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.


Guest (not verified)

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 19:29

I can't believe no one else has said this...I followed the link you posted, and the cut lengths that HGTV gives and the quantities of wood are wrong!
They took your shelf and made it 12" wide instead of 24", which I actually like. My space is small and the smaller size is great, but they told me to cut 8 - 24" long pieces for the front and back of the shelves. I ended up buying way too much of those pieces and now I have nothing I can do with them because I wasted a bunch of time cutting them. By the way are they 1 x 3 or 1 x 4? Because they say 2 different things in the instructions. And lastly they tell you to only by 1 - 1x2. So I had to go back to the store and get more. Because 2 - 6 ft lengths of wood doesn't make all 4 legs.
I love your design, but could they have messed up the plan any more? I don't think so.

Heather Sitton (not verified)

Wed, 10/17/2012 - 08:43

Yes, I was just looking at that too! The HGTV plans for the smaller shelf are incorrect for the materials and cut list. It appears as though the larger shelf was mixed up with the smaller shelf. Ana, maybe you can correct it for them. I figured it out in the mean time. The diagrams are correct though.
If anyone's interesetd in the corrections (smaller shelf):
Materials--- 1x2 6ft (4) legs, 1x3 8ft (2) trim
Cut list--- 1x3 cut 13 1/2" long (8), not 25 1/2"
Cut list--- 1x2 cut 13 1/2" long (1), not 25 1/2"
I'm starting today! Looks fun! This will be perfect for my small bathrooom. Thank you, Ana.

Best Kratom (not verified)

Thu, 01/03/2013 - 21:26

I actually found a pic searching google images and I'm pretty sure it's from here. Thanks for the great post. ;)


Guest - Chris (not verified)

Sun, 01/20/2013 - 20:19

The cust list shows "1 – 1×2 @ 25 1/2″ (Top)", but Step 3 shows a 26" trim piece connecting the legs, I believe the 25 1/2" piece to be the correct dimension, since a 26" piece is not in the cut list.

Did anyone else catch that ?


Tue, 11/25/2014 - 06:41


 I absolutely love this, but I need it at least one more level taller!  Can you tell me what changes  you would do?  I know the front and back legs would be longer, but does that change any cuts?  And what size would you make that bottom piece?  18 inches?


Andrea Saunders


Sun, 01/03/2016 - 01:34

I just came to see if anyone had ntoiced just how badly the HGTV plans are. Totally stuffed up. They've kept a lot of cut measurements from the full size, for the smaller sized plans. Ridiculous. Im making the small one now, after making the large one a few months ago.


Mon, 03/07/2016 - 07:56


On the front leg measurement of 55 3/8, I'm assuming this is a long end to short end since the ends are 15 degrees and parallel.  Is this correct?




Fri, 07/31/2020 - 08:03

I would love to build the smaller shelf but the HGTV website the plans are incorrect, it says its smaller but its the same measurements as above and the materials list is also wrong; any help would be appreciated!

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