How to Make a Basement Storage Shelf

So here’s the deal – the kids got a ton of toys for Christmas, plus we already had way too many toys in this house. There was just nowhere to put them all. So after an impromptu trip to Menards (their lumber is decent and their prices are good) and an evening of work, we finally have a place to put them. Here’s how to make a basement storage shelf.

how to make a basement storage shelf  in one night for only $60

Tools Required:
– Power Drill
– Circular Saw
– Jig Saw (hacksaw would work)
– Tape Measure

Material Needed:
– 17 – 8ft long 2x4s
– 3 – 4ft x 8ft sheets of plywood
– 1 – Box of 2.5” drywall screws
– 1 – Box of 1” drywall screws

Total Estimated Cost – $60

Total Estimated Time – One Evening

To start, lay out 2×4’s as shown below:

how to make a basement storage shelf  in one night for only $60

First, you lay out boards “1” and “2”. These will need to be cut to 6½ feet lengths. Then you lay boards “3” and “4” on top. Before drilling them together, you will need to make sure they are square.

To make it square, you measure diagonally from one corner to the next. It should measure the same diagonally each way. In this case it is 123.69” (~10ft 3 11/16in).

You can also pull out a formula from 8th grade algebra to determine the appropriate diagonal length:


a = 8’ = 96”

b = 6.5’ = 78”


c = 123.69” = ~10ft 3 11/16in

If you skip making it square, you will have issues with your shelf not being level. I didn’t use an actual level when making this; I just made sure everything was square. This was the best method for us since our basement floor is not level to begin with.

Drill boards “1”, “2”, “3”, & “4” together in the corners using the 2.5” screws. Be sure to stagger the screws as shown below so to help prevent the wood from splitting. Then drill boards “5” and “6” to the frame using the same stagger method. You can use the spacing I used, or make up your own spacing. The spacing of the boards will end up as the height of the shelves. Since we have some larger toys to store, I made some larger shelves.

build this basement storage in one night for only $60

Once completed, this is half of the frame for your shelf. You will need to make another of these; only boards “1” and “2” will need to be on top this time.

Now you will need to do a bit of cutting. You need to cut most of the remaining 2×4’s into 19.5” pieces. You will need 16 of these in total. You will drill 4 of them to the frame (as shown on left); then attach the other part of the frame (as shown on right).

build this basement storage in one night for only $60  build this basement storage in one night for only $60

Then you add the 19.5” supports at the remaining 3 levels and add an additional vertical support in the back:

build this basement storage in one night for only $60

Now you add the plywood shelves at each level. If you used my dimensions, it should be very easy – just cut the plywood in half, and nook out a few spots for the vertical supports beams (see picture on right).

The reason I used 8 feet wide is because the plywood is 8 feet long (no cuts). The reason I used 2 feet deep, is because the plywood is 4 feet wide (only one cut). If you would like to add plywood on the top, you will need to purchase another sheet (I chose not to because we’re already at our ceiling height).

Screw the plywood down using the 1” screws. I used 8 screws per shelf.

build this basement storage in one night for only $60 build this basement storage in one night for only $60

At this time you should have 1.5 sheets of plywood remaining. Screw them to the back using the 1” screws and you have this:

how to make a basement storage shelf  in one night for only $60

You might think that I’m the bad dad because I store their toys in the basement, but trust me, there is no possible way they can play with every toy at one time. This has worked out great for us so far and keeps the mess upstairs to a minimum.

Update 3/14: The shelves are still working great. Check out the shelves in our basement playroom on this post on how to keep the toys from taking over.

unfinished basement playroom 


What do you think?
Where do you store your kids’ toys? Do you have a system? I’d love to hear what works for you!


  1. says

    awww Doug I don’t think you’re a bad dad! In fact my dad built my sister and I shelves like this and we also stored our over abundance of toys in the basement when we were younger. Thanks for the super simple tutorial – might have to get my hubby to build me some :)

  2. says

    Awesome shelves!! I wish we had a basement that I could put shelves and put toys… But they are all just out in the family room… Oh well, next house! :) But I like that they are fairly easy and cheap to make on our own! :)

  3. says

    Awesome tutorial! I appreciate the pictures with the measurements. Unfortunately, my eyes glazed over with the 8th grade algebra I failed. I love those shelves, and since I lover power tools, I should try making something like this!

  4. eric t says

    Thanks for the help. Finished my shelving this weekend. A few changes I made were that I used 10 foot boards instead of 8 foot and I cut my plywood down to 22.5 inches so then I wouldn’t have to cut out any notches. They fit snug inbetween the front and back supports. Instead of using plywood on the back I kept it open and put shelving on the top.

  5. Cory says

    Excellent, excellent, excellent! Total cost was $99 (incl tax) at Home Depot, including the screws. HD made all the cuts (for free), so the only remaining cut to be done was small notches in the plywood. I finished the entire project in less than 3 hours, primarily because most of the cutting was already done.

  6. kevin says

    Excellent plans- thanks for posting. I’ve been toying with the idea of making shelves in the basement for some time. I think this will do the trick!

    I do think there might be a small error. 123.69 inches = 10 feet 3 11/16 inches, not 12 feet. Was concerned when my tape measure was 2 feet off and wondered if I cut wrong!

