If it’s been awhile since you were able to use your garage as a garage or if you can’t even walk through your basement, you’re probably in need of a storage solution. There are plenty of shelving choices out there, but they can be pricey, and in some cases, not well made. Building wooden shelves is simple enough for even a complete beginner to accomplish. Plus, the shelves look great and don’t cost an arm and leg.

Where to Use Wooden Shelves

While you can use wooden shelves pretty much anywhere in your home, the basement and the garage tend to be the most popular location. That’s because those areas are typically used as storage. In some cases, such as with garages, the amount of stuff stored haphazardly can get in the way of using the space as it was intended.

How to Use Wooden Shelves

You can put pretty much anything you like on your homemade wooden shelves. The freestanding shelving unit is designed to be able to hold those large plastic storage bins you can get pretty much everything.

Stashing items in plastic bins allows you to keep a lot on the shelves, without a lot of visual clutter. Lining up the bins in a row gives your basement, garage or other storage space a neat and tidy look.

Admittedly, those big plastic bins are going to be too heavy for wall-mounted shelves. You’ll be better off using shelves attached to the walls of your home or garage to hold smaller things, such as books and knick-knacks.

How to Build Freestanding Shelves

Follow these instructions to learn how to build wooden shelves for storage. This will make one shelf unit that’s 6 feet tall and 5 feet in width, with four total shelves. You can use longer lengths of wood to make a wider shelf, but you’ll need to add additional legs to support the added width.

What You’ll  Need:

  • 4 10-foot long 2-by-4’s for the legs
  • 8 10-foot long 2-by-4’s for the shelves (there will be four 2X4’s used for each shelf)
  • 2 1/2 inch self-tapping screws
  • Wood glue
  • Tape measure
  • Safety glasses/goggles
  • Drill
  • Circular saw
  • Sander
  • Pencil
  • Level

To Make the Legs:

Cut each of the four 2-by-4’s into 72-inch (6-foot) lengths. Cut the remaining 4-foot lengths into eight 17-inch lengths. You should now have four 6-foot long 2-by-4s and eight 17-inch long 2-by-4s.

Lay two of the 72-inch (6 foot) lengths on the ground, with the taller sides facing in. Position the two lengths 17 inches apart.

Starting at the bottom of the wooden lengths, draw a mark with your pencil on each board, staring 5.25 inches from the bottom. That is where you’ll place the first 17-inch length. Set the first  17-inch piece of wood between the two 6-foot lengths, making sure it’s level and even.

Next, measure up 26.75 inches from the bottom of the two 6-foot boards. Mark the spots with your pencil, then set the second 17-inch board between the long boards.

Then, measure up 48.25 inches from the bottom of the 6-foot boards.  Mark the locations with your pencil, then slide the third 17-inch board between the two 6-foot boards.

Finally, measure up 69.75 inches from the bottom of the two 6-foot boards. Mark the locations with your pencil, then set the fourth 17-inch board between the two 6-foot lengths.

You should have that looks like a ladder with relatively evenly spaced rungs on it, lying horizontally on your floor.

Using the drill and the self-tapping screws, attach the shorter length of wood to the 6-foot lengths. You can also use the wood glue here for added support.

Repeat the process with the remaining 6-foot lengths and the remaining 17-inch lengths, so that you have two leg support structures.

Assemble the Shelves:

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Once the legs are ready to go, you can attach the remaining boards between them to finish building wooden shelves.

First, cut the eight 10-foot 2-by-4’s into 16 5-foot lengths.

Then, stand up one of the leg supports, so that the board that is 5.25 inches from the bottom is nearest to the ground. You might need a second person to help you at this point. Have that person hold up the leg support.

Next, stand up the second leg support, spacing it about 5 feet away from the first. The two supports need to be completely level. Otherwise, you’ll end up with lopsided shelves. If you have a second helper on hand, have him or her hold up the second leg support. Otherwise, it should be able to stand on its own for a bit.

Carefully position the first four 5-foot 2-by-4 lengths between the bottom supports on the shelves’ leg supports. Space the four 5-foot boards evenly apart on the supports. They should fit with a small gap between each board.

Using the 2 1/2 inch tap screws and the glue, attach the four boards to the two leg supports.

You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and headache if you start by attaching the two lengths on the outside first, then check to make sure the shelf is square before connecting the two inner boards.

Finally, attach the remaining three shelves to the unit, following the instructions described above.

For safety, you might want to secure the top of the shelf to a wall before you start to put items on it.

Making the Shelving Unit Bigger

When building wooden garage shelves, you might be interested in a unit that stretches along the entire length of a wall, giving you plenty of storage space without a big footprint. You can easily adjust the size of the shelving unit above when building wooden shelves.

To do so, create one extra set of leg supports for each additional five feet of length. A shelving unit that’s 10 feet long should have three leg supports, for example. A 20-foot long unit should have five leg supports.

Along with adding additional support for longer lengths, you’ll want to use longer lengths of 2-by-4’s the bigger your shelf is. For a 10-foot wide unit, use 10-foot lengths without cutting. For a 20-foot wide unit, use 20-foot lengths.

Wall-Mounted Wooden Shelves

If you have plenty of wall space, but limited floor space, follow these directions to learn how to build wooden storage shelves that attach to a wall.

You’ll Need:

  • 2 6-foot lengths of plywood, 16 inches wide
  • 6 12-inch 2-by-4 pieces
  • 6 10-inch 2-by-4 pieces
  • 6 8 1/2-inch 2-by-4 pieces
  • Circular saw (if your wood pieces aren’t already cut)
  • Tape measure
  • Safety glasses/goggles
  • Level
  • Speed square
  • Pencil
  • Miter saw
  • Drill
  • 2.5-inch screws
  • Stud Finder

Make the Brackets:

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Line the bottom edge of your speed square along one long side of a 12-inch 2-by-4. Draw a line with your pencil to mark a 45-degree angle, starting from the bottom corner of the board. Repeat on the opposite end.

Use the miter saw to cut along the pencil line, chopping two triangles off of the ends. Repeat with the remaining 12-inch lengths.

Place one of the 10-inch long 2-by-4’s up against the bottom of an 8.5-inch long 2-by-4, forming an “L” shape. Sandwich one of the cut 12-inch lengths between them, creating a triangle shape. Attach the three pieces of wood using 2.5-inch screws and the drill.

Repeat with the remaining wooden pieces, creating six triangle shaped brackets.

Attach Brackets to the Wall:

Decide how much space you want between the shelves (you’re making two, by the way) and decide how high you want the shelves to be on the wall or how far away you want them to be from the ceiling.

In this example, we’ll put the top shelf 36 inches away from the ceiling and will leave 24 inches between the shelves.

Use the stud finder to locate the studs behind the drywall. You’re looking for three studs, one for every two brackets. The stud shouldn’t be more than six feet apart total, as that’s how long your shelves will be.

Once you’ve found the studs, measure down 36 inches from the ceiling and make a mark on each stud. That’s where the top of the first bracket will go.

Then, measure 24 inches down from those marks and make a second mark on each stud. That’s where the top of the second set of brackets will go. Finally, attach the brackets to the wall using the screws. Make sure you screw into the studs or else your shelves will come tumbling down.

FYI: The 10-inch long side on each bracket is the top side. Attach the 8.5-inch side to the wall.

Add the Shelves:

One last step: attach the plywood shelves to the brackets. Place one of the 6-foot long plywood boards on top of the upper trio of brackets. Use four screws per bracket to secure the board in place. Repeat with the second plywood board, and you’re finished.

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