Ah, the garage. It’s not the most glamorous space in the house, but it’s certainly an important one. Garages are important for organization and storage, but it can feel overwhelming to create the type of storage shelving necessary to meet your needs and fit your space. This tutorial will show you an extremely simple and effective way to build your own garage storage shelves, quickly and easily.
So, if a wall in your garage looks something like this, you will find this project very satisfying.
Note: The author is an experienced, although not professional, builder. Use caution and care while following the steps in this tutorial. Neither the author nor this website is responsible for any harm or damage that may occur from following this tutorial.
- Shelving (example uses 6 shelving boards, sold in 8’ lengths)
- 1×2 furring strips (example uses 10 furring strips, 8’ lengths each)
- Brad nailer + 1-1/4” brad nails
- Stud finder
- Chalk marker (optional but recommended)
- Miter saw, rip cut + circular saw, ladder
Begin by clearing the wall you’re installing your built-ins on. As you can see, this wall is inside our garage, but it is covered with exterior siding because the garage was added on after the home was completed.
Find and mark the studs. Take a chalk marker.
Use the chalk marker to mark a vertical line at the position of the wall stud.
Repeat for all studs on the shelf wall.
Next, you’ll want to mark the horizontal positions of your shelves. If you’re using a chalk marker, measure and mark only the sides.
Stretch the chalk marker from one measured wall mark to the other.
Keeping the end points securely against the wall, pull the center of the chalk string back a couple of inches, then let it go. It will snap against the wall in a straight line. Repeat for all horizontal lines.
Determine where you want the sides of your shelves to be (this doesn’t need to happen on a stud, but it’s recommended to place the sides not too far outside a stud position, if possible). Mark these vertical lines with chalk.
Hold up a strip of furring (or measure) along a horizontal shelf line, from one side marking to the other. Mark on the furring strip where you need to cut.
Cut the furring strip at your mark. Repeat this measurement for however many shelves you’re doing. These strips will run the length of your shelves and will help to support the shelves themselves.
Position the furring strip directly on your side shelf chalk lines (not studs) and your horizontal shelf chalk lines. Use the brad nailer to nail one side of the strip in place, on the stud.
Furring strips are not necessarily straight lines; in fact, they shouldn’t be counted on to be straight at all. You can see in this photo how the strip naturally bows down a bit in the middle. For this reason, you’ll want to nail in the other side of the furring strip (aligned with your chalk lines) before you nail the middle.
Position, then nail the other side of your furring strip in place. Be sure all nailing happens into the studs.
Then move along your furring strip to nail it onto the wall at each stud line. Be sure to flex the furring to align precisely with your horizontal chalk line (shelf position line) as you go, to ensure your shelves will be straight and flat.
Repeat this process for each shelf’s wall-mounted furring strip.
With all the wall furring strips in place, it’s time to move onto the sides. If you have an extra helper, have them hold up your side shelving (cut to height, if you need it different than 8’; example uses 8’ heights so there is a bit of side blocking on the top shelf) along your side chalk line. You can also prop the shelving against the sides of the furring strips, although it’s best to have someone holding it in place for safety reasons.
Push the side shelving board against the wall, and measure from the front of a furring strip to about 2” or 3” from the front end of your shelving board (in this case, we went with 13”). Tip: If your shelves are short, meaning if each shelf’s vertical spacing is smaller than your brad nailer, you’ll want to start on your lowest shelf and work upward.
Cut four furring strips per shelf to the measurement you just took. So, in this example, since there are four shelves, we cut 16 furring strips to be 13” long each. Working in furring strip pairs, stack them on top of each other.
Then shoot a couple brad nails into the aligned stack. Basically, you’re creating a double-thick furring strip.
Press the side shelving board flush against the end of your wall-mounted furring strips. Align one end of one of these furring strip blocks with the side-front of your wall-mounted furring strip. Place a level on top, and make the furring block level, sliding the front end up or down along the side shelving as needed.
Once you’ve reached level, have a helper hold the furring block in place, keeping the level on the block.
Using the extending horizontal chalk line and the edge of your level as a guide, carefully nail from the outside of the side shelving in toward the furring block. Continue nailing until the furring block is secure. For safety purposes, you might choose to clamp the furring block to the side shelving before nailing.
The top ends of your side furring block and wall-mounted furring strip should align precisely. Remember that your side shelving is still not secure; it is simply attached to the furring block at this point.