    Thanks again.

  7. Meghan says

    I love these shelves and have been planning to build some to store my growing collection of storage totes, can you tell me the dimensions of the shelves? I need to know what the measurement is from the surface of one shelf to the bottom of the shelf above to make sure the totes will fit, thanks for posting this, they’re just what I was hoping to find and the pics are great!

  8. Carrie says

    I built this today. Got all of the wood from Lowes and had them cut all the pieces there, I just had to cut the notches. Only thing I found was that all the suppies cost double what you said. I guess the price of the wood was a more expensive where I went. Besides that, it turned out great!! Thank you!

    • says

      I just built these today, and I noticed mine were much more as well. My supplies were 95$ (see my other comment). However, I hear the cost of a sheet of plywood up until a few months ago was around 9$, and now it has doubled due to supply and demand over the recent hurricanes. Bummer.

  9. says

    I made these today-thanks for the plans!!
    The pricing for mine was much higher, around 95$, and I didn’t even buy as much plywood. I hear the price of plywood has doubled due the the hurricanes (and I’m in the Midwest). Still, I have looked and what I would get for 95$ at Lowes would have been a measly 6X4 instead of the 6.5X8 (double in length). And mine seems much more sturdy. So I still think it’s a great deal. Plus I loved being able to adjust the height of the shelves based on needs.
    Some changes: I only bought 2 boards of plywood, and I did not put a backing on the unit. I did put the last piece of plywood on the very top, because my basement has high ceilings. It was nice to get that extra level, and that way no wasted plywood. Also, instead of notching out the plywood around the 2X4s, I cut 5″ off each piece to slip the pieces in (pics will go up on my blog). For the other 2 units I will make I will have Lowes do this cutting-wayy easier that way.
    One thing…when you go over squaring corner to corner above, you have 123″ listed as 12 foot and change, and it should be 10 and change. I got hung up on that part, but no biggie.
    Love it-thanks!!!

  10. Marianne says

    Thank you so much for showing us how to create a basement toy storage which can be done in just few days.I suggest you must put paint on it to be more attractive.Thanks!

  11. Mark says


    Thank you for posting this shelf online. I just made one am am gonna build another today. I cannot believe how sturdy they are. Nice job!!

    I didn’t put osb on the back and therefore did not put the 5th 2×4 on. It seems very sturdy without, I hope I am not wrong. I also didn’t screw down the osb (shelves) to the supports because the weight seems to be more than enough to them hold down. My only concern is they might warp over time but I guess I can always screw them down if I see it start to happen. I want to point out that Menards sells 2x4x7’s and you could actually buy 8 of those replacing 8 of the 2x4x8’s its a bit cheaper and you wont have as much waste at the end of the job. LOVE THESE SHELVES!!! Thank you again for posting!!


    • MArk says

      Ann Marie,

      lol Where did I get “Doug” from? Oops sorry

      Today I am gonna build a “half shelf” 4 feet long instead of 8. Hope It works out. Will post the results.


  12. Missouri says

    Thanks for the post and super easy to follow instructions – just got done building a set for our basement and headed out to buy more material for a second!

  13. Tom says

    I like these plans, and I have nearly completed my shelving unit. One question though: why are the cross-beams 19.5″? If they were just a 1.5″ longer (21″ instead of 19.5″), there would be no need to notch out the plywood pieces. There was length to spare in the 2x4s that I cut into 19.5″ lengths. I am planning to screw down my shelves as well. It seems like that would be enough (to hold them in place) without notching the plywood.


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  15. Paul says

    Thanks for publishing this great design. I’m planning on building these tomorrow! (my first project for 2015!).
    I got my spreadsheet out and started planning for my basement space and how I could make these with as least was as possible with pipes and things protruding from the wall. I settled on a 75″ long unit with 4 shelves (rather than 3) which will require ten 2x4x8’s for the horizontal supports. Since I’m not going to use the full 96″, I get ten 21″ scraps which will be my ten cross support pieces and, as Tom points out above, the shelves will not require notching if I use this width of cross supports.

  16. Christophe Carlier says

    Thank you for sharing, you have given me some great ideas. I have been wanting to build some shelves in my garage for more storage space for a while now. I finally have the drive and motivation to start on this project. It will make the garage look a whole lot better and it will give me a lot more room to put many things. I think I will just build them out of wood as in your instructions. It is sturdy and relatively cheap so I think it will work great. Thanks again
    -Chris |

  17. Brian says

    I just completed this project and made two of them. It was relatively easy.
    The hardest part was getting it properly square and attaching the first set of crossbars to the bottom. You’ll need to assemble this in the room where it will rest because it is really heavy.

  18. Dave C says

    I would like to point out that what is shown in the picture is not ply wood. It is chipboard or sometimes called OSB “oriented strand board”. OSB is far cheaper than plywood, so that may contribute to some confusion on the total cost of materials.

  19. Donna Walker says

    My husband and I used these plans so I could store my preschool unit boxes in our utility room and get my dining room back. Looks great!

  20. Meryl Weprin says

    Can’t go wrong with this type of shelf. I have 4 of these in our garage. Great for organization. Thanks for the share!

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