How to Install Hanging Garage Shelves

Hanging garage shelves are one of the best ways to maximize the storage space in your garage. They are versatile and can be installed above cabinets and vehicles, leaving floor space for other things. They can also be stacked, one under another on the same wall, and some can be suspended from each other. Depending on your budget and needs, there are some amazing options to choose from when it comes to hanging garage shelves.  

My dad and I had a couple different conversations about hanging garage shelves when we both purchased newly built homes in 2019. In his case, he had a three-car garage and had the space to put in basically whatever he wanted when it came to hanging garage shelving. His issue though was that he has a lower ceiling so hanging garage shelving was his only option since overhead racks would hang too low and would impede the walkway. In my situation, I needed storage. I needed overhead racks, but I also needed hanging garage shelves. Since the new house was limited with closet storage, hanging garage shelves became immediately appealing when we explored options for where to put our things. 

Having suspended storage can be very handy, but if not properly installed, can be dangerous for people in your garage or disastrous to your things stored above and below. I did some research to ensure that my shelving would be secure and installed correctly, streamlining the look, and giving peace of mind.  

To correctly install hanging garage shelves:

  • Measure the dimensions, use a stud finder to locate a place to secure the shelves.
  • Ensure the clearance won’t limit access to fixtures or damage doorways.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for assembly and installation.
  • Secure the shelves into the center of the stud – make sure they are level.

Before You Purchase Your Hanging Garage Shelves – Measure and Assess! 

Just like with any project that involves major changes (and drilling holes into things), I suggest that you get some accurate measurements of your space. Draw a diagram of your garage, use your tape measure, and get every inch documented so you have it handy before you find your shelving. It will do you no good to purchase a unit, only to find when you unbox it that it will not work with what you have.   

ALSO: Before you start measuring the wall to find that ideal spot, you will need to get a stud finder and determine exactly where the studs are in the wall. You are going to be, in part, at the mercy of where those studs line up, for where you are going to be able to install those hanging garage shelves. 

Another thing to note is the depth of the shelves you purchase. Some units, like the one we purchased from NewAge Products, have options like 2’ x 8’ and a 4’ x 8’ wall-mounted hanging garage shelves. Our original plan was to place the 4’ depth shelf on the back wall and the 2’ on the sidewall. But things can shift around once you have purchased a unit and have it in your garage and are holding the sidebar of the shelf out to see how far it would hang out from the wall. It can make the visualization completely different. If you can, use your tape measure, or a piece of scrap wood cut to the right length to ensure you are happy with the depth.  

Ensure Your Hanging Garage Shelves Will Play Nice With Your Space 

Other things you should have on your radar before your buy your hanging shelving unit involve what’s already being stored or taking up space in your garage. Here are some things we ran into that we hope may help your process as well.  

As you measure your space, ask yourself: 

  • How much room do I need between the ceiling and the unit? (How tall are the boxes and bins that I want to store?) 
  • Am I planning to stack the shelving unit shelves? 
  • When they are installed, will the shelves . . . 
  • Limit access to light fixtures or attic entry? 
  • Impede doors from fully opening? 
  • Limit access to your water filter, water heater, etc?  
  • How much clearance do I need under the unit? (Will the shelves hang at a precarious height?) 
  • Will kids or adults hit their heads? 
  • Will vehicle doors be damaged? 

Thinking through every corner of your space can pay in extra time on the back end of your project.   And once your fancy new unit arrives, you won’t want important details like these to slow down your process when you are ready to install.  

Recommended Hanging Garage Shelves  

Now the fun part! Shopping for those shelves to fit your garage. Armed with your dimensions and limitations, you are well on your way to finding the ideal unit for your garage! There are several options to consider for dimensions, budget, and what type or brand is going to work best for your garage. I will add though that not all hanging garage shelves are created equal. Think about what you plan to store, as weight capacity plays a large role when you suspend things from the joists in your ceiling. The material that the unit is made from as well as how the weight is dispersed between the struts are also good things to read up on. 

Make Sure You Secure Your Hanging Garage Shelves in a Stud 

When you install your hanging garage shelves, make sure to locate the stud when planning out the installation. When I was installing my hanging garage shelves, I like to use a stud finder and get the general idea of where the studs are in the wall. Once the studs are mapped out, mark the height you want the shelf to sit and mark the holes, so you have the height determined when you look for the studs in the wall. 

After you have the height marked, you need to then hone into and determine where either side of the studs are that you are going to be securing your hanging garage shelves into. 

