How to Build Storage Shelves

Build these easy storage shelves in your garage, backyard shed or porch. Now you have a place to store tools, holiday decor, cleaning supplies and more.


| April/May 1999



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A place for everything, and everything in its place.


ILLUSTRATIONS: JIM SMOLA

On any self-sustaining country- place, we accumulate great heaps of stuff that we don't need every day, but that we wait in clear view and close at hand when we do: books; hand and power tools; the sausage-stuffer and canning equipment; seasonal ornaments and kid's toys; engine oil and dry-food stores; leftover wall-paper and paints; nails, screws, and adhesives; and more tools. If such items are stashed away in drawers or boxes, the back or bottom layers will inevitably be forgotten and lost. How many half-used containers of putty, paint, and fluid adhesive have you misplaced, forgotten, and discovered years later, dried up and ruined?

I find that the best way to keep track of stuff is to store it out of the way but in full view and in easy-to-reach spots on the otherwise unused overheads and unfinished walls of the house and barn. Fixed storage shelves can be easily erected on stout wooden brackets fastened to open wall studs, using a few simple tools. elementary fasteners, and straight cuts in stock lumber and sheet goods.

Open Stud Walls

A majority of the walls in most spread-out country places are finished on the outside, but on the inside, the 2 x 4 or larger vertical posts or studs are exposed on three sides. Most of this wall area is ignored and wasted. Insulating, sheathing, trimming, and hidden-wiring such spaces is a major undertaking that's justified only if you need an additional interior room: an added bedroom, playroom, or office. But with minimal effort and expense, the space can be utilized as is: the open studs can be converted to storage walls, rendering the unfinished area a useful, informal, temperate-weather living or working space—a storage pantry, shop, rough-finished dorm, indoor-outdoor room, or summer kitchen. Here is how to build shelves that will put all of that wasted space to good use.

First, plan and lay out the shelves. Pick your most open, accessible wall. The back wall of a garage is better time side walls that can be crowded when a vehicle is parked inside. Move the stuff that's already stacked up, nailed onto, or leaned against the wall. Get it far enough away so that you have working space to set up a pair of sawhorse or better, two pairs with a 4' x 8' sheet of "-thick plywood on top for a worktable. Mount lengths of sacrificial 2 x 4 atop the horses, so you call make shallow cuts into them while sawing shelving and supports without worry.

Mark your shelf locations on one of the outboard (shelf-end) studs.

Utility shelves should be at least 12" apart, one above the other; 16" spacing is even better. You want to be able to get both areas (and mead and shoulders along with them) in and around to unload a lap-sized gas engine, for instance, or an empty pickle crock. On an 8' (or 96") wall, you can fit four amply spaced shelves and a good under-shelf area to store heavy stuff by marking the stud at 24", 40", 56", and 72" clown from the bottom of the roof beams. Using a carpenter's level and pencil or a chalk line with a line-level hooked on it, mark shelf-level lines across the front edge of the studs.





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