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 molding on the face frame.



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.


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, 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 center sole plate midway between the outer sole plates.


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.


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


Build two center 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 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.


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 a center shelf support (one with both faces dadoed) at each end of the center 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 center shelf supports perpendicular to the top plates, then screw them to the top plates.


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





Installing a Closet-Organizer System


Building a Closet Organizer


Constructing a Built-In Shelving Unit


Installing Stationary Brackets


Installing Adjustable Brackets

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