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How to Organize: Garage Storage Projects

One-day storage projects that organize odds and ends, clean up your workbench, and clear the garage floor.

FH05JAU_PLUVEN_01-2Family Handyman

These three garage storage projects—a cabinet for tools, corner shelves and pet food dispenser—help organize the clutter in your garage and open up more space. The tool cabinet keeps your workbench clear and the tools stored close at hand. The corner shelves contain bins that hold paint cans, car cleaning supplies and numerous other small items. It rotates for easy access and to maximize use of a garage corner. And the dog and cat food dispenser allows you to get those bulky food sacks off the floor and tucked away. These are all inexpensive projects you can complete in a day.

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Time
A full day
Complexity
Beginner
Cost
$51–100

3 simple garage storage projects

Project 1: Rotating corner shelves

What you get:

  • Organization for all of your small stuff
  • Easy access to everything
  • Efficient use of corner space

Project 2: Folding Peg-Board cabinet

What you get:

  • 26 sq. ft. of tool storage
  • Keeps tools within easy reach
  • Can close up and secure, so tools don’t walk away

Project 3: Pet-food dispenser

What you get:

  • Quick bowl filling
  • Gets bags of pet food up off of the floor
  • Reminds you when food runs low

These projects organize odds and ends, clear clutter and clean up the workbench and garage floor. They’ll even improve your attitude. You can build each in one day using only basic tools.

Project 1: Rotating corner shelves

Rotating corner shelves

These shelves put a garage corner to maximum storage use. They spin on two lazy Susans, one on the bottom and one at the top (under the top shelf). They can’t tip because the top shelf is screwed to the wall.

Set aside a Saturday to build this handy bin and you’ll clean up all those loose boxes of screws, bolts and other small stuff that clutter your garage or workshop. This bin rotates on a pair of lazy Susan rings to maximize corner space and provide quick, easy access.

A stationary upper shelf secured to the wall steadies the bin so it’ll spin easily and won’t tip over. You can add as many shelves as you need. We left one bay open top to bottom for storing tall things like levels and straightedges. You won’t need special joints or fasteners to construct it; simple butt joints and screws hold it all together.

Project Materials and Details

We constructed this project from one and a half 4×8 sheets of birch plywood. Birch plywood is easy to work with because it’s smooth and flat, but you can cut your costs by about half if you use 3/4-in. CDX-grade plywood. Buy two lazy Susan rings, 12-in. round and 3-in. square diameters from a woodworkers’ store if your home center doesn’t carry them. You can find all of the other materials at most home centers, including the 3-in. vinyl base we used for the shelf edging (4-ft. lengths).

Note: To see a complete Materials List and a Cutting List for this project, go to the Additional Information at the end of this article. You’ll also find a Cutting Layout diagram (Figure B), which shows you how to get all parts from 1-1/2 sheets of plywood. You can download both Figure A and Figure B and enlarge them.

Step 1: Assemble the shelf tower

Photo 1: Cut the parts

Cut all the pieces with a circular saw and jigsaw, using the dimensions in Fig. A and our Cutting List. Mark the circle cut for the bottom with a 12-in. compass made from a scrap of Peg-Board. Cut it out with a jigsaw. Then trace the arcs of the shelves using the bottom as a template. (Note: The shelf sides are 11-5/8 in.)

Photo 2: Screw the shelves to the narrow dividers

Measure and mark the shelf locations on the dividers, spacing them anywhere from 10 to 14 in. apart. Align the shelves with these marks, then predrill and screw the shelves to the two narrow dividers with 2-in. drywall screws. A drill/driver bit speeds this process.

Close-up of Photo 2

A special countersink/driver bit speeds assembly if you only have one drill/driver.

Photo 3: Screw the shelves to the wide divider

Connect the two shelf assemblies to the wide center divider with 2-in. drywall screws. Center and screw the circular bottom to the dividers.

Cut all the pieces to size from the cutting diagram (Figure B in Additional Information). Accurate cuts will result in tight, clean joints. Clamp a straightedge to the plywood to guide your circular saw when making the straight cuts. Use a carbide blade with at least 36 teeth to minimize splintering.

Photo 1 shows you how to mark the circle for the plywood bottom. Substitute a narrow strip of 1/4-in. thick wood for the compass arm if you don’t have Peg-Board. Use the bottom as a template to mark the arcs on the quarter-circle shelves (Fig. B). Use a bucket to mark the arcs on the tops of the dividers. Before assembling the pieces, lay out the shelf locations on the dividers. Make the shelves any height you want, but making them different heights in adjacent sections simplifies the screwing process. Fasten the shelves to the two narrow dividers first (Photo 2), then set them upright and attach them to the wide center divider (Photo 3).

