Planning and materials
Just screw wood strips to the wall
Strips of plywood fastened horizontally to the studs are the key to this system. Once they’re up, you can easily mount any kind of storage hardware or shelf standard without worrying about where the stud is or whether a drywall anchor will hold. Since you can drive a screw anywhere, you can pack more stuff on the wall.
This storage system solves two challenges: first, how to design storage space for the narrow alley between the garage side wall and the family car; and second, how to create a solid mounting surface to hold shelves and hooks that are capable of carrying hundreds of pounds of stuff.
The solution is to create a framework of horizontal wood strips and inexpensive shelf standards. It can hold almost any arrangement of shelving and hooks, at any point on the wall, and it’s easy to rearrange.
Pull your car into the garage and measure how much space is available. Then look over what you need to store and figure out where it will fit. Generally it’s best to hang narrow shelves and smaller hooks lower where space is tight, with wider shelves up near the ceiling so you don’t bump your head or interfere with car doors.
Planning the layout and buying materials can take a few hours, but you can do the actual installation, including ripping the plywood shelves and strips, in less than a day. Put up horizontal strips even if you have exposed studs or block walls—they’ll make it much easier to install shelf standards and hooks. Apply finish to the strips and shelves, if desired, before installing them.
We used 3-1/2-in.-wide strips of 3/4-in. plywood for the strips because plywood is always straight and never splits—but pine 1x4s also work. Birch plywood was our choice for the strips and shelves, but you can also use less expensive BC plywood. You can rip 12 strips from one 4 x 8-ft. sheet—that’s enough for an average wall. We used four sheets of plywood for our system. For shelf edging, we used 1-1/2-in.-wide strips of solid birch (Photo 6). The total cost for our 20-ft.-long system was about $500, but you could cut that cost in half by skipping the fold-down workbench (Photo 5) and using less-expensive wood and plywood.
Inexpensive and Easy…Fast and Versatile, too!
Fasten the plywood strips to the studs, then add the shelf standards, hook and holders, storage bins and anything else that fits.
- Plywood strips
- Shelf standards
- Lumber rack
- Solid wood edging
(See Photos 1 – 6 below for more information)
Install the strips and standards
Photo 1: Plywood strips
Screw plywood strips to the studs. Cut them to length so the ends meet on the studs.
Photo 2: Shelf standards
Mount the first shelf standard, then use it as a reference to locate the others. Space standards no more than 24 in. apart.
Photo 3: Lumber rack
Lock brackets together with a wood lip to create a lumber and pipe rack. The lip keeps pipes and lumber from falling off.
Locate studs using a stud finder and mark them with masking tape, then draw a level line 3 ft. above the garage floor. Start at the center of the wall with a 4-ft. level and work to each side. Garage floors often slope, so don’t simply measure from the floor to establish the line. Set the first strip above the level line, screwing it to every stud with two 2-1/2-in. screws (Photo 1). Space the remaining strips so they line up with the screw holes on the standards you use—ours were 22 in. from center to center.
Screw on the first standard with 1-5/8-in. screws. Install the other standards, spacing them no more than 24 in. apart—less if you have lots of heavy boxes to store.
Customize the system to fit your needs
Photo 4: Pegboard
Add a section of pegboard. Frame the edges with wood strips and fasten all four sides of the pegboard.
Photo 5: Workbench
Mount heavy-duty folding brackets on a 3/4-in. plywood backer to create a fold-down workbench.
Photo 6: Solid wood edging
Apply a bead of wood glue to each shelf edge, then nail on edging with finish nails every 12 in.
Attach pegboard, different widths and lengths of shelving, a workbench, a lumber and pipe rack, and any other type of storage you need (Photos 3 – 5).
Use a table saw or circular saw to rip shelving 1/2 in. wider than the depth of the shelf bracket. Use 3/4-in.-thick plywood or solid wood for the shelves—it’s stronger and resists sagging better than any particleboard shelving product available.
If you want to make the shelves more rigid as well as more attractive, nail on 1×2 front edges (Photo 6). Use an air nailer or predrill if hand nailing. Finally, line up the shelves and attach them to the brackets from underneath with screws 1/2 in. longer than the depth of the bracket.
Hooks, hangers and brackets—for everything and anything
Available in 6-, 9-, 12-, 14-, 16-, 18-, 20- and 24-in. sizes for wood or wire shelves.
Pegboard and accessories
Purchase a kit of pegboard hangers, or buy individual hangers for a dollar or two each.
Large, all-purpose hangers for ladders, lawn chairs and hoses.
Hang wire catch-all baskets on shelf standards.
Shelf standards by Rubbermaid, Closetmaid and others are available in 1-, 2-, 2-1/2-, 4-, 5-, 6- and 7-ft. lengths.
Heavy-duty folding brackets are sturdy enough for a workbench (available from Knape and Vogt or woodworking stores).
Garden tool hangers
Hang rakes, shovels, weed whackers and other garden tools and equipment.
Hooks and hangers
Hang almost anything, from shovels to duffel bags to house keys.
Hang anything with a handle—rakes, axes, brooms, snow shovels and more.
Home centers and hardware stores sell a wide variety of products for storing almost anything. You can also install wire rack shelving or special wire baskets on doubleslot shelf standards. You can usually mix shelf brackets and accessories from different manufacturers—but check the fit, if possible, before buying. Shelf standards, however, are not interchangeable, as slots and screw holes don’t always line up.
Avoid getting locked into one garage system or brand—it’s often cheaper to use a variety rather than just the special matching accessories.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Air compressor
- Air hose
- Brad nail gun
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Framing square
- Safety glasses
- Stud finder
- 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.
- 1-5/8-in. screws
- 1x2 birch or pine for edging
- 2-1/2-in. screws
- 3/4-in. x 4 x 8 plywood (4 sheets for this size shelf system)
- Shelf standards, brackets and accessories
- wood glue