Building Utility Shelves

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Build your own utility shelves and save money while getting extra storage space

Building Utility Shelves

Why take the time to build your own utility shelves when there are so many good off-the-shelf solutions to choose from? Well, for one thing, you can build this custom unit to fit the exact space you have available. And because you'll anchor it to the ceiling joists and the floor, it'll probably be a lot sturdier under a heavy load than most freestanding garage shelves.
Finally, no manufactured shelving we've seen gives you the spacing flexibility and easy reconfiguration of this unit. An added plus: if you like, you can dress it up with the simple addition of side panels and stock trim molding on the face frame.

This project guide highlights the steps to create your own shelves and anchor them into the studs behind the wall and into the floor for extra support.

WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS PROJECT

1
Mark the locations of the top plates on the ceiling
Mark locations top plates ceiling - Building Utility Shelves

• One plate should be flush against the wall, and the other should be parallel to it with its front edge 24 inches from the wall.
• Cut the 2x4 top plates to the full length of the shelves, and then attach them to the ceiling joists using 3-inch screws.

2
Mark points directly beneath the outside corners
Mark points directly outside corners - Building Utility Shelves

• Using a plumb bob as a guide, mark the points directly beneath the outside corners of the top plates to find the outer sole-plate locations.
• Mark the sole-plate locations by drawing lines perpendicular to the wall, connecting each pair of points.

3
Cut outer 2x4 sole-plates
Cut outer 2x4 sole-plates - Building Utility Shelves

• Prepare the shelf risers by cutting 7/8-inch wide, 3/4 –inch deep dado grooves with a router.
• Cut dadoes every 4 inches along the inside face of each 2x4 riser with the top and bottom dadoes about every 12 inches from the ends. Gang-cut the risers by laying them flat, clamping them together and attaching a straight edge guide to align your dado cuts.
• For each but, make several passes with the router, gradually extending the bit depth until the dadoes are 3/4-inch deep.

4
Prepare the shelf risers
Prepare the shelf risers - Building Utility Shelves

• Prepare the shelf risers by cutting 7/8-inch wide dado grooves with a router. Cut dadoes every 4 inches along the inside face of each 2x4 riser with the top and bottom dadoes about 12 inches from the ends.
• Gang-cut the risers by laying them flat, clamping them together and attaching a straightedge guide to align your dado cuts.
• For each cut, make several passes with the router, gradually extending the bit depth until the dadoes are ¾ inch deep.

5
Trim the shelf risers
Trim the shelf risers - Building Utility Shelves

Using a circular saw and a straightedge guide, trim the shelf risers to a uniform length before unclamping them.

6
Build two center supports
Build two center supports - Building Utility Shelves

Build two center supports by positioning pairs of shelf risers back-to-back and joining them with wood glue and 2 ½ inch screws.

7
Build four end shelf supports
Build four end shelf supports - Building Utility Shelves

Build four end shelf supports by positioning the back of the dadoes shelf riser against a 2x4 of the same length and joining them with glue and 2 ½-inch screws.

8
Position end shelf supports
Position end shelf supports - Building Utility Shelves

• Position an end shelf support at each corner of the shelving unit between the top and sole plates.
• Attach the supports by driving 3-inch screws at an angle into the top plates and sole plates.

9
Position center shelf supports
Position center shelf supports - Building Utility Shelves

• Position a center-shelf support, one with both faces dadoed, at each end of the center sole plate, and then anchor the shelf supports to the sole plate using 3-inch screws driven at an angle.
• Use a framing square to align the center shelf supports perpendicular to the top plates. Then, screw them to the top plates.

10
Cut plywood shelves to fit
Cut plywood shelves to fit - Building Utility Shelves

Measure the distance between the facing dado grooves, subtract ¼ -inch, and then cut plywood shelves to fit. Slide the shelves into grooves.