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Space Saving DIY Barbell Rack / Bar Storage

DIY Barbell Rack - Space Saving Vertical Gun Rack

My garage gym has only a single, three-bar gun rack, and I own more than three bars. I’ve been carefully leaning bars against the walls and even leaving some in an unused corner on the floor (rubber floors, don’t worry!) Since I like to keep my gym looking nice and clean, not having a place to put these bars was getting on my nerves, so I made myself a DIY barbell rack.

DIY Barbell Rack in the Garage Gyms' garage gym

Garage Gyms’ DIY Barbell Rack

If you have the wall space for a gun rack, I strongly suggest just buying one. It’s obviously much simpler than building your own DIY barbell rack. Like I said, I have one already but it only holds three bars (below). I can’t really upgrade mine to a six bar holder because of where it is installed, and I don’t have any other convenient places on my wall wide enough to put a second gun rack. I needed a different solution.

My current gun rack situation - no room for 6 bar holder

With my gun rack above my dumbbell rack, I’d never be able to reach bars any higher, so a 6-bar gun rack is out of the question. It’s already not great grabbing for that top bar, and I’m taller than you!

I also didn’t want one of the 9-bar vertical storage boxes that you can buy at most equipment dealers. I just don’t like the idea of dropping a bar into metal sleeves. Some brands have a lined sleeve, which is good, and that does help reduce damage to the bar, but I also didn’t want to commit any floor space to storing bars. I really just wanted the bars as out of the way as possible, and that is why I went with this kind of DIY bar rack.

Full disclosure: This isn’t an entirely original idea. I saw a picture of a DIY barbell rack a while back that was more-or-less the same kind of rack. I didn’t save that picture, unfortunately, but it didn’t seem overly complicated so I just winged it, and it turned out just fine. The really cool thing about a rack like this is that it isn’t load bearing, and it can be built to hold any amount of bars.

DIY Barbell Rack Hardware

I went with cabinet-grade pine because it looked nice and wasn’t overly expensive. It also comes in 3″ and 4″ wide pieces which was perfect for this. You can pretty much use any lumber you want though since it’s not a load bearing rack. Also because it’s not load bearing, you can mount the rack to the wall using wood screws; you don’t need to go crazy with wedge anchors or giant lag screws or anything like that.

You’ll need one mending plate and two screws per PVC cup. Make sure your mending plates are countersunk, and that you buy the proper flat head screws that will sit flush with the plate. The mending plate packaging suggested ¾” #6 screws, but I went with 1″ #6 for a more secure hold.

  • 1″ x 3″ x ?’ Select Pine Board ($6)
  • 1″ x 4″ x ?’ Select Pine Board ($10)
  • 2″ PVC Conduit ($5 for a 10′ piece)
  • 2″ Zinc Countersunk Mending Plates ($0.75 per plate)
  • #6 – 1″ Flat Head Philips Screws [2 screws per PVC holder] ($2 per 12 pack)
  • 3″ wood screws for mounting top portion of rack to the wall (I already had these on-hand)
Hardware for attaching the PVC cups to the board

A shot of one of my PVC cups, the 1″ #6 screws, and 2″ zinc countersunk mending plate.

Tools I Used

  • Drill (used various bits for pilot holes, and also a 1″ and 54 mm bit for base)
  • Powered handsaw (I used this to cut the PVC; not recommended!)
  • Jigsaw (cutting stall mat for base)
  • Tape Measure
  • Level
  • Screwdriver
  • Electrical tape
  • Construction adhesive/Liquid Nails
  • Safety goggles!
  • Pen, marker, whatever

The Pipes and the Rack

I cut the 2″ PVC pipe into 2½” long pieces. That makes them as tall as the 3″ piece of pine (as a reminder, 1″ x 3″ board is actually ¾” x 2½”, which is why I cut the PVC to 2½”). I cut out the mouth of my first PVC piece by guessing how big I wanted the opening to be. I got lucky, it worked well; small enough that it held the bar, but wide enough that it doesn’t take three guys to pull it back out.

