I used “BC” sanded pine plywood for this project. The holes and blemishes on the “B” side are filled and make for a good painting surface. It's not furniture grade, but it's priced right and works well for garage projects like this one. Rip all the sheets down to 23-3/4 in. If you don't own a table saw, use a straightedge and make your cuts with a circular saw.
Once all the sheets have been ripped down, cut the tops, bottoms and shelves to 18-in. lengths. If you’re using a circular saw, save time by clamping two 8-ft. strips together, and cut two at a time. Some home centers will make your cuts for you, so if you don't have a ton of confidence in your cutting skills, ask the staff if they can help.
Cutting diagrams for 3/4" plywood
Use these diagrams to lay out your 3/4" plywood cuts for one bin tower’s top, bottom, shelves and sides. The 1/4" plywood back is not shown here.
Mark's bin tower
I keep a lot of stuff in plastic storage bins. I had several stacks of them throughout my garage, and it seemed that every time I needed something, it was always in the bin at the bottom. So I decided to build myself a bin storage system to give me easy access to all my bins.
These bin towers are simple to build, don't require expensive tools, and actually add wall space without losing a lot of floor space. I designed the towers to fit 16- to 18-gallon bins with a lid size of about 18 x 24 in. I had so much extra space when I was done that I had to go buy a few more tools!
Mark Petersen, Family Handyman Editor
Finishing the cut components before you assemble them will save you a bunch of time, but before you start slathering on the paint, figure out which edges need to be painted—the back edges of the sides don't, and only the front edges of the shelves do. Configure all the parts so the best edge faces out. I marked an “X” with a pencil on all the edges that needed paint. Some of the edges will have voids in the wood that will need to be filled (Photo 1).
I applied a product called MH Ready patch (available at home centers). It’s easy to work with and dries fast, but it's not stainable, so you may want to find a more traditional wood filler if you plan to stain your project. Make a couple of passes with 100-grit sandpaper before you paint. I covered the wood with a paint/primer in one (Photo 2). If you choose a traditional wood primer, have the store tint it close to the final color.
I used an 18-gauge brad nailer with 1-1/2-in. brads to quickly attach the shelves to the sides, three brads on each side. If you don't have a brad nailer, that's OK; you can assemble everything with screws only. I cut a piece of plywood 18-5/16 in. wide to align the shelves (Photo 3). The spacer board may scuff up the paint a little bit, but you can touch it up when you paint over your fastener holes after everything is all put together. Arrange the sides so the good surface faces out. The good surface on the bottom four shelves should face up, and the top two should face down. That way, you'll see the nicer finish from almost any angle.
After everything is nailed together, come back and install two 2-in. trim head screws into each shelf (use three if you're not using brads). Wood glue won't hold well because of the painted sides, so I was a bit concerned about the strength of the tower. To ease my mind, I built a small mock-up of one shelf using the same fastening pattern. I was able to jump up and down on it with no failure—and I'm not a little guy.
Plywood will eventually rot if it's sitting directly on a concrete floor. To avoid this, I ripped 5/8-in. strips from a 1x2 pressure-treated board and installed them on the bottom (Photo 4). Four square blocks would also keep the plywood off the floor, but I wanted to avoid any space where screws, washers or any other little objects could get lost. I inset the strips about 3/8 in. and nailed them on with 1-1/2-in. brads.
Use the 1/4-in. plywood to square up the unit (Photo 4). Fasten the two factory-cut edges of the plywood to the back first using 1-in. brads. Nail the short side, and then the long side, aligning the edges as you go. Don't install a whole bunch of brads until you know everything is square. Flip the piece over and check for square using a framing square or by measuring from inside corner to inside corner on a couple of different openings—if the measurements are the same, you should be good to go. Finish fastening the back with brads spaced every 8 in. or so, then reinforce it with one 2-in. trim head screw in the center of each shelf and five screws on each side.
In many garages, the concrete floor slopes toward the overhead door. That means you'll probably have to shim the bottom to get the bin tower to sit straight and tight up against the wall. I’m a big fan of composite shims: they don't compress as much as wood, they break off cleanly, and they won't ever rot. Set the first tower against the wall and shim the front until it sits tight against the wall. Use a level to check for plumb while you shim the low side. Insert at least four shims on the side and three on the front. Go back and snug up the front shims.
Once the tower is plumb, screw it to the wall studs with 2-in. screws. Make sure each tower is fastened to at least one stud. Since tipping is a concern, install a few screws near the top; you'll only need screws down low if you need to draw the tower tight to the wall.
Mark all the shims, and pull them out one at a time. Cut them down to size and replace them. I ran a small bead of clear silicone around the bottom of mine to hold the shims in place. If the towers ever get moved, the silicone will be easy to scrape off the floor. Finally, go get all sorts of caddies, hooks and hangers, and start organizing.