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Freestanding Shelving Units vs Wall Mounted Shelving Units for Storage

Having enough shelving in your garage or storage shed for storing your stuff is something that everyone wants more of. You can get freestanding and wall mounted shelving units at most building centers and come preassembled or in pieces and you assemble.

Here are some pros and cons of each type:

Free-standing units


  • They feature three to six shelves which may or may not be adjustable, depending on the construction.
  • There is no fastening needed unless your unit comes in a box and has to be put together before you use it. You can also build your own to suit your needs.
  • Many shelving units in garages are made of metal to hold the heavier items usually relegated to the garage.
  • One big advantage is flexibility. These units can be moved as the need arises and you need to rearrange your garage. Some units even come equipped with wheels or you can attach some casters. This makes it easy to move your tool collection around as you need them for working on your car, for instance.


  • The drawback is that these units are limited in placement. While they may have adjustable shelving for items of different sizes, the width of the unit is fixed. Many times, people end up with odd, narrow spaces in their garages which could be used with a narrower unit, but the right size may not be available.
  • You also need floor space for a free-standing unit, something which may be in short supply. If you aren’t using a little caution in storing the heavier items on the bottom, especially if the unit is not as strong as it should be for your items, it could potentially fall over.

Wall-mounted shelving


  • More versatile in terms of being able to take advantage of small or odd-sized spaces in your garage.
  • Shelving can be installed almost anywhere to take advantage of smaller spaces, such as a narrow space above a cabinet or installing shelving above an electrical outlet that would otherwise be covered by a free-standing unit.
  • Well-attached units or individual shelves can hold heavier things than many free-standing units. They also allow you to take advantage of ceiling space, with such storage systems as plastic tubs that slide in and out on rails attached to the ceiling. These are great for seasonal items such as pool toys.


  • They have to be physical attached to the wall, which means you’ll need to make sure they are attached well to the wall framing.
  • In many cases they will be needed to be mounted higher up on the wall so you can make use of the floor space, which means you’ll need a step stool or ladder to access them.

Which Type is Better in a Shed?

Most people prefer wall-mounted shelving in a shed. Shelves can be mounted higher up to get seasonal items out of the way, with often-used items on lower shelves for easy reach. Many will designate an entire wall for shelving if they have a lot of smaller items to store, or corner units can be built so as not to waste the space.

Most smaller sheds don’t have a lot of floor space to spare, especially once the lawn tractor is parked inside. Mounted shelves can be built starting partway up the wall, enabling you to place larger items underneath.

The free-standing units do have the advantage of being movable, though. If you live in your home for a number of years, how you use your shed and what you store there is bound to change gradually over time. You may find the need to rearrange some shelving at some point, and this is where free-standing units come in handy. The available floor and wall space will help guide your decision, and you may well have a mixture of both types of shelving. Looking for a cheaper option? Read my article for more information Is it Cheaper to Build or Buy Storage Shed Shelving?

Which Type is Better in a Garage?

This depends on the size of your garage, how much room you have leftover for storage after your vehicles are inside, and the layout of various immovable things, such as doors, windows and electrical outlets. You may be a fan of free-standing shelves but find an odd space or two that could be utilized, and this is where the wall-mounted shelves can be formed to fit with a wide board and two strong brackets.

If you are lucky enough to have space for a workbench, you can install shelving underneath to take advantage of the protected space. If you decide to make use of your tall ceiling, you can install overhead storage, which will be mounted to the ceiling.

Wall-mounted shelving is versatile in that you don’t need shelving in units. Single shelves can be attached anywhere handy on the wall and can be added as the need arises. While you can move free-standing units if you should feel the need, wall-mounted shelving should be planned out before installation. Check out my article How to Choose the Best Metal Garage Storage System for more storage ideas for your garage.

Should I Use Heavy Duty Mounted Shelving Units?

This depends on what you plan to store in your garage. Heavier items commonly find their way to the garage, as they are not suitable for storage in your home closets. That doesn’t mean, however, that you automatically will need heavy-duty shelving. For instance, your power tools such as saws and drills will go in the garage, but they don’t automatically need heavy-duty shelving.

If you like to work on cars and usually have heavy auto parts on hand, a heavier shelving system may be right for you. Other heavy items such as weights or a lot of metal parts or five-gallon buckets of paint will need shelves that can hold the weight.

Of course, heavy-duty shelving does cost more than, say, a plastic shelving unit, so you probably will use a mixture of different types and capacities of shelving. Another consideration is the width of the shelves. The same items stored on a six-foot shelf may not need a heavy-duty shelf, but if the shelf is 12 feet long, it may well need the extra support.

It’s not smart to make the mistake of buying a few heavy-duty shelves to handle a bunch of very heavy items rather than breaking up the weight onto multiple shelves. Any shelf can be overloaded, no matter how much the stated weight capacity may be.

Also, be aware of the rated capacity of the shelving units you consider. Unfortunately, some claim to be able to support more weight than they actually can, so watch out for shelving that makes outrageous claims, such as being able to support 1,000 pounds.

Remember that no shelving is any stronger than its support, so purchasing the right brackets and hardware to support your shelving is just as important as the shelving itself. Some heavy-duty shelving will come with its own hardware. If not, take care to select the proper brackets.


There is no question that shelving in garages and sheds really upgrades the usefulness of both. It keeps dirtier and heavier items out of the house, but also keeps items off the floor and makes them much easier to find. If your a beginner and need some help check out my article 6 Shed Shelving Ideas for Beginners.

Plowing through a pile of storage tubs or boxes looking for that one thing you think you saw there last spring is not fun. Plan out your shelving according to your available space and storage needs and you will have a space your neighbors might envy.