I used that first piece as the template for all of the others so that there was some consistency. I also sanded down the pieces when I was done, and gave the mouth more of a rounded edge since the bar needs to slip in and out of this gap. I doubt PVC can scratch a bar, but why risk it; it only took 10 minutes to sand the whole lot of them.

My DIY Bar Rack cups, cut from PVC conduit in 2.5" strips

I used the same template for each piece so that they would all be uniform. I also took the rough edges off with some sandpaper after I cut them. I made more cups than I needed since I need to do a second, shorter rack for my EZ bars and farmer handles.

I’m not sure I want to recommend cutting the pipe using the method I used, as I’m quite sure that it’s not the safest option (I used the electric handsaw for this.) If you have access to more/better tools than I do, cut it however you see fit. They’re small pieces to cut with power tools, so whatever you do, be safe.

As you saw in the first picture, my bar holder can hold seven bars. Each cup is mounted 4″ apart, which leaves a little less than 2″ between each cup. I left extra space around the center holder because I knew that would be a permanent spot for my Swiss Bar. You can place each holder closer, further, or whatever. If you have specialty bars you want to include, I suggest laying them on the ground as if they were on the rack and then measuring the distances between the center of one bar to the next.

Let’s say you wanted to do a 6-bar holder; only for Olympic bars. Leave 3″ before you mark the board for your first holder. Then mark every 4″ until you’ve marked all six spots, add another 3″ after the last mark then chop the rest of the board off. In this scenario, your board would be 26″ long.

Note: If you do have bars other than standard Olympic bars, or a mix of men’s and women’s bars, watch the length (or height, in this case) because they are not all the same. If you notice on my rack, I had to place the rack at a height that allowed for the cups to grab all of the bars, even the shorter Swiss Bar.

After you mark the board, figure out exactly where you’d actually hang it. You want to find at least two studs, and you want to make sure that those two studs aren’t lined up with any of your marks for the holders on the board. Once you found the spot and the height, level it, mark it, and drill pilot holes into the board and into the studs, but don’t actually hang it yet.

Attaching the PVC holders to the wood

After I found my marks for mounting, I taped each piece of pipe onto the board exactly where I wanted them using electrical tape. Electrical tape has some play in it that allows you to re-position easily, and it’s easy to remove.

Once I knew where the board was going to go on the wall, I numbered each PVC cup and then placed all the PVC cups onto the board using electrical tape. This allowed me to get each cup on straight and centered without drilling any holes. Once it was to my liking, I placed and visually centered the mending plates into the cup (above image) and then drilled pilot holes through the tape, pipe, and board. I then took each cup off the board, then set them aside sitting in the same position as they would go back on the board.

If your pilot holes for the mounting screws wouldn’t be covered up by the cups, you could technically attach the cups before mounting to the wall if you wanted to. My mounting screws were going to be hidden behind the cups if I installed them first, so I needed to mount the board before putting on the cups. Either way, that’s pretty much it. Once you get the board up, drop in the mending plates and start threading the #6 screws into the pipe, and then screw each piece into the board placing each cup where you initially had it.

You should definitely hand-tighten these screws rather than power drilling them in. If you strip out these holes, you’ll not be pleased!

Close up of my DIY barbell rack

Closer look of the PVC cups once mounted to the board. Not that complicated really.

I was getting a very small amount of rattling when I slammed the garage door (this rack is mounted on the same wall), and I not only didn’t want to listen to that, but I also didn’t want the bars hitting that zinc plate. I added a 3″ strip of rubber foam weatherseal self-stick tape to the inside of each cup. The bars fit perfectly, and there is not even a hint of noise. I also no longer need to worry about scratching the bars on that mending plate. Easy!

