Cut up the plywood
Photo 1: Fill plywood voids
Figure out which edge will be exposed on each part, and fill any voids in the plywood. When the filler dries, sand the edge with 100-grit sandpaper.
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.
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
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.
Paint the parts before assembly
Photo 2: Finish before you assemble
Save yourself a ton of time by painting or staining the individual components of this project before you assemble them.
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.
Assemble the towers
Photo 3: Shoot, then screw
Tack the shelves into position with a brad nailer. Then strengthen each connection with 2-in. trim head screws. A plywood spacer lets you position parts perfectly without measuring.
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.
Use this diagram as an assembly guide.
Install the bottom strips
Plywood will eventually rot if it’s sitting directly on a concrete floor. To avoid this, I ripped 5/8-in. strips from a 1×2 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.
Fasten the back
Photo 4: Use the back as a square
Use the factory-cut edges of the plywood back to square up your project. Start on the top or bottom, and then work your way up the side. Check for square before finishing it off. Reinforce it all with screws.
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.
Screw it to the wall
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.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Air compressor
- Air hose
- Brad nail gun
- Caulk gun
- Drill/driver - cordless
- Extension cord
- Framing square
- Hearing protection
- Paint roller
- Paint tray
- Putty knife
- Roller sleeve
- Roller tray
- Safety glasses
- Screw gun
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- 1 1x2 x 8' pressure-treated board
- 1 sheet 4' x 4' x 1/4" underlayment plywood
- 1-1/2" 18-gauge brads
- 1" 18-gauge brads
- 2 sheets 4' x 8' x 1/4" underlayment plywood
- 2" trim head screws
- 5 sheets 4' x 8' x 3/4" BC sanded plywood
- Can of wood filler or patching compound
- Gallon of paint/primer