Tip: Mark the centerline of each shelf on the opposite side of the dividers to help position the screws (Photo 3).

Step 2: Attach the rotating base and top

Photo 4: Screw the lazy Susan to the base

Center the 12-in. lazy Susan on the base. Align the screw holes on the top and bottom rings. Locate the access hole in the lazy Susan and mark its location on the plywood with an awl or nail. Remove the lazy Susan and drill a 3/4-in. hole at the mark. Center the lazy Susan again, aligning the access hole to the hole drilled in the plywood, and fasten the bottom ring to the base with 3/4-in. No. 6 flat head screws.

Photo 5: Screw the base assembly to the shelves

Center the base on the bin bottom and align a screw hole in the top ring of the lazy Susan with the access hole. Fasten the top ring of the lazy Susan to the bin bottom with a 3/4-in. No. 6 flat head screw driven through the access hole. Turn the bin bottom to align the remaining screw holes in the top ring with the access hole, and fasten with additional screws.

Photo 6: Attach the 3-in. lazy Susan

Screw the bottom ring of the 3-in. lazy Susan to the dividers on top of the bin with 3/4-in. screws. Assemble the support shelf (Fig. A). Mark the bin rotation center on its bottom (about 13 in. from each wall) so the bin will clear the wall by about an inch when it rotates.

Photo 7: Attach the top shelf

Center the 3-in. lazy Susan at the rotation center on the support shelf. Screw the top ring of the lazy Susan to the support shelf with the 3/4-in. screws.

At first glance, attaching the 12-in. lazy Susan is a bit mysterious. The lazy Susan rotates on ball bearings with the top ring secured to the bin bottom and the bottom ring secured to the base. Securing it to the base is straightforward—you center it and screw it down. Once it’s fastened, you have to drive screws upward to fasten the top ring to the bin bottom. The bottom ring of the lazy Susan has a special 3/4-in. access hole to help here. Drill a 3/4-in. hole in the plywood base at the access hole point (Photo 4). Then poke your screws through the access hole to fasten the top ring to the bin base (Photo 5).

Tip: Use a magnetic screwdriver tip to keep from dropping the screws. It’s a hassle to retrieve them!

The 3-in. lazy Susan rotates on square plates. You won’t need an access hole to fasten them. Just screw through the holes in the corners (Photos 6 and 7).

Step 3: Fasten the shelves in a garage corner

Photo 8: Level the shelves in the corner

Set the bin on treated 1x2s with the base about 1 in. from the walls. Shim to level if needed. Level the support shelf and screw it to the wall studs with 2-1/2-in. screws. Spin the bin to test for smooth operation. If it runs rough, shim the base or slide it side to side slightly until it spins smoothly. Predrill and fasten the base to the floor with 2-1/2 in. masonry screws.

Photo 9: Mount the vinyl edging

Squeeze a 3/8-in. bead of cove base adhesive along the shelf edges. Position the vinyl base with the lip to the top, curling out. Secure the ends with 1 in. tacks. Trim the ends flush with a utility knife.

If you’re placing the base on a concrete floor, rest it on treated 1x2s to avoid rot. Level it with shims, if needed, for smooth rotation. Fasten the support shelf to the walls (Photo 8).

Anchor the base to the floor with masonry screws set in the exposed corners. Predrill the holes into the concrete with a 5/32-in. masonry bit or the size the screw package recommends.

The vinyl base provides an edge for the shelves. Buy the type that’s not preglued. The 4-in. wide type is most common, but buy the 3-in. wide type if you can. Otherwise, use a sharp utility knife to trim an inch off the 4-in. one.

Project 2: A folding tool cabinet

Folding tool cabinet wide open

Mount various types of holders for the smaller tools and sets. You can lock these tools in if you want to.

Folding tool cabinet closed up

Mount your most frequently used tools on the outside where they’ll always be close at hand.

Peg-Board is a great way to organize tools. It displays them in clear view so they’re easy to grab and, just as important, easy to put away. This cabinet has the hanging space of almost an entire 4 x 8 ft. sheet of Peg-Board, yet packs it into a compact 24 x 32 in. package. Two overlapping doors open, utilizing the front and back of each for tools. About 4 in. of space separate each panel, leaving a 2-in. depth for tools placed directly across from each other. If you place fat tools across from skinny ones, you can utilize the space even better.

