Garage shelf plans

This article also available in Spanish


I get the occasional question about the measurements of my cantilevered basement shelves.

So I figured I should put together some plans for the shelves. The shelves are actually quite simple to build, so there is not much to a 'plan' for them. But while I was at it, I went a little overboard with the CAD program and drew it with a lot of detail.

Shelves of this design are actually even more ideal for a garage, because unlike the pre-made garage shelves, or shelf kits that you can buy, these cantilevered garage shelves don't take up floor space, so you can put things under them, like a lawnmower, snowblower, or even a car.

I also checked at the Home Depot to figure out what the most cost effective option was in terms of which material to use for the shelf decks. In terms of cost, strength, and looks, I figured the best option was to use spruce 1x4 boards, which cost $2 Canadian each at my nearest Home Depot.

Here's a basic profile of the shelves.

These are the most 'complicated' parts that need to be cut. The top piece is cut from a 2x2. One 8 foot 2x2 is enough for six pieces. Note that what they call a 2x2 in the store actually has dimensions of 1.5"x1.5".

The bottom piece is cut off from a 1x4. 1x4s have actual dimensions of 3.5" x 3/4". Cut 17.5" off the end of each of the 8 foot long boards for the shelf decking to make these. That makes for 15 pieces, so another 1x4 board is necessary to cut three more of them.

To mark the angle on the boards to cut off from the bottom, it's best to just measure along the length and width, and then draw a diagonal line between the two points. The photo is actually slightly fake in this regard, because you measure along the width and length first, and then draw the diagonal line. But I figured I'd show the measurement with the diagonal line already drawn to make it more obvious.

It's best to do the diagonal cuts before cutting the pieces off the end, just because it's much easier to clamp the work piece. I have the piece clamped in a work mate in this picture.


When assembling he shelf, be sure to put lots of glue in. It's the glue that gives the shelf its stiffness. Also, let the glue dry for a few hours before putting any weight on the shelf. With the glue dried, each of the shelf supports can easily support my weight. Without glue, it would sag.

Also make sure that the 2x2 piece at a slight diagonal is firmly pressed against the 2x4 post, and put glue in between it and the post when you put it together. It's this 2x2 diagonal piece that transfers much of the load to the posts, so it needs to make good contact.

Once you have the posts with the supports attached, attach the posts to the wall. This can be a simple matter of nailing or screwing the posts onto the ceiling joists or rafters. If you can't attach them to the ceiling, attach them to your studs. You will need some wood screws about 6" long, or you can use a 3/8" or bigger drill as a sort of countersink to allow the screw heads to reces an inch or two into the wood. That way, you won't need screws quite as long to attach the shelves to the walls. You should screw the uprights right against the studs in your wall. This means the spacing of the supports is determined by the stud positions in your wall.

The shelf decking doesn't need to be glued on - just one nail at each support is quite sufficient.

This drawing shows this sort of garage shelving can be very space saving, in that ot dpesm ttake away that much floor space from parking or other things one might keep on a garage floor.

I personally don't, unfortunately, have a nice garage as shown in this drawing. I was tempted to make the drawing look more realistic by adding lots of garage-type clutter on the shelves, but it's all too easy to kill lots of time with the CAD program.

But look at it this way: With shelves like this, there's a much greater chance that you will actually have enough floor space left in your garage to park your car in there!

Materials list

To build this garage shelf as shown, you will need:

ItemQty Description
2x4 x 8'
Vertical posts
2x2 x 8'
Diagonal pieces of shelf supports from these
1x4 x 8'
Shelf decking, and side parts of supports
2" nails
To nail shelf supports together, and decking onto shelves  
Wood glue250 mlTo glue the shelf supports on.

You will also need some long screws to screw the shelf supports to your ceiling joists or wall studs. These will vary depending on how you attach the shelf to the walls.

The minimal tools you will need are a circular saw and a hammer. For attaching the shelves to the walls, unless you can nail it to your ceiling joists, you will also need a hand drill and a screwdriver.

If you like playing with CAD, you can also download the Google SketchUp model of the shelf plan. You will need to install the free Google SketchUp to open the file.

For more photos on how to build a shelf like this read my article on basement shelving, which describes a nearly identical set of shelves, but slightly more complex, and built using more tools.