How to Convert Nineteen Walmart Wooden Crates into an Entire Storage Wall

We can all use more storage space. It’s how to get it that’s the question. Wooden crates from Walmart, nineteen of them, can provide one answer.

I was meandering through our local Walmart store the other day when a stack of wooden crates caught my eye. We already had one at home, a purchase that’s held a number of board games for the past three years or so, but a different thought altogether blasted full-blown into my mind. Our new employee, a companion for Pam and also a light housekeeper willing to wash dishes, dust, organize things, etc., had buttonholed me last Thursday.

“Pam wants me to clean up this corner,” she said, indicating a massive clutter dominating a couple hundred cubic feet of space in front of our soon-to-be-needed ventless propane space heater, “but I don’t know where to put the stuff.”

Yeah. No kidding. “I’m going to have to do that,” I admitted. Translation: I have no clue where to put that stuff, either.

Some of it could be discarded, of course; that’s true for at least a few items in almost any pile of “stuff” around here. But a lot of it really has to stay with us. Pam may never play the board games–most of which have never been taken out of the boxes in which they arrived–but they need to be there in case she does get the urge. A huge tote full of medical braces and boot casts and the like…well, obviously we never know when my redhead’s going to break another bone. She hasn’t busted any in a while now, but if we threw out a boot cast today, you can bet she’d hairline an ankle tomorrow.

And so on and so forth.

The clutter in the Border Fort is not nearly as bad as it used to be. After all, there was a point where we still had mostly dirt floors, as recently as the summer of 2010. There’s no workshop or garage per se, so many of the tools used to build the house are still in the house. Pam’s medical needs produce stockpiles of everything from medical devices to the aforementioned boot casts to one entire cabinet devoted to nutritional supplements. She’s working on reducing her clothing (including shoes) to a manageable level, but it’s not there yet. Paint cans half full of leftover paint have to stay inside.

Uh, yeah. We can always use more storage space.

Ah, but where to put the storage wall? Well now, let me think. My wife is cool when it comes to rustic construction; she wouldn’t mind an unpainted stack of open wooden shelving. However, her end of the house has the most finished look, complete with high end kitchen cabinets (for instance).

(*Sigh.*) The only logical place to “cram in” the storage wall was in my own bedroom. Okay, so it’s technically not my bedroom any longer, not since last December when I split my bedroom in half to make two small rooms, the smallest going to a friend of Pam’s who needed a place to stay. That didn’t work out, but the room setup is still (and probably always will be) in place.

Okay. Bite the bullet, buddy. No use fighting fate. I bought eighteen crates which, added to the one we already had, worked out to be just enough to make the “horned pyramid” I had in mind.

Home Depot added the rest of it, a single 2″ x 12″ plank in eight foot length and three different lengths of #6 wood screws: 5/8″, 3/4″, and 1 1/4″. We were good to go. Here’s the build, by the numbers:

1. Cut the plank to fit the wall and the planned run of crates. In this case, that meant a 90″ length of planking.

2. Since our floor–especially in that room–is loose lay and anything but level, it was necessary to add a couple of shims under the left side of the 2″ x 12″. A small piece of scrap (leftover from another project) siding worked perfectly for one of the shims; a small piece of 1″ x 6″ lumber worked equally well for the other.

3. With the plank nicely leveled, five crates were installed on top of the plank, each crate being laid on its side.

4. The first crate was positioned and screwed down to the 2″x12″, using several of the 1 1/4″ screws.

5. The second crate was then positioned and screwed tightly to its neighbor with two 1 1/4″ screws near the front edge only. This arrangement allows the second crate’s “far edge” to be moved a bit so that it aligns with the edge of the underlying plank as perfectly as possible. With nineteen crates to connect and the mill in China not always making crate A to precisely the same dimensions as Crate B, leaving a little wiggle room (by attaching the crates to each other at front edges only) is essential.

6. Adjust the far edge of the crate to get the desired look…and then screw that crate down to the 2″ x 12″.

7. Rinse and repeat to finish out the first row of crates.

8. Add the first crate for the second row in pyramid fashion, the center of the second-row crate positioned precisely dead center above the joined ends of the crates below it, using the shorter 5/8″ screws. Anything longer will leave screw points sticking through the wood, traps for unwary fingers or precious goods being put in storage.

Okay, that ought to be confusing enough. Time for some clarifying photos.

The beginning of the storage wall, including the 2" x 12" plank (bottom), the first row of wooden crates, and the first crate for the second row in place.

The beginning of the storage wall, including the 2″ x 12″ plank (bottom), the first row of wooden crates, and the first crate for the second row in place.

Three first-row 1 1/4" screws attach each crate to the base 2" x 12" plank.

