Groovy Walls Stretch Your Space
Besides holding weighty tools that would uncurl a wire peg hook, slatwall storage systems brighten a shop with a more finished look than pegboard, or nails in a wall.
Slatwall consists of strips or panels with horizontal T-shaped or L-shaped slots. Many commercial systems use plastic panels, such as StoreWall's 15"-wide sections that come 4' or 8' long. MDF panels made for retail applications commonly measure 4×8'. You can also make your own panels using 3⁄4 " birch plywood.
Hooks, shelves, and other hardware hang in the slots, as shown below. To supplement these with your own custom storage, attach Z-shaped tabs to anything from router-bit holders, as shown below, to cabinets. Unlike pegboard hardware, a single hook on some slatwall systems can handle more than 100 pounds.
Convenience costs, though. For example, 4×8' sheets of perforated hardboard cost about $15, but plastic slatwall that covers the same 32 square feet may cost ten times as much. Slatwall hardware comes in a greater variety, but it also costs more than peg hooks. Prices range from about $2 per slatwall hook to $25 for a 2'-wide basket or $80 for a 3'-long shelf.
But you're really paying for flexibility: panels and hardware that, unlike pegboard, can hold a 50-lb cabinet in tomorrow's shop as easily as an 8-oz hand tool today.
Plan a basic system
To create a slatwall system on a budget, ask commercial remodelers about salvaging slatwall panels and hardware from closed or remodeled stores. If you're hanging cabinets and shelves heavier than about 50 pounds, install plastic slatwall panels. For example, a heavy-duty StoreWall panel holds up to 148 lbs versus 68 lbs on an MDF panel.
With the wall system decided, it's time to shop specialty stores, home centers, and the web (see Sources) for hardware to suit your needs. You can mix inexpensive hardware for light- or medium-duty jobs, as shown below, with more expensive hardware for the heavy stuff because slatwall slots are typically spaced 3" apart to accept all types of hardware.
On a tight budget? Start small by mounting just one row of 15"-wide plastic slatwall strips around your workshop. Position it between chest and eye level—high if you'll use more hanging hooks, and low for baskets. Later, add more strips above the first one to store jigs or lumber, and below to hang more hooks, baskets, and shelves as needed.
Install panels for flexibility
A future shop reorganization may have you move a rack of hefty pipe clamps to where a few ounces of bandsaw blades now hang, so install all panels for maximum weight capacity from the start. Installation instructions vary, but these tips will help strengthen any system:
* When stacking interlocking panels, install the lowest panel first. Level each strip or course of panels.
* Use #8×11⁄2 " flathead wood screws on bare studs and #8×2" screws over drywall.
* Drive a screw into every stud at each slot. Screw heads can be painted or covered with color-matching caps available from some suppliers.
* Cut panels as you would veneered plywood: with the good (slot) face up on a tablesaw with at least a 40-tooth blade. When using a portable circular saw, cut with the slot face down using a carbide blade with 32 teeth or more.
* Check with the manufacturer to see if screws can be supplemented with adhesive. Allow any adhesive to dry overnight before using the panels.
Several companies offer slatwall panels and hardware either by mail or through dealers, including: