How to Build Basement Storage Shelves

We are lucky to have a large unfinished storage area in our basement.  The area is approximately 13′ wide & 36′ long.  That’s 468 SF!  Our first condo was only 200 SF bigger than this storage area.  There is a window out to the backyard so I suppose we could finish part of this if we ever feel the need for more finished space but right now that isn’t necessary.  The picture below is how it looked before we moved in.

Pretty exciting eh?!  The previous owners did us the “favor” of leaving a bunch of their crap down there after moving out so we had the pleasure of trashing a lot of it and then figuring out a way to get rid of 10 rolls of miscellaneous carpet.  Hello Craigslist!  We rolled out, measured & took pictures of each piece on Sunday and then listed it on CL as free to anyone that would take it all AND  haul it off.   It was gone in under 3 hours.  I love Craigslist.

One of the closets in the basement was filled with plastic storage bins holding our Christmas and other seasonal decorations/stuff.  There is also a cedar closet that has even more plastic storage bins filled with baby clothes & toys.  These were good areas for storage but difficult to access individual bins so after looking around Pinterest I found a couple ideas that I really liked for our unfinished space like this one & this one.  I enlisted my dad for help and we knocked out one of these shelving units in about 6 hours including the trip to Home Depot for supplies.

Tools Needed:

  • Power Drill
  • Circular Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Tape Measure
  • Square
  • Pencil
  • Chalk Line
  • 2 people w/ safety glasses

Material for 1 shelf:

  • 15 – 8ft long 2x4s
  • 2 – 10 ft long 2x4s (for the front posts to tie into the floor beams at top)
  • 2 – 4ft x 8ft sheets of plywood
  • 1 – Box of 2.5” wood screws
  • 1 – Box of 1” wood screws

Total Cost for 2 (including $20 to rent the HD truck to get the wood home) – $180

We used a slightly different construction method than the 2 blog posts above and it seemed to work out well.   The first unit is sturdy & there is no risk of toppling especially once it is loaded.

After hauling all the wood down to the basement clearing the area of stuff, we laid out the wood for the back of shelving.  We didn’t cut any of the 2x4s since I wanted the shelves to be 8′ wide.   This picture shows what will be the back of the frame.  We made sure that it was square by measuring each diagonal from corner to corner and adjusting until they were equal measurements.  We secured the corners with the 2.5″ wood screws first and then moved on to measuring, nudging, squaring & screwing in the horizontal shelf supports.  We determined the height of each shelf by measuring the average height of the storage containers (18″) and adding a couple inches for clearance.  Don’t forget to account for the height of the plywood when measuring where to put each shelf supports.  The top shelf is approximately 6′ high.  Lastly we squared & secured the middle back support.

We lifted this one up and leaned it against the back wall & followed the same steps for the front frame minus the center 2×4 support.

We used the table saw to cut all the middle supports to 22.5″ long so the finished shelves will be 2′ deep.  I didn’t get any pictures of the next part because it took both of us to hold the 2 frames together while we screwed in the middle supports.  We put 4 supports on each level & used 2 screws for each side.  The initial row was the most difficult because we had to keep it square & hold everything up.  The end pieces in the corner were also a pain because we didn’t have much clearance for the drill since we couldn’t move the unit too much due to the duct.  Here’s what we ended up with before adding the plywood for shelves.

Next we used measured the depth of each shelf to see how wide to cut the plywood.  They ended up being slightly off the 2′ measurement due to screws not pulling the wood flush at each support.  We measured the plywood at each end  and used a chalk line to mark the straight line for our circular saw & then made the cut.  We ended up cutting all 4 sheets of plywood so we would already have that step done for the next unit.  The plywood fit the shelves easily & we secured it with the 1″ wood screws.

We realized that we would only have time to build one unit that day so here is the finished product with a few things loaded.  The extra wood to the side is the material for the 2nd unit that we haven’t had the time to build yet.

I couldn’t load the unit that evening because it was late and I was tired & sore from carrying heavy wood and building the thing.  Here it a couple nights later after I labeled the boxes with my new label maker & loaded them in.  Doesn’t that just look great!  I’ve used it a few times since we built it and it is so nice to be able to just pull out the one box that I need without unloading the entire contents of a closet.

We’re planning to store Kevin’s guitars in the closet that we cleaned the holiday stuff out of so I’ll be back with an update on how that works out.

I’m excited to build the next one so we can move all the baby stuff out of the other closet & on a shelf so that is easier to manage.  I have a feeling that our Christmas decorations are going to multiply substantially this year so we may be using that 2nd unit for Christmas instead of baby….

*One little note – I’m far from an expert on how to build stuff so this method worked for me but I cannot be held responsible for your personal safety or the outcome of your own projects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *