How to Build Shed Storage Shelves
It was murderously hot here in the Charm City suburbs last weekend. The heat index topped a full 115 degrees on Saturday! But fear not, the heat didn’t deter us from tackling our long-awaited shed storage shelves project. We’re excited about this project because we’ve been looking forward to sharing a plywood shelving article for some time now, and this article gives us the perfect avenue for that.
In case you’ve forgotten (or more likely if you’ve just started reading here), here’s the new shed. It looks great on the outside, but without some shelving and storage hooks for tools inside, most of the interior space would go to waste.
This shed is a high-quality build, with 2×4 studs 16″ on center, 3/4″ pressure-treated plywood subfloor, and 1/2″ plywood walls.
Our goal for this project is to build three sturdy plywood shelves. The bottom shelf will be a large 24″ deep work surface; the middle an 8″ deep storage shelf that won’t obscure the work surface of the bottom shelf; and the top, a 14″ overhead storage shelf. We chose these shelf sizes to provide adequate work and storage area without interfering with the person standing in front of the shelf working.
Ultimately, we’ll build a similar set-up on both sides of the shed, but for this article, we’ll focus only on the left side.
In hopeful preparation for these shelves, we’ve filled the yard with tools from the shed that we’ll need to store in this space. This helped us try out different articles to make sure the shelving heights worked for our storage goals.
The five largest yard tools we need to store are all lined up and ready for action. Hopefully when we’re done, these will all fit neatly in their own place in the new design.
How to Build Shed Storage Shelves
We started our shelving project with the middle shelf – an 8″ shelf that will rest about 55.5″ off the shed floor.
Step 1: Measure, mark, and install side rail supports.
We mark both sides of the shed wall at 49″. We leave a 6.5″ gap to account for the support 2×4 (3.5″ high), and the shelf itself (4″ high completely built). We use 3.25″ #10 decking screws to fasten the 2×4 supports to the stud walls. These screws are more than sufficient for the weight loads we’ll be putting on these shelves.
Step 2: Cut Front and Back Rails to Length
We’re going to use 2x4s for the front and back of the shelf. The 2x4s will rest on the supports we’ve just installed. These rails must be cut to the width of the shed. We used our Kobalt mitre saw for this task. For a deep shelf, a third 2×4 could be placed at the middle of the shelf spanning side-to-side parallel to the front and back.
Step 3: Cut Plywood to Fit the Shelf Surface
We use our Bosch job site table saw and a Craftsman circular saw to make the two cuts for our plywood surface. The table saw makes quick work of the rip cut, but the circular saw is a little easier to manage for the shorter cross-cut.
Step 4: Layout the Shelf Components and Confirm Fit
We dry-fit the components of our shelf to ensure a very tight fit. We want the shelf to have a nice fit and finish, and getting the cuts right is essential for this.
Step 6: Assemble the 2×4 Frame
We use 3.25″ #10 decking screws, the same as those used to attach the side rails to the shed.
Step 7: (Optional) Confirm the Frame Fits
Given that wood is a fickle material, it’s never a bad idea to check twice for fit. We check the frame to ensure a tight fit on the rails.
Step 8: Attach the Plywood Surface
We attach the plywood surface with 1.5″ #6 all purpose wood screws. One optional step here would be to also use construction adhesive to attach the plywood tops.
Step 8: Install the Shelf on the Rails
Step 9: Fasten the Shelf to the Studs
Fastening the shelf at every stud provides significant additional weight-holding capability, especially towards the back of the shelf. On deeper shelves, more 2x4s must be run side-to-side to increase shelf strength. On deeper shelves where weight isn’t a major concern, 2x4s can be run front-to-back to avoid plywood sag. Front-to-back 2x4s do not add a significant amount of overall strength to the shelves.
Step 10: (Optional) Test Your Shelf’s Strength
Our new shelf has no trouble holding Ethan and barely flexes under his weight.
Step 11: Repeat as Necessary
With the middle shelf fastened, we construct and install the bottom shelf using the same technique. This shelf has several horizontal cross members to keep the plywood from sagging in the center.
Installing the Overhead Shelf
The top plate of the wall is exposed in this style shed, and we decided we wanted our plywood shelf to cover it. We also decided that this shelf would be easier to install in place, rather than building it outside. We measure below the surface of the top plate to find the right spot for the support 2×4.
We install both 2×4 supports, just like for the other two shelves.
Then, we install the cross members, cut the plywood, and install everything in place.
The Finished Product
Here’s the finished product for this article. We should’ve snapped a pic before piling everything in the shed, but with the heat still beating down on us, we rushed the completion. Still, the pictures show just how much space these shelves add.
And just as we had hoped, our five largest yard tools now fit neatly beneath our large work shelf.
Stay tuned in the next few weeks for the shelving on the other side of the shed, and some nifty latching hooks we’ll be installing on the back of the shed to hang our shovels, rakes, and other gardening and lawn tools.
Tools Required to Build Shed Shelves
- Mitre Saw / Chop Saw – For cutting 2x4s. We didn’t snap a pic of it for this tutorial, but we used our Kobalt Compound Mitre saw for all 2×4 cuts.
- Table Saw and/or Circular Saw – Either work for cutting plywood. If you need a 24″ shelf, the rip capacity of most table saws will be exceeded.
- Drill Driver and/or Impact Driver – We found an impact driver to be much better for driving long 3.25″ screws through the 2x4s. Stay tuned tomorrow for an article on the impact driver that made a difference.
- Tape Measure
- 2×4 dimensional lumber for shelf supports
- 1/2 inch sanded plywood for shelf surface
- 3.25″ #10 or #12 screws for fastening 2×4 components
- 1.5″ #8 screws for fastening plywood to the shelf base
Tips and Tricks
- You can strengthen the shelf by installing diagonal braces (available at the big box stores) from the studs to the shelf base.
- You can also strengthen the shelf by adding more length-wise 2x4s. Depth-wise 2x4s will help avoid plywood sag on the shelf, but do not add strength.
- If you want a backsplash, you might consider installing peg board on the back wall before installing the shelves.
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