Garage Overhead MightyShelves

With warm spring days on the way, many of you will be doing some spring cleaning.  Do you have a place where you can put away all your winter/seasonal items?  By installing overhead garage shelving you can easily add 200 square feet of storage to a typical 2-car garage.  Imagine organizing all the items cluttering your home in bins on these garage overhead mightyshelves.

I start by cutting two 2×4’s the length I want the shelf.  Then I layout all the 2×4 “rungs” every 24″ on center using a tape measure, speed square, and pencil.

Then I cut all the 2×4 “rungs” 3 inches shorter than I want the depth of the shelf to be (to account for the thickness of the front and back “rails”).  I’ve built these shelves anywhere from 2-feet to 4-feet deep, depending on what will be stored on them when finished.  Then I fasten the “rails” to the “rungs” with a couple 10d or 16d framing nails in each end.

I use a piece of 7/16 inch OSB (wafer board) to square-up the shelf.  I nail it down with 8d framing nails about every 8 inches along the “rails” and “rungs”.  Then I cut off the excess sheathing with a skill-saw.

Here’s how it looks all nailed off and ready to install:

I chalk a line to mark where the bottom of the shelf will be located on the garage wall.  (The height usually depends on the size of the items to be stored on the shelf).  I leave a minimum of 6 feet 8 inches of headroom below the lowest shelf.  I nail a 2×4 temporary block to every other wall stud to support the back “rail” of the shelf flush with the chalk line.

Then I lift the shelf into place, resting it on my temp. blocks.  I shoot a couple nails through the back “rail” into the wall studs, then I nail a long piece of wood as a vertical temp. brace to the front “rail” after leveling the shelf with a level.

Now that the shelf is temporarily braced, I can install the permanent hardware.  I start by driving a 1/4 inch by 4 inch Spax lag screw through the back “rail” into each wall stud to support the back of the shelf using a drill and T30 star bit.  Here’s what the Spax screws look like:

Then I drill a 1/2 inch hole through the front “rail” about every 4 feet.  I run a piece of 3/8 inch threaded rod up through each of these holes and through the drywall ceiling into the attic space above.  I put a 3/8 inch fender washer and 3/8 inch nut both above and below each shelf.  This allows me to tighten them to the shelf with wrenches on both sides so the nuts won’t loosen or slip.

Then comes the fun part… crawling up into the attic space.  I cut a 2×4 block for each threaded rod going up into the attic, long enough so it can rest over the top of the bottom cords of the trusses next to each threaded rod.  I drill a half inch hole in it for the threaded rod to pass through and fasten a 3/8 inch fender washer and nut to the top and bottom of it.  I use a couple 10d or 16d framing nails to fasten the block to the trusses.  (This is a really solid way to support the shelves below.  With threaded rod every 4 feet and the trusses spaced every 2 feet, the blocks end up spreading the weight from the shelves over all the trusses above).

Once the permanent hardware is installed, I remove my temporary blocks and bracing.  Here’s how it looks upon completion:

Here are some pictures of some completed garage mightyshelves in use:

I have created step by step instructions for how you can build these “MightyShelves” in your garage, complete with diagrams and a list of all the tools you will need.  Click here for a free copy.  If you would like to build mightyshelves in your garage, but don’t have accessible attic space above, click here to view my blog post for alternative hardware methods.

43 Replies to Garage Overhead MightyShelves

  1. Jason Call says:

    Thanks for posting! Been trying to find a way to build bigger shelves and love the hanging idea.

  2. Ben Johnson says:

    I’ll mark this one on my honey-to-do list!

  3. Rob says:

    Great write-up!!! Any ideas for those of us that don’t have attic access for the support rods?

