Utility Shelves

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You can build adjustable utility shelves in a single afternoon using 2 x 4s and plain 3/4" plywood. Perfect for use in a garage or basement, utility shelves can be modified by adding side panels and a face frame to create a finished look suitable for a family room or recreation area.

 

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Overview

You can build adjustable utility shelves in a single afternoon using 2 x 4s and plain 3/4" plywood. Perfect for use in a garage or basement, utility shelves can be modified by adding side panels and a face frame to create a finished look suitable for a family room or recreation area.
The quick-and-easy shelf project shown on the following pages creates two columns of shelves with a total width of 68". You can enlarge the project easily by adding more 2 x 4 risers and plywood shelves. Do not increase the individual shelf widths to more than 36". The sole plates for the utility shelves are installed perpendicular to the wall to improve access to the space under the bottom shelves.
Complete Guide to Custom Shelves & Built-Ins, 978-1-58923-303-4

What You'll Need

Tools:

Pencil
Tape measure
Level
Framing square
Drill/driver
Plumb bob
Powder-actuated nailer
Clamps
Router with 3/4" straight bit
Circular saw
Stepladder

Materials:

(15) 2 x 4 x 8 pine
(2) 3/4 x 4 x 8 plywood
Wood glue
Shims
Drywall or deck screws (21/2", 3")
Finishing materials

Cutting
Part No. Desc. Size Material

A
2 Top plates 68" 2 x 4s

B 3 Sole plates 24" 2 x 4s

C 8 Shelf risers 93" 2 x 4s

D 4 End risers 93" 2 x 4s

E 12 Shelves 3⁄4" plywood

30 3⁄4 x 24"

 

Step 1

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 1

Mark the location of top plates on ceiling. One plate should be flush against wall, and the other should be parallel to first plate, with the front edge 24" from the wall. Cut 2 x 4 top plates to full length of utility shelves, then attach to ceiling joists or blocking, using 3" screws.


Step 2

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 2

Mark points directly beneath outside corners of the top plates to find outer sole plate locations, using a plumb bob as a guide (top). Mark sole plate locations by drawing lines perpendicular to the wall connecting each pair of points (bottom).


Step 3

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 3

Cut outer 2 x 4 sole plates and position them perpendicular to the wall, just inside the outlines. Shim plates to level if needed, then attach to floor with a powder-actuated nailer or 3" screws. Attach a center sole plate midway between the outer sole plates.


Step 4

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 4

Prepare the shelf risers by cutting 7/8"-wide, 3/4"-deep dadoes with a router. Cut dadoes every 4" along the inside face of each 2 x 4 riser, with the top and bottom dadoes cut about 12" from the ends of the 2 x 4. Tip: Gang-cut the risers by laying them flat and clamping them together, then attaching an edge guide to align the dado cuts. For each cut, make several passes with the router, gradually extending the bit depth until dadoes are 3/4" deep.


Step 5

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 5

Trim the shelf risers to uniform length before unclamping them. Use a circular saw and a straightedge guide.


Step 6

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 6

Build two center shelf supports by positioning pairs of shelf risers back-to-back and joining them with wood glue and 2 1/2" screws.


Step 7

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 7

Build four end shelf supports by positioning the back of a dadoed shelf riser against a 2 x 4 of the same length, then joining the 2 x 4 and the riser with glue and 2 1/2" screws.


Step 8

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 8

Position an end shelf support at each corner of the shelving unit, between top and sole plates. Attach the supports by driving 3" screws toenail-style into the top plate and sole plates.


Step 9

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 9

Position a center shelf support (both faces dadoed) at each end of the center sole plate, then anchor shelf supports to the sole plate using 3" screws driven toenail-style. Use a framing square to align the center shelf supports perpendicular to the top plates, then anchor to top plates.


Step 10

How to Build Utility Shelves - Step 10

Measure the distance between the facing dado grooves and subtract 2 1/4". Cut the plywood shelves to fit and slide the shelves into the grooves.


 
 

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