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Wall systems, putting vertical surfaces to good use

Inside garage, fender of car
Drywall is a thing of the past for shop walls. Learn several more upgrades that take your shop from drab to dramatic.

Choose your wall solution carefully.

With cabinets and worksurfaces in place, a lot of tools and shop paraphernalia now have homes. But a lot of typical garage "stuff" is too big or awkward to store in cabinets. Unfortunately, things like recreational gear, yard equipment, and garden tools end up leaning against the wall or in corners, consuming valuable floor space. The trick here is to keep that stuff easily at hand, but up and out of the way.

Bare drywall--or, in some cases, open framing--requires that anything hung there be anchored to a stud. However, the typical 16" spacing of studs gives only a limited number of vertical locations (and few, if any, horizontally) for mounting hooks and hangers.

A number of wall solutions are available. Perforated hardboard (commonly called Peg-Board, a trademarked name) is a favorite for hanging hand tools. However, this doesn't provide a worthy solution for heavier tools stored in most of today's garages.

Plywood
A quick-and-easy upgrade is to attach 1/2" plywood to the walls, anchoring the plywood solidly to the garage's existing framework. After fastening the plywood, screw mounting hooks and brackets, or hang shelves wherever you like. As you update your tool inventory, alterations are just as easy: Just unscrew mountings and move them to new positions.

Bare plywood doesn't look that appealing, and changing the tool layout later leaves unsightly screw holes. Plywood is difficult to clean and is vulnerable to moisture from wet yard tools and dripping hoses. A couple of coats of paint helps, but that's more work. On the plus side, all the materials you need are inexpensive and right around the corner at your hardware store or home center. Better yet, construction is simple. If your budget is limited, and you don't mind a bit of maintenance, this may be your best ticket.

Consider a slatwall system for a professional look.

Slatwall
At many of your favorite retail stores, you've undoubtedly seen wall panels using modified T-slots that accept angled brackets. The brackets, which slip into the slots along their length and are held in place by their own weight, can be attached to a wide range of specialized hangers--they include simple hooks, hangers, and brackets designed for specific tools and yard implements; hook-on baskets and shelves; and light fixtures. Most, but not all, manufacturers produce interchangeable hangers.

Slatwall has become the most popular upgrade for today's garages, and is generally available in panels in many colors. Composition is of melamine-coated MDF or rugged heavy-duty plastic.

Panels range from large 4x8' sheets to individual strips from 6 to 15" wide. The panels cut easily with a circular saw. Two 8'-long panels are ideal across the front of most two-car garages.

Depending on the material and finish, slatted panels aren't cheap (about $6 per square foot), whether sold individually or in packages. Hanger and accessory prices vary widely, depending on size and use. A package of six simple hooks goes for less than $5, while a rack for 12 garden tools retails for about $25.

Slatwall with things hanging on it
Brackets and hooks can be mounted anywhere on a slatwall system, as in this example from storeWALL. Gravity holds the brackets in place, so they can easily be rearranged at any time according to changing needs.

For heavier tools, consider a metal grid system.

Metal gridwork
Metal grids are similar to slatted panels in the way they are anchored to wall studs, but offer attachment points over the entire wall surface covered by the grid. Hooks, hangers, shelves, and other accessories snap onto the gridwork, and are held in place by gravity.

Grid panels come in several sizes (2x4', at about $12-$14 is the most popular), but colors are currently limited to white, black, and silver or chrome. Hangers are priced similar to slatwall hangers.

Red headed hammer

Shelf bracket
A grid system, like these examples from Schulte, supports heavy tools and shelves and is easy to adjust to meet changing needs. The grid panels are secured to wall studs.

Steel panel carry the load.

Steel panels
A third type of panel system consists of rigid steel with regularly spaced slots or a combination of slots and holes similar to perforated hardboard. Plain panels come in brushed aluminum or galvanized steel. You'll find steel panels in a range of power-coated colors. Panels sized at 8x32" or 16x32" can be hung singly or combined to form larger arrays, and mounting holes are set at standard 16" intervals. Prices range from about $13 to $23.

Accessories that hang in the slots include a variety of hooks, brackets, and shelves, plus larger pieces designed for specific uses such as tool holders, parts bins, even fluorescent-light mounts. Smaller accessories, such as hooks, sell in multipacks starting at about $4; larger accessories sell for $7 to $24.

Wall with lots of wrenches on it
These steel panels from Wall Control are solid, colorful alternatives to perforated hardboard. Although the company offers a wide variety of hooks and accessories, the panels allow the use of any third-party magnet hooks or hangers.

Real systems mount directly over studs.

Rail systems
A different type of wall storage uses rails rather than panels, but shares traits of the other panel types. This system uses a vertical rail mounted securely into wall studs, from which vertical slotted metal strips can be hung anywhere along the rail length. Shelves, baskets, small cabinets, and a variety of hangers and hooks snap into the vertical strips.

Rails, slotted strips, brackets, and hooks range from $2.50 to $12. De-pending on size, cabinets and shelving units matched to the rails range from $60 to $150.

Sources
FreedomRail: 800-669-3225, schultestorage.com
Gridwall: 800-862-0899, gridwall.com
Schulte Wall Grid: 800-669-3225, schultestorage.com
StoreWALL: 866-889-2502, storewall.com
Wall Control: 888-792-5266, wallcontrol.com

Tools in a shelf
A rail system, like this example fromFreedom Rail, offers shelves, cabinets, and hangers supported on heavy-duty vertical metal strips secured to the wall studs.

Inside garage, fender of car
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