  4. haeffnkr says:

    This is great idea.
    I was going to make shelves like this but put wooden angle supports under them, the all thread will eliminate that need and I wont have to bump into the angled braces.
    I need to remove all of my existing shelving and have open space under them for bikes/trikes/lawnmowers/wagons/etc….got to store lots of kid toys :

    Love the low profile of the threaded rod.
    I will try and run extra 2×3 lumber long ways to save an inch in thickness of the shelves.

    thanks Kevin

  5. JP says:

    Love the threaded rod idea! I don’t have an attic either, but a roof with exposed wood ceiling beams. Will you explain more about the rod/chain alternatives using eye lags and “L” channel?

  6. Renato says:

    Thank you, it s exactly what i was looking for. It is amazing to know how much money can be saved compared with those racks sold.

    You should make a video.

  7. Jonathan says:

    I really like these shelves! Thank you for posting with such detail.

    Question: is it ok to turn the rungs and frame boards laterally to lessen the height of the shelf?

  8. Jonathan says:

    Great post!

  9. Jonathan says:

    I agree since the shelf is supported on the corners and middle by the all thread. If there was no support in the middle, I would not consider turning the boards because they lose ~half their beam strength when lateral.

  10. Jake says:

    Great Idea!

    Question: For the shelf above the garage door –

    1. Did you cut out the header board against the wall?
    2. Are you using joining two 2×4’s together for the rails? It almost looks like you placed an additional support parallel to the rails.

    • I doubled up the rail along the garage wall above the garage door. That way I could cut the one to fit around the existing garage door opening wood sticking out and then have an adjacent continuous rail fastened to parallel to that.

  11. couano says:

    Awesome job and write up! Going to use your work as a guide, hope you don’t mind. I’m also no engineer just an average Joe but any reason why you use 1/4″ x 4″ inch spax T30 star screw?

    I was thinking of using a 3/8″ x 4 inch hex head. Will it matter?

  12. Larry says:

    Any idea of the load-carrying capacity of threaded rod? I’m planning to use 4 rods of either 1/4″ or 3/8″ to hang a range hood that weighs around 75#. Thinking the 1/4″ should be good for that but the 3/8″ would be needed for a garage storage shelf since the shelf itself weighs quite a bit. Am I on the right track?

    • I don’t know what the rod is rated for. I have used 3/8″ threaded rod before, but I thought the 3/8″ diameter rod required too much of the front rail to be drilled out to be able to slide the rod through, which seemed to weaken the wood rail more than the smaller hole required for the 1/4″ threaded rod. That’s the main reason I use 1/4″. Plus, it’s cheaper!

      • Edward S. says:

        I think in your response above you mentioned to use 1/4″ threaded rod. I noticed in your mightyshelves PDF document, you still mention 3/8″ threaded rod as being used. Are you saying you switched to 1/4″ threaded rod in later installations? Thanks for putting up your design!

        • Yes, I used 3/8″ threaded rod on the first shelves I did, but started using 1/4″ which I now prefer. The thinner rod still seems plenty strong, and you don’t have to weaken the wood rails as much because you can drill a smaller hole to run the rod through.

  13. Joe says:

    Thinking of installing shelves in my garage.

  14. Jason says:

    I’m up in the Ogden area – is there a place where you can get the Spax screws locally? Lowe’s doesn’t carry them and Home Depot has them online only.

    • The Home Depot’s where I’m from has the spax screws in stock. You could go with a different screw that is similar with a wide “truss” head or just use a washer with each screw.

      • Jason says:

        I ended up just getting some 1/4″ x 4″ hex head lag screws and washers–I haven’t had a chance to install them yet, but am really excited to get these shelves installed. Thanks for this post!!

  15. paddy says:

    How do you plumb the threaded rod when you’re putting two shelves over top of each other. Also, your instructions say 3/8 threaded rod but you later stated one quarter. is one quarter okay?

    Thanks for the great idea.

    • Sorry for the confusion on that- I’ve actually built these with both 3/8″ and 1/4″ threaded rod. I think my preference is the smaller 1/4″ threaded rod because it still seems plenty strong, but doesn’t require drilling out quite as much wood to run it through.

