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Garage Makeover with DIY shelves and chalkboard cabinets

This garage makeover includes loads of DIY shelves and chalkboard paint on the cabinet doors to amp up organization and style.

In our house, I handle most of the indoor DIY; drywall, painting, trim work, flooring, installing tile, furniture remodeling, whatever, I’m your girl. Phil likes to spend most of his time on all the yard and fence work, but he is great with plumbing and electrical too. And we are always, always working on something. So, the garage is a shared space that gets lots of traffic. I’ve spent 5 years trying to keep that garage organized and ready for the next project. It’s a never-ending struggle.

We were lucky enough to buy a house with a big 3-car garage that already had nice built in cabinets. But we needed to maximize the storage for the space and get everything organized. The garage makeover breaks down into 4 areas; the large shelves on the empty half of the back wall, a smaller section of shelves between the cabinets, a small section of shelves for paint, and a space for shoes and clothes by the door.


Disclaimer: Make sure to always read the directions for any products or tools you use while building. Always check for square and double-check those measurements too. Read the full disclaimer.

Garage before makeover and DIY shelves

Our sad garage before the makeover. This side had a big empty wall just begging for more storage.

Garage before makeover and DIY shelves

The original cabinets were great, but we needed to double that storage and organize this mess.

Let’s start with the large shelving section. The original garage layout had a bunch of empty wall space just begging for shelves. We needed it too. My scrap wood, project odds and ends, and Phil’s big yard and mower attachments were laying everywhere. In the pictures above you can even see the OLD SCHOOL DESK just waiting around for me to give it new life. One project at a time though. I made a plan for new shelves and an open corner section for storing tall items like PVC, molding, long fence slats, etc. The shelf heights were based on our needs. Most people build evenly spaced shelves, but I really wanted to maximize space and build them based on how we would use them. The more open shelves were designed to accommodate those large plastic containers. A short shelf for extra wood (now holding old cabinet doors). And a mid-level shelf for easily grabbing power tools.I love the power tool area. There was already an outlet there, so it makes charging the battery’s super convenient. Phil has taken over a section of one of the higher shelves for the different mixes of gas he needs for his lawn tools. It keeps it well out of the reach of our boys, who are in the garage almost as much as us. Overall, they’ve worked great since I built them 2 years ago.

After the DIY shelves were added to the garage

The large section of shelves completed with an open section in the corner for wood. I put a horizontal board against the front to keep boards from falling out. You can also see Phil’s bench and shelf here.

You’ll have to forgive the hodgepodge look of these shelves. Phil had recently replaced a large section of our fence and I had a big stash of long, old fence slats. They were still sturdy and in great shape for my purposes. So, I mixed them in with the 2x4’s I bought for the job. At every shelf level, I anchored the unit into the back wall of the garage on 4 different studs.I used a stud finder to mark the wall and bought 2 1/2″ screws to secure the wood for this project. My wood was 3/4″ thick and I guessed the drywallers used about 1/2″ drywall panels. Add those 2 thicknesses together and you know you need 1 1/4″ to get through those 2 layers. I wanted an 1″ of screw to go through the stud behind the drywall. So, using 2 1/2″ screws was taking the safe route. I am not going to go too much into this build because I recently saw this awesome Ana White video (below) that makes building garage shelves simple. It’s slightly different than my construction, but looks a bit easier than what I did and she’s just so awesome I had to share.

How to Build Garage Shelving - Easy, Cheap and Fast!
After the garage makeover

Across the back wall we have wood storage, the large section of shelves, a small section for paint storage above drawers, and then the cabinets with another section of shelves in the middle. Not one inch of space was wasted.

The smaller section of shelves was an adjustment to an open area between the original garage cabinets. When we moved in, this area was mostly open with just a counter top and 2 sad drawers that were just barely hanging onto that counter top. It seemed a bit like it was designed to be a potting area??? The work surface wasn’t big enough for much else. I decided to add shelves here too. This area would store mostly outdoor supplies and tools. I removed the ‘sad’ drawers, but had a 20-minute long battle with that counter top that involved hammers and crow bars and a brief, though half-hearted stint with a sledge hammer. It didn’t budge. I thought about removing it with a circular saw, but then realized that if that sucker hadn’t moved yet it must be pretty strong. So, I decided to keep it. Garage shelves aren’t supposed to be pretty and perfect. We constantly get them dirty, mark them up with paint and oils, and scuff them with tools. I wasn’t worried about making everything matchy, matchy. I added a shelf below and 2 above by simply adding wood supports on the ends. The new supports were scraps that I screwed into the very sturdy 3/4″ plywood cabinets. The shelves I used on these smaller shelves and the larger shelves were either 1/2″ plywood or more 3/4″ fence slats cut to size.

After the garage makeover

We have tons of storage now and lots of open space on the floor. Nothing feels cluttered anymore. We even added a big workbench island.

I did another similar shelf build above an existing base cabinet. These shelves were built as small sections to store paint, stain, grout, etc. I seem to have a bad habit of collecting paints and stains. Just can’t let any of them go.

After the garage makeover

My tower of paints and stains.

The last project was organizing our shoes, outside clothes, hats, and other bits we like to keep by the door. Phil took this project on about the same time. He built a sturdy and simple 2x4 bench and clothing rack with a shelf. I think this was his first furniture build ever. He doesn’t get much time for building projects. But he does a great job. We store our outdoor shoes and boots under the bench. The clothes and hats are on the rack and the shelf is great for sunscreen and bug spray. I find it’s really handy to keep those 2 things at the garage and back doors. We always need them and I won’t procrastinate about using them when they are that handy.

This month, I took a few hours to finally chalkboard paint all of the cabinet doors and drawers. I mixed my own chalkboard paint with some extra paint I use in the house (Behr’s Castle Path) and some non sanded grout I used while remodeling a bathroom. I did this to partially improve the look of the old cabinets but mostly to help keep everything more organized. Especially the upper cabinets that I don’t use very often. Works like a charm!

Chalkboard Paint to organize the garage

Chalkboard paint in the garage helps keep everything easy to find

Chalkboard Paint to organize the garage

Notice the typical Texas knobs we inherited from the last homeowners

That’s the major aspects of the garage makeover and the DIY involved, I’m always tweaking where things go and trying to figure out how to improve it. I keep a box full of scrap rags made from our old clothing that isn’t nice enough to donate. I have boxes full of small drawers to organize the tools, screws, nails, etc. I also have some drawers and those big, grey storage containers that group things together, like the Dremel and it’s accessories, drywall and tiling equipment, plumbing bits and electrical bits. I think it all works to make things go more smoothly and to keep me from pulling my hair out when I’m looking for the right drill bit.

Organize the garage

Drawer full of old drawer pulls. I guess I collect these too.

Organize the garage

More drawers and containers to divide things up and make everything easier to find

Feeling inspired? Want to do your own garage makeover? Follow the links above to get the things you’ll need from Amazon. Have fun and let me know if you have questions. Or post pictures of your work and tag Abbotts At Home on FB, I’d love to see it!

Makeover on our counter stools with Java gel stain
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