Saturday, July 3, 2010

Building Shelves, Part 2

Welcome Preppers and Survivalists,

A few posts ago, I explained one method of building shelves for you and your family to increase your storage space. This article will illustrate some of the modifications; my family and I have made to the basic shelves to fit our needs and one of my mistakes when I built our shelves.

One Mistake
In the last post, I suggested nailing 20 inch pieces of 2x3 to the shelf support. The reason for this suggestion; you can see in the picture ...

sagging shelves.

I didn't add the 20 inch pieces of 2x3 to the shelf supports. Oh well, I hope to add them this winter.

When I started this article, I went with a simple 2 feet between each shelf for an easy explanation. That is all good and well, but our basement is 7 feet 7 inches to the bottom of the floor joists. Plus, I wanted to have the shelves anchored to the joists, to prevent tipping. Oh, I almost forgot; the basement floor slopes in three directions.

To solve the anchoring requirement, I took 2x4s and screwed them to the floor joists then I measured from the 2x4 to the floor. I then cut a 2x4 to that length then I test fitted the 2x4 to make dang sure it was the correct length.

Now, I can get a little crazy, but I made sure I always measured twice and cut once. Sometimes I measured three and four times before I make a cut because we don't have the bucks to buy extra 2x4s.

After test fitting, I would measure from the top of the cut 2x4 for the notches for the shelf supports.

Why from the top?

Because, if I had measured from the bottom, the shelves would not have been level. All the 2x4s are a different lengths because of the sloping floor.

After I did all the notch cutting to the cut to length 2x4s, I unscrewed the 2x4 screwed to the floor joists and screwed the cut 2x4s to the end of the 2x4s, I just removed from the floor joists. Then I screwed everything back onto the bottom of the floor joists. Yeah, I know that sounds confusing, but that's what I did.

I used 2 screws per 2x4. This is a pain because I had to have a support to keep the lumber from slipping when I was putting the screws in. Next time, I will probably use nails, Not.


It's easier to unscrew a screw than it is to pull a nail out of a piece of wood.

Another modification I did was to look at the actual distance I wanted between each shelf. Since we were going to use 12 inch high flip-top storage boxes, I needed 16 inches between each shelf (12 inch high box plus 2 1/2 inches for the support and another 1 1/2 inches, just in case) This distance between shelves also worked for the canned food we store because we could stack the cans three high.

Another modification we did was to make a set of shelves to fit four 55-gallon drums under the shelves. This required us to build a set of shelves a little longer than eight feet (just under 9 feet long). For this shelf, I had to use 2x4s that were 10 feet long as the shelf supports, so each notch is 3 1/2 inched tall and 1 1/2 inch deep.

For this set of shelves, I cut one end of the plywood just like I did in the first article. The other end I left uncut because the shelf is just under 9 feet long. Because I wanted the shelves to meet in the middle like the other shelves, I had to add short pieces of wood to the shelf. For the bottom shelf, it is about 50 inches above the floor, I took a piece of plywood and cut it into an "H" shape. The top shelf, I just cut a piece of plywood to fit.

This set of shelves is also only 20 inches deep. I wanted to be able to empty the 55-gallon drums with a hand-pump without hitting my hand on a shelf. To accomplish emptying the 55-gallon drums, I positioned the drums with one hole at the very front, so I can easily fit the hand-pump into the drum.

To get the correct height for these shelves, I put a 55-gallon drum on a pallet, a piece of plywood on the drum, and a flip-top box on top the plywood and measured the height of everything. This distance was the bottom cut for the shelf supports. I measured up 3 1/2 inches, because I was using 2x4s, then a measured again for my next shelf.

Another modification, we did was to have the middle "floating" 2x4, from the last article about shelves, stop at the last set of shelf supports. This gave us almost eight feet of clear space on top of the shelves to store stuff.

Storing Your Supplies
When you are planning your shelves, you also need to plan how you are going to store stuff on the shelves.

Let me explain.

First, you want heavy stuff on the bottom shelves, and light stuff on the very top shelves. Next, you want any liquids on a bottom shelf or on a shelf that if it leaks the liquid won't cause any problem like contaminating your stored water supply. Lastly, if you live in earthquake country, you want to put glass jars on bottom shelves and add pieces of wood to the front of the shelves to keep stuff from flying of the shelf during an earthquake.

Well folks, that was it.

Until Riverwalker, from Stealth Survival, wrote me and told me he had never seen 2x3s and thought the 2x4s in the picture were 4x4s, so I will be doing a small project to round out this series of articles.

The project will be making a work bench. The techniques, I will write about, can also be used to make shelves using 4x4s and 2x4s.

Updated: 3 Jul 10
Distance for the Walkways
When we planned our shelves, we set aside a space 14 feet wide and as long as the basement. It took some thought and many redesigns to get the maximum square footage of shelves.

Once I had two sets of shelves built, I moved them back and forth to get the best (for us) distance between the shelves for the walkways. I finally settled on 32 inches. This allows us enough space to stand in front of the shelf and pull a storage box off the shelf.

But, I ran into a problem. One walkway would have be 26 inches, if I used 2 feet deep shelves. I found that too narrow, so I cut one inch off the depth of each shelf. So, in all the pictures for this post, the shelves are only 23 inches deep, except for two.

The shelves that are not 23 inches deep are the one for the 55-gallon water barrels (20 inches) and the one for our canned goods. (It's the third picture from the top) It's 18 inches deep. The perfect depth to hold cans six deep.

Now, all of the shelves are eight feet long. This allows a 6 foot walkway at the ends of the shelves. This six feet allows us to use pallets to store bulk food in five-gallon buckets, such as wheat, rice, and beans, and I still have about a 3 feet walkway.


Finally, make sure you plan your homemade shelves. Take your time and remember ...

If you don't like the way the shelves turned out, you can start over and do them again.