Once you locate both sides of the stud and the hole placement is marked, predrill the holes with a drill bit (make sure the drill bit diameter is smaller than the lag that is going to be used to secure the shelving). You want to make sure to drill into the middle of the stud to allow for a better grab from the lag bolt that will be keeping the hanging garage shelves in place.  

Follow the installation guidelines when it comes to the actual installation. Generally, the instructions will direct you on how to install the hanging garage shelves in parts so that they are easier to manage and secure to the wall, but make sure the brackets are secured properly into the stud before continuing with the rest of the installation. 

Installing Your Hanging Garage Shelves 

As stated previously, when installing your hanging garage shelves, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to proceed. Make sure you are drilling into the center of the stud when securing the frame brackets to the wall and have the brackets level so that the shelving will be level once completed. 

Once you have predrilled the stud for your shelving unit, install the brackets onto the wall. Make sure not to overtighten. You do not want to strip the holes, so the lags do not have adequate wood to bite into. If a hole gets stripped, the strength of the mount is gone because the lags will be able to be pulled out of the wall and will cause the hanging garage shelves to fall. 

Once you have the brackets installed, give them a little pull. There should be no space/play between the bracket and the wall. Once confirmed that the brackets are secured, continue with the manufacturer’s instructions on how to complete the installation.  

If you purchased hanging garage shelves with a fixed, strut as a part of the bracket, make sure to follow the suggested weight capacity for the shelves since that entire weight will be suspended from those studs of the wall.  

If you purchased a hanging shelf that also can be suspended partially from the ceiling, follow the guidelines provided on how to properly secure. Just like predrilling and securing into a stud, you need to make sure that the ceiling mount is properly fastened to the ceiling so that the integrity of the hanging garage shelves is not compromised. Please read below in the next section on what you might expect when you use a stud finder to locate the ceiling joists. You might have a little more work than expected but should be fairly easy to perform to make sure your hanging garage shelves are securely and properly fastened. 

Issues You Might Run into When Hanging Garage Shelves 

  • If a Lag Hole is Stripped 

If you either drill too large of a pilot hole or you tightened a lag too much when you were installing one of the brackets, do not just say “oh well” and continue. You will need to reposition the bracket and start over will predrilling new holes for the bracket to be secured to. 

  • Broken Lag 

If you have a broken lag bolt when installing your hanging garage shelves, first I need to say “slow down Hercules”, second, you will need to reposition and again predrill new holes for the brackets if you are not able to get the other ones out of the wall.  

  • For Wall and Ceiling Mounted Hanging Garage Shelves 

For the wall mounted shelves that can be also suspended from the ceiling, the general rules apply. Before you install the shelving unit, make sure you have your wall studs and ceiling joists mapped out and have an idea of where you want the unit to go.  

Once you have your project mapped out, you need to look and see how the ceiling joists line up. Depending on how the joists are arranged in comparison to the wall, you might need to do a little construction before installation. Here is a summary of what you might be contending with. 

If you have joists that run perpendicular to the wall and they line up with the wall studs, you are golden. There is not much that you will need to do beyond follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on installing the wall-mounted hanging garage shelves. If this isn’t your situation, keep reading. 

If you have ceiling joists that are running perpendicular to the wall but are offset from the studs, you will need to get into the attic and install a cross joist, using joist hangers, so the shelving can be suspended from two ceiling joists. If you are concerned about getting the right type of hanger to complete the job I can recommend this one. Once you have the cross joist installed, you will now be able to secure it to the ceiling and complete your installation. 

Lastly, if your ceiling joists run parallel with the wall, you are also going to find yourself in the attic. Make sure to look at what the manufacturer recommends in this situation, but you will more than likely find yourself in the attic adding cross joists. Generally, you do not want to have one ceiling joist supporting the majority of the weight of the shelving unit, so by adding cross joists, it helps disperse the weight. I did run into this issue when installing my hanging garage shelving from NewAge Products. I had to install cross joists to help with dispersing the weight, but the installation guide said to secure the hanging shelves into the cross joist, even if it offsets the cabling slightly, to keep the weight from only being supported by one truss. 

Made it Through? Of Course You Did! 

Projects like this one can seem large to tackle but hanging shelving can truly transform your garage space! By following the steps outlined here, and with the aid of your manufacturer manual, you are on your way to more functional and streamlined space in your garage that will free up your floors for other things and give you peace of mind about the security of the things stored overhead.

Thanks for reading, and as always, be sure to keep it tuned to The Garage Junkie for all of your garage’s FYI and DIY needs!

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