How to Build Basement Storage Shelves

A pile of disorganized stuff.
  • 4-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 75-150
What You'll Need
.75-inch construction grade plywood
2x4-inch boards
Woodworker's glue
Sand paper (100-grit, 220-grit)

Knowing how to build basement storage shelves will save you money and provide storage you never knew existed. Although basements are often haphazardly filled with holiday decorations, and tools, these items can all be neatly stacked on sturdy shelves. Doing so create a less cluttered, more organized basement and doesn’t cost much.

Wood Shelving

Basement storage shelves come in many sizes, varieties, and shapes, none of which may work for a particular basement. The solution, in such a case, is to build your own. Storage shelves also come in many materials, such as plastic, metal, and cheap wood. These structures may not be adjustable and will cost more than building wooden shelves to suit a specific function and location.

Several sheets of .75-inch construction-grade plywood will be enough to provide shelving for an entire basement wall. You probably won't need more than 3 sheets. Shelves can be installed between existing 2x4-inch boards, but additional lumber will be needed to support them.

Step 1 - Construct the Shelves

Take your first sheet of plywood and cut out 3 shelves, each being 12-inches deep. Build cleats to attach to the studs and rest the shelves on them. These cleats should be 12-inches wide to support the shelf. They need to be 6-inches tall where they are attached to the 2x4-inch boards, and 2-inches where they meet under the edge of the shelf. The distance between standard studs in a basement is approximately 16-inches, but you may have to make adjustments if that is not the case.

Measure from the floor to the point where you want to mount the first shelf. Mark the 2x4-inch board on each side. Apply woodworker's glue to the stud and the mounting cleat. Hold the supporting cleat in place and screw in 3 8x2-inch screws to fasten the cleat to the stud. Do so on all of the studs holding the first shelf.

Measure 2-feet from the top of this shelf to the bottom of the next shelf and repeat the procedure for mounting the cleats and setting the shelf on top of them. Finally, place the shelf on the cleats. Carefully mark lines where the stud meets the shelf, and cut notches for the shelf to fit between the studs. Attaching the shelves to the cleats is optional.

Step 2 - Finishing the Shelves

Although construction-grade plywood is recommended for this project, you can also use a high-quality piece of plywood and finish it with either stain and varnish or paint. Whatever option you choose, the plywood will resist stains and dirt if it is treated.

Begin by sanding the edges and surfaces with 100-grit sandpaper. Finish sanding with 220-grit paper and wipe the wood with a cloth dipped in mineral spirits. Next, apply a stain or a half-and-half coat of varnish and mineral spirits. Let it dry thoroughly and re-sand your shelves very lightly with 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe it again, then apply a thin coat of 100% varnish. Allow the varnish to dry.