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Create a Sliding Overhead Storage System – Garage Gym Organization

Instructional Guide for making Hanging Storage System

This overhead storage system guide was originally created by and posted at The Family Handyman. All the content and image credit goes to them.


I wanted to share this hanging storage system guide because I think this is an extremely cool idea that takes some of the unused space in your garage and puts it to good use. It’s functional, relatively quick and simple to make, and also looks nice.

Hanging Storage System DIY Guide

First off, about the containers used in this guide – they are called Nest & Stack Plastic Storage Totes by Akro-Mils. They are much sturdier and have a stronger lip than the plastic containers found in the box stores. You can check out all the different totes at the Akro-Mils Amazon Store here and can get an idea of prices for the sizes you’d like. You will not need lids.

Note: Because the product titles are so long at their Amazon store, you may not notice at first that most of those items they list are packs of multiple totes. Don’t worry, they’re not $80 each. And happy day, the totes are Prime eligible.

Akro Mils Nest and Stack Plastic Storage Tote

Materials List for Overhead Storage System

These materials are for the project done in the example below. Obviously you would need to modify these materials and your cuts if you plan to use different size totes or to install less / more totes.

  • (2) 8′ 2×4
  • (1) 4′ x 4′ sheet of ¾” plywood
  • (1) 8′ 1×2 pine stop strip
  • (1) pint carpenter’s glue
  • (16) ¼” x 3½” lag screws and washers
  • (1) box 2″ wood screws
  • (1) box 3″ wood screws
  • (6) 23½” x 19½” x 13″ plastic totes

 Create a Sliding Overhead Storage System

Are all those cardboard boxes in the corner of your garage driving you crazy? Holiday decorations, camping gear, seasonal clothing and extra bedding take up valuable space. And who can tell one brown box from another?

We’ve designed this system to get all that stuff up and out of the way and into unclaimed space near your garage ceiling. We built this handy system around special reinforced plastic totes that hang from carriages made from 2x4s and plywood strips. In this article, we’ll show you how to assemble these simple carriages, align them perpendicular to the ceiling joists, then anchor them into place with lag screws. It’s that easy. Add labels to the sides of the totes and you can tell at a glance where to find that long-term storage item. You can build and install the carriages in an afternoon and start organizing right away!

Step 1 - Sliding Hanging Storage System - Measure

Photo 1: Measure
Measure the top of the tote to determine the width of the tote rims (¾”) and the size of the bottom flanges of the carriages (in our case, 3″).

Step 2 - Sliding Overhead Storage System - Bottom Flanges

Photo 2: Bottom flanges
Cut 3″ wide strips of ¾” plywood for the bottom flange. Center them on 4′ long 2x4s, then glue and screw them. Use 2″ screws every 10″.

Step 3 - Sliding Hanging Storage System - Complete the Carriages

Photo 3: Complete the carriages
Flip the carriage assemblies over. Center the 5″ wide plywood top flanges and glue and screw them to complete the carriage assemblies.

Step 4 - Sliding Overhead Storage System - Mark Joists

Photo 4: Mark joists
Locate the ceiling joists with a stud finder and snap chalk lines to mark them. Probe with a finish nail to make sure the lines fall on joist centers.

Step 5 - Sliding Hanging Storage System - Screw in Place

Photo 5: Screw in place
Mark each carriage 12″ from the end and align the mark with the joist location. Screw the carriage temporarily to each joist on one side of the flange with 3″ screws.

Step 6 - Sliding Overhead Storage System - Mark Carriage Location

Photo 6: Mark the carriage locations
Cut a 2×4 template from your tote dimensions and mark the location of the top edge of the next carriage. Mark the rear side as well, then screw it and the other carriages in place on one side only.

Step 7 - Sliding Hanging Storage System - Test the Fit

Photo 7: Test the fit
Check the fit of the totes and make sure the rims have maximum bearing on the lower flanges. Make any necessary adjustments.

Step 8 - Sliding Overhead Storage System - Drive Lags at Joists

Photo 8: Drive lags at joists
Drill 3/16″ pilot holes in the top flanges. Then drive pairs of 3½” lag screws into each joist, removing the temporary screws as you go. Use a minimum of four lag screws per carriage.

