Do you need more storage in your garage, basement, or utility room?  You know, to put all those totes and camping gear away?

You found it – our most favorite utility shelving plan – that has been built thousands of times.  This one anyone can build with just a couple of basic power tools and 2x4s and some plywood.

Just 2x4s and plywood.  Nothing special there.

How this humble garage shelf is special is in HOW it is made.

This will change your life.  Seriously.  It’s already changed mine.

So you start with your wall.  It has to be a wall that you can screw into studs or otherwise anchor in to the wall.  If you don’t have that type of wall, maybe check these plans out.

Mark out all the studs in the wall and attach a 2×4 in the desired shelving length to the studs in the wall, wherever you want a shelf.

Yep, just screw a 2×4 to the wall wherever you want a shelf, however long.

You can also piece 2x4s (for example use two 8 foot long 2x4s instead of a 16 footer) – just make sure you adequately attach to studs in wall.

Use 3″ or longer screws (depending on wall construction).  Use a level to make sure you attach the 2×4 to the wall level.  I highly recommend self tapping wood screws to make driving screws easier.

TIP: Consider making your shelves 8, 12, 16 or 20 feet long to optimize plywood and wood use.

There’s the first one up.

That’s not hard, right?

Once you have the first one up, you can just measure off of it to attach your remaining shelf boards.

Might I suggest figuring shelf heights to fit totes or whatever you may be storing in these shelves?

TIP: You can cut two scrap wood 2x4s and uses as spacers to find the height between the 2×4 shelf boards.

Okay here’s where it gets awesome.

Next, screw a second 2×4 to the first 2×4, in the same length.

Yep, just screw it right on top.

Don’t screw the screw all the way in, and only put two screws in each board.

Next, cut 2x4s legs to the height of your top shelf, and screw to the second 2×4 with 3″ or shorter screws.

You’ll want a leg on each end, and then middle legs depending on your span.  2x4s can span about 8 feet, so we added one leg for this 16 foot long shelving unit.

Now unscrew those screws attaching the second 2x4s to the first ones, and remove the entire front of the shelving unit.

This isn’t necessary, as the plywood on top will tie the second leg set to the first, but it can help with assembly. We cut 2x4s to 3″ less than our plywood shelving pieces, Kreg Jigged pocket holes in one side, and attached to the first shelf boards.  If you don’t have a Kreg Jig, get one, but until then, you can drive screws at an angle into that first row of 2×4 boards.

TIP: To optimize plywood use, plan your shelving to be 12″, 16″ or 24″ in width.  Then you can rip your plywood into either four 12″ wide strips, three 16″ wide strips or two 24″ wide strips with no waste.  This means the 2×4 cleats would be 9″, 13″, or 21″ long, respectively.

We placed cleats near the middle and ends, and where we knew we’d have a plywood seam, avoiding areas that would overlap the legs and be hard to screw into.

Then we just screwed the entire front of the shelving back on,

TIP: If your floor slopes or is uneven, as most basement and garage floors do, you can easily shim under the legs to level out your shelves.  We shimmed with metal washers to bring the wood up a tiny bit from the garage floor, allowing water drainage around the legs, hopefully preventing the bottom of the 2×4 from every rotting out (and mitigating the need to use treated lumber).

We ripped plywood into 15-3/4″ strips so it would fit easily inside the shelves and also accounts for the saw blade width, and layed the plywood on the shelving.  We use 1/2″ plywood for the 16″ width shelving – perhaps go up to 5/8″ or 3/4″ if you do 24″ wide shelving or have especially heavy loads destined for these shelves.

TIP: If you don’t have a table saw or a truck to haul full sheets of plywood, just have your home improvement store rip the plywood for you – accuracy is not essential in this project.

Then we just screwed all the plywood down.  I think we used 1-1/4″ screws (was burning up whatever we had leftover in the shop).  You won’t need a ton of screws, just enough to keep the two 2x4s together and the shelving plywood down.

So fast and easy, we ended up making three different shelving units – and have gone on to build countless more versions of this shelving.

UPGRADED IT: Add Doors

We love how one of our readers CarolinaL used these plans but added doors to upgrade her garage shelves.

garage shelving with doors

More photos and details are available here.

VIDEO TUTORIALS: DIY Garage Shelves

You can also check out the first, quick video we put together on this shelving unit.

And then the second, longer more detailed video of this shelving unit

PLANS: DIY Garage Shelves

For your convenience, we also put together plans for shelving 8 feet long x 6 feet tall with three shelves, to help you get started.

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