Hey, Come Look at Our Shelves

WE DOMINATED HOME OWNERSHIP LAST WEEKEND! And man it feels good. I do not lie to you when I tell you that being a homeowner has had its challenges and sometimes, frankly, it’s quite disheartening. So when Kevin and I decided to tackle building custom shelves for our garage to create some additional storage, we feared the worst. We assumed at the very least, we’d face 11 different trips to Home Depot, 6 YouTube videos we’d have to watch, 3 FaceTime chats with my dad and 1 case of beer. You can imagine the shock on our faces when we were looking at our completed and organized shelves on Sunday afternoon, just in time for the Golden Globes!

Here are the materials that we got:

  • 16 eight feet long 2x4s – $45
  • 2 sheets of 1/4 inch plywood – we got ours for free – see below (estimated $40)
  • 2 boxes of #10 x 2-1/2 wood to wood screws – $18 (we didn’t use all two boxes, so we saved the rest for a future project)
  • 1 gallon of Kilz Latex Primer – $17 (you won’t need this if you don’t have damp plywood – see below)
  • 2 L brackets – $5
  • Cordless Drill – already owned
  • Circular Saw – already owned

(Our) Total project cost: $85

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Now I’ll fully admit that Kevin here was the mastermind behind this entire project. He doesn’t claim himself as a handyman by any means but I am SO impressed that he accomplished this design mostly on his own! Truth be told, I had no clue what these shelves would look like until we were halfway through building them. Ha!

We headed to Home Depot a couple of weeks ago to start stocking up on materials and while we were browsing the aisles (tell us we aren’t the only new homeowners who do this), someone in lumber asked us if we were looking for plywood. Why yes, actually, we were! He said a contractor ordered a large amount of plywood and returned a few pieces he didn’t need. Home Depot screwed up and left those pieces outside overnight while it rained a bit and some of the pieces got damp. They can’t resell those pieces, so the guy was going to cut them up and toss ’em in the trash. Instead, he offered to cut and give the exact number of pieces we needed – for free! Free wood, ya’ll!

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To start, Kevin cut 18″ off 6 of the the 8′ long 2×4. I know that’s a lot of numbers in one short sentence, but the reason why we did that was because we couldn’t have the depth of our shelves be any bigger than 21″ so by using 18″ wood pieces for the short part of our shelf frame, we made room for the 1-1/2″ 2x4s, totaling the depth of 21″. Whew that was confusing, so let’s see what it looks like:

Kevin measured 18″ off the 8′ long 2×4 and drew a straight line.

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Then he made his cut using a circular saw (yes, we should be wearing eyewear but we weren’t. Sorry, dad.).

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It’s important to cut 18″ off EACH of the 8′ long 2×4. Don’t keep cutting 18″ off the same 2×4 because you’ll use what’s left of each 2×4 for the height of the shelf. Put those six boards aside for later.

Once you have your 18″ pieces, take 8 of your 8′ long 2x4s to make the shelf. For each shelf, you’ll use two 18″ pieces and two 8′ long 2×4, shown below. (If you’re counting, we bought sixteen 8′ long 2×4. We just cut 18″ off of 6 of them, and we just used 8 for the shelf bases. The last one is used for supports a little later.)

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We put two screws at each corner, where the 8′ long 2×4 met the 18″ piece.

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Once it was all framed out like a big rectangle, we cut an 8′ long 2×4 into eight 18″ pieces to use as middle supports. We spaced the supports 32″ apart. Like this!

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One down, three to go! We did that process three more times to have four shelves total. It helped make the process go faster to cut all of our pieces at one time, instead of having to stop what we were doing to make cuts as we went.

When we finished making the frames, I took some time to put one coat of the Kilz Latex Primer on each side of our cut plywood. Because some of our pieces had previously gotten damp, we didn’t want to run the risk of mildew or mold growing on our shelves (even if it is in the garage – we have drywall and important things in there that we didn’t want mold/mildew to mess with). This primer apparently stops anything like that from growing, so we were happy to spend the money on the primer to prevent that from happening. Now, if you buy fresh plywood without water damage, you obviously won’t have this cost! This process was quick and painless. We let the plywood dry overnight and were back at it on Sunday to finish up!