Figure C: Project Materials and Details

We used high-grade boards to construct this cabinet. The knot-free poplar drives up the price, but the straight, stable wood allows the doors to fit well, minimizes twisting, and keeps the cabinet square. In addition to the materials in the Materials List, we purchased four eye screws and 2 ft. of small chain to hold the doors open. All the supplies are available at a home center or lumberyard. You don’t need any special tools to build this cabinet, but a pair of 1-ft. clamps is helpful when you’re attaching the hinges. Note: To see the complete Materials List and a Cutting List for this project go to the Additional Information at the end of this article.

Note: You can also download Figure C from the Additional Information at the end of this article. Then enlarge it to the size you need.

Step 1: Cut accurately for tight-fitting doors

Photo 1: Assemble the peg-board panels

Cut the Peg-Board to the sizes shown on Fig. C with a circular saw guided by a straightedge. Cut the 1x2s to length and fasten the Peg-Board to them with 1-in. screws spaced every 8 in.

Photo 2: Cut the mounting cleats

Cut the 1×6 mounting cleat in half at a 45-degree angle. For safety before cutting, screw it to a firm work surface with one edge overhanging 3 in. Use one half of the mounting cleat in place of the top 1×2 on the back Peg-Board panel.

Cut the 4 x 8-ft. Peg-Board sheet lengthwise into two pieces, one 24 in. wide and the other 23 in. wide. Then cut the two pieces into 31-1/2-in. lengths. You must cut the Peg-Board panels accurately for the doors to fit evenly. Carefully measure and use a straightedge to guide your circular saw cuts. Some lumberyards will cut the sheets to size for you. Ask them to be precise.

Then assemble the Peg-Board panels (Photo 2), following the pattern shown in Fig. C. You don’t have to make fancy joints. Cut and screw on the 1×2 side spacers first, then measure and cut the 1×2 ends to fit between them. You’ll have one 23 in. Peg-Board panel left over to hang on the wall for items that won’t fit in the cabinet.

Substitute one half of the cleat for the top 1×2 on the back panel (Photo 1 and Fig. C). Watch the angle. Orient it so it hooks onto the other half you screw to the wall (Photo 5).

Step 2: Assemble the boxes

Photo 3: Build the three boxes

Measure and cut the 1×6 frame boards to fit around each panel. Glue and nail the top and bottom first, then the sides, to the 1×2 spacers with 2-in. (6d) finish nails spaced every 8 in. Fasten the frame board corners with two nails and glue. Predrill all holes with a 3/32-in. drill bit to avoid splitting the wood.

Photo 4: Attach the hinges

Cut the piano hinge to length with a hacksaw and screw it on with the screws in the hinge package. Support and clamp the hinge sides in position to simplify hinge attachment. Close the doors and attach the hasp.

Cut the 4 x 8-ft. Peg-Board sheet lengthwise into two pieces, one 24 in. wide and the other 23 in. wide. Then cut the two pieces into 31-1/2-in. lengths. You must cut the Peg-Board panels accurately for the doors to fit evenly. Carefully measure and use a straightedge to guide your circular saw cuts. Some lumberyards will cut the sheets to size for you. Ask them to be precise.

Then assemble the Peg-Board panels (Photo 2), following the pattern shown in Fig. C. You don’t have to make fancy joints. Cut and screw on the 1×2 side spacers first, then measure and cut the 1×2 ends to fit between them. You’ll have one 23 in. Peg-Board panel left over to hang on the wall for items that won’t fit in the cabinet.

Substitute one half of the cleat for the top 1×2 on the back panel (Photo 1 and Fig. C). Watch the angle. Orient it so it hooks onto the other half you screw to the wall (Photo 5).

Step 3: Mount the cabinet on the wall

Photo 5: Hang the box on a cleat

Position the other half of the mounting cleat about 40 in. above the work surface and fasten it to the wall studs with four 3-in. screws. Hang the cabinet and drive two 3-in. screws through the bottom 1x 2 into the wall studs for extra strength.

The mounting cleat is an easy way to hang this heavy cabinet. If you’re mounting it over a workbench, hang it at least 16 in. above the work surface so you can open the doors without disturbing the project you’re working on.

To hold the doors open when working, we installed eye hooks on the bottom of each door and on the wall. A short chain with small S-hooks holds the doors open.

Project 3: Pet food dispenser

Pet food dispenser in action

Slide open the ‘blast gate’ and food falls into the dish. A hinged top allows easy refilling.

