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How Much Weight Can a Garage Shelf Hold?

I was helping my mother by reorganizing her garage for her. As with any garage there was a random assortment of things some of which were quite heavy.  I wanted to make sure I could safely store these things while taking up as little space as possible.

The stuff ranges from bulky and heavy like her snow tires on rims and bags of garden soil to fragile keepsakes like glass Christmas decorations. So I did a little research to come up with the best solution.

So how much weight can a garage shelf hold? The average garage shelving system can hold anywhere from a hundred or so pounds to almost a thousand. There are units that hang from the ceiling, screw into the wall or just stand on the floor, so there are a lot of options depending on your needs.

  • Floor garage shelves can hold up to 1000 lbs / shelf
  • Wall mounted garage shelves can handle 100-400 lbs and the Rhino Shelf can hold 650 lbs
  • Ceiling mounted garage systems usually max out at about 500 lbs across a few joists

Let’s review some of the options you have and explore them in a little detail. You have three surfaces available to you so we’ll cover them in order, starting from the bottom and working our way up.

Simple Floor Shelving Units: a Great Start to Organizing 

stand alone floor shelf
A unit like this can hold up to 1,000 lbs per shelf.

A shelving unit that sits on the floor is about as basic as you can get. Generally you don’t need any tools to assemble them. Put it together load ‘er up: easy peasy done and done. There’s a few considerations like how big your stuff is and how much it weighs. The Edsal MROP3618W5B Steel Storage Rack availible on Amazon is a great option that comes in both a 36” with and a 60” width. Both are 18” deep and 72” wide with 5 shelves that hold 1000 lbs each.
How much weight can a garage shelf hold

Floor shelving units like the Edsal offer a sturdy solution at a reasonable price,  there are a few down sides to any unit of this kind:

  • There are 4 vertical posts that support the structure so even though the shelving is open, they can get in the way if your storage objects are a bit to big.
  • The shelving tends to be wire mesh which can create a problem for smaller objects that can fall through or spray cans that fall over easily
  • You are still using floor space albeit less than before
  • It creates a hard-to-clean area under the unit itself
  • If the floor is not level or the legs are uneven the shelves will wobble and be an annoying hazard

The pros are of course that it can be a relatively inexpensive solution that is easy to do and if you move or your needs change taking them apart is pretty quick and easy. There are less expensive units and ones with wheels (although they often don’t roll as well as they could). If your needs are simple and you don’t feel like installing something this is the way to go.

Wall Mounted Shelves: Get things off the floor 

This is a bit more “do-it-yourself-y” but it’s still very doable. You’ll need a few tools but don’t feel intimidated, I believe in you. Here’ what you’ll generally need:

  • A pencil (I’m starting you off easy…)
  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Power drill
  • Drill bit of the appropriate size
  • Screwdriver attachment or socket attachment for your drill OR
  • Screwdriver or socket wrench
  • Level
  • Step ladder if your going up higher than you can comfortably work (recommended)

Hanging your storage system from your wall is the next logical step. We’ll tackle the ceiling next so hang in there.

Rhino Shelf combo
The 4′ Rhino Combo. Notice how the top shelf is deep enough to hold a storage container lengthwise. That means you can store twice as many of them on each shelf.

There are a number of good quality wall shelf systems that can hold from 150 lbs. across 36” like the HyLoft 00777 all the way to the Rhino Shelf system which is a whopping 33.5” deep and can hold up to 650 lbs. across 48”. I was so impressed by this system that I wrote a whole breakdown of the Rhino Shelf here.  The DIY Rhino Shelf is my top pick for heavy-duty wall shelves hands down. They come in a variety of sizes so pick the one that suites your needs. Here’s the Amazon link to get them. With any wall-mounted system you need to attach it to the studs in the wall to allow it to hold any weight. Any good manufacturer will provide you with the necessary hardware to ensure success with their product. This usually comes in the form of 3.5” lag bolts to secure the system into the studs as well as any other nuts and bolts you will need for the install. With the exception of the Rhino Shelf all the other wall mounted units suffer from a few basic drawbacks:

  • The shelves are made of wire which makes it easy for things to fall through the cracks and creates an uneven surface (those pesky spray cans again)
  • The shelves aren’t terribly deep. They tend to max out at 18”

