Updating the basement shelving

Basement, Blog, Home, Woodworking / Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

I’m particular. 

I have a standard of quality. If my name is going to be tied to something, I want it to be something I’m proud of. This is a trait I developed in my twenties, unfortunately too late to apply to my schoolwork. It drives Ellie crazy at times.

When I look at something needing to be done, I ask myself, “What is the right way to do this?” Rarely am I looking for the easy way, but if it lines up with the right way then so be it. It’s better to have to spend more time doing something once the right way than have to do it more than once the wrong way.

Last year, for example, Ellie’s mom found an old wash stand at a garage sale and gave it to us because Ellie had been looking for something of the sort. It was covered in marigold/goldenrod paint and there must have been a few layers beneath. We didn’t want it that color because it didn’t fit us. The easy way would have been to do what had been done to it over the years, just slap another coat of paint onto it and call it a day. To this, I pushed back. I’ve lived in apartments where they’ve done that and the thick layers of pain add up and just look sloppy and cheap. We stripped the cabinet, sanded it, and then slapped on a coat of paint and some stain and I believe the result is far better than we could have achieved if we had taken the easy route.

So that’s how I can be particular. What, then, does it have to do with basement shelving? So much.

When we moved into our house, half of our basement was outfitted with a number of shelving units that had been pieced together over the years. Great for storing stuff and we didn’t need to build or buy the shelves. So we loaded them up with all the stuff that wasn’t needed. A chunk of my shelves, the chunk that abuts my shop and the same shelves which needed dust protection, housed a number of my tools. The more I stored on the shelves, the more I could see that whoever built them did not share my view on quality.

They bowed. They bowed a lot.

The four shelves are built rather simply. Three rows of uprights with shelves across all three uprights. This is how you build shelving units, right? The uprights were made of 2x4s but the shelves themselves were particle board. Particle board is cheap. It can be durable if it is used correctly. But since in this case the eight feet of particle board is supported at only three points, I don’t believe it was used correctly.

What is a Danny to do?

Well, I decided to pull off the particle board and replace it with 1x4s. At the home store, 1x4s are like $2 each. Since the shelves are 24″ deep, I would need 6 boards per shelf and that would leave a bit of space between each board (because nominal measurements are a lie). In total, 24 boards needed. $48. More than I’d like but worth every penny.

Since the shelves are littered with junk, and my basement is only so large, I decided I would only clear off one shelf at a time and remove the old to install the new. This worked well since there was plenty of space to work on each shelf (though the top shelf needed a ladder to work on). Additionally, I was able to start going through the junk that was there and better organize it. Like I said, these were loaded with junk when we moved in but that junk needed to be sorted and judiciously gone through. I took some extra time to do this and I couldn’t be happier.

The whole process took me about three hours spread out over a week. Most of the effort was in removing the stuff from each shelf. After that, I used a pry bar to pull the nails out. The shelves came out, and I snapped the really saggy lower shelves in half and hauled them to the garbage bin. After that, six boards were space out on the uprights. I put a nail in each board on one end, and then two on the other end to make sure they lined up nicely. Then I went back to put one nail in the middle upright for each board, and finally a second nail on the first end. Nice and sturdy. Once that was done, I loaded the shelves back up. 

Now, I couldn’t be happier with the shelves. There’s more space to store stuff because I consolidated and organized and threw things out. There’s still more I can get rid of too. 

Now that I have the empty space, I’m sensing a next project. I want to add some cubbies to one of the shelves so I can organize and store my power tools all in once neat space. Right now, they’re on the lower shelf of a kitchen island in my shop. Not ideal because things are hard to get to.

What do you have that isn’t up to your standard of doing things?

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