Three first-row 1 1/4″ screws attach each crate to the base 2″ x 12″ plank.

Two 1 1/4" screws attach each crate to its neighbor--at the front edges only.

Two 1 1/4″ screws attach each crate to its neighbor–at the front edges only.

Beginning with the second row, four 5/8" screws attach each crate to its downstairs neighbor.

Beginning with the second row, four 5/8″ screws attach each crate to its downstairs neighbor.

Note: The manufacturers of the wood screws claim their products are “self starting”. They’re not. I self started the screwdriver tip right through the skin on my left thumb, trying to believe that. The best way (that I’ve found, anyway) to take care of the problem is setting a starter hole for each screw with a 10d nail and a few taps from a hammer.

Self starting screws, my left thumb.  A few hammer taps on a 10d nail works wonders to get those wood screws going.

Self starting screws, my left thumb. A few hammer taps on a 10d nail works wonders to get those wood screws going.

Working the pyramid of crates on up as far as it will go–in this case, five high–is a fairly straightforward process…with one exception. You do have to watch out for those minor differences in crate construction. For example, an occasional end board was cut 1/16″ or so shorter than the standard, producing a narrower (or when installed on their sides as these were, shorter) box.

Deal with it.

An inconsistent board cut will produce the occasional (and inescapable) crack here and there.

An inconsistent board cut will produce the occasional (and inescapable) crack here and there.

9. Once the pyramid is complete, it’s time to pick out a few spots for anchors, 1 1/4″ screws through the back boards and also through the room wall itself. Since I use nothing but OSB strand board for wall construction, that’s a simple process. If your walls are sheetrock, don’t ask me; I detest sheetrock.

Okay, so I got a little carried away with the wall-anchoring screws.  This storage wall won't fall over accidentally, though, and that's a good thing.

Okay, so I got a little carried away with the wall-anchoring screws. This storage wall won’t fall over accidentally, though, and that’s a good thing.

10. The next and final step is to position and attach the last four crates–on their ends, not their sides–tucked atop the second and fourth pyramid steps. (These are the “horns” of the “horned pyramid”.) They hang out several inches over the sides of the “steps”, but the end pieces of the boxes are strong enough to make that workable. These are attached to the sides of their neighbors at four points rather than two, and here is where the 3/4″ screws come in–attached through the thin boards and into the thick ones. Then the “floors” of the four crates are attached to their downstairs neighbors, and the project is complete.

In fact, we’ve already begun putting the storage wall to good use.

The horned pyramid storage wall is complete and already being put to use.

The horned pyramid storage wall is complete and already being put to use.

One of our acquaintances suggested painting the crates. Fortunately, both Pam and I prefer the untreated wood look, at least for now. I really wouldn’t want to have to paint all those open slats on nineteen separate crates.

4 thoughts on “How to Convert Nineteen Walmart Wooden Crates into an Entire Storage Wall

  1. The storage wall looks pretty good. I have admired those crates and thought they would be useful for storing things in. Of course I have been using milk crates for years for storing things in. I have a stack of them in our closet, that I have put towels and sheets in.
    I always seem to end up in houses that do not have linen closets in them and have used that method for years. I really do not like to put towels under the sink, like some people I know do. Plenty of room under there, but if there is a water leak under there, you don’t find out until it is too late and everything is soaked and possibly mildewed. I prefer to find leaks sooner than that.
    I can see a stack of those would look a little nicer, but I do not think they could be as sturdy as the heavy plastic ones. We got them from a dairy that a friend of ours worked at. The boss sold a bunch of them when he bought a different style. They were a slightly different size and did not stack well with the new ones.

  2. No, I wouldn’t want to store towels under the sink, either. We’ve always stuck cleaning products under there, but nothing else.

    Stacking these crates the way I did makes them surprisingly sturdy…for the most part. In the pyramid proper, the “bendier” center portions of the slats are supported by being two layers thick and also by the stout edges of the next row down. In a couple of those, Pam already tucked in a bunch of relatively heavy cookbooks with no trouble at all, i.e. no sag or threat of sagging.

  3. Thanks, Sha. The storage capacity is pretty awesome, too. We’re “mucking out” terrible clutter, starting with Pam’s bedroom and the corner of the kitchen that has to be cleared before we fire up the wall heater for the winter. So far, piles of “stuff” from her entertainment center top and her dresser top plus about half of the medical braces (ankle, back, wrist, knee, etc.) have been “processed” (some trashed, some bagged, some just dusted and moved)…and the horned pyramid is sucking it up like a black hole. I’d never want to have to move again after all of this, but the good thing about that is we’re not planning to do so. 🙂

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