Basement Shelves

One of the completed basement shelving units

We store a lot of items in plastic totes, and needed some shelves in the basement to store them. I probably should have just thrown something together, but instead I have something a little over built. There were several challenges in getting it together, but it's strong and should last forever.

Each unit has 3 shelves, and can store 16 totes (including those on the floor). The totes stack 4 to a shelf. The top shelve is too close to the ceiling to hold anything large, but there's plenty of room for other items. The shelves are spaced 20-1/2" on center which gives a 17" shelf height for the totes.

The design was inspired by the basement shelves Frank Howarth made, but I didn't want to mess with plywood. I was hoping to trying something a little different from the normal solid shelves, and I thought that allowing some air movement was a good thing.

Basement Shelf Plans

Each shelf is made from the following components cut from standard 2x4's.

When I was first drawing the design, I planned on notching the side supports and the shelf braces so that the weight would all be supported by wood-on-wood. However, I backed out when it came time to cut all those notches, and the weight is support on screws instead.

Temporary bench truck bed

I cut all the 2x4's using my miter saw. I used the back of my truck as a work bench since I don't have a proper one setup in the garage yet. I used the nicest, straightest grained boards for the legs, and then the 2nd best pieces for the side supports.

Attaching one leg to the shelf supports

I first clamped all the legs together and drew a square line across all of them at the height of each shelf. I then, lined up a speed square with the line, and set one of the shelf supports against it before clamping and pre-drilling. Each support is attached to the legs with glue and 2-1/2" screws.

Attaching the second leg

I got all of the supports attached to one leg, and then I did the second side (which was a little trickier). I lined up all the boards, and clamped them down before pre-drilling for screws. With the holes drilled, I could put screws part way through, and line them up with the holes after glue was applied.

It may have been easier to assemble if the side supports were cut shorter so that their ends were flush with the legs. The outside braces could then be made a little longer to match square with the side supports. It was difficult to quickly get each side support square to the leg and extended by the correct amount.

Assembling the braces

I started putting the two sides together by clamping the outside shelf braces to the sides. I then screwed (no glue) the braces to the legs. I spent a long time trying to get the structure as square as I could before pre-drilling any holes, but I ended up just lining up the braces with the side supports.

Using clamps as temporary shelves to hold braces

I raised the the assembly upright after 2 braces were attached to one pair of legs. I used quick clamps as a temporary shelf to support each additional brace before I pre-drilled and screwed each one to the legs using 2-1/2" screws. The clamps helped make sure the braces were lined up with the ends of the side supports.

Installing the field of 2x4s in each shelf

To fill in the field, I clamped a pair of 2x4's underneath the outside braces. I attached each braces with 2, 3" long screws driven from the outside of the side support. I did not need to pre-drill these screws, and I used a 2x4 as a spacer between each brace.

The good things about these shelves are their strong, and hold a lot of stuff. The open shelves work well for the totes and boxes, but I may have to throw down a piece of hardboard if we ever need to store something smaller on them. Overall, these are working well in our space, and I expect to use them for a long time.

Completed pair of shelves loaded with totes
Completed pair of empty shelves in the basement
Feel free to send me any comments, suggestions, or questions through my Contact Page.
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Copyright 2015 by Joseph Bobek, all rights reserved.