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Building Utility Shelves

Project Overview

Building Utility Shelves

Why take the time to build your own utility shelves when there are so many good off-the-shelf solutions to choose from? Well, for one thing, you can build this custom unit to fit the exact space you have available. And because you'll anchor it to the ceiling joists and the floor, it'll probably be a lot sturdier under a heavy load than most freestanding shelves. Finally, no manufactured shelving we've seen gives you the spacing flexibility and easy reconfiguration of this unit. An added plus: If you like, you can dress it up with the simple addition of side panels and stock trim moulding on the face frame.

10 Steps

  1. Mark Locations of Top Plates on Ceiling
  2. Locate the Outer Sole-Plate Locations
  3. Cut Outer 2x4 Sole Plates
  4. Prepare the Shelf Risers
  5. Trim the Shelf Risers
  1. Build Two Centre-Shelf Supports
  2. Build Four End-Shelf Supports
  3. Attach the Shelve Supports
  4. Position the Centre Shelf Supports
  5. Cut Shelves to Fit
Show all steps »
Mark Locations of Top Plates on Ceiling

Step 1

Mark Locations of Top Plates on Ceiling

Mark the locations of the top plates on the ceiling. One plate should be flush against the wall, and the other should be parallel to it with its front edge 24 inches from the wall. Cut the 2x4 top plates to the full length of the utility shelves, then attach them to the ceiling joists using 3-inch screws.

Locate the Outer Sole-Plate Locations

Step 2

Locate the Outer Sole-Plate Locations

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

Cut Outer 2x4 Sole Plates

Step 3

Cut Outer 2x4 Sole Plates

Cut outer 2x4 sole plates, and position them perpendicular to the wall, just inside your outlines. Shim the plates to level them, if necessary, then attach them to the floor with a stud gun or screws. Attach a centre sole plate midway between the outer sole plates.

Prepare the Shelf Risers

Step 4

Prepare the Shelf Risers

Prepare the shelf risers by cutting 7/8-inch wide, 3/4-inch deep dado grooves with a router. Cut dadoes every 4 inches along the inside face of each 2x4 riser with the top and bottom dadoes about 12 inches from the ends. Gang-cut the risers by laying them flat, clamping them together, and attaching a straightedge guide to align your dado cuts. For each cut, make several passes with the router, gradually extending the bit depth until the dadoes are 3/4-inch deep.

Trim the Shelf Risers

Step 5

Trim the Shelf Risers

Using a circular saw and a straightedge guide, trim the shelf risers to a uniform length before unclamping them.

Build Two Centre-Shelf Supports

Step 6

Build Two Centre-Shelf Supports

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

Build Four End-Shelf Supports

Step 7

Build Four End-Shelf Supports

Build four end-shelf supports by positioning the back of a dadoed shelf riser against a 2x4 of the same length and joining them with glue and 2-1/2-inch screws.

Attach the Shelve Supports

Step 8

Attach the Shelve Supports

Position an end-shelf support at each corner of the shelving unit between the top and sole plates. Attach the supports by driving 3-inch screws at an angle into the top plates and sole plates.

Position the Centre Shelf Supports

Step 9

Position the Centre Shelf Supports

Position a centre-shelf support (one with both faces dadoed) at each end of the centre-sole plate, then anchor the shelf supports to the sole plate using 3-inch screws driven at an angle. Use a framing square to align the centre-shelf supports perpendicular to the top plates, then screw them to the top plates.

Cut Shelves to Fit

Step 10

Cut Shelves to Fit

Measure the distance between the facing dado grooves, subtract 1/4 inch, and cut plywood shelves to fit. Slide the shelves into the grooves.

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Project Details

Skill Level: Beginner

Time: 3 hours

Before you start, read this »

Due to differing conditions, tools, and individual skills, The Home Depot® assumes no responsibility for any damages, injuries suffered, or losses incurred as a result of attempting to replicate any of the home improvement ideas portrayed in this website Before beginning any home improvement project, review it thoroughly to ensure you or your contractor can finish the project and if any doubts or questions remain, consult local experts or authorities. Because codes and regulations vary greatly, you always should check with authorities to ensure that your project complies with all applicable local codes and regulations. Always read and observe all of the safety precautions provided by any tool or equipment manufacturer, and follow all accepted safety procedures.

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