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Create a Shelf System for a Small Space

Maximize your vertical space with these step-by-step instructions.

Turning wooden ladders into shelves offers a creative approach for solving storage problems in small spaces. (SHNS photo by Matt Fox/HGTV)

With exterior extension ladders and a series of 8-foot, 1-by-12-inch pine boards, you can build a shelving unit for storing books, accessories and office supplies. Just follow these instructions:

Materials and Tools:

two 10-foot wooden exterior ladders
handsaw
3-inch "L" brackets
tape
level
pencil
cordless drill with spade bit
3-inch molly bolts
8-foot, 1-by-12-inch pine boards

Steps:

1. Measure the height of the room and cut the ladders to length with a handsaw, but leave about a half-inch space so that the ladders don't touch the ceiling. Leave the safety feet on the bottoms of the ladders. At the ends without feet, attach 3-inch "L" brackets to all four ladder rails. The brackets should be attached on the outside of the rails, but when the ladders are facing each other, the brackets point inward toward each other.

2. Determine how long you want your shelves to be, and space the ladders accordingly.

3. Place a piece of tape on the floor to mark where the ladders will go. Working with one ladder at a time, hold the ladder in position and, using a level, make sure the ladder is plumb.

4. With a pencil, mark where the "L" bracket touches the ceiling. Drill a hole in that spot with a cordless drill and spade bit.

5. Insert a 3-inch molly bolt through the "L" bracket and into the ceiling and tighten. Repeat this step on the other side and the other ladder. The two ladders should feel securely in place.

6. Slide the shelves between the rungs of one ladder until they reach the corresponding rungs of the other ladder. Don't attach the shelves—you'll want to be able to remove them for cleaning.

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