for this How to Build Garage Shelves Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Cordless drill
- Framing square
- Tape measure