How to Build Attic Storage Shelves

What You'll Need
Plywood/particle board
Tape measure
Builders square
Spirit level
Safety glasses

Attic storage can free up space in other areas of your house, leaving closets and garages free of clutter. Attic storage still needs to be organized, though. Installing shelves for totes and boxes will help you keep things neat, organized, and easy to find. This guide will show you how to do just that. Make sure you set aside quite a bit of time, though; building shelving is not a quick job.

Step 1—Assess the Space

Make sure your attic is properly ventilated and insulated before considering storing anything in it. It wouldn’t hurt to know how much weight the attic can support and whether you need a permit to modify your attic. You’ll need sufficient lighting, as well.

Next, consider the layout and how you can use the space to its optimal potential. Gable walls provide the best storage areas because you can build shelves on them and customize cabinets along them. Other walls, however, even under-eave wall spaces, can house shelving, too.

Step 2—Measure

Measure the space and design your shelf layout on graph paper. Measure in several spots: down low, in the middle, and at the top of the wall, to be sure the walls are straight.

Step 3—Decide on Material

If you’re not looking for anything fancy, don’t use the same materials you would for a bookshelf in your family room. Plywood is fairly economical, durable, and easy to use. Particle board is another good choice. Consider brackets, screws, wood glue, braces, and nails when deciding what you will need.

Talk to someone with experience at the hardware store or lumberyard before purchasing. Their knowledge might lead you toward a better or different material than you’d considered.

Step 4—Build a Shelf

Cut the perpendicular boards to form the sides of the storage units. After that, mark on the vertical boards the distance you’ve planned out between the shelves. Cut 1x1 pieces to fit across (two for each shelf on the unit) and screw them into place using the marks you made. These will support your shelves.

Cut the top board to the width of your unit, attach it and then cut the boards that will fit into the distance between the sides of your unit. Screw these boards to the 1x1 supports. Paint as desired.

Step 5—Put in a Knee Wall

Install a knee wall under the eaves. This is the type of attic space that goes unused if not for storage. Install shelving in that space, nailing it in securely so it stays in place.

Step 6—Consider Pull-Out Storage

If you’ve got unfinished truss spaces, you can put in pull-out storage containers. They are installed on a platform that you pull out from between trusses and put back in to keep out of the way.

Step 7—Corner Shelves

Don’t forget to use your corners. Even a corner shelf can be valuable storage space.