Shelves and Storage

As you probably know by now, we’re moving from a 2300 sq. ft. house in Vestavia Hills to a 600 sq. ft. apartment in the pole barn at Longleaf Breeze. That’s the scariest way to say it. Now let’s flesh it out and make it less intimidating.


In addition to the 600 sq. ft. apartment, we will have a 600 sq. ft. shop, a 300 sq. ft. storage room, and a 300 sq. ft. screen porch. We will also have the remainder of the open air pole barn, approximately 3,000 sq. ft., and about 1,200 sq. ft. of that is concrete. And let us not forget 88 acres of open land. As we are fond of saying when tempted to whine about space, “yes, we have a small apartment, but we have a big carport and an even bigger yard.”

So how do we make the best use of this extra space? For Amanda and me, it’s coming down to three solutions: (1) rolling shelves; (2) pallet rack; and (3) culling. And you need to know that this is a subject near and dear to my heart but one that makes the eyes of my beloved glaze over. She’d rather be gardening, thank you.

Rolling Shelves. Part of our initial purchase from Home Depot Pro Sales for the barn was 16 shelving units and 64 casters. Slowly but surely, we are assembling those shelves and placing each one on a platform we build using the casters. The bad news is that we must use a full sheet of 1/2″ plywood for each shelving unit. This is because the shelving unit is 4 feet long and 2 feet wide, so the platform on which it sits must be 49″ long and 25″ wide, and you can get only one of those from a sheet. The good news is that once we have built a shelving unit and placed it on its platform, it holds a LOT of boxes and bins, and several of the shelving units can be positioned right next to each other. There’s no need to allow space between shelving units to walk and look, because when you need something from that shelf, you just pull it out of the line for full access. The shelves will roll freely within the storage room and out onto the main floor of the shop, where we will be able to get even more complete access to them when we need it. We do have to remove anything from the top shelf, however, before rolling it through the door between the storage room and the shop.

The other good news is that we know we will be building specialty pallets for several pieces of equipment, and the remnants of the 1/2″ plywood sheets and some spare 2 x 4s will make great pallets.

I should confess that the 49″ x 25″ platform is a little on the small side; we have had to be ever so careful to place the shelving unit just so on it to avoid having one of the corners of the unit come too close to the corner of the platform. So Amanda and I have decided the next platforms we cut will be 50″ x 26″, giving us an extra 1/2 of space all around. We have assembled 5 of the 16 shelving units, 4 of which are on casters. That leaves 11 shelving units still in boxes waiting to be assembled.

Doing the math, each unit has five shelves of 8 sq. ft. each, or 40 sq. ft., for a total square footage on rolling shelves of when we finish of 16 x 40 or 640 sq. ft. of shelf space for boxes, bins, and loose items. If I were a real man I’d have a video or at least a picture for you. I’ll add that to this post later.

Pallet Rack. We took delivery this week of the components for pallet rack. We combined our purchase with that of my brother Dave Gray, his friend Larry Haigler and Larry’s brother-in-law David Reed. We bought from Pallet Rack Surplus in Atlanta. Our share is enough for six 12-foot sections with 42 inch uprights, which provides us with 12 shelves plus ground, or 18 total surfaces, each 12 feet by 3 1/2 feet, for a total of 42 sq. ft. times 18 = 756 sq. ft. of storage area. I paid a little over $1200 for my share of the pallet rack, and then I paid all the freight for everybody (I owed favors), about $400.

We didn’t have an appreciation for the weight and stoutness of pallet rack until we actually took delivery of it. These puppies aren’t going anywhere, especially after we get a load on them. Amanda and I worked together on some of them, and on some I ended up using Tractor to transport and hold the uprights. You can sort of lift an upright, but you don’t want to carry it very far. You can lift one beam and carry it across the barn. We bought six wire racks, enough for two full shelves, and you can lift one of them; you can even get a good swing going and get it up on the lowest shelf.

awb-pallet-rack-for-blogGetting the first beam attached between two uprights was the trickiest job. Dave Gray and Larry helped me, but now I’ve figured out how I could have done it alone. I could have used Tractor to hold one upright in place and attached a beam to it, then leaned that beam down and let it touch the ground long enough to use Tractor to place the second upright into position. Then I could have lifted the beam and hooked it into the second upright. I know this works, because I ended up using it on other sections. Of course, I could also do it with Amanda’s help, but reference the statement above that she’d really rather be gardening.

The video focuses on the importance of keeping the rack level, which we addressed using buried “fake footings.” I had been planning to use 3/8″ tiles we picked up at Jenkins Brick Co. in Montgomery, but Dave Gray talked me out of it. He thought we needed something more solid under the pallet rack, and he was right. The last thing we want to do is to get a full load on a pallet rack and THEN have one of the tiles crack under the strain. This would require that we remove all the weight from the rack, disconnect it from the other racks, lift it up far enough to allow access for digging, and then do the digging with the pallet rack upright hanging in the way. No-brainer.

We went with 4″ solid concrete block, $2.16 per block at True Value in Tallassee. Dave Gray thinks he may pour concrete footings for his, but I am not sure enough that we won’t be moving the rack later, so I wanted something I could relocate later if necessary.

So now we have the basic ingredients in place to store most of what we will need to keep on hand. The big challenge now is to get the house ready to sell. Which brings us naturally to

Culling. We have done what most upper middle class Americans have done, that is, we have accumulated a houseful of things we almost never use and that keep us from enjoying what is actually important. It’s easy for me to say that, but I’m married to a woman who has trouble throwing away an old yogurt cup, so you can imagine the difficulty she has saying goodbye to a book, or a blouse, or even a brush she hasn’t used in years. She’s in for a painful time, and of course I will suffer too, because she will insist on keeping things that I think we need to shed. I will argue passionately in favor of getting rid of things, and I will lose and wish I had simply smiled sweetly and said “Yes dear.”

This is made all the worse because Amanda’s mother, the gentlest, kindest, most wonderful woman in the world, is publicly and persistently regretful about disposing of some of the things she and her (now deceased) husband Harold owned. She reminds Amanda and me at every opportunity that we need to think twice before throwing or giving away personal items.

Come on, Mama, give me a break! I need allies here.

Leave a Reply