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One recommendation: a mutually-agreed upon iTunes Radio Station helps make this project way more fun. Summer Hits of the 2000s was a good choice (Destiny’s Child and Jagged Edge, we thank you).

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Back to business! Some of our boards were warped, but we managed to make them fit almost perfectly right on the shelf frames. Once we got the plywood lined up, we nailed in the corners, and then on the two middle support braces for extra sturdiness.

(You can see in this picture that the plywood isn’t painted – I took this picture right before I painted the boards while we ‘dry-fitted’ it.)

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We did that to all four boards and then we had our shelf bases built! Easy as pie. Ha!

Now came the hard part. Remember when we told you to put aside the 2x4s we cut 18″ off of? Go get those now. I’ll wait…

Next, we spaced out our shelf bases the way we wanted them.  Our shelf was going to be 78″ tall (how we got that: 8′ 2×4 – 18″ = 78″), so we decided to have our two bottom shelves as the biggest (tallest), with our second-to-the-top shelf being the smallest (shortest). You, however, can decide how you want them spaced out to your liking.

Once we measured it all out, we screwed in our 78″ 2x4s to one side. Then, we went to the other side and did it again. it was really important to make sure your shelf-spacing measurements are exact, otherwise the shelves won’t be level.

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You can see in this picture that we carefully lifted up the shelving unit once the two back 78″ 2x4s were screwed in so we could attach the two bottom 78″ 2x4s. Once we had the four corners done, we added the final two 78″ 2x4s to the back of the unit to prevent swaying or sloping.

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After a few more screws for extra safety, we were nearly done! We lifted the bad boy up and Kevin bolted it to the wall using a handful of L brackets. It’s not going anywhere!

And here she is:

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Now after all of that and our already jammed-packed weekend, I somehow came up with the energy to organize the ENTIRE garage. I was superwoman.

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Can you believe it – we have empty space on our shelves?! We need more stuff!! Ha ha – only kidding. We have a few things from the basement and our upstairs storage area that we want to move out here in the spring. But for now, this’ll do.

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I still can’t believe we tackled this project painlessly in two days and for less than $90! Success!!

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Last one, I promise.

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Questions? Comments? Ask Kevin! Just kidding, post ’em here and I’ll do my best to answer.

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22 thoughts on “Hey, Come Look at Our Shelves

  1. Question on the spacing of the shelf supports.

    You said they are spaced 23″ apart but it looks like the picture with the tape measure has the supports a little further apart than 23″. If the length of the shelf is 8′ did you divide by 3 so that the space between the four 18″ supports is 32″ apart?

    We are making a similar shelving unit this weekend 8′ long by 8′ tall with four shelves at 24″ depth. Trying to calculate the amount of 2×4’s and plywood to buy! Thanks and your project is great inspiration!

    • Wow, that was a simple typo that could have messed up your whole shelving unit! Yes, we divided the length of the 8′ piece by 3 and spaced them 32″ apart, NOT 23″. I’ll fix this now!! I’m so sorry!

  2. I saw L Brackets in your list of items needed. What were they used for? I didn’t read anything about them.

  3. nice post! quick question. when I zoom in on pics and look at the top left corner I don’t see any screws? I saw this because I was wondering how careful you had to be with screw placement between building the frames and connecting the frames to the vertical supports. one more thing – any issues with only 4 screws supporting the entire front side of each shelf? lastly – I am thinking I will use pressure treated vertices because I am in NY and get very wet garage floors in the winter, basement dampness in summer might also be issue if putting them in basement. thanks again – tackling this today.

    • Hi Jason – sorry for the delay. For some reason, your comment ended up in spam. Okay let me take it one question at a time. 1. We screwed those in (for some reason) from the inside, so you won’t see the screws from that angle. 2. No issues. We added extra screws here and there once it was up to make it more sturdy. I might have just taken some pictures before it was totally complete. 3. You can certainly use whatever wood you’d like, I’m sure! This shelf is in the very back of our garage so there’s no chance it’ll get wet (unless in floods, and in that case…well, we’d be screwed haha). Hope this helps!

  4. Just 2 of these yesterday! Modified the sizes, though. Couldn’t go the full height so I made one at 6 ft. high and one at 4 ft. high. My wife loves them! Referred to your post a few times!

  5. The plywood: just cut each one in half length wise (8 ft X 2)??
    Just need some verification. This is our first garage shelf for us.

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