Is it Cheaper to Buy or Build Garage Shelves? DIY Vs. Prefab

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When it comes to garage organization, one of the most important things you can do is invest in some suitable shelving. Shelving will give you a permanent place to store all of your stuff, but it will also help keep your garage tidy and organized.

But what’s the best way to get shelving for your garage? Should you buy or build?

Garage shelving is cheaper to build than to buy in most cases. Garage shelves average between $60 and $70 per linear foot to purchase and as little as $25 per foot to build. However, it’s essential to avoid mistakes during construction as the extra cost incurred can easily exceed the retail price.

When deciding between buying and building your garage shelves, keep in mind that it may take some time for the construction process. You may save substantial money by creating your garage shelves if you are handy and have some extra time on your hands.

Let’s look at the cost of buying and building garage shelves and discover the different types of shelving you can choose for your garage.

What to Consider Before Building or Buying Garage Shelving

If you’re planning on building or buying garage shelving, there are a few things you’ll need to take into account.

Consider these three factors before building or buying garage shelving:

1. Decide what you’ll be storing on the shelves. If you’re planning on storing heavy items, you’ll need to choose sturdy shelves that can support the weight.

2. Consider the size of the items you’ll be storing. If you have large items, then you’ll need larger shelves.

3. Consider your available garage space. If your room is limited, choose smaller or wall-mounted shelves.

Additionally, be sure to assess whether you have the skills to create a finished product you can be happy with aesthetically. If you don’t think you can do the job properly, it might be better to get a professional involved.

The cost of building garage shelving

Building your garage shelves will likely cost between $25 to $60 per linear foot on average, depending on your options. When it comes to garage shelving, the most crucial factor is usually the cost of materials.

However, be aware that the shelves you build need to be strong enough to hold everything you want to store on them, so they probably shouldn’t be made from the cheapest materials available.

Here are the most common materials used for garage shelving, with a cost estimate:

  • Plywood: One of the most popular materials for garage shelving is plywood. It’s strong, relatively cheap, and easy to work with. A 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ thick plywood will cost you around $30.
  • MDF: Another common material used for garage shelving is MDF or medium-density fiberboard. It’s not quite as strong as plywood, but it’s cheaper and still works well for most purposes. A 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ thick MDF will cost you around $25.
  • OSB: One step down from MDF in terms of strength is OSB or oriented strand board. It’s not as widely used as the other two options, but it’s still a decent choice for shelving. A 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ thick OSB will cost you around $22.
  • Metal: If you want something solid and durable, metal is the way to go. However, it’s also more expensive than wood. A 4’x8′ sheet of 18-gauge steel will cost you around $50.
  • Plastic: Another option for garage shelving is plastic. It’s not as strong as metal or wood, but it is waterproof and easy to clean. A 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ thick plastic will cost you around $30.

Material costs can add up quickly. However, if you already have some of these materials, your total price may be lower.

Additional Cost Condiderations

Building garage shelving can be a great way to organize your space and get your belongings off the floor. But what other cost considerations do you need to consider when building garage shelves? Being prepared for these costs can help you properly budget for your shelving project.

Additional costs can include:

  • Your time – If you’re not experienced in woodworking or working with power tools, it may take longer to build your shelves than someone more experienced. This will increase the cost of your project, as you’ll have to factor in the opportunity cost of your time.
  • Fasteners/Accessories– The cost of fasteners and accessories won’t break the bank. Plan for the purchase of any Screws (wood. metal, or drywall screws), nails (optional), hooks, or wood glue you may need to complete your garage shelving project correctly and on budget.
  • Plans – Unless you’ve built garage shelves before, you may not know where to begin. Purchasing plans for your project is very inexpensive and can save you a lot of time and money by ensuring you build your new shelves correctly the first time. I found some free plans online if you would like to go that route. See these plans here.
  • Tools – If you’re planning on building garage shelving, you’ll need a few tools. If you don’t have what you need, your budget may take a hit.

The most common tools you need to complete your garage shelving project include:

  • A drill
  • A hand or power saw
  • A level
  • A tape measure
  • A stud finder (optional)

There are many cost factors to consider when planning to build garage shelving yourself. However, proper planning and forethought can keep your costs low and even save you time in the long run.

The Cost of Buying Garage Shelving

If you decide to buy garage shelves, you’ll need to factor in the shelves’ cost and the price of installation if you’re not handy.

