Build a Storage System for Your Wall

Step-by-step instructions for getting organized with a customizable unit.
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Wall system is a catchall term to describe components that can be interchanged and reconfigured as your needs change. Here’s how to construct and install one:

Note: This project costs about $200 and takes two days to complete.

Materials and Tools:

tape measure
safety goggles
dust mask
wood of your choice (in this case pine)
table saw
miter saw
pneumatic stapler
wood glue
2-inch galvanized screws
random orbit sander
wood putty


1. Measure the overall length of the wall where the shelving unit will be placed. Also measure height and depth. Use these measurements when considering a design, either one you create or a set of plans you can purchase.

2. Cut the bottom and two side pieces with a table saw. Use a miter saw to cut 2-by-4’s that will be used as the framework for the cabinet bottom. In this project, five pieces were cut to 16½ inches long and three pieces to 20¼ inches long.

3. Begin the assembly of the base cabinet by attaching 2-by-4 cross pieces to the 1-by-4’s (that create the base perimeter). The longer of these 1-by-4’s will face out into the room and act as the toe kick of the cabinet (the area that allows the feet to slide under the cabinet if standing close by). Secure all the frame pieces with wood glue and 1½-inch staples.

4. Attach the bottom of the cabinet to the frame, first by running a bead of glue across the top of the frame, then by placing the plywood and securing it with staples. Attach the two side pieces with glue and staples.

5. Continue the project by attaching three nailers to the cabinet. Two will be used to help support the top cabinets and secure them to the base, and one will be used to secure the unit to the wall.

6. For the face frame, attach a center support and work your way around the front of the cabinet, attaching 1-by-2 pine around the perimeter, covering the cut edges of the plywood. Then attach a 1-by-4 piece of pine to cover the center support to complete the face frame.

7. Cabinet doors can be bought pre-made. In this case, the doors are cut and installed. After all four 1-by-2’s are cut to length, use a table saw to cut rabbit joints into the edge of each of the pieces. Make two passes with each piece of trim to create a joint of the size you need.

8. Miter-cut both ends of each piece and join them with glue and nails, creating a rectangle that will be the outer frame of each door. Cut a ¼-inch piece of plywood to size and insert it into the rabbit joints in the door frame, again securing with glue and nails (similar to how you would insert a piece of glass into a picture frame). Repeat the same process for three more doors. Sand for a smooth, finished look.

9. For the shelving portion of the wall unit, you’re simply constructing a pair of rectangular boxes. To make them, first attach the top piece to two side pieces with glue and 2-inch screws. Attach nailers to the top and bottom of the back of the unit; they will be used to secure the cabinet to the wall. Finally, add 1-by-2 trim to the front portion of the shelving unit. Trim the 1-by-2 units to 5/8-inch width, sand to create a smooth edge, cut to length and attach.

10. Use wood putty to fill in nail holes and imperfections. Wipe down the object with a clean cloth. Continue to attach trim and apply stain until you’ve achieved proper form and color. Allow to dry 24 hours.

11. To install, be sure to remove baseboards, shoe molding and crown molding where the shelving will be placed. Check the base unit with a level and attach to the wall with screws. Attach shelving units in the same manner, and follow with trim and shelving standards.

12. Attach hinges and doorknobs to doors. Insert shelving clips into the standards. Attach doors and insert shelves.

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