Are you struggling with shoe storage for your family? This simple DIY shelving project for your garage is easily customized for all sizes and styles of shoes and boots!
When we purchased our new build home in 2005, functional mud rooms weren’t really a big thing where we lived.
Let alone the gorgeous mud rooms with drop zones that you see in new homes now.
We opted for a floor plan that featured a laundry room on the same level as all our bedrooms.
The kids were 3, 3, and 6 and they generated a lot of laundry!
I still love having the laundry room right next to my bedroom, especially since I gave it a makeover.
However, moving the laundry room upstairs meant that our garage opened up directly into the kitchen.
Even though we had a “no shoes in the house” policy for our family, there was nowhere to put them.
Our First Shoe Storage Solution
My husband threw together some cubbies in the garage in an awkward corner at the top of the landing that worked fine when the kids were small.
But kids don’t stay small forever, do they?!
Between my husband’s and my son’s size 10 shoes, my twins’ size 7s, and my size 6s, those little cubbies just weren’t working anymore.
The old shoe cubbies were too tall if you sat shoes next to each other with a lot of wasted space between shelves.
And, they weren’t quite wide enough.
Each cubbie was wide enough for three shoes.
So you couldn’t put two pairs of shoes side by side.
Of course, you could shove a bunch of shoes into each cubbie all pell-mell.
This is generally what happened, but there were still a lot of shoes overflowing onto the landing.
We did a regular purge and got rid of any pairs they’d outgrown or that were out of style or worn out, but there still wasn’t room to store the ones we kept.
It was time for a better solution!
- Our First Shoe Storage Solution
- Creating a Garage Drop Zone
- Materials You'll Need for This Shoe Storage Project
- Tools You'll Need to Build These Shoe Shelves
- Re-Building the Outer Frame
- Reminder: This is a Garage Project!
- Adding More Shelves
- How We Fit More Shoes On The Shelves
- Before and After
- Resources and Shopping Links
Creating a Garage Drop Zone
The entire garage where we walked in was a cluttered mess, so we decided to turn it into a drop zone in 2020 (you can read all about the complete project here).
We used nothing but leftover wood, hardware, and paint from other home projects.
It was a big job, but we were all home all the time, so it gave us something to do.
The part of the drop zone I’m asked about most often is the shoe wall!
We made some changes to the original cubbies that made this shoe storage solution so much more functional.
Plus, since the whole area looks nicer we’re all inspired to mostly get our shoes put away.
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Materials You’ll Need for This Shoe Storage Project
We do a lot of DIY projects around my house, and my husband is a packrat when it comes to saving scrap wood.
We didn’t need to buy any of the wood to build these shelves because we had partial sheets of plywood left from building the entertainment built-ins in the family room.
The amount of wood you’ll need will depend on the space you’re planning to use for this project, how many shelves you need, how far apart you space them, and how well you plan out the cuts on the sheet(s) of plywood.
This list includes the supplies we used, but not exact quantities.
Everything listed below includes links for each item.
- 1/2″ Plywood (We used approximately 1-1/2 4×8 sheets)
- Trim to Cover Plywood Edges OR Half Round Molding
- 1 x 2 Boards
- Gorilla Wood Glue
- 18-gauge 2-inch Brad Nails
- Paintable Caulk
- 3-inch Wood Screws
Tools You’ll Need to Build These Shoe Shelves
Some of these tools are absolute necessities, others just make the job easier to do.
Since we’re avid DIYers, we had all the tools we needed.
If you don’t have one of these tools, I’ve included links to help you get them!
- Tape Measure
- Caulk Gun
- Dremel Multi Tool Rotary Tool Kit (needed this because of a miscalculation…)
- 2-foot Level
- Ryobi Drill/ Driver
- Ryobi Circular Saw (Use a table saw if you have one)
- 8-foot Circular Saw Guide
- Painting Supplies
- Ryobi AirStrike Nail Gun (any nail gun will work, but this cordless one is so easy to use!)
Re-Building the Outer Frame
The first thing we did was completely remove the old shoe cubbies.
We took them apart carefully and were able to reuse some of the wood for the new shoe shelves.
And rest assured, my husband safely stashed away anything that wasn’t used here for future projects!
As you can see, there’s an inset section of the wall at the top of the stair landing.
