How Much Space Between Garage Shelves Should You Have?

Garage shelves can make your life a lot simpler! They make it easy to organize all the things you may store in a garage, preventing junk from piling up. If you're installing garage shelves, you need to ensure that they have the perfect amount of space between them. How much space should this be? We have an answer for you in this post! 

Generally, there should be about 12 to 15 inches of space between garage shelves. However, the amount of space needed depends on the number of shelves you want. If you want more shelves, the space between them will be smaller. If you want fewer shelves, the space between will be larger. 

There are many factors that play a role in installing garage shelves. For example, you'll need to determine how wide you want the shelves to be, what kind of wood to use, and what type of shelves you want. We'll discuss these topics in this post! Keep reading to learn how to perfect your garage shelves!

Interior of a garage with tools hanged on a board, How Much Space Between Garage Shelves Should You Have?

How Wide Should Garage Shelves Be? 

Garage shelves should usually be about 16 inches wide. This is a good width for the shelves because it allows you to store wider objects such as toolboxes. However, though a 16-inch wide shelf is deep enough to store wider objects, it doesn't make reaching for things a hassle, which is another benefit. 

Interior of a garage with lots of paint cans and other tools

What are Some of the Best Types of Wood for Garage Shelves? 

There are several different types of wood that you can use for garage shelves, but some of the most popular types include oriented strand boards (OSB), plywood, and MDF (medium density fiberboard). 


High grade OSB plywood

OSB is a type of wood that's made by compressing different strands of wood together. It's a very common choice for shelves, and it has several benefits.

For one, OSB is cheaper than plywood, making it perfect for those who are building shelves on a budget. Additionally, plywood usually develops soft spots and sags easier than OSB does.

However, while it's perfectly fine to use OSB for shelves, it's worth noting that this type of wood is most often used for larger construction projects.


Wooden texture patterns of a plywood

Similar to OSB, plywood is made by compressing pieces of wood together. However, unlike OSB, plywood is made from entire layers of wood called veneer.

Because of this, plywood has a smoother, more cohesive appearance than OSB does. So, if you prioritize aesthetics, you might want to pass on OSB and use plywood for your garage shelves.

Plywood also responds to moisture and humidity better than OSB does. Many garages don't have proper ventilation, so they can become very humid. Therefore, it may be better to choose plywood instead of OSB for garage shelves, as the strength of plywood isn't as affected by humidity. 

One of plywood's biggest drawbacks is its price. As established, it's considerably more expensive than OSB, with a 4x8 sheet of plywood costing $10 and a 4x8 sheet of OSB costing $6. 


Different colors and panels of laminated MDF boards

MDF is made from wood shavings and sawdust that are mixed with resin. This shaving, sawdust, and resin mixture is formed into hard wood panels through the use of intense heat and pressure. After the panels are formed, they are sanded down, creating the smooth MDF that we know. 

Like OSB, one of MDF's major benefits is how inexpensive it is. This gives it an edge over plywood, which, again, is a fairly expensive type of wood.

In addition to its cheap price, MDF is fairly easy to work with, and its smooth surface means that you can easily paint it, allowing it to provide your home with any aesthetic that you want. 

However, one of MDF's major disadvantages is the fact that it's very weak. Both OSB and plywood are stronger than MDF.

Additionally, OSB responds better to moisture and humidity than MDF does, which is saying a lot, considering one of OSB's biggest drawbacks is its performance in moist and humid environments. 

Also, MDF is not real wood, so when carrying it, it's very easy to break the corners or scratch it. So, while MDF is cost-effective and versatile, it's not particularly strong. 

Which Is Stronger, OSB Or Plywood? 

A garage filled with tools on the shelves and working table

We've already established that MDF is considerably weak, but OSB and plywood are both fairly strong types of wood. However, which one is the stronger option? 

There are multiple measures of wood strength, but three of the most popular measures are tensile strength, compression strength, and shear strength. 

Tensile strength measures the breaking strength of wood under a certain tension. Compressive strength measures the maximum amount of weight that wood can support without breaking. Lastly, shear strength measures resistance to internal slipping of one part of the wood on another part. 

Plywood has greater tensile strength, as it measures about 1,500 to 4,000 psi, while OSB only measures about 1,000 to 1,500 psi. Plywood also has a greater compressive strength; it measures about 3,000 to 5,000 psi in this category, while OSB only measures about 1,500 to 2,500.

However, OSB measures 1,000 to 1,500 psi in shear strength, while plywood measures 600 to 1,000 psi in this category. 

Therefore, plywood is stronger when it comes to tensile and compression strength, but OSB is stronger when it comes to shear strength. It's generally argued that both types of wood are relatively the same in overall strength, and both make for fairly durable shelves. 

What Are The Most Popular Types Of Garage Shelves?

The three most common types of garage shelves are freestanding, wall-mounted, and ceiling-mounted shelves. Each of these shelf types offers different advantages and disadvantages and is good for different things. 


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Freestanding garage shelves are not attached to the wall, allowing you to easily disassemble them if needed. However, since they are not attached to the wall, these shelves can take up more space than other types. This decrease in space can be a nuisance if you're using your garage for multiple purposes.  


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As the name suggests, these types of garage shelves are mounted to the wall. Unlike freestanding shelves, wall-mounted shelves save a good amount of space.

However, a drawback of these shelves is the installation process. In order for wall-mounted shelves to be effective and safe, you have to install them properly.

On the other hand, freestanding shelves don't usually require an installation process. So, if you're looking for something that doesn't have to be installed, freestanding is the better option, but if you're looking for something that saves space, go with wall-mounted shelves. 


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Ceiling-mounted shelves are just like wall-mounted shelves, except you install them on the ceiling. These types of shelves are particularly good for storing away equipment that you don't use or need every day, such as holiday decorations. 

Like wall-mounted shelves, you should ensure that ceiling-mounted shelves are installed properly. An improper installation is extremely hazardous, as ceiling-mounted shelves are suspended in the air.

Additionally, you should never overload ceiling-mounted shelves, as exceeding their weight limit also poses a significant danger. 

Is It Cheaper To Buy Or Build Garage Shelves?

Usually, it's less expensive to buy your own materials and build your own garage shelves than it is to buy premade garage shelves.

Also, making your own shelves isn't just the cheaper option; it's the option that allows you to express more creativity and ensure that your shelves are the exact size and style that you want. 

However, even though building your own garage shelves is cheaper, buying premade ones does come with some benefits. For example, buying premade shelves is much easier than spending time and energy on making shelves. 

In Closing

Interior of a garage with tools hanged on a board

If you're installing garage shelves, you should ensure that there are about 12 to 15 inches of space between each shelf. Make sure that your shelves have a width of at least 16 inches, as this width allows you to store wider objects.

Remember that some of the best types of wood for garage shelves are OSB, plywood, and MDF, but consider the strengths and weaknesses of each of these options before selecting one. Also, consider the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of garage shelves before determining which one is right for you. 

Before you go, check out some of these other articles:

How Much Space Should Be Between Shelves?

How Thick Should Garage Walls Be? 

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