Step 9 - Sliding Hanging Storage System - Install Stops

Photo 9: Install stops
Mark the centers of the carriages and screw a 1×2 stop along the marks. The stop will keep the totes from sliding too far into the carriages.

If you don’t have unused space above the garage door, you can install this system just about anywhere. However, keep the totes at least 2 ft. from light fixtures, door springs and garage door openers.

The special reinforced totes we used (available from internet suppliers like Amazon) are a bit stronger than those you’ll find at home centers or department stores. The reinforced rims on these containers will support weights of 35 lbs. or more, which is perfect for lightweight storage. And the totes will be easy enough to lift into place while you’re standing on a ladder. To be on the safe side, the total weight of all the totes shouldn’t exceed 210 lbs., so find a different place to store books and heavy hardware. Custom plastic lids are also available for dust-free storage.

If you use other types of containers, measure the rims carefully and adjust the bottom flange width to assure full support. And no matter what joist spacing you find (24 in. or 16 in.), be sure to fasten the carriages with at least four lag screws.

Before you order your totes, measure the height above your garage door and find totes that’ll work. Our 13-in.-deep totes required 18 in. of clearance, including the carriages. For lower clearances, you can buy totes that are 8 and 10 in. deep but with the same top size.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Linda Pletka August 23, 2014, 8:08 am

    Your article is wonderful. I found the one on “The Family Handyman”, but it didn’t share which brand of boxes was used. The choices were bewildering.

    I only have 12″ above my garage doors, so I’ll need to use the 8″ deep boxes. Supposedly, both 10″ and 8″ deep boxes are available in the same sizes. Only, I’ve looked and looked, and can’t find the 8″-ers anywhere in the same sizes. Only smaller boxes (not preferable) in 8″ seem to be available.



  • jburgeson August 23, 2014, 8:43 am

    http://www.akro-mils.com/Products/Industrial/Totes-Containers/Nest-Stack-Totes.aspx it shows all the available sizes direct from the manufacturer of the totes. There’s only one size that’s 8″ and that’s 19 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 8. If they had more in 8″ high, it doesn’t look like they do anymore. I looked on Amazon and it appears as though they sell every size on that list; maybe there are discontinued sizes out there somewhere. If you look at the model numbers on that list, there is an obvious pattern, and there are some model numbers in that pattern missing. /shrug

  • Linda Pletka August 23, 2014, 9:49 am

    When I, happily, found your article yesterday, I did search the Akro-Mils website. It was there that I saw no 8″ tote was available in the 23 1/2″ x 19 1/2″ needed/preferred size. Thinking, as you, that it might have been discontinued (?!), I googled Akro-Mils “Nest & Stack” — having the type was so very helpful, again thanks to you! — but, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any old listings for 8″-ers anywhere…

    Now, I’m left with researching other 8″-ers to see what other sizes there might be out there in different boxes and from different manufacturers — but will they have the reinforced rims? — OR I’m left with either abandoning the project, entirely, or wondering how in the world I might find pre-made metal-type tracks so I could use the 10″ boxes. Only, what do I know about off-the-shelf metal hardware? You’d think there’d have to be a “U”-type track somewhere, like angle-iron, that could be cut to length. Unfortunately, though, as of now, rather than moving forward, we’re only, unhappily, just treading water… My email posted here this morning was a last-ditch hope…

    I’m still glad to have found you, however. Your reprint was essential and most helpful, as is your very kind reply…

    Many thanks!

    PS Based on your comment about model numbers, I googled “35220” hopefully. But no luck…

  • jburgeson August 23, 2014, 9:59 am

    Ya that’s unfortunate you have such a small amount of space to work with. I’ve looked at the plastic totes you can buy at the hardware stores/box store, and none of them have a lip strong enough to hold anything of substantial weight. They’re all such cheap plastic that even if it looks like it will hold, it’ll get hot in the summer and the weight combined with the heat will no doubt slowly warp that plastic and bring it all down.

    The only thing I can think of is to find one of those garage storage specialists; most major cities have a couple of these guys who do nothing but customize garage storage. Maybe they can suggest something, or maybe even come up with a custom solution. Pricey probably.

  • Linda Pletka August 23, 2014, 12:39 pm

    I’ve written U.S.Plastics to see if any of their other boxes have the same reinforced rims as Akro-Mils. They show quite a number of other brands with 8″ depths in different sizes!


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