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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Simple, Inexpensive Shelving Project

Everyone has tons of stuff. And everyone has stuff that they don't need all the time. Your seasonal items - Christmas decorations, for example - can be stored away in plastic storage totes. They cost about $5 on sale for an 18 gallon tote. But once you have your things stored away, where are you going to keep them? You can stack them in your attic, garage, or shed, but a stack of totes 5 high is not very stable, and Murphy's Law says that the tote you need is going to be at the bottom of that stack.

So, off to Lowe's or Home Depot you go, and when you find the right Storage Shelves, you look at the price: It's going to cost you $80+ for a set of 48"W x 24"D x 72"H shelves that will hold ten 18 gallon totes! And if you've been diligent and read the reviews, you find a problem with these shelves - the shelving material is particle board, and the shelves sag in the center if you put a load on them. Not to mention, although they're "commercially built" shelving units, they come in a box and you still have to build them.

Let me save you all those steps and a bundle of money, and show you how to build a simple set of shelves for under $25, using simple tools in about an hour.

First thing you'll need to do is make sure you have the tools for the job. If you don't own them, beg, borrow or steal them from friends or neighbors. Or buy them, since they're inexpensive and basic tools everyone should own. And you can store them away on your nice new shelves when you're done!

  • Power saw: either a jigsaw or circular saw A circular saw is better suited for this project, but if you have neither and need to buy one, a jigsaw is more versatile. Note: If you can't find a saw and don't want to buy one, many home centers can cut your lumber to length for you when you buy it.
  • Power drill / screwdriver: A  Power Drill or Cordless Power Drill is essential for this project. Sure, you could use a hand drill and a screwdriver, but it will take forever and your hands will hurt - a lot.
  • Some assorted drill bits
  • Tape measure, straight edge, square, and pencil.
Supplies from the hardware store:
  • One sheet of 4'x8'x 7/16" waferboard.
  • Five pieces 1"x3"x8' lumber. Select boards that are straight and free of cracks. You could use 2"x4"x8', but 2x3 is cheaper and works every bit as well for this project.
  • 50 - 2 1/2 inch long Phillips head deck screws.
You'll also need a place to work, and a table something like a pair of sawhorses. I've used our two wheeled trash cans as sawhorses, and our picnic table. And you'll probably want to build these outside, so you don't make a mess in the garage.

Start by cutting four of the 2x3's to 6 feet long. Cut the remaining 2x3 into 4 - 2 foot pieces. You should now have 4 - six footers and 8 - two footers. Lay two six footers on the table or sawhorses. Starting at the top of the six footers, mark a line every 18". Place a section of 2 foot 1x3 on each line. Using your drill to drill pilot holes for the screws, assemble as shown in the photos below, making sure that all corners are square:
Each side is built from 2-6 footers and 4-2 footers. Note that there is NO bottom level shelf, the floor itself is the shelf.

You'll build two of these "ladder" assemblies for each set of shelves.

Next, divide the 7/16" waferboard sheet into 4- 2 foot x 4 foot pieces. At this point, it would be helpful to find someone  to help. Stand the six foot "ladders" upright and screw the lowest shelf on top of the horizontal 2x3s as seen below. You will want to drill pilot holes for the screws.

 Continue by placing the top shelf and squaring the assembly. Next, place the shelves in the desired location and secure the assembly to the wall with angle brackets or longer deck screws or lag bolts. Use a Stud finder to make sure you are attached to a stud, and not just drywall.

Attaching your shelves securely to the wall is not optional. It keeps the shelves square and prevents them from falling over!

You can now place the other 2 (middle) shelves and screw them in place. You're done!

 This basic design can be easily modified to meet your needs - adjust the size and shelf spacing as required. In the picture of the completed shelf to the left, the two upright six foot 2x3s have been eliminated and the 2 foot long shelf supports have been secured to the wall directly into the wall studs. This is very easy to do in a corner installation, and is extremely sturdy.

If you plan on placing heavy loads on our shelves, reinforce each shelf by screwing a piece of 2x3 to the underside of each shelf to prevent sagging. This will still leave enough room for storage totes between shelves. If the shelves will be in a humid environment, the humidity will cause sagging under even light loads, and you should reinforce all your shelves with 2x3s.

Okay, they're not pretty. You could paint them, but come on, they're in your garage / attic / storage shed. Do they need to be pretty? You've saved yourself $50+ in about an hour.

Go grab yourself a cold brewski, you've earned it.

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