I have been building my emergency food storage for about three years now, and about six months ago I began to very closely track my supplies as shared in my previous post entitled "Balanced Nutrition Best-By Date Tracking System". But that is not what this post is about. From what I have read from hundreds of posts, websites and YouTube Videos, the primary issue most people ran into after food selection was what type of shelving was structurally sufficient enough to store their food and supplies on.
I studied using the heavy gauge steel shelving that is available through a local big box building supply store. I had to be considerate of the floor load limit with the weight of the stored materials as well as the weight of such a shelf being concentrated on four small pads that contacted the floor. That would be fine for a concrete floor, but I decided against that type since I would be building our storage on the second floor of our home.
I then concentrated on lighter duty steel shelving with particle board shelving inserts. I didn't like those because the metal flexed too much and the particle board inserts bowed rather easily. They were also sensitive to humidity, and with weight on them, I felt sure I would have a serious problem later on, so I decided against them as well.
Next came the almost ultra light steel shelving that was supposed to support over a hundred pounds per shelf. That was a complete joke and isn't worth discussion.
At this point, it became critical to have some type of shelving for my food storage which had grown substantially and was accumulating in grocery bags on the floor in a spare room. I made the decision to go with the plastic shelves that were available at the building supply store. After buying six of them, I discovered that the construction of the shelf surface did not accommodate small items. The items would tip over and fall into the elongated slotted stiffener design of the shelves. I remedied that by buying a sheet of tempered Masonite and having the store employee cut it across the length to make pieces to fit each shelf like a flat cover. I cut out the corners of each piece of Masonite to go around the shelf legs and then I was ready to go. I stacked them up with a moderate amount of weight of supplies only to find one day that one of them was shifting sideways, not to mention the disturbing wobble they had when you placed material on them. I had to stack some boxes against that shelf unit to keep it from shifting to the point of collapse. Take a look at the picture below and notice the piece of the black round leg at the top left corner of the picture. See how straight it is?
Now look at the slanted round leg below it. Notice how far out of alignment with the upper leg it is. I have far too much food storage to take a chance on with this type of shelving, so the plastic shelving had failed to meet my needs and it would be replaced with the only remaining alternative. Wooden shelving. I'll find another use for the plastic shelving later on.
The following sequence of pictures is shared with you to show what can be done with eight-foot long pieces of 19/32 (almost 5/8) plywood sheets, each one ripped exactly down the center at the store to give you two each, almost two foot by eight foot pieces of plywood from one sheet, and some eight-foot long 2x4's if you are not restricted by space. I built this shelving unit by myself, but a second set of hands would have been very helpful.
There's a lot being shown in this picture. I screwed the long outer edges of the plywood to the 2x4's placed on edge. That would carry whatever weight of foodstuffs I placed onto it. This bottom shelf is typical to the rest of the shelves except that I screwed in another 2x4 down the center of the 1/2 sheet of plywood. That was to distribute the weight across the floor thereby eliminating any possibility of floor overload. Notice the vertical piece of 2x4 that rests on TOP of the plywood. There is one of those on the inside of each 2x4 leg on each shelf going from the top of the plywood of the lower shelf to the underside of the 2x4 runner of the shelf above it. There's a very important reason for that. When the shelves are loaded and bear down, the vertical 2x4's will ultimately transfer the entire weight down to the 2x4 runners that are on the floor, distributing the weight over a large area.
When fastening your shelves to the inside of the 2x4 legs you may choose screws or nails. I chose screws because nailing would be very difficult to accomplish properly without loosening everything up from the hammering. I have seen many shelves online built by just fastening the shelf to the leg. To me, that is an opportunity for shelf failure if too much gets put on it. To eliminate that possibility, I used the short vertical pieces of 2x4 on top of the plywood of one shelf to contact the bottom of the eight foot 2x4 that was screwed to the outside edge of the plywood shelf. (If you put in the vertical pieces beginning on the very bottom shelf, they can be used to hold up the shelf runners while they are fastened, and then lay the 1/2 sheet of plywood on top of them and screw that down. Then continue with the next set of vertical pieces, and so on.) In essence, that creates a solid interior leg if you will, that would have to be crushed on the length of it in order to allow shelf failure, and that just isn't going to happen. If your wood shelves currently don't have the short wood pieces like this, it would not be difficult to install them without emptying out your shelves. Even if you only use 3/4 inch thick boards attached with deck screws for the vertical braces, it is certainly worth doing, and they will serve you well. I just chose 2x4's for uniformity.
In order to increase the rigidity of my shelf unit I installed four shelf brackets using stainless steel screws. The shelf unit was already very rigid, but I admit to being an overkill type of person when it comes to things like this. I'm not really sure that the brackets made it any more rigid, but I had them in my shop and they gave me a warm fuzzy about the increased rigidness.
Being on the second floor in my location eliminated the remote threat from floods, even though we are not even on a 100 year flood plain. However, suppose there was an earthquake. To accommodate shelf survival in that event, I installed two 3/16 inch threaded rods with stainless steel flat washers and locknuts just below the 2x4's of the top shelf. They will prevent the shelf unit from spreading open during shaking.
You can see the 1x2 backing board I installed on the middle three shelves. That is to keep cans and jars from falling out the back side of the shelf. I fastened them to the backside of the upright legs using deck screws and predrilled holes in the 1x2 to prevent splitting. I must admit that this left a rather large gap at the back of the shelf that caused some cans to tip backwards when placed there. Instead of moving the backing board closer to the edge of the plywood shelf to reduce the gap, I chose to screw in another 2x4 to the backside of the shelf stringer, but flush with the top of the plywood. That decision essentially allows me to have the capacity for three additional eight foot long rows of cans, possibly two or three cans high. That's a lot of extra food storage.
Here is a view of the interior of one of the shelves for these good reasons:
- You can clearly see the short vertical 2x4 under the stringers for the shelf above.
- You can see the additional space made by the backing board being on the outside of the back leg of the shelving unit.
- You can see the 2x4 that I fastened level with the top of the plywood on the back of the shelf to eliminate the gap.
- You can see the straightness of the shelf stringers, and thanks to the thickness of the plywood, cross pieces under the plywood is not necessary.
- You can see the benefit from having the threaded rod for prohibiting shelf collapse.
Here is a loaded shelf and as you can see, the 2x4 shows no sagging from the weight of the cans placed on the plywood above it.
The top shelf is not showing any signs of bowing whatsoever, and it is fully loaded with quart canning jars of pure cane sugar, dried beans and enriched white rice. That is in excess of 200 pounds of material on that top shelf alone.
That completes this post. Thank you for visiting and I hope you find all the information that I provided helpful to you to ensure the safety and comfort of your family. If you found it informative, share the address with your friends so that maybe it can benefit them too.
If you are serious about food storage and want to accurately track your food supply according to the five main food groups, then I recommend that you read my previous post entitled Balanced Nutrition Best-By Date Tracking System. In it, I tell you how you can get a copy of my self-developed tracking system that uses Microsoft Excel by just requesting it by email. It's absolutely free with no strings attached, no subscriptions required, no "Likes" necessary, and it is NOT a template. You use it as a base to begin tracking your own food supply by best-by dates, thereby ensuring food rotation. Check it out. You won't be disappointed!
God Bless America, and good luck to all!