Solving Lack of Shelf Space

Share via
From Popular Mechanics

Nearly all homeowners share one common problem--lack of storage space. Regardless of the size of their house, it seems there is never enough room to store everything. This is true especially for condominium owners and apartment dwellers.

Somehow, the longer you live in the same place, the worse the problem gets. Fortunately, easy-to-build shelving systems offer an effective, inexpensive remedy for the do-it-yourselfer.

Shelving materials are available at lumber yards and home centers. Shelves are most commonly made from particleboard, plywood or solid lumber and are either 3/4- or 1 1/2-inch thick.


Edge treatments are often applied to shelves for appearance. They can conceal exposed plywood edges, add rigidity and increase the shelf’s load capacity or simply create a decorative detail to dress up the room.

The exact shelf design you choose is determined by the weight of the items being stored and the look you desire. But remember, you might also want to store heavier items in the future, so it’s always better to overbuild the shelves slightly to prevent sagging and possible collapse.

The maximum span for each shelf between supports varies with the load and the material. As a general rule, 3/4-inch particleboard 10 inches wide can handle a load of 30 pounds per linear foot with supports 24 inches apart. You can stretch this span to 32 inches for 3/4-inch plywood or solid lumber and to as much as 60 inches for 1 1/2-inch lumber or glued up double 3/4-inch plywood.

If the shelf is reinforced with 3/4-by-2-inch wide stiffener along the front edge and a 3/4-by-2-by-6-inch long support cleat under the rear of the shelf at the middle, you can increase these spans by 50%.