Ah, the extra boxes and bins. I’m sure you have them too. They lurk in the corners of your closets and garages, waiting for that perfect season or month to become relevant again. The bin full of foam pumpkins and fall leaves, the box bursting with tinsel and ornaments. The one size of outgrown clothes that the next kid isn’t quite big enough for. Or maybe it’s the grass seed and fertilizer, the paint cans and brushes, or the yard games and camping equipment. All things, that in due time, have glorious purpose. But when they are tagged out for the season, where do you put them? With my closet space limited, and taller ceilings in our garage, we decided to look into some overhead storage.  

When choosing the best overhead garage storage system for your space, there are a few things that you need to consider. Carefully plan how, where, and what size system you are going to be installing to maximize storage space. The style and brand of the system are important to look at as well, to determine safety options and durability. Determine what you would like to store and if it can be done safely, given the dimensions and weight the unit can hold. Also, consider the load your ceiling can hold, and if proper installation is something that you can DIY or will need a professional for.  

Is Overhead Garage Storage Systems Safe? 

Okay, the nightmare seems real – rigging up some sort of shelving, piling all the decore and yard equipment in neat rows, only to have Mayhem’s younger brother visit in the middle of the night via shoddy workmanship. A couple of shattered car windshields and a heap of once-tidy bins later . . . most people skip the worst-case scenarios and just buy floor shelving. But before you count out this option entirely, know that with a few considerations, these can be an excellent addition to your garage. With proper planning, a trusted build for the system, careful choices of what to store overhead, and proper installation, overhead storage systems for your garage are a very viable option.  

How to Plan for Overhead Storage 

First, you will need to properly plan out where you are going to install your overhead garage storage units. Here are some questions you will need to answer, with your tape measure in hand, as you navigate the decision-making process.   

  • Assess what you plan to store – What are the dimensions and combined weight of your boxes and items?   
  • How low would you like the shelves to hang in the garage?  
  • Will they interfere with anything else in the garage? (Water heater? Standing shelving? Vehicles?) 
  • Will they block or limit access to the garage attic entrance?  
  • Which way are the trusses running for when you install the system?  

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but at least it will get you started as you begin looking at purchasing options.  

What Should Consider When Choosing an Overhead Garage Storage System? 

After you have a general idea about the logistics of your space and items, choosing the storage racks themselves is your next step. Here are some things to look for:  

Size 

From my research, most overhead storage size options are either 4 ft x 8 ft, or 4 ft x 4 ft. I did find some other manufacturers that had smaller options, typically being 3 ft x 3ft, but these typically had a much smaller weight capacity than the larger options. This is the unit that I am considering, (Amazon link). There are also some more “shelf-like” options that can be suspended from the ceiling that give you some other size variables. These other variables generally ranged in 2 ft x 8 ft, 2 ft x 4 ft, and the already mentioned 4 ft x 8 ft, or 4 ft x 4 ft. If you want to see if this is a better option for your situation, (Amazon Link)

Placement 

You want to optimize your storage options when it comes to purchasing the correct unit for your garage. In my situation, I have an entry door, a side access door, the main garage door, and a tankless water unit all approaching the ceiling in my garage, along with my attic entrance. A careful plan is needed to best maximize my overhead storage options so everything will fit and still be functional. Because of this new version of Tetris, I am using a combination of both the suspending overhead storage system options and the type that bolts to the sidewall and is suspended from the ceiling. You may need to consider a similar hybrid if you have several essential things (like doors) to dance around when measuring out your garage. 

How Does the Unit Secure to the Ceiling? 

When looking at overhead storage units, pay special attention to the feet and how they secure to the ceiling. Most options will have a foot that you can use lags to secure to the ceiling truss. I am personally of the opinion that it might be better to drill and use a grade 8 bolt with a washer to eliminate the possibility of the lag stripping the wood, but I would say follow the manufacturer’s instruction manual. 

The part that I really like about some of these brands available are the ones that have the 24-inch piece of angle iron at the foot. This allows for the overhead storage system to span across two trusses per foot to help disperse the weight of the overall unit and the items you are storing on it. 

What Material Should the Shelving Be Made of? 

In our article on How to Choose Garage Storage Cabinets, I discuss floor shelving and how to choose the right kind for your garage. While wood and plastic may be viable options for cabinets, I strongly recommend choosing a unit that is made of steel, rather than DIYing a set of ceiling-hanging shelves yourself out of something else. The durability alone adds a level of safety for yourself and your things, as well as tested installation practices for attaching to the ceiling.  

Does it Have a Safety Lip? 

When looking at overhead shelving options, it is wise to look at one that has a lip to catch items you are storing from sliding off the back or the front of the unit. If you already have made a choice on the shelving system you are going to use, maybe look at adding a piece of slotted angle iron to create a makeshift lip. This protects the people and things under the unit when you are shifting things around.  

How Much Can Overhead Garage Storage Hold? 

After you have determined which unit will work best for your space, it a good idea to revisit your storage needs. When looking at the different options for overhead garage storage, it looked like the maximum weight capacity in most cases was 600 lbs. However, depending on the manufacturer, the overall size of the product you purchased, and how heavy duty the system is, will factor into the overall weight that that specific overhead storage system can support. Look at the manufacturer guide to determine what capacity that specific product is able to withstand.  

One last tip here: it doesn’t hurt to over-guestimate the weight of the items you are wanting to store overhead. The pricing difference for one that has a higher capacity is not drastically higher than a base model, and it is better to purchase something with a higher duty rating rather than going over the weight capacity and threatening the integrity of the unit. 

How Much Weight Can My Garage Ceiling Hold? 

One final thing you should look into before rigging up your new unit is your ceiling capacity. From the information that I was able to find, the typical residential truss load is 10-12lbs per square foot. If your garage is finished (I.e. drywalled), you will need to consider the weight of the drywall in the overall load that your garage truss is having to hold.  

For garages that are older, or do not have a truss setup as a part of their roof, the overall weight that your garage is able to withstand is greatly reduced. I would consider 5-8lbs per square foot to be considered if your garage is built in this fashion. 

More than just the ceiling being able to hold the weight, I am personally more concerned with how to best secure the overhead storage so that the screws do not strip or break, or the wood gives way under the weight. I have been known to overthink and overbuild when it comes to projects, but my kids, wife, and I are going to be in and out of this garage. Because of that, I am thinking about drilling holes and through bolting the overhead storage system with grade 8 bolts to the truss and using washers so that it stays secure to the ceiling. 

Another Option: Motorized Overhead Garage Storage Systems 

If you need easier access to the products you are storing, are opposed to using a ladder, or are limited to being able to hoist boxes and other items onto the overhead storage racks, not all is lost. It is a more expensive option, but a pretty cool option. You can install a motorized overhead garage storage system so you can take advantage of your ceiling space, while also making it ground level accessible.  

These units typically work off a pull system that one, or multiple, hoist motors to lift and lower the rack. This type of storage rack will typically run off a downloadable app, or a controller mounted to the wall. These units provide easy access to the items being stored, while also making it easy and safe to use your ceiling as a storage opportunity. After looking at the options available for this type of unit, Racor is what we would highly recommend.

Time to Get Started with Your Overhead Storage! 

Your clear floors and organized seasonal bins are closer than you think! With careful planning, some excellent purchasing options, and a little organizational confidence, your garage will take on a whole new look with just a weekend project.