Best Storage Shelves: Buying Guide

If there’s one spot in your home that’s bound to be a cluttered mess, it’s your garage or home workshop. Since organizing robots are still far off into the future, the best way to keep your space free from messes is by installing storage shelves.

There are several types of shelves that you can keep in your workshop to keep your tools, equipment, and supplies in check. After all, there’s nothing worse than looking for that ¼-inch ratchet you saw a million times when you didn’t need it but suddenly vanishes when you’re looking for it. So strap in as we explore the exciting world of storage shelves and spaces for your at-home workshop.

Types of Storage Shelves

Storage shelves don’t need to be all that fancy. Their main task is to turn unused vertical space into places where you can store tools and supplies. There are generally two types of storage shelves available – wall-mounted shelves and freestanding shelves.

Wall-Mounted

Wall-mounted shelves are made of heavy-duty wires, which is powerful to hold onto quite a lot of weight. These shelves are quite inexpensive and are extremely easy to install. Wall-mounted shelves do not enclose tools in a casing which promotes air circulation while simultaneously reducing the risk of moisture damage.

This type of storage shelve saves a ton of space since they don’t require large support frames to keep the shelves in place. However, once they’re installed, there’s practically no moving them around, unless you’d like to detach the supports and mount them on another wall – a process that many, including us, find too annoying to do.

In addition, the minimal appearance of wall-mounted shelves can do a lot to improve the aesthetics of your workspace. This may not be of tremendous importance, but hey, it’s still something worth noting.

Freestanding

Freestanding shelves are those that don’t have to remain stagnant in one spot. A freestanding shelf can make handy work go by a lot quicker if you can lug your tools around in a giant case instead of having to go to the storage spot and reach up. These shelves are designed with space in mind; to help organize messy tools and accessories while you’re within an arm’s length of your work.

Freestanding shelves are ideal for people who aren’t unsure whether they’d like to truly dedicate a portion of a wall to immovable wall-mounted shelves. However, they do take up quite a bit of air and floor space (depending on the overall size of the unit), and even on casters, moving them around can be a bit of a challenge.

Storage Shelves Buying Guide

Before shelling out your hard earned dollars on any random shelf, you should know exactly what to look for in a storage shelf. In this section, we’ll go over what sort of things to pay attention to when shopping for either a wall-mounted storage shelf or a freestanding one.

For Wall-Mounted Storage Shelves

Shelf Construction

There are two main parts of a wall-mounted shelf – the horizontal shelves where items are placed on top of, and the supports which keep the shelves on the wall. Materials like MDF and particleboard are known for their sturdiness. You may also be interested in acrylic shelves that add a sleek, modern look to your workshop.

Brackets

There are several support styles you can choose to keep your wall-mounted shelves in place. The most common are triangle support brackets made of steel or another durable metal. Corrosion-proof metals like aluminum alloy would work best in places where high humidity levels are a problem.

If you’d like to give your workshop a modern look, consider getting floating shelves with hidden brackets. The only drawback of floating shelves is that their brackets are tiny compared to traditional wall-mounted storage supports, and thus cannot bear a ton of weight.

Adjustable Brackets

One of the handiest features in wall-mounted storage shelves is adjustable brackets, but this depends entirely on the design of the brackets. Traditional shelves rely on regular triangle brackets, but there are several supports with slots that let you move the shelves up and down when needed. This is extremely handy when you need to store tall objects on the middle shelves.

Weight Capacity

The type of material used to make the shelves, as well as the brackets, determine how much weight the shelves can bear. Most pre-made wall-mounted shelf kits are made to carry between 100 and 150 pounds.

The appropriate weight capacity depends on what sort of objects you plan on storing on the shelves. Heavy tools like circular saws or angle grinders will require not only more space between shelves but also thicker brackets to support its weight.

Shelf Length

Before deciding on which pre-made wall-mount shelf to get, make sure that it fits in your workshop. Take time to measure the areas of your wall where you plan on mounting the shelves. Otherwise, you may end up getting something far too big. Of course, if you end up with something too long, you could always cut off the excess with a circular or table saw.

Installation Tip

Since you need to install wall-mount shelves on your own manually, you should have the right tools for the job. This, of course, means having a level to ensure that it’s perfectly parallel to your workshop’s floor. To simplify matters, we’d recommend getting a laser guide with an automatic leveling feature.

For Freestanding Storage Shelves

Stories

Having a multi-story freestanding shelf is a good idea if you have different supplies for different types of projects. Although more stories means more storage space, it means taking up more space air space in your workshop. Additionally, a taller shelf is harder to move around if it’s on casters.

