The Best Shelving Options for the Garage
Get organized with strong, sturdy, and stylish storage shelves that suit your gear and your garage space.
It’s quite difficult to get anything accomplished in a cluttered garage or workshop where supplies, tools, and other gear can’t be easily accessed, let alone found. While there are various types of garage storage solutions out there, one of the most reliable and least expensive is shelving—flat lengths of rigid material that provide a sturdy surface for storing just about anything. Power tools, paint cans, seasonal gear—solid shelves can bear the weight of virtually all your belongings and keep them protected from damage. Of course, not all shelving is made equal. So ahead, be sure to read our insights on what to keep in mind when choosing the best garage shelving for your needs.
- BEST WALL MOUNT: Fleximounts Floating Wall Shelves
- BEST CEILING MOUNT: Fleximounts Overhead Garage Storage Rack
- BEST FREESTANDING: Seville Classics 5-Tier Steel Wire Shelving
- BEST ADJUSTABLE: Fleximounts 3-Tier Storage Wall Shelves
- BEST DIY KIT: 2x4basics ShelfLinks Custom Storage System
Types of Garage Shelving
The best garage shelving is mainly distinguished by the material it’s made from, and whether it’s freestanding or mounted to the wall or ceiling. Prices will vary depending on the material, shelf size, quality, and brand.
Wooden shelves are beautiful and sustainable, adding style to your work and storage spaces. Hardwood shelving like oak and maple is strong and durable. Softwoods such as pine, as well as pressed wood like plywood and chipboard, can handle light-duty storage but can warp, buckle, and break under heavy loads. Freestanding wooden shelving units can be moved fairly easily wherever you need storage, while wall-mounted shelves are fixed into structural studs via metal brackets, and firmly attached to your walls. If you decide to build your own shelving unit from a kit, look for one that comes with all the hardware parts you need, as well as clear instructions; note that lumber may not be included.
Metal and Wire Shelving
Metal (typically steel) shelves can hold heavy loads and come in a variety of sizes. Another advantage to metal shelving is it’s very easy to clean—a non-porous material, metal won’t absorb chemicals or paint in case of a spill. Metal shelves may come painted black or powder-coated with a protective finish to resist rust and damage.
While solid metal shelves are useful for heavy-duty equipment, wire shelves offer the strength of metal without the weight. They’re typically made of steel or chrome mesh: a surface of connected metal strands that form a sturdy grid, web, or net. These shelves are designed for paint cans, tools, bins, and boxes; make sure any smaller items (loose nails and screws, for example) are inside larger containers before storing on wire shelves so they won’t fall through the mesh gaps.
Solid metal shelves are often found in freestanding units, as they can be quite heavy to fix directly to the wall. Wire shelves can be freestanding or mounted to walls and ceilings.
Adjustable Rail Shelves
Depending on what you intend to store, you may want the freedom to change the height of your shelves to gain more or less space between tiers. Adjustable rail shelves offer this flexibility, thanks to vertical metal tracks you install into the wall. These tracks are slotted at equal intervals, with metal brackets designed to be fitted into each slot. To change the position of your shelf, simply remove it, move the brackets up or down, and refit your shelf at this new height. Commonly made of steel wire, adjustable shelves can easily hold heavy objects, as long as the brackets are also welded metal.
Key Shopping Considerations
Once you’ve selected a shelving material, decide whether you want freestanding or mounted shelves and, if the latter, how they’ll be attached to the wall or ceiling. Then carefully measure the intended space and learn how to install them.
The three most popular and functional styles of garage shelving are freestanding, wall-mounted, and ceiling-mounted.
- Freestanding units provide flexibility and mobility, since they are not attached to any surface, but can also take up valuable floor space and get in the way of other functions (like parking your car). They are typically made of wood, metal, or a combination of both.
- Wall-mounted shelves are fixed into studs (vertical structural beams) at regular intervals using metal brackets. The metal, wire, or wooden shelf is then fitted onto this bracket for maximum stability and strength.
- Ceiling-mounted shelves are fixed into ceiling studs using long, adjustable metal brackets and are ideal for storing seasonal items and equipment you use more occasionally out of the way. Welded steel construction can provide safe and reliable storage (up to 600 pounds of weight). Access these shelves using a ladder or step stool.
Dimensions and Capacity
While everyone’s storage space is different, there are certain parameters to which you should adhere. Wall-mounted shelves and freestanding units should range between 12 inches deep (for small items such as paint cans and hand tools) 16 inches deep (for larger items such as clothing and book boxes). For convenient access and visibility, aim for shelves that will adequately hold boxes and other items without being so deep that they cut into the surrounding space or hide gear stored in the back. For ceiling-mounted units, look for dimensions at least 2 feet by 3 feet, and larger if you’ll be storing bulky items like golf clubs or other sports equipment.
