Recessed Shelving Between Wall Studs for Storage

If your home is small, storage is usually high on the list of a homeowner’s priorities. Here are instructions on how to build shelving and storage within the space between wall studs. This application is for a home with six-inch interior walls; however, the instructions can be modified for four-inch interior walls although you would only have a 3-Ã?½ deep storage area. Some people sink medicine cabinets into the wall and this same principle can be used for wall stud shelving.


Choose a wall area that is away from traffic. Hallways are perfect for increased storage areas. If you put recessed shelving in a living area, do not use an outside wall because your exterior siding would become the back of the recessed shelving. Consider using a petition wall (between rooms) you can walk up to and retrieve items instead of reaching over a couch or other furniture. You will need to place your shelving area between electrical outlets as the wires could be running up or down the wall depending of whether you have an attic or basement and may be close to where you cut the drywall. Also some homes have heating and cooling registers at the floor even though the standard application is ceiling height. If floor register placement is at the floor and the house has been placed on a concrete slab, you will need to consider that ductwork is positioned between wall studs.

Wall Studs

Typically when a home is built, the standard distance between studs is 16 inches. Use a stud finder (they are about $10) and mark off the 16-inch area where you will open up the wall for shelving or storage. In our home, we allowed for two storage areas in a hallway and one in the living room for CD’s and VCR’s although the storage area can be used to display collectibles.

Opening Up the Wall

Carpenters sometimes use horizontal bracing between wall studs. In our house, bracing was used about waist level that was perfect for the shelving bottom. Once you know where you want to place your shelving that will be recessed between wall studs, mark off the area of drywall to be cut out. You can use a pencil, square and ruler. Our finished storage area measures 18 inches by 50 inches with an interior measurement of 13 inches by 45 inches and is about 18 inches from the ceiling. Once you’ve marked the drywall area to be cut, use a utility knife to cut out the opening. You will need to use a different tool if you have a different wall covering. Deciding on the bottom of your shelving is a little trickier since you don’t know if horizontal bracing has been placed in the wall. Use your stud finder to find wood between studs that is probably the bracing. Our advantage for this storage project was that we created this shelving as the house was being built so we knew where the studs and bracing were located.

Trimming Out the Storage Space

Once you cut an opening, you will see two vertical studs that are the bones for the sides of your recessed shelving. In our situation we had a top and bottom brace within the wall that served as the other two sides of our recessed shelving area. Buy 1 x 4 #2 pine (if you have 4 inch interior walls) and 1 x 6 #2 pine (if you have 6 inch interior walls). If you don’t have horizontal bracing to work with, cut boards for the top and bottom of your recessed shelving area and nail them into place between the two studs. Then measure trim boards (the pine) that fit against the studs. Use finishing nails to nail the trim pine to the studs. Sink your nails and fill the holes for painting or staining later. The back of the cabinet will be the drywall from the adjacent room or you can cut a piece of #1 plywood. Nailed shelving will hold it into place against the adjacent room’s drywall.

Actual Shelving

Decide on the distance you need between shelving boards for storage. We wanted media storage so we customized the size for those items. You can make your shelving boards exactly the size you want. Cut the number of shelving boards you need and set them aside. Use decorative molding and cut lengths that will be nailed to your vertical boards (the wall studs that have been covered with a pine board) that the shelving will rest on. Use a level to make sure the decorative molding is the same on each side so the shelving will be straight. If you want adjustable shelving, you can buy the hardware instead of making the permanent shelving described in this article.

Final Steps

Once your decorative molding is nailed into place, lay your shelving boards on those pieces and you now have shelving for storage. The only thing left is to use casing boards to trim out the opening (similar to making a picture frame). These are 45 degree cuts and are easy to make on a miter saw. You can either stain or paint the finished recessed shelving cabinet as you desire.

You’ve just created additional storage by using space between wall studs for shelving and creating a customized look for all your personal items.

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