Not Pretty, But Practical – Build Utility Shelves

If you have a less-than-organized garage or basement, you can feel better about the clutter by adding shelves to line the walls and store all your stuff. We like using Strong-Tie metal connectors with ready-to-cut sheets of plywood to make sturdy utility shelves. They won’t win a beauty contest but they’re a practical solution to getting organized.

A handyman or carpenter will charge $220 to build a 4-foot-wide, six-shelf unit. If you have basic carpentry skills, you can build it for $100, the cost of the materials, and save 54 percent. Plan to precut the lumber first and make your cuts accurate and square. With 264 screws to drive, you’ll almost certainly want an electric screwdriver or drill/driver. You also need a tape measure, framing square, handsaw, miter box or a circular saw, square/saw guide, hammer, sanding block and sawhorses.

The first phase of the project involves cutting 2×2 lumber into legs and rails and then cutting plywood into shelves. Then sand all the pieces. Lay out the shelf connectors, creating a rigid shelf so there’s no need for diagonal bracing. Assemble the pieces last by attaching the legs, rails and shelves. For extra stability, fasten the unit to the wall.

Go to for more project ideas with plans and instructions.

To find more DIY and contractor project costs, videos and calculators, visit on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.


Gene and Katie Hamilton are authors of 20 home improvement books and creators of, a website that compares the DIY and contractor costs of hundreds of repair, decorating and remodeling projects. Their weekly column Do It Yourself or Not is syndicated by Tribune Content Agency.
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