How to Build Pantry Shelving

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Well-organized pantries are assets to any kitchen and cook who uses them. Building pantry shelving is a project that will help organize the storage of supplies so that you can take advantage of one of a home's essential kitchen features. The steps listed here for installing a wall-to-wall pantry shelf can be repeated as needed and adapted to your pantry's particular configuration.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Builder's level
  • Stud finder (optional)
  • Framing square
  • 1-inch-by-2-inch pine boards
  • 1-inch-by-12-inch pine boards
  • Handsaw
  • Circular saw
  • Hammer
  • 8d finish nails
  • 6d finish nails
  • Determine the desired shelf height and mark the height on the wall at each end of the shelf location. Mark a second point 3/4 of an inch below the shelf height marks at each end of the shelf. The second marks designate the height of the shelf support boards.

  • Connect the two lower height marks placed in Step 1 using a builders level to define a level guideline for the horizontal shelf support.

  • Extend a level horizontal line on the wall at each end of the shelf, level with the lower support line and about 12 inches out from the rear wall. These are the guidelines for the end support boards for the shelf.

  • Locate and mark the vertical centerline of each wall stud across the length of the rear shelf support guidelines marked in Steps 2 and 3. For the end supports, locate and mark the vertical centerline of the wall stud nearest to the end of the 12-inch support guideline marked in Step 3. If the nearest wall stud is beyond the end of the guideline, the end support board must be extended to reach the stud for nailing.

  • Measure the horizontal dimension of the rear support guideline and cut a length of 1-inch-by-2-inch pine lumber to this dimension with a handsaw or circular saw. Position the cut length against the wall and align the top edge with the guideline. Attach it to the wall with an 8d finish nail at each wall stud and at each end into the corner studs.

  • Measure the horizontal dimension from the vertical face of the rear shelf support to the first wall stud center marked in Step 4 for the end supports. Take the longest measurement of the two ends and cut two matching lengths of 1-inch-by-2-inch pine lumber. Align the top edge with the guideline marked and secure one support at each end with an 8d finish nail into the marked wall stud center and another into the corner stud.

  • Measure the length of the rear shelf support installed in Step 5 and mark the dimension minus 1/8 of an inch on a 1-inch-by-12-inch pine board. Square the dimension mark across the width of the board and cut it to length.

  • Set the shelf board cut in Step 7 on top of the installed 1-inch-by-2-inch shelf supports tight against the rear wall. Secure the shelf with 6d finish nails through the edge into the supports. The installed shelf is ready for use.

Tips & Warnings

  • The nail sizes recommended are 6d and 8d finish nails, commonly referred to as "6 penny" and "8 penny" nails. The name "penny" has its origins in 17th-century England, where 100 nails of a particular size cost 6 pence, 8 pence and so on. Today, "penny" refers to a definite length of a nail measured from the head to the tip. The designation "penny" still is noted by the British pence sign of a lower case "d."
  • Keeping the end supports for a shelf the same length at each end simply gives visual balance. If an adjoining shelf is being added at either end of the installed shelf, that end support should extend the full length of the wall as that shelf's rear support.
  • Standard shelf support brackets should be installed midspan or equally spaced on shelf lengths over 48 inches to prevent sagging.
  • To add wider pantry shelves, use 3/4-inch AC-graded plywood. All plywood is graded by the type of glue used, i.e. interior or exterior resin, and the surface quality on both sides. "A/C-graded" would be plywood with an interior resin glue not meant for exposure to exterior elements, with an "A" side (no knots and sanded--the best grading) and a "C" side (with minor, tight knots and unsanded). This is a better grade of plywood and suitable for painted interior shelving.

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