How to Build Garage Shelves 

Build a set of wooden shelves to get the most out of your garage's square footage.

If you're fortunate enough to have a garage, but it lacks shelving, you're likely missing out on storage potential. DIY wooden garage shelving can increase your garage's storage capabilities while still leaving plenty of room to pull in the car. Best of all, these shelves can be tailored to fully utilize any space, unlike store-bought shelves that come in one size that might not be the right fit.

This wooden shelving unit is easy to build without any specialty tools or jigs. Plus it utilizes inexpensive, simple-to-find materials that will save you money and time. Get started on your DIY garage shelves today to maximize your space.

person drilling piece of wood to make DIY wooden garage shelves
PIKSEL / Getty Images

How to Choose a Size for Garage Shelves

The dimensions of this shelf are designed to yield the biggest shelf while wasting as little wood as possible. However, the depth, width, and height are fully customizable. Because these shelves will be anchored to the wall, you can make them slender and tall without worrying about them tipping over.

Determine the overall dimensions for your shelf by looking for underutilized spots in your garage. Have awkward wall space between a doorway and an appliance? Build a shelf that fits this spot. Have an unusually narrow spot adjacent to the garage door? This is the perfect area for storage. Plan your shelf's size, then use the materials list as a guide for buying your materials.

How to Build Garage Shelves

The materials and steps below yield one shelf that is 8 feet long, 8 feet tall, and 2 feet deep. Adjust the materials as needed to change the dimensions of your shelf. Additionally, all cuts can be made by most hardware stores if you don't have the necessary tools.

What You'll Need

  • 2x4 x 8' pine boards
  • 4' x 8' x 7/16 OSB sheathing panel
  • 3-1/2" self-tapping wood screws
  • 1-1/2" self-tapping wood screws
  • 4' level or laser level
  • Stud finder
  • Tape measure
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Miter saw
  • Circular saw
  • Trigger clamps

Step 1: Find and Mark Studs

Find and mark the studs along the wall on which you plan to mount the shelves. To make attaching each shelf easier, use a level or laser level to mark the full length of the stud.

Step 2: Mark Walls for Shelf Placement

Now that the studs are marked vertically, mark level horizontal lines at each point you want a shelf. This shelving unit is 8 feet tall, and each shelf is 18 inches apart, so place the first horizontal line at 8 feet, then each remaining line every 18 inches until you reached the lowest shelf.

Step 4: Cut Frame Pieces

Each shelf frame consists of two full-length 2x4s held together by four 21-inch 2x4s. To cut the boards to 21 inches quickly, set your miter saw stop at 21 inches rather than manually measuring and marking each cut.

Step 5: Partially Assemble Shelf Frames

Mark a full-length 2x4 at 32 inches and 64 inches. Attach the four 21-inch boards to the full-length board by screwing through the back of the full-length board and into the end of each 21-inch board with at least two self-tapping 3-1/2-inch wood screws. Attach boards flush with each end, then one centered on each mark. Repeat for each shelf.

If you plan to store items with significant weight, consider adding more 21-inch supports and placing them closer together.

Step 6: Attach Partial Frames to Wall

Attach each partial frame to the wall by sliding the top edge of the full-length board up to the pre-marked horizontal lines and screwing into the studs using 3-1/2-inch self-tapping wood screws. Place at least one screw in each stud.

Step 7: Finish Shelf Frames

Attach the remaining full-length board to the 21-inch boards protruding from the wall. Secure them using the same method as Step 5.

Step 8: Attach Legs

Attach legs at each end of the shelves by screwing full-length 2x4s to the shelves using three 3-1/2-inch wood screws at each joint. To ensure the shelves are level, place a 2-foot level on the end and adjust before screwing in place. For added strength, place legs at the back and front.

Safety Note: If you plan to make your shelves wider than 8 feet, add an additional leg in the middle of the shelves.

Step 9: Cut Plywood Shelf Inserts

Create plywood inserts for the shelves by cutting two OSB sheets in half longways. The simplest way to do this is to clamp a spare 2x4 along the length of the plywood. Adjust the 2x4 so the saw's fence can ride along the board, placing the blade in the exact middle of the board. Then, elevate the plywood with scrap wood to make room for the blade beneath the board and cut.

Step 10: Slide Shelf Inserts into Place

Slide the shelf inserts onto each shelf and screw down using 1-1/2-inch self-tapping wood screws.

How to Maintain Garage Shelves

To ensure your garage shelves last for years to come, there are a few things you can do. If your shelves will be used to store items that could leak, consider sealing the wood using a waterproof sealant. If you plan to store things that could damage the lip of the plywood when sliding items on and off, consider attaching a second horizontal board that covers the lip of the plywood to prevent damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it more affordable to build or buy garage shelves?

    It's more costly to buy garage shelving than to build them yourself. As long as you have the tools you need and the space to work to build them, garage shelving is a great DIY project that can save you money and allow you to customize the design to your needs.

  • What type of wood should I use to build garage shelves?

    Along with pine, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with, other options for garage shelving are OSB (0riented Strand) Board and plywood. OSB, an engineered waterproof product, and plywood that's waterproofed are sometimes better than pine, which doesn't hold up to the elements as well as these do.

  • What is the best thickness for garage shelves?

    While 1/2-inch thickness will work for some garage shelving projects, 3/4-inch thickness is the best choice for sturdier shelving, especially if you have a lot of heavy items to store.

Was this page helpful?
Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. "Choosing Between Oriented Strandboard and Plywood." UMass Amherst Department of Environmental Conservation.

Related Articles