How to Build DIY Utility Shelves

Looking for a simple and inexpensive way to neatly store all that extra “stuff” in your house?

Building a basic utility shelf unit is a small project you can do yourself to get your home organized. These shelves will put an end to haphazardly stowing away and stacking things in your garage and basement.

Step 1: Prep and Plan

Large and small shelves built with wood and L-brackets
Large and small shelves built with wood and L-brackets

Before you even pick up a piece of wood, take a look at what you need to store and where you plan to put the shelves. This will help you determine the exact dimensions of your new shelving unit. You can calculate how much wood you’ll need following these simple rules:

  • The top and bottom sections should be the same length.
  • The two sides should be the same length.
  • Each shelf should be 1.5″ shorter than the top and bottom pieces.

Remember, these shelves are going in your utility areas. Looks are not that important—sturdiness is. Keep that in mind when you’re starting.

Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Mark the measurements on your boards with a pencil line. Using c-clamps, attach the board to sawhorses, a sturdy table or a workbench, positioning your pencil line just off the edge. Double-check your measurements. Carefully cut the wood using a handsaw or circular saw. Sand the rough-cut edges with sandpaper.

Safety Alert!

Always take proper safety precautions when working with a saw. If you’re using a circular saw, be sure to wear protective eyewear. You may also want to wear a facemask to keep from inhaling sawdust.

Step 3: Assembly Required

Glue the ends of the two side pieces to the inside edge of the bottom piece with wood glue. Once the glue dries, attach the top piece in the same way.

After gluing the unit together, use woodscrews to mount the top and bottom pieces to the sides. This will make your shelves sturdier. Mark a dot in each corner of the top and bottom pieces of wood about 1 1/2″ to 2″ from the top and bottom edges and about 3/8″ from the outside edges.

Using a drill bit that’s a little smaller in diameter than your flathead wood screws, drill holes at each of the marks through the top and bottom pieces into the side pieces. Doing this before you install the screws should keep the wood from splitting. Put the screws in and tighten with a screwdriver.

Step 4: Bracket It

Determine the placement of the shelves and, using a ruler, mark a line on each side of the unit. Screw in L-brackets so that the top of the bracket is level to the line you just drew. Use two brackets per side. Now slide the shelves in so they rest on the brackets.

Helpful Tip

You can attach the shelves to the brackets for more stability. If you have made a tall shelving unit, you should attach at least one of the middle shelves to the L-brackets for extra support. If the shelf is extra wide, consider using L-brackets on the top and bottom pieces for stability.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

For a more finished look, give your shelves a couple coats of True Value EasyCare® Ultra Premium Interior Paint or Woodsman® stain.

Congratulations! In just a couple of hours, you’ve created a customized shelving unit to organize your utility room.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.