Our old cubbies only went as high as that wire shelf, so there was a lot of unused space available!
The inset in the wall is wider than the landing, so we decided to make the railing a dividing point for two columns of shelves.
We built the frame using 4×8 sheets of 1/2-inch plywood, ripped down to size on a table saw.
The wider section, on the side of the landing, is where we planned to put the shoes we wear regularly.
The bottom part of the wall that’s on the landing is 16.75 inches wide and 3 feet tall to the top of the railing on the landing.
The top part, above the railing, is 18.25 inches wide and 5 feet tall, with 18 inches above the top shelf.
We decided that the narrow section outside the landing was the perfect spot for rain boots, snow boots, and work shoes.
That narrow part is 10.25 inches wide and 5 feet tall.
The walls on the left side of the landing were all angled, but we decided to build the cubbies with vertically level boards.
A 1×2 board closes that awkward gap for the finished project.
Reminder: This is a Garage Project!
Before we go any further and I show more detailed, close-up pictures of these shoe shelves, I need to point out: these shelves live in our garage.
They hold shoes that might be dirty.
While I wanted them to look nice, I did not care about the finish work on these the way I would for something inside my home!
I didn’t take the time to sand them down.
When I filled nail holes, I used caulk and wasn’t always super neat about it.
I didn’t bother to fill in the little gaps in the back, because most of these details aren’t noticeable unless you’re shining a light on them and taking a picture.
These shelves are simply practical shoe storage that solved a pain point for my family.
If you prefer a more finished look when you build them for your home, then by all means sand and caulk to your heart’s desire!
Adding More Shelves
We measured how high a pair of athletic shoes are and used that to set the height between shelves.
The opening for each of these shelves is 6 inches high.
We fit 13 cubbies on the landing side, compared to the 9 we had before.
Since we used plywood, we needed to put some kind of trim along those exposed, cut edges so that I could paint them.
Each shelf has a cleat along the back to support it, and the shelves on the bottom have an additional cleat on the side where the railing is since there isn’t a frame on that side for the wood screws.
We ran into a minor issue with our shelf spacing…
One of the shelves ended up cutting into the top section of the railing.
This is one of those measure twice, cut once kind of lessons!
Learn from our mistake and be sure to measure where those shelves are going to actually hit before you start installing everything.
Since this is a garage project, we didn’t bother shifting and correcting everything.
My husband just used his Dremel multitool to cut away a small portion of that hand rail and the shelf just sits in the railing instead of on it!
The shelves above the railing only have a cleat across the back because they’re screwed in really well on both sides since the frame extends on both sides above the railing.
My husband may not always measure things perfectly, but he is the king of making things really secure.
Since these shelves aren’t holding anything heavier than shoes, the single cleat across the back plus 3 wood screws on each side is sufficient to support them.
How We Fit More Shoes On The Shelves
Before my son and one of my daughters moved out, we still had a lot of shoes to fit on these shelves.
If you stack shoes on top of each other as shown above, you can just fit four pairs of athletic shoes on each shelf.
I’m still torn about whether it would’ve been better to make each shelf with a 6.5-inch height so that the shoes aren’t quite as cramped when you stack them.
Because when you aren’t stacking the shoes, the 6-inch height is the perfect amount of space.
And you could potentially have some shelves with even less height for flip-flops and sandals.
We also could have added one more shelf on the narrow side, but that’s where our pop-up canopy for tailgating sits.
My garage is basically one giant Tetris board for my husband!
Before and After
This shoe storage solution may not be perfect, but it’s so much better than what we had before!
No good DIY project is complete without that before and after, so here’s mine.
As our family has started to move out, we now actually have some empty spots on our garage shoe storage shelves.
Now there’s even space for our guests to leave their shoes when they visit.
I hope this project has inspired you to tackle this project!
My biggest regret: not building these better shelves sooner.
Resources and Shopping Links
Click on any image to shop items from this post
Sources: Tape Measure | Caulk Gun | Dremel Multi Tool Rotary Tool Kit | Gorilla Wood Glue | 2-foot Level | Paintable Caulk | Ryobi Drill/ Driver | Ryobi Circular Saw | 8-foot Circular Saw Guide | 3-inch Wood Screws | Painting Supplies | Ryobi AirStrike Nail Gun | 18-gauge 2-inch Brad Nails
If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!
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