Build Quick and Easy Shelving
Dear James: My kids use the garage for all their junk. There is barely room for the standard garage stuff like paint cans, tools, etc. How do I design some simple shelves and how big should they be? — Dennis H.
Dear Dennis: Shelving for the garage is the easiest type to build because its appearance takes a backseat to strength and rigidity. Everyone knows garage shelves get greasy and oily, so that is what people expect to see in a garage and you should not be embarrassed of how they look.
To make things as simple as possible, yet strong, build the shelves and supports with standard 2×4 lumber (studs) and 3/4-inch-thick plywood. This thicker plywood costs somewhat more than 1/2-inch, but its rigidity is several times greater.
Build the shelves in four-foot long sections. With the thick plywood, shelf supports spaced at four feet apart should be adequate for most typical garage items. Standard lumber is available in eight-foot lengths, so using four-foot section divides perfectly into eight feet and there will be little material wasted.
Doing some basic planning initially will save you time and money in the long run. Place all the tall items on the garage floor and measure their heights and then group them. This will tell you how high the shelves have to be. Remember, all the shelves do not have to be the same height.
Don’t make the shelves extra high for good measure. When they get shoulder height and above, it becomes easy to strain your back when trying access a heavy or awkward item. Also don’t forget the plywood shelf itself is 3/4 inches thick, so add its height to each shelf. It would not be the first time someone has sized the shelves perfectly only to find items are too tall because she forget the thickness of the shelves.
Plan on locating the heaviest items on the lower shelves. The bottom or second shelf should be made high enough to accommodate a standard paint can with about three inches of clearance above it. A full paint can is heavy, so this keeps it low enough to be easily handled. You will also be able to read the paint label on top the can without having to lift it off the shelf.
Once you have determined the location of each shelf you need, nail a 2×4 support against the wall at the floor. Place it on the two-inch edge so the top is about four inches off the floor. When the lowest shelf rests on it, this will provide enough clearance beneath it for easy cleaning.
Mark the locations of the support pieces for the other shelves and nail or screw them to the wall. Use a stud finder to make sure they are attached to the wall studs and not just into the drywall. The studs will be on 16-inch centers, so drive two nails or screws into each stud.
Have a helper rest the top shelf on its wall support and in a level position. Nail a vertical 2×4 side support flush to the side front edges flush with the front. Place the lower shelves against the wall, level them and nail them to the vertical supports.