Casters

If the shelf is sitting comfortable on casters, then it should be able to move freely around your workshop without a hitch. Larger casters are preferable since they’ll help not only allow the shelf to glide seamlessly across your floors, but they’ll add additional support and bear some of the weight of whatever’s stored on the shelves. Furthermore, casters can lock into place so accidental movement can be avoided. Just make sure that you double-check whether the wheels are locked or not.

However, casters on a shelf aren’t always needed, especially if you’re workshop is limited in space. There’s no point in organizing all your tools and supplies neatly on the shelf if it’ll end up bumping against tables and spilling everything you’ve worked hard to organize.

Shelf Construction

Like wall-mounted shelves, freestanding shelves use wooden or composite shelves to help organize your workshop. Whether you’re going movable shelf or not, it’s a good idea to go with thick, sturdy shelves, though the construction of the frame is of much greater importance in ensuring stability. Make sure that the thickness of the shelves is sufficient in supporting the weight of whatever objects are stored in the shelves. Bowing and bending is common in shelves, but if you splurge a little bit more on quality shelves, then purchasing replacements are years and years away.

Frame Construction

And just like wall-mounted shelves, the frames and supports of freestanding shelves should be made of durable metal to help prop up the boards. Some freestanding units come with adjustable racks which allow you to move the shelves up and down to support the height of different objects. Of course, increasing the distance between each shelf means reducing the number of stories. You may want to consider purchasing extra-tall freestanding shelves if you can manage it.

Length

Having extra-long cabinets can be a good idea if you’re getting a stagnant freestanding cabinet. Super-long shelves can be difficult to move and maneuver around cramped workshops. The appropriate length of movable and immovable shelves depends on the amount of space you can dedicate in your workshop. In our experience, anything longer than 6 feet can be tricky and possibly too dangerous to move, even in wide-open spaces.

Weight

The overall weight of the shelf only matters if you’re getting a movable unit with casters. Lightweight shelves are easier to move but are typically made of thinner or less sturdy materials which will not exactly carry a ton of weight. Conversely, a heavier freestanding shelf will be able to carry larger tools and more supplies but can be a pain in the back to move. The middle-ground of all of this is to get a unit with thick, sturdy MDF shelves and an aluminum alloy frame that’s limited to two or three stories.

Other Storage Options

Perhaps shelves aren’t doing it for you. This is understandable since walls can be dedicated to other things like construction plans, and maybe you need the floor space to cram large tools and your car in your garage. Lucky for you, there are several other storage options to choose from.

Utility Cabinets

Utility cabinets are perhaps the most eye-appealing storage system out there. They’re typically made of composite materials, wood, and/or metal. These cabinets come with drawers for smaller objects, small shelves for moderately sized tools, and some cabinets have pegboards which let you hang whatever tool you want on movable hooks.

Tool Chests

Metal tool chests are typically used by mechanics to store hand tools and their accessories, so if you’re a woodworker or metalworker looking to keep electric tools out of sight, this is not for you. Tool chests come with several wide drawers for easy organization. They also typically roll around on casters so you won’t have to walk back and forth to access your tools.

Storage Containers

Storage containers are probably the most basic storage system available. They are large, plastic containers that are usually around 1 x 2 x 2 feet. The problem with these containers is that there’s no way to organize their contents. Whatever you throw inside of the container will get jumbled around.

Rafters

Rafters are probably the simplest way to organize your tools. These are extremely beneficial for keeping large objects off of the floor – e.g. ladders, bicycles, and certain woodworking tools. They come in a variety of different sizes and lengths and are extremely easy to install if you have particleboard partitions in your workshop. If your workspace is surrounded in plastered walls, rafters may not be the ideal choice.

Final Remarks

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. This is our extensive guide on what storage shelves are and how to find the right shelving unit for your workshop.

Storage shelves are one of the most effective ways to organize tools, supplies, and other objects by keeping them off the floor or from cluttering your workbench. There are two types of storage shelves to choose from, each with their own set of ups and downs: wall-mounted shelves and freestanding shelves.

Wall-mounted storage shelves require a bit of planning to ensure that you’re utilizing your wall space best. They can’t move around unless you detach the brackets which can leave unsightly marks in their wake. To find the best wall-mounted shelving unit, the shelves should be made of a durable material (MDF, particleboard, acrylic) and rest on heavy-duty brackets made of either steel or aluminum alloy.

As for freestanding shelving units, apart from the actual construction of the shelves, you need to make sure that you have enough air and floor space to accommodate them. A moveable shelf on casters is nice, but you can only feel the benefits of maneuverability of you have a wide-open workshop, otherwise your best bet is to get a stagnant model on stands.

If you’re looking for other storage options, there are plenty of alternatives out there. However, in terms of storage space and organization, nothing compares to long shelves that carry upwards of 100 pounds per story. In the end, what truly matters is how many types of tools you have, what tools they are, and how disorganized your current storage system is. Happy shopping!

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Storage Shelves

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