Easy and Fast DIY Garage or Basement Shelving for Tote Storage (Attached to Walls)

Submitted by Ana White on Wed, 01/06/2016 - 16:54
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This is the fastest and easiest way to build garage shelving!  Detailed tutorial by Ana-White.com

diy garage shelving
diy garage shelving
garage shelving
garage shelving

Happy New Year, guys!  Thanks for understanding as we've taken a little bit of family time over the Holidays.  

If you are anything like me, all you can think about after the Holidays is LESS.  Less food, less gifts, less indulgances, less clutter.  Less clutter especially. 

The hubs and I built new tote storage shelving for his Mom - three sets actually - and I wanted to share how we did this with you.  It's a pretty tradditional garage shelving system -

Just 2x4s and plywood.  Nothing special there.  

How this humble garage shelf is special is in HOW it is made.  This will change your life.  Seriously.  It's already changed mine.

So you start with your wall.  It has to be a wall that you can screw into studs or otherwise anchor in to the wall.  If you don't have that type of wall, maybe check these plans out.

Mark out all the studs in the wall and attach a 2x4 in the desired shelving length to the studs in the wall.  You can also piece 2x4s (for example use two 8 foot long 2x4s instead of a 16 footer) - just make sure you adequately attach to studs in wall.

Use 3" or longer screws (depending on wall construction).  Use a level to make sure you attach the 2x4 to the wall level.  I highly recommend self tapping wood screws to make your life alot easier.

TIP: Consider making your shelves 8, 12, 16 or 20 feet long to optimize plywood and wood use.

There's the first one up.

Once you have the first one up, you can just measure off of it to attach your remaining shelf boards.  

Might I suggest figuring shelf heights to fit totes or whatever you may be storing in these shelves?

TIP: You can cut two scrap wood 2x4s and uses as spacers to find the height between the 2x4 shelf boards.



Okay here's where it gets awesome.  Next, screw a second 2x4 to the first 2x4, in the same length.



Don't screw the screw all the way in, and only put two screws in each board.



Next, cut 2x4s to the height of your shelving and screw to the second 2x4 with 3" or shorter screws.



You'll want a leg on each end, and then middle legs depending on your span.  2x4s can span about 8 feet, so we added one leg for this 16 foot long shelving unit.



Now unscrew those screws attaching the second 2x4s to the first ones, and remove the second leg set.



This isn't necessary, as the plywood on top will tie the second leg set to the first, but we have overbuilding issues.  So we cut 2x4s to 3" less than our plywood shelving pieces, Kreg Jigged pocket holes in one side, and attached to the first shelf boards.  If you don't have a Kreg Jig, get one, but until then, you can drive screws at an angle into that first row of 2x4 boards.

TIP: To optimize plywood use, plan your shelving to be 12", 16" or 24" in width.  This means the 2x4 cleats would be 9", 13", or 21" long, respectively.


We placed cleats near the middle and ends, avoiding areas that would overlap the legs and be hard to screw into.



Then we just put that second leg set up to those cleats,



And screwed it to the cleats using 3" screws.


TIP: If your floor slopes or is uneven, as most basement and garage floors do, you can easily shim under the legs to level out your shelves.  We shimmed with metal washers to bring the wood up a tiny bit from the garage floor, allowing water damage around the legs, hopefully preventing the bottom of the 2x4 from every rotting out (and mitigating the need to use treated lumber).



We ripped plywood into 15-3/4" strips so it would fit easily inside the shelves and also accounts for the saw blade width, and layed the plywood on the shelving.  We use 1/2" plywood for the 16" width shelving - perhaps go up to 5/8" or 3/4" if you do 24" wide shelving or have especially heavy loads destined for these shelves.


TIP: If you don't have a table saw or a truck to haul full sheets of plywood, just have your home improvement store rip the plywood for you - accuracy is not essential in this project.


Then we just screwed all the plywood down.  I think we used 1-1/4" screws (was burning up whatever we had leftover in the shop).  You won't need a ton of screws, just enough to keep the two 2x4s together and the shelving plywood down.



So fast and easy, we ended up making three different shelving units!


You can also check out the video we put together on this shelving unit. 



We hope this tutorial is super helpful to you and makes your life easier.  If you build, we'd very much appreicate seeing your project!  You can share by bragging or posting a photo to social media and tagging me #anawhite.

XO Ana



Sun, 01/10/2016 - 12:34

Hi Ana - great plans, just what I was looking for!  Instead of using 5/8 or 3/4 plywood, could I just add a few more cleats and stick with 1/2 plywood?


Sun, 01/17/2016 - 10:29

I have built shelves similar to this several times. This weekend, I built them using these plans from Ana. I have used 7/16 OSB for all of my shelves and had no issues whatsoever. I always have a "runner" on each side lengthwise like Ana's plans call for and then short pieces spaced at the ends of each 8' long piece of OSB.


One set of shelves has been up since early 2013 and I have not had any significant sagging at all. I have totes with quite a bit of weight on my shelves.


So, in short, my answer to your question is you won't have any issues with 1/2 inch plywood. If you want to add extra cleats for support, it would certainly help, but I don't believe you will need it at all. 

Dirk Medema

Sat, 06/04/2016 - 11:27

Rather than adding cleats, if you move the cleats out to the end, and add 1 or 2 more full length 2x4's, you could even use thinner shelving. Then the plywood isn't carrying any load. It's just a skin on the wooden frame. I've done it with 1/8" or 1/4" luan ($5 - $10).


Sun, 01/17/2016 - 10:34

I built these yesterday. They turned out great! I've built similar style shelves several times in the past and I can say this was the easiest, sturdiest build so far.


I built my shelves 24" deep to hold standard size storage totes. I spaced my shelves apart 17.5" between the top of one board and the bottom of the next to allow just enough room for storage totes.


I used GRK fasteners from Home Depot and they worked great! The HD SKU is 489745.


The biggest challenge was anchoring the boards to the wall as my stud finder was not cooperating. I wound up locating one stud precisely and measuring off of that for the other studs.


Great plans!


Mon, 05/30/2016 - 19:17

Hi. Just wanted to send a quick thank you for the idea for these super simple shelves. I have done some home improvement stuff but never put up shelves from scratch before. When I saw the YouTube video for this I knew I needed to make some. I did a 15 foot set in the garage and a 10 foot set in the basement storage area. Really appreciate the helping hand!


Wed, 11/30/2016 - 07:44

Where can I get the shopping list for this project? The shopping list and cut list are blank on the website.




Sat, 01/20/2018 - 14:40

Hi Ana!

Would this work using 2x4's for the shelves instead of plywood like you did with the garage storage?


Fri, 02/09/2018 - 05:44

I have watched this post over and over and I think I can make it. First I wanted to know if there are plans per se to download because i could not find them. Second I wanted to know if I put more vertical legs, could I actually add doors? thanks ahead for the response!