Hot Topics: Constructing Garage Shelving

Junk in a garage.

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When traversing uncharted territory in the DIY world, sometimes you want to bounce ideas off the more experienced. The forum is great for this. With the help of some knowledgeable and seasoned pros, this DIYer was able to construct some sturdy storage in his garage and get his home more organized. Now, he's onto the next project! (Which may be painting the drywall in the garage, as one pro suggests.)

Original Post: Garage Shelving

LiveReckless010 Member

I'm planning on building a shelf in my garage and just want a bit of guidance in the wood department as I'm not very well educated when it comes to woodworking. My garage is 20 ft wide with a 10.5 ft ceiling. I want to build a shelf across the entire back wall of the garage for general storage. It's a deep garage (can fit general storage items in front of a Mustang and an SUV and still have a walkway around the front of the cars), so I'm planning on using a 4x8 uncut plywood for shelving material. I also plan on having a work bench below it and may be tempted to hang small hand/power tools or a small TV from the bottom of the shelf above the work area. Simply put, here is what I envision—let me know if I am under/over-engineering this.

Leveled 2x4 bolted to wall along entire width of garage about 7 ft off floor—guess one could call it a ledger board. 4x8, 15/32 plywood as shelving material set on top of the 2x4 and bolted to it. Instead of making large supports under the shelf, I envision using multiple (probably four) half-inch threaded steel rods to suspend the hanging section of the shelf from the studs in the ceiling of the garage. I opted for a suspension-type design to spare me room underneath for a working area. All mounting, such as 2x4 to wall and the half-inch threaded steel to the ceiling, I plan to use 3/8-in or 1/2-in, 3-inch long lag bolts. I would run 2x4 across the entire width of the shelf at the outside end of the 4-ft "overhang" to "link" the 4x8s together, then drill 5/8in holes through both plywood and 2x4 for the 1/2in threaded steel rod, then use locking nuts and 3/8x1-1/2-in washers to secure the shelf at level position. I don't see putting any more than MAYBE 150 lbs (that's really pushing it) spread out over one 4x8 section. That kind of weight wouldn't cause any bowing on a 4-ft 15/32 plywood, would it? Or would you suggest 23/32 plywood?

PJmax Group Moderator

A ledger board (2x4) screwed into the wall studs is fine. A 2x4 under the front edge of the shelf is good. A 4' unsupported span will belly. Do you need a shelf depth of 4' ? Using 3/4" and cutting the 4x8 sheet into two 2x8 shelves would be a better idea. The suspended idea would work. You could use hanger bolts and coupling nuts to attach the threaded rods to the ceiling joists.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Are you sure you want a workbench 4' wide? Generally 2' is sufficient and that leaves you enough plywood for two 1' wide shelves. A 4x8 workbench only works if you have access to all sides.

Wirepuller38 Member

As mentioned, the overhead storage shelf needs interior framing support. Supporting only the front and back edges will not be satisfactory.


What is the structure that you will be hanging the steel rods from like? To store things four feet back from the front edge you're probably going to have to climb on the shelf. Are you going to be comfortable with 3 1/2 feet of head room? Also, not too much head room to work at your workbench. You up to rethinking your design? Back wall ledger sounds fine. How about doubled 2 X 6's along the front edge running from the end walls with a center post resting on the floor. (The center post would not obstruct the cars.) Maybe a couple of joists running from the back ledger to the 2 X 6's at 4-foot intervals. Maybe 5/8" plywood would be a little better than 1/2" or if money isn't a factor, use 3/4" ply. Build it to hold more weight than you think you need so you can load it up without worry.

LiveReckless010 Member

Thanks for the responses!

@Pjmax, thank you for your insight on the unsupported 4x8. I agree and will redraw my plans to add supports. The 4-ft isn't NEEDED, but wanted for multiple reasons (growing room, bulky items, can hang work light when working on car, etc.). I was actually planning on using Unistrut (Lowes has one called Superstrut) that I would run parallel to the end of the shelf, which I think would be better as the weight would be more evenly distributed between all of the ceiling joists as opposed to just a couple.

@marksr, my OP is strictly for shelving above said workbench, the workbench I'll build later. I don't plan on making a workbench any bigger than 2.5 to 3-ft deep.

@JIMMIEM, the garage is a finished drywalled room; above is another room of the house, so it's engineered floor joists (not solid 2x8/2x12, but also not the "hollow" joists that have the triangular openings). It has ply between the ends.
3.5-ft head room for shelf is fine by me as I have long arms and can reach further back. Most of what will be going up there will be in Rubbermaid crates filled with things that won't really be accessed much. As far as underneath the shelf, I put it at 7 feet as that is your usual standard interior doorway opening height. Now that I'm looking at adding support to span the back ledger to the front "plate" for supporting the 4-ft span, I may consider going to 7.5/8 feet and giving myself 3/2.5 feet of height on storage. Do you think 2x4, maybe doubled 2x4 at the end, would suffice as opposed to single or doubled 2x6? Also, using a Unistrut/Superstrut system with (5) 1/2-in steel rods as opposed to a 4x4 post in the middle?

This is more or less what I'm shooting for, minus the second shelf and instead of what PJmax suggested with the rod that has anchoring, using a Unistrut/Superstrut system to distribute weight across the whole ceiling through multiple joists. What say ye?

Marq1 Member

"A 2x4 under the front edge of the shelf is good. A 4' unsupported span will belly. Do you need a "shelf" depth of 4' ? Using 3/4" and cutting the 4x8 sheet into two 2x8 shelves would be a better idea."

I have many similar styles of shelving for the garage and basement. 3/4 plywood with 2x4s lag bolted across the back and vertical 2x4s with small pieces attached to support the corners. You do not need horizontal 2x4s at the front with 3/4 plywood and spacing every 4'. They will not bow or warp and are incredibly strong. I have 2' deep shelving in the garage and 4' deep in the basement. There is nothing stronger or cheaper for mass storage.

LiveReckless010 Member

Marq1, thank you for your input. It's nice to hear reassurance that I can do this. I may put 2x4 anyways, just in case. Now, I just need to find out if my joists will support it (which I imagine they can, given that they can take hundreds of pounds from the floor above).

Marq1 Member

So, I misquoted a bit—at 4' no sag, at 8' a little. Advantage of the vertical 2x4: simple, cheap, fast to install, and strong. Have occasionally climbed.

LiveReckless010 Member

So here is what I did. Seems super sturdy; held me (230 lbs) while my wife handed stuff up to me to store.

A shelving unit in a garage.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Looks great. I would suggest painting the drywall (after all, I am a painter). Unpainted drywall, especially the unpainted joint compound, can absorb moisture in the air and will deteriorate over time.

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