Build this bin and you can fill the dog dish with the flick of a finger and do away with that crumpled bag of dog food lying on the garage floor. It easily holds two 20-lb. bags of food and allows you to dispense it right into the dish. This bin even holds two types of food so the cat won’t get jealous.

You can put it together in a half day with basic power and hand tools.

Figure D: Project Materials and Details

You’ll find most materials at a home center or lumberyard. We used 3/4-in. clear aspen, because it’s straight, soft and easy to work with. You can save a bit by building it out of No. 2 pine boards. If possible, buy the 18 x 24 in. acrylic sheet already cut to size. To cut it without chipping it, you’ll need a fine-tooth blade and a table saw.

“Blast gates” make handy food dispensers. Woodworkers use them for dust collection systems, so they’re readily available at woodworking shops or by mail order. Get the metal ones—the plastic ones don’t slide as well. These gates do have limitations. Medium- to large-sized food works best; they can jam with small stuff like birdseed. If the gate jams, quickly open and close it firmly.

Note: To see a complete Materials List and a Cutting List for this project go to the Additional Information at the end of this article. You can download Figure D from the Additional Information at the end of this article. Then enlarge it to the size you need.

Step 1: Cut out all the parts

Photo 1: Begin by cutting all the parts

Set your saw to an angle and rip the lid (22-1/2 degrees) and mounting cleat (45 degrees). Clamp or screw the boards to your workbench and use a straight guide for these cuts. Cut the other parts to length using a speed square as a guide to keep the cuts square.

Photo 2: Cut holes for the blast gates

Lay out the bays on the bin bottom using Fig. D as a guide. Find the center of each bay and draw the circular cutout for the blast gates with a compass. Drill a 5/8-in. starter hole and cut out the openings with a jigsaw.

Follow the photos for step-by-step directions. Cut the parts to the dimensions given in Cutting List in the Additional Information.

Step 2: Assemble the box

Photo 3: Mount the blast gates

Mount the blast gates in the openings. Replace the bolts that hold the two sides of the blast gate together with four 1-in. No. 6 wood screws. Don’t overtighten or you’ll pinch the gate closed. (Note: We also drilled a 3/8-in. hole to recess a little nub and bolt in the top of our blast gate.)

Photo 4: Glue the two-piece sides

Glue and screw the two-piece sides together (Fig. D). Use 1-1/4 in. screws and predrill with a 1/8-in. bit to avoid splitting the wood.

Photo 5: Assemble the box

Predrill and screw the center divider to the bin bottom with 2-1/4 in. trim head screws. Then add the sides, bottom, and top. Next attach the back and the top half of the cleat with 1-1/4 in. screws.

Follow the directions shown in Photos 3-5. Getting the blast gates to slide easily might take a little trial and error (Photo 3). Tighten or loosen the wood screws as needed to get them to work smoothly.

Step 3: Mount the acrylic front and hang the box

Photo 6: Mount the acrylic

Set acrylic in place, leaving 1/8-in. gap on all sides for expansion. Cut and fit the moldings (Fig. D). Nail the sides and bottom moldings to the bin with 3d finish nails, sandwiching the acrylic in place. Set the center molding and predrill 1/16-in. nail holes through both the molding and acrylic.

Photo 7: Enlarge the acrylic screw holes

Remove the center molding and enlarge the hole in the acrylic with a 1/4-in. bit to provide room for expansion. Press the drill gently so the bit doesn’t grab and crack the acrylic. Replace the molding and nail it on. Cut the piano hinge to length and screw it to the top.

Photo 8: Hang the dispenser

Level and screw the other half of the mounting cleat to the wall with four 2-1/2 in. screws driven into the wall studs. Hang the cabinet on the interlocking mounting cleats.

Yum Yum

The acrylic requires special handling. Leave extra room around it so it can expand and contract freely. Carefully nail the perimeter molding so the nails don’t nick the acrylic and crack it (Photo 7).

Most types of hinges will work to secure the lid. We selected a short piano hinge. Cut it to fit with a hacksaw. The cabinet hangs on the wall on a cleat cut to 45 degrees (Photo 8). The height of the cleat shown is perfect for a 6-ft. tall person to operate the gate. Lower or raise to fit your height.

Additional Information

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
  • Circular saw
  • Countersink drill bit
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Glue
  • Hacksaw
  • Hammer
  • Jigsaw
  • Level
  • One-handed bar clamps
  • Speed square
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
Spade bit set, Compass

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • See Materials List in "Additional Information"