Take advantage of unused space under the basement stairs with these storage shelves.
The design shown here gives you storage spaces of different sizes, including a tall narrow box for items such as brooms or skis. The boxes are so quick and easy to build that you'll have no trouble adapting them to your storage needs as well as to the size and pitch of the space under your stairs.
Materials and finishing
These boxes are built for utility, not beauty. They are made from inexpensive particleboard without finish, although you can paint them for a more attractive look. One word of caution: Don't build the boxes with particleboard if your basement is damp. Particleboard readily absorbs moisture that makes it swell, and it will crumble if it gets wet. Use CDX plywood instead. This inexpensive grade of plywood, intended for exterior sheathing, is made with water-resistant glue.
About 4 hours
Measuring tape, electric drill/driver, tablesaw or circular saw, framing square, chalk line, long clamps or bench vise
Sawing, measuring, and gluing
Measure the slope of stairs, assemble tools and materials, prepare a work area
The boxes shown fit under a staircase with a 45-degree pitch: For every 12 inches the stairs rise, they run (travel horizontally) 12 inches. The boxes step up and over in 12-inch increments.
If your stair slope is more gradual, your boxes will need to be wider to fit; more steep and the boxes will be narrower. To find out, hold a tape measure vertically with the hook on the floor. Move the tape along the bottom of the stair until the distance to the floor is 36 inches. Use a 4-foot level to make sure the tape is plumb, then mark the point on the floor. Measure from the floor mark to the point where the bottom of the stair meets the floor. Let's say the distance is 46 inches. Divide 46 by 3 to get 15-5/16 inches. Now you know your small boxes and tall box need to be 15-5/16 inches wide while your large boxes should be 30-5/8 inches wide.
Although the lengths of the three backs (C) add up to 72 inches, you need a little more length to allow for the kerfs -- the 1/8 inch of material that the saw blade turns into dust with each cut. Snap a line at 72-1/2 inches across the 1/2-inch-thick particleboard sheet. Make a freehand cut with a circular saw.
Rip-cut one long piece of 1/2-inch particleboard into two 11-7/8-inch-wide pieces. With your circular saw and straightedge jig, crosscut one of these pieces to 72 inches to make the back (I) of the tall box. Cut three 12-inch backs (F) for the small shelves from the other 11-7/8-inch piece.
If you don't need tall storage, consider adding shelves to the tall box. Just rip the whole panel used to make the sides (H) into two 23-7/8-inch pieces. Cut the sides to length, then use the offcuts to make up to four shelves.
Lay the tall box sides (H) next to each other, with edges flush. Draw lines across both pieces with a framing square to show where to locate the bottom of the shelves. Extend these lines across the outsides of the panels so you will see where to drive screws.
Assembly is the same for large and small boxes. Apply glue to the top edge of one box side (B or E). Use a bench vise or clamps to hold the piece, glued edge up. Screw the top (A or D) to the side, using three screws for small boxes and five screws for large boxes.
Turn over the long box assembly, apply glue to the top and bottom edges of the second side, and screw it into place between the top and bottom. Finally, screw the back in place using 12 screws along each side, five screws across the top and five screws across the bottom.