Shelf length can vary widely, depending on your spatial requirements. Measure how long your ideal shelves would be, then look for prefab shelving that approximates this length. Three-foot, 4-foot, and 6-foot lengths are popular for most residential garage spaces. Note that if you a purchase a garage shelving kit, you can usually build shelves to whatever length you like.
In terms of weight-bearing capacity, be wary of shelving units that claim to bear up to 1,000 pounds. It’s likely that a maximum bearing load for a single shelf is between 100 and 400 pounds (capacity is typically found on the product label). If you have a lot to store, consider multiple shelves rather than overstraining a single shelf. This is especially important with ceiling- or wall-mounted shelves, since if the weight load is too great, shelves can pull away from the surface, causing superficial or structural damage.
With freestanding shelving units, simply assemble (if needed), position into place, and start organizing—no installation required. Wall- and ceiling-mounted shelves require careful positioning into studs, the beams that serve as structural supports in a frame building. Wall studs are spaced at 16- or 24-inch intervals (measured from the center of the wall) and run from floor to ceiling. To locate a stud, you can use an electronic stud finder or a manual method. Once you locate the studs, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the shelves. For wall-mounted units, consider spacing shelves at least a foot apart, to give yourself as much flexibility and storage capacity as possible. Ceiling units should be adjustable, so you can vary the height depending on your needs.
Installing adjustable rail shelving also requires locating studs, then firmly attaching the metal track to the studs with screws. Some rail tracks are compatible with concrete walls as well as drywall. Be sure to read instructions prior to purchase, as some tracks can only be installed into wooden studs, not steel studs. Once the tracks are well-positioned and attached, secure your brackets into the slots, and place your shelves on top.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST WALL MOUNT: Fleximounts Floating Wall Shelves
These classic black wire shelves from Fleximounts are a study in simplicity. The company prides itself on manufacturing storage products that are easy for one person to install on his or her own. Clear and detailed instructions are included, along with all the hardware you’ll need, and even a bubble level to help you ensure accuracy. Each kit comes with two wire shelves and the high-quality screws and brackets you’ll need for mounting. Choose from five different shelf sizes (1-foot-by-3-foot; 1-foot-by-4-foot; 1-foot-by-6-foot; 2-foot-by-4-foot; and 2-foot-by-6-foot), and arrange the shelves however you like—side by side or stacked. Thanks to their heavy-duty steel construction, each shelf can bear up to 400 pounds.
2. BEST CEILING MOUNT: Fleximounts Overhead Garage Storage Rack
Designed for stashing seasonal gear and equipment you don’t use often, these ceiling storage dropdown units are 96 inches long, 48 inches wide, and 22 to 40 inches high (adjustable, depending on your needs). Thanks to their sturdy, lasting, rolled-steel construction, you’ll feel secure when walking underneath—believe it or not, this rack can bear up to 600 pounds. Unlike other ceiling units made of plywood or wire, the welded metal of the Fleximounts delivers the utmost in safety and durability.
3. BEST FREESTANDING: Seville Classics 5-Tier Steel Wire Shelving
With eight different sizes to choose from, Seville’s moveable wire shelves are versatile and good looking. Made of commercial-grade, chrome-plated steel wire, this unit is also certified for food equipment storage in dry environments. Shelves range from 24 to 60 inches wide, and 18 to 24 inches deep. Each can hold up to 800 pounds, even as the 4-inch castor wheels allow for smooth and easy positioning. Some assembly is required.
4. BEST ADJUSTABLE: Fleximounts 3-Tier Storage Wall Shelves
Fleximounts’ adjustable rail shelving system features adjustable metal rails to precisely meet your individual storage needs and height requirements. Meanwhile, thanks to their steel construction, each shelf can bear up to 100 pounds, giving the tiered unit a 300-pound capacity distributed evenly between the three shelves. Attach the system to wood wall studs or solid concrete, but be aware that large gaps in the wire mesh mean that these shelves are best suited to accommodate large items and/ or smaller objects stored in boxes. (Alternatively, the shelves can be covered with thick plastic lining or particleboard.) Templates provided by the manufacturer make it easy to mount the holes necessary for installation, and the included bubble level makes positioning a cinch.
5. BEST DIY KIT: 2x4basics ShelfLinks Custom Storage System
Enjoy the beauty, functionality, and all-natural feel of wooden shelves custom-tailored to your needs with this DIY kit from 2x4basics. Durable brackets and screws are included, so all you’ll need is lumber cut to your desired length and width. Step-by-step instructions are provided, and the only tools required are a power screwdriver and saw. The brand claims that finished units hold up to 1,000 pounds each, although bear in mind that your results will depend on the type of wood you choose to use, as well as on your carpentry skills.