Rubber foam weatherseal self-stick tape to prevent the bar from rattling

3″ strip of Rubber Foam Weatherseal self-sticking tape stops any rattling and risk of the bar scratching against the mending plate. Kind of ugly, but you can’t see it when the bar is in there anyway.

The Base

Base piece for the DIY barbell rack

The rubber-lined base plate of my DIY barbell rack.

This piece is pretty simple. It’s the exact same length as the top board, only it’s 4″ wide instead of 3″. There is exactly 1″ distance between the wall and where the actual bar sits in the top section of the rack, so I left exactly 1″ of distance between the wall and where the bar sits in the base. This way, the bar is standing straight up and down, and not leaning in any direction and putting any strain on the cups.

I used a 54 mm drill bit to put the holes in the base, and since this base board is the same length as the top board, all the marks went in the same place. Again, these holes are not centered along the width; they are exactly 1″ away from the edge of the board (the wall) which makes the holes closer to the front.

Since I didn’t want bars resting on concrete, I cut up a spare stall mat to be the same size as the board and attached it under the board. I used construction adhesive to hold the pieces together, and then for good measure I countersunk a couple of wood screws with 1/8″ – 1″ washers into the underside of the mat and into the wood. I used a 1″ drill bit on the mat for the countersinking.

You can attach the base either to the floor, or the wall. I just used liquid nails, but it can be anchored with concrete anchors, or nailed into the wall much like a baseboard. Your call. Do make sure you have the base centered with the top of the rack though, otherwise your bars will be leaning, and if you have OCD like me, you’ll see that every time you look at the rack.

End?

My DIY guides probably leave much to be desired, and no doubt I’ve left something out. So my disclaimer… plan it out, think it through, wear safety goggles, and always measure twice. This is a simple project, but if you don’t take your time, you’re bound to screw something up, and no one likes to start over. I still suggest a gun rack if you have the space for it though.

If you have any questions, leave it in the comments; I try to answer all comments that include questions. Good luck!

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • dave February 25, 2015, 2:49 pm

    Thank you very much for this tip. I was able to make a 4 barbell holder out of scrap wood in the garage with the only purchase being the 2″ PVC and hardware to attach it to the wood. Super easy project and I went an extra step and stained the wood to make it look extra sharp. Thanks again, you saved me $$$$!

    Dave

    • jburgeson February 25, 2015, 3:28 pm

      Awesome. I’ve been hoping someone else would do this; it’s so easy, and inexpensive.

  • Nick April 5, 2015, 4:18 pm

    Have to move across the country for work. Anyone have any Do’s/ Don’ts in terms of getting them through the move in scratched, dinged or bent?

    • jburgeson April 5, 2015, 9:38 pm

      Try and find someone’s old bar shipping tubes.

  • Steve James September 13, 2015, 10:11 pm

    I’d suggest some kind of safety measure to ensure those barbells stay in place and don’t slip out of the pvc. I’ve got three little boys who’d love to yank on them. A heavy object like that can kill a kid or a pet that happens to be in the wrong place. Perhaps a piece of chain or something?

    • jburgeson September 14, 2015, 12:17 am

      Probably a good idea for those that have kids. There are none here, so it never occurred to me.

      • Jordan January 6, 2016, 1:09 pm

        For anyone looking to add the extra safety measure to the PVC cups when not in use, I have had good experiences using standard storage straps with plastic buckles. These usually come in a package with all of the required mounting hardware, low in cost, and can be attached is several different ways. I have included a link to just one example: http://www.leevalley.com/US/Wood/page.aspx?cat=3,40914&p=69636

  • Tyson December 27, 2016, 9:33 pm

    Is leaving a bar unloaded on the ground a bad thing? That’s what I’ve been doing with my bar

    • jburgeson December 28, 2016, 10:02 am

      No it’s fine like that. It’s just not ideal when there is a chance someone can trip on it, but it won’t hurt the bar or anything.

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