Utilize dead space
Install the system in the empty area above the garage door.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
The boxes slide into and out of the tracks easilyPhoto: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Different depth boxes are available.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Are all those cardboard boxes in the corner of your garage driving you crazy? Holiday decorations, camping gear, seasonal clothing and extra bedding take up valuable space. And who can tell one brown box from another?
We've designed this system to get all that stuff up and out of the way and into unclaimed space near your garage ceiling. We built this handy system around special reinforced plastic totes that hang from carriages made from 2x4s and plywood strips. In this article, we'll show you how to assemble these simple carriages, align them perpendicular to the ceiling joists, then anchor them into place with lag screws. It's that easy. Add labels to the sides of the totes and you can tell at a glance where to find that long-term storage item. You can build and install the carriages in an afternoon and start organizing right away!
Photo 1: Measure
Measure the top of the tote to determine the width of the tote rims (3/4 in.) and the size of the bottom flanges of the carriages (in our case, 3 in.).Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 2: Bottom flanges
Cut 3-in.-wide strips of 3/4-in. plywood for the bottom flange. Center them on 4-ft.-long 2x4s, then glue and screw them. Use 2-in. screws every 10 in.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 3: Complete the carriages
Flip the carriage assemblies over. Center the 5-in.- wide plywood top flanges and glue and screw them to complete the carriage assemblies.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 4: Mark joists
Locate the ceiling joists with a stud finder and snap chalk lines to mark them. Probe with a finish nail to make sure the lines fall on joist centers.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 5: Screw in place
Mark each carriage 12 in. from the end and align the mark with the joist location. Screw the carriage temporarily to each joist on one side of the flange with 3-in. screws.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 6: Mark the carriage locations
Cut a 2×4 template from your tote dimensions and mark the location of the top edge of the next carriage. Mark the rear side as well, then screw it and the other carriages in place on one side only.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 7: Test the fit
Check the fit of the totes and make sure the rims have maximum bearing on the lower flanges. Make any necessary adjustments.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 8: Drive lags at joists
Drill 3/16-in. pilot holes in the top flanges. Then drive pairs of 3-1/2-in. lag screws into each joist, removing the temporary screws as you go. Use a minimum of four lag screws per carriage.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 9: Install stops
Mark the centers of the carriages and screw a 1×2 stop along the marks. The stop will keep the totes from sliding too far into the carriages.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
If you don't have unused space above the garage door, you can install this system just about anywhere. However, keep the totes at least 2 ft. from light fixtures, door springs and garage door openers.
The special reinforced totes we used (available from internet suppliers like usplastic.com, simplastics.com and others) are a bit stronger than those you'll find at home centers or department stores. The reinforced rims on these containers will support weights of 35 lbs. or more, which is perfect for lightweight storage. And the totes will be easy enough to lift into place while you're standing on a ladder. To be on the safe side, the total weight of all the totes shouldn't exceed 210 lbs., so find a different place to store books and heavy hardware. Custom plastic lids are also available for dust-free storage.
If you use other types of containers, measure the rims carefully and adjust the bottom flange width to assure full support. And no matter what joist spacing you find (24 in. or 16 in.), be sure to fasten the carriages with at least four lag screws.
Before you order your totes, measure the height above your garage door and find totes that'll work. Our 13-in.-deep totes required 18 in. of clearance, including the carriages. For lower clearances, you can buy totes that are 8 and 10 in. deep but with the same top size.
Note: A Materials List and Cutting List are available in Additional Information below.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Drill bit set
- Miter saw
- Safety glasses
- Socket/ratchet set
- Stud finder