Painter’s Ladder Shelf

Submitted by Ana White on Sun, 10/24/2010 - 18:56
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A free standing storage tower, with varying size shelves. perfect for tight spaces that need extra storage, but still plenty of elbow room.

This weekend, I spent most of my time in the garage, working on projects for HGTV.  And I'm so happy with how this one turned out.

What do you think of our Freestanding Painter's Ladder Shelf? I really went out of my comfort zone with the orange paint.  Loved how Pottery Barn went for white, but for whatever reason, I just had to use up a ooops quart of construction zone orange.  Yes, that is my magnetic steel wall in the background.

And while you are going to have to wait until the posts publishes on HGTV for this exact plan, if you fancy a wider shelf, today's your day.

The coolest part about this design?  Well, there is a couple of cool parts.  One, it's cheap.  Two, it's sturdy and free standing.  Three, it works in tight space.  Four, well, it looks so good in color!

54" tall x 24" wide x 16" deep (approximate)


Shopping List

1 – 24″ wide shelf, 48″ long (or 1/4 sheet of plywood or 24″ x 48″ pine project panel)
4 – 1×2 boards, 8 feet long
4 – 1×3 boards, 8 feet long
2 1/2″ Trim Screws
1 1/4″ Screws
Wood Glue
Finishing Supplie

Cut List

2 – 1×2 @ 55 3/8″ (Front Legs, ends cut at 15 degrees off square)
2 – 1×2 @ 53 1/2″ (Back Legs)
8 – 1×3 @ 25 1/2″ (Fronts and Backs of shelves)
1 – 1×2 @ 25 1/2″ (Top)
1 – 24″ x 4 3/4″ (Top Shelf cut from 24″ wide shelf)
2 – 1×3 @ 4 3/4″ (Top Shelf Side Trim)
1 – 24″ x 8 1/2″ (Second Shelf)
2 – 1×3 @ 8 1/2″ (Second Shelf Trim)
1 – 24″ x 12 1/4″ (Third Shelf)
2 – 1×3 @ 12 1/4″ (Third Shelf Trim)
1 – 24″ x 16″ (Bottom Shelf)
2 – 1×3 @ 16″ (Bottom Shelf Trim)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw
Miter Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

For the instruction for the smaller width tower, please visit my post on HGTV here.


Step 1


Cut the legs as shown above. See step 2 for cutting the top corner of the front legs.

Step 2

Tops of Legs

Cut the top of the front legs as shown above. Join the front leg to the back leg with screws and glue. I used pocket hole screws, but a 2 1/2″ trim screw predrilled from the back does the trick too.

Step 3


Now attach the top to the legs as shown above. Again, I used pocket holes, but 2 1/2″ trim screws would do the trick. I layed the whole thing on it’s back on the garage floor to make things easier. Set the whole thing aside.

Step 4

Shelf Sides

Now just add the shelf side trim to the corresponding shelves. Super easy. I used pocket holes, but trim screws would work as well – and glue.

Step 5

Step 6


Now if you are going to mess up anywhere, this is the spot. Take time to carefully prepare by cleaning your workspace free of sawdust. Now measure the legs and mark the shelf locations, as shown in the diagram above. Then mark each of the shelves 2″ in from the top front corners. This is the point where the shelves meet the marks you made on the legs. Lay the legs with the back down on the floor. Then start with the bottom shelf, screwing through the legs into the side trim for the bottom shelf with 1 1/4″ screws. Then work your way up. Check all the shelves and back legs for level – I did have to adjust mine.


Kristen (not verified)

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 00:01

Hi everyone
Im confident with power tools - but Im terrible with wood - can someone tell me what type of wood I should buy to make this - I am searching on our local hardware store for the above wood (pine panel or 1/4 plywood etc)... but Im too unco to figure out what Im meant to be buying for (just so I can budget the project).

This is the website for the local hardware store - can someone tell me what type of wood I should be getting??
Hope thats okay Ana... I just thought it might be easier the someone trying to explain it in more detail and me still not knowing what to get. Feel free to remove my comment if this is not okay!

Lauren (not verified)

Fri, 12/03/2010 - 09:28

Hi, Ana.

I've been puttering around your site looking for ideas for a tiny bit of extra nursery storage, and something like this could definitely work...

Quick question, though -- If I make a shorter version of this (like, changing table height), how does it affect the cut angles on the legs? Does it affect the angles?

As always, thank you so much for your creativity, plans, and inspiration. This is seriously becoming my "go to" blog for the house. :)

NichyB (not verified)

Tue, 12/21/2010 - 06:57

Has this posted to HGTV yet? I couldn't find it on their site and I'd really like the plans for the smaller one.


Tue, 05/17/2011 - 17:01

I have been looking for something I could put on the covered patio to hold pool towels, sunscreen and swim goggles and this fits the bill perfectly.

I found the original plan on HGTV website, but was very confused by the materials list on that site.... so I found your link and found exactly the information that I needed.

I have a weekend project and I am so excited. I will let you know how it goes!

I'm so glad that I found you.

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