Before & After DIY Projects

Project Organization: DIY Utility Shelves

One of the things I love about our bungalow is the amount of space we have. When we moved from our 700 square foot one bedroom

One of the things I love about our bungalow is the amount of space we have. When we moved from our 700 square foot one bedroom, one bathroom condo (with a small storage locker) to our 1000 square foot two bedroom, one bathroom bungalow (complete with an additional 1000 square feet of unfinished basement and attic a piece) it was admittedly a bit of a shock. We barely had any furniture… which also meant that we didn’t have ANY storage.

Our first shelf.

Utilitarian furniture is honestly the most painful to buy. I looked for second hand stuff, but I didn’t want a mish-mash of primary colored plastic shelves, and I had no way to haul some of the really heavy duty shelving that I saw on Craigslist. Eventually, we broke down and bought a really nice metal shelf but the $90 price tag had us seriously bummed. I kept thinking back to when I was little, my dad built a ton of bookshelves for the basement of my childhood home to store canned goods, books, and everything else. I remember him using MDF and cranking them out one-by-one until they filled every wall. I figured if he could do it (before the time of the internets) I could do something similar.

The storage space: Before

I found a tutorial on another blog, but much like I do when I’m cooking a new recipe for the first time, I used that tutorial as a framework and ended up doing my own thing in the end. The first shelf was a little… shall we say ‘janky’. But I was able to fine-tune my process and the remaining two shelves turned out awesome.

Here’s what I ended up doing:




10 2″x4″x8′ (you only need 9, but it’s good to

have a spare just in case) $40

1 sheet of plywood (4’x8′) $22

Box of 3″ wood screws $6

Wood shims (optional)


Hand Drill

Chop saw (if you don’t own one, do yourself a favor and rent one)

Table saw (for plywood, but this step can be done in-store)


Tape measure


We knew we were going to be making at least three shelves and two table bases for the basement, so it was cost effective for us to buy a giant box of screws ($22 for a box of 360 screws) and have an extra sheet of plywood and extra 2×4’s. We also had to rent a truck to haul everything home ($25). All-in-all we invested about $300 into this project. I keep saying ‘we’ but in reality it was mostly me making these shelves… because I’m a badass.

To make the most of my materials and limit offcuts, I kept my dimensions pretty specific to the materials I was working with. I knew that I didn’t want to have a lot of waste and I wanted to fit up to three plastic storage tubs per shelf, and the math happened to work out for both purposes. I also knew that I needed to account for the height and width of each 2×4 so that a perfectly quartered plywood sheet would slide right onto each shelf frame. This was probably the trickiest part (for me at least, because I am not a math person… at all!), and one of the reasons the first shelf turned out a little off.


Step one:

I made all of my cuts first and then used a cardboard template to pre-drill the holes before assembly. I only broke two drill bits in the process (due to overly-enthusiastic drilling).

Step two:

I assembled all of the shelf frames, making sure they were square.

Step three:

I marked the spacing for each shelf onto the posts, pre-drilled holes and screwed the posts to the shelf frames. Again, I made sure everything was square.

Step four:

I measured out the cuts for the plywood and ripped it down with the table saw (with some help from my beautiful assistant).

Step five:

I loaded up the shelves and now I don’t know what to do with myself.


Basement storage space: After

I have so much space in my upstairs closets now it’s not even funny. And I definitely have enough leftover materials to make my second table base and possibly even a fourth shelf! If we didn’t need to rent a truck it would have brought our costs down a bit, but for around $60 a shelf, we still came out ahead.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s