    • There’s a couple ways to plumb the threaded rod. One is to use a torpedo or other short level that will fit in between the shelves. Another way would be measuring and marking the shelves where the threaded rod will go before putting them in place. If they’re marked the same distance from the edge of the shelf, and the edges of the shelves are plumbed or installed against a plumb wall, the threaded rod will also be plumb.

  16. Mike says:

    You said you have “built these shelves anywhere from 2-feet to 4-feet deep, depending on what will be stored on them when finished”, but what is the max length you have built? Do you typically keep it to a max of 8-ft long sections based on OSB and somewhat manageable? I envision anything longer will get difficult to handle.

    • Mike,

      The longest sections I’ve installed at a time were 16′ long, but you can break them down into smaller, more manageable sections if you want, or recruit some help to lift them into place.

  17. Mike says:

    Any pros/cons of putting the shelves together with screws instead of nails?

    • I think either type of fastener would work Mike. I’ve heard in general nails are stronger than screws in shear strength, but screws hold from pulling out forces better because of the threads. It probably depends more on what tools you have access to or your personal preference. Anyone else out there in the blogging world have a better answer for Mike?

  18. shawn says:

    Only once thing, what is the load capacity of eye bolts and eye lag you have used as alternative method if there is no attic space above ? I noticed that home depot website mentions some “working load capacity” for eye bolts which is about 50 pounds. Is it safe to store heavy item on shelves made with these eye bolts ?

    • This is a great question- I don’t know. Is there an engineer out there in cyberspace that can help with this question? I’ve never had the design engineered, but several people have wondered about the mightyshelves’ capabilities.

  19. shawn says:

    thanks for reply kurt. I saw a wall rack to store 4 winter tires ( with rims ) and the way they suggest it to attach to the wall studs, your mighty shelves are way better built than that. If that rack can hold those tires, so should this shelf. That is purpose for me to make this shelf, and I think I am thinking little too much. My shelf will be attached to walls on three sides and only fourth side will be supported by two ceiling supports and sides of that fourth side attached to walls on both ends.
    However thanks again.

  20. Mike says:

    shawn/Kurt

    When I finally get around to this project, I was planning on using some rod hangers similar to those shown here:
    http://www.grainger.com/ec/pdf/SAMMYS-Vertical-Application-for-Wood-Product-Data-Sheet..pdf

    I am not an engineer as well, but the data sheet shows loads considerably higher than 50 pounds.

  21. Joe Simpson says:

    Great write-up and I plan on installing the shelf in the garage over the door. I did have one question. You mentioned that you used 4″ Spax lags but the picture shows 5″ and with the drywall a 5 would work. Does it matter and if I use a 4 or a 5?

    • You could use 5″ SPAX screws but 4″ are long enough. I prefer the 4″ers to save a little money and they probably give you a little less chance of splitting the wood you’re driving them into. I probably just couldn’t find a 4″er to take a picture of when I was typing up the blog.

  22. Scott says:

    As all the others have mentioned, great writeup. I am curious have you ever had the need to support from below, due to the requirement of storing something that spanned the entire length of the shelf (the all thread would be in the way). (ie long extension ladder?). If so, how did you build the supports? THANKS

  23. Chad says:

    Great instructional! Thank you! I’m working on installing these in my garage. I was just wondering when drilling your holes through the shelves for the rods, my drill bits aren’t long enough to go through the 2×4 rail and the sheet of OSB. Do I need just need to purchase a longer drill bit, or is there some sort of trick to drilling those holes. Thanks in advance.

  24. Joe says:

    Thanks for the plans and info. Im considering doing a 24″ upper shelf and a 16″ beneath it…unless that’s stupid. What I thought I could do is install the upper shelf as documented and then run rods from that shelf at the 16″ width thru a cross-piece to support the next shelf.

    Do you think the 24″ cross pieces would be strong enough to have rods run through them to support a lower, 16″ shelf? I could use joist hangers on the specific cross pieces, if that makes things stronger.

    • That sounds like it ought to work. I like your idea of using hangers on the cross pieces supporting the shelf below. It might even be worth it to double those ones up and stitch nail them together.

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