The reason for these drawbacks is simple economics. Wire is pretty strong yet light enough to ship and 18” is about as far out from the wall as you can get and still use inexpensive materials. The Rhino Shelf is a little different. What you are paying for is the brackets. Really really strong brackets that extend out twice as far (33.5’) as your ordinary shelves would for not much more money.  That’s pretty far. That equates to:

  • The length of a 35-gallon storage container
  • The length of a 50 lb. bag of topsoil or grass seed or fertilizer
  • Truck tires

Try to fit that on your 18” shelf. Here’s the thing that trips people up. The actual shelf is made up of 2×4 lumber that you provide. But that makes so much sense if you think about it. 2×4 is pretty cheap, very strong and any Lowers or Home Depot or hardware store will gladly cut it to the exact length you need and bring it to your car for you or even deliver it to your home. The best part is that you can then hang whatever you want from the bottom of the shelf using readily available hooks or whatever from any manufacturer you want.

Peg Board, Slat Walls, and Cabinets: Organize Your Tools and Protective Equipment

If you have a house you have garden implements. Even if they’re just aspirational. That’s the one thing that’s not on the floor of my mother’s garage. When I was a kid my father drilled a hole in the handle of each one and ran a string through it and hung them from nails. Actually, he made me drill the holes but that’s for me and my therapist to talk about.

Drilled Handle with String detail crop
My father’s idea of garage organization. It was OK for its time, but consider an upgrade.

We live in the 21st century so there are better methods than holes and string and you may want to check out some of my favorites like Holeyrail (Amazon link), which makes a nice one, and if you have a workbench you should have some kind of tool organization maybe even with the outline of where each thing belongs so you know to put it back. One thing I will recommend especially if you have children is what we used to call a poisons cabinet. (I wrote about how to safely store chemicals in this article.) Use it to lock up all your toxic, flammable, and otherwise not-safe-for-children liquids and powders. It also keeps things like that where they belong and off of a shelf where they could fall down. Wire shelves are especially bad for things like spray cans and the like. Protective equipment such as goggles, gloves and masks deserve a good home as well. We wrote an article about how best to store these important items.

Ceiling storage: Reclaim Your Garage Airspace

This is probably the solution that needs the most planning and may even need a second person to implement. It can be tricky to find a good place to hang items that are only needed occasionally or would be difficult to store elsewhere. Check out our Ceiling Storage Buyers Guide here.  The key here is that on a ceiling unit you want to spread the load across joists and not along them. So look at your ceiling carefully. If you want a more in-depth article read here. Above the garage door is a good place sometimes provided there is enough room. Between the cars in the middle of the garage is good for some folks. Where ever you put it, consider a few things:

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  • Your back (seriously I know it sounds like I’m being a mother hen but…)
  • Seriously measure and then do it again (garage doors are expensive)
  • Weight. Ceilings will hold considerably less weight than walls per joist.
  • Measure again. Make sure you have enough room across joists.
  • Check the specifications on the system you are getting and make sure your joists are the right distance apart.

As with anything the prices range from reasonable like the Fleximount System available on Amazon which can hold up to 600 lbs.  (we go into that one in some more detail here) to this one, the more luxurious Auxx-Lift which is a motorized ceiling mounted shelf system. It’s a real back saver but you need a little room, a bit more planning and probably help to install it. Update January 13, 2019: The only ceiling pulley we recommend at this point is the Store Your Board Hi-Lift. Please see our “store your ladder” article for brands we dismissed as not being safe. Some other things you might want to consider are pulley strap systems to hang things like ladders and kayaks or other bulky but not too heavy items. You want to limit the weight you have hanging from individual ceiling joists to under 150 lbs. so boards, bikes, kayaks, and canoes are fine. Remember, all platforms spread that weight across a few joists. Again, look carefully and use that stud finder! You defiantly don’t want to hang anything from just the sheetrock.

Conclusion

Hopefully, I gave you a few things to think about here. The most important thing is to assess and measure.

  • What kinds of things do you need to store?
  • What do you need access to on a regular basis
  • Are there any good specific solutions (balls, kayaks, garden tools) that you could use
  • Make sure there is enough room for the car and to get in and out of it
  • Take the garage doors into account, including handles
  • Think of your future needs

If you’ve made it this far thank you. And be sure to check out our resources page where we have some of our favorite solutions.

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