Have a helper hold the side shelving in place while you and another helper move to the other side of your shelves and repeat the steps for this shelf’s furring block there.
Take the measurement you used for your original wall-mounted furring strip lengths, and measure and cut your shelving boards to that same length. I highly recommend a Rip Cut attachment to a circular saw for this step, to get a precise cut without requiring a huge table saw. Repeat for all the shelving boards.
With your shelving boards cut to length and the furring blocks aligned and secured on both side shelving boards, it’s time to install the shelf itself.
With helpers pushing the side shelving boards up against the ends of the wall-mounted furring strips, use your brad nailer to nail along the sides of your shelving, directly above (and into) the furring blocks.
Here is a close-up shot of the nails on the side of this particular shelf.
Nail along the back of the shelving, into the original wall-mounted furring strip, as well.
With your two sides and the back of your shelving nailed into the furring supports, your shelf is secure. Your side shelving boards are not yet completely secured top to bottom, but with the installation of each shelf, they will become more unified with the built-in shelves and become connected that way.
If you started with your bottom shelf, move to the next shelf up and repeat the steps (beginning with creating two furring blocks out of four furring strips). If you started with the center shelf, which this example did for side shelving support purposes, go ahead and start on your bottom shelf and work your way upward.
Don’t forget the level when you’re attaching the furring blocks on the sides of your shelf supports. This step will make or break the success of your built-in shelves, because your eyes will play tricks on you if you try to eyeball this level.
Use a ladder if necessary to be safe. Work your way all the way up the built-in unit until you’ve secured the top shelf.
Your furring supports will look something like this from underneath.
Congratulations; your shelves are all installed. It’s now time to support the center-front of your shelves to prevent bowing over time. Grab a full furring strip and place it about in the center of your shelves.
Holding the furring strip up against the front of your shelves, use a pencil to mark the back of the furring strip along the top edge of your top shelf. Use your miter saw to cut this.
Next, you’ll want to measure and mark center, and then 3/4″ to the right and 3/4″ to the left of center, on the fronts of all of your shelves. This is because you won’t be able to see your center mark when you place the furring in front of it, so you can center the furring precisely with your lateral 3/4” marks. You also want to mark each shelf because, as you’ll recall, furring isn’t reliably straight, so you may need to flex the wood a bit with each shelf attachment.
Next, measure the distance between the floor and the bottom side of your lowest shelf at the center point of your shelf. Mark this distance on a fresh strip of furring, and cut it with the miter saw.
Position the first furring strip at center along the front part of your shelves, then slide the second furring strip (the one you just cut) behind it so it’s directly below the lowest shelf. Press the two furring strips together.
Move the pair to a flat work surface, then use your brad nailer to nail the two aligned furring strips together.
Reposition the now-attached furring strips pair at the center of your shelf fronts, then nail the tall furring strip to the front of your lowest shelving.
Reach around and nail through the top of your shelving into the top end of your under-mounted furring strip.
The first front furring support is now in place. (I promise, this process is much easier than it might seem by reading this.)Now, taking one section at a time, you’ll measure from the top of your lowest shelf to the bottom of your next shelf, and cut a furring strip to size.
Align that newly cut furring strip behind your front-center furring strip, and clamp into place.
Center, then staple the front-center furring strip into the front of the shelving. Then staple the front-center furring into the cut furring support behind it.
Don’t forget to staple the shelving itself into the top end of the back furring support.
Continue working your way up the shelves, measuring and installing one furring support at a time, until you’ve completed the front center furring support strips.
The side shelving is important not just for aesthetics; it might be to provide critical protection from adjacent pieces such as wall-mounted pipes in the garage.
The side shelving boards can also be used to mount and store certain items, such as tools, equipment, measuring squares, gloves, or even hot dog roasters.
For all intents and purposes, you’re done and free to now stock your shelves. Of course, you could choose to prime and paint the shelves if you’d like.
For the purposes of this example’s garage shelving unit, though, painting was unnecessary.
Let’s take a brief moment, as is a gratifying practice after a DIY construction project, to appreciate the before and after. These shelves take less than a morning to build and install, and they are strong enough to store all sorts of heavy things.
We hope you enjoy the DIY process of building your own fast and easy garage built-ins. This is definitely a simple, straightforward, and economical way to do built-ins. And, if you’re like us, you’ll be able to conduct some major de-junking in the process of restocking the shelves. It’s always rewarding to find yourself more organized at the end of an afternoon than you were at the beginning, isn’t it?