The shelf-maker's guide

Adopt a budget-minded approach to your storage problems by designing and building your own shelving.

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Guide to shelving

Create a permanent solution to clutter by building and installing shelves to keep things picked up and stored in an orderly fashion. Basic shelf units are fairly easy to build. Here are a few pointers to help you along the way.

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Melamine-coated particleboard

Even with an edge, this common shelving material developed a noticeable sag at 36". A 4x8' sheet costs about $35 at our home center.

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With a solid-wood edge added, this inexpensive material ($19.50 per sheet) can handle medium loads in a garage or workshop.

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Particleboard with plastic laminate

A layer of plastic laminate (about $2 per square foot) on each face adds a surprising amount of strength to particleboard.

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Oriented-strand board (OSB)

When you make rough shelving, note that medium-cost OSB ($12 per 4x8' sheet) offers more strength than particleboard.

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Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)

MDF is comparable to the other manufactured sheet goods in strength but has a smooth surface. Our 4x8' sheet cost about $32.50.

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Oak-veneer plywood

With an edge, this choice gives you furniturelike appearance along with visually acceptable deflection up to 36". It's expensive, at $45 per 4x8' sheet.

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Baltic birch plywood

This is the winner of our strength test. However, its face has a bland appearance in comparison with solid wood, and we paid a hefty $70 for a 4x8' sheet.

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Solid oak

There's no need for edging unless you build shelves in the 48" range. But it's expensive: $3.75 per board foot at our home center.

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Solid pine

With an edge, it performs as well as oak, and we paid $4.29 per board foot (select grade).

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