Ready-made shelves are available at most home improvement stores and can range in price from $50 to $500 or more, depending on the size and style of the shelves.

For more basic shelving made from wood or wire, expect to pay on the lower end of the spectrum, about $50 to $150. If you want something more significant or more elaborate made from higher-end materials, you can expect to pay closer to $200 to $500 in most cases.

Factors that impact the cost of purchasing garage shelving include:

  • The type and quality of materials used
  • The size of the shelving unit(s)
  • The complexity of the design
  • The Installation cost

The average cost of professional garage shelving installation is around $17 per linear foot, but this depends on the design style and size of the project. So expect the actual cost to change depending on how many shelving units you want and where they go.

Any modifications due to location, style, or size will need to be completed before construction (like adding plumbing) and may significantly affect the final cost.

Ultimately, the best way to get an accurate estimate for your project is to consult with a professional contractor.

What types of Shelving Should I build or buy for my garage?

While there are many types of garage shelving to choose from, the style you select will depend on your vision for your garage.

The most popular types of garage shelving include:

  • Heavy-duty metal shelving – This type of shelving is perfect for those who need to store heavy items such as tools or equipment. Metal shelving is also very durable, so that it can withstand a lot of wear and tear.
  • Wire shelving – Wire shelving is another popular option for garage storage. This type of shelving is less durable than metal shelving, but it is much easier to install and offers a more versatile storage solution. Wire shelving can store lighter items such as sports equipment or holiday decorations.
  • Wooden Shelves – Wooden shelves are a classic choice for garage storage. Wood shelves offer a warm and natural look to any space and can be stained or painted to match your existing garage décor. Wooden shelves are also very sturdy and can support a lot of weight.
  • Adjustable Shelving – Adjustable Shelving is an excellent option if you need to be able to change the height of your shelving units. This type of shelving allows you to adjust the shelves to fit different sizes of items.
  • Freestanding shelves – Freestanding shelves are another popular option for garage storage. These shelves are not attached to the wall and can move around easily. Freestanding shelves are also great for storing more oversized items such as bicycles or lawnmowers.
  • Ceiling mounted shelves: These shelves are attached to the ceiling and are great for storing items that you don’t need to access regularly.

If your garage is cluttered and messy, adding shelving can help to improve its overall appearance. Organizing your garage can make it a more enjoyable space to work in and store items conveniently and efficiently.

More importantly, adding some shelving can save you time and frustration when trying to find items later on.

How to Build Garage Shelving

If you’re looking to add extra storage space to your garage, shelves are a great option. You can build them yourself with just a few tools and some lumber, and they’ll provide you with a handy place to store everything from holiday decorations to sports equipment.

Building shelves for your garage is a relatively simple project that anyone can do, even if you’re not a particularly handy person.

Follow these steps to build Garage Shelving:

1. Determine the size and location needed for your shelves. Measure the space where you want to build them and decide how big you want the shelves to be. Keep in mind that you’ll need to be able to reach anything you store on the shelves, so don’t make them too high.

2. Cut the lumber to size. Once you determine the desired size for your new shelves, cut the lumber to size using a saw. If you’re not comfortable using a saw, you can have the lumber cut at most hardware stores.

3. Assemble the shelves. Place the boards on their edge and nail or screw them together to form shelves. You can make the shelves as deep or shallow as you want, but remember that deeper shelves will be more sturdy.

4. Mount the shelves. Once the shelves are assembled, find studs in your garage wall and screw or nail the shelves into place. Ensure that the screws or nails reach into the studs for added stability.

5. Add brackets (optional). If you want extra support for your shelves, you can add L-brackets to the corners. Just screw the brackets into place and then screw the shelves into the brackets.

If you’re a more visual person, check out this video below to learn to build inexpensive shelves:

That’s all there is to it! With just a few materials and a little time, you can build sturdy and functional garage shelves that give you plenty of extra storage space.


So, should you build or buy your new garage shelves? The answer to this question depends on your specific needs and situation. If you’re looking for shelves that are durable, easy to install, and fit your garage perfectly, then buying garage shelves is probably the better option.

However, if you’re willing to put in some time, effort, and sweat equity, you will likely save significant money by building your garage shelves. Ultimately though, the decision is yours.

Hi, I am Brent Hartman. I am a DIY enthusiast and love to improve and organize the garage in the most innovative way. I created this website out of my passion for helping people organize their garages.

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