My Garage Makeover is still going strong! Keep reading to see how I created a french cleat system and finished it with an array of vibrant paint colors.
Welcome to Week 3 of The Take Back My Garage Renovation Series! This week, we're talking all things french cleats. If you missed my other weeks, you can catch up here:
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What is a French Cleat System?
A french cleat system is a time-tested method for hanging anything heavy on the wall. It consists of a strip secured to your wall studs and a corresponding strip secured to the back of your item – both mitered at a 45-degree angle.
If you have scrap wood and a table saw (or circular saw), french cleats are easy and inexpensive to make. I made mine from leftover MDF, which saved me a fortune on lumber!
Ideally, it would have been better to make these cleats from 3/4" plywood, which is more durable than MDF and less susceptible to changes in humidity/temperature.
BUT, lumber is wicked expensive right now. So I took a chance and used what I had lying around.
I cut and installed all of my cleats in just a few hours. Even with a quick turnaround, this project made a substantial impact on my workshop organization.
Scary, right? Here's how it looks now.
French Cleats vs. Pegboard
Ah, the age-old debate. What's better – pegboard or french cleats?
I asked myself this question at least 500 times while researching garage organization options. Here's what I determined to be the pros and cons of either:
- Pegboard panels are available at any hardware store. IKEA also makes its own pegboard for $16.99, making this a budget-friendly option as well.
- They typically come in two colors (brown vs. pre-primed white) or can be painted.
- Once installed, tools can be hung immediately on hooks.
- Pegboard must be secured to cleats (1x3 pine, etc) in order to leave adequate space behind the board for clips to hang. The installation process is similar to that of french cleats.
- IKEA pegboard and hardboard pegboard have different sized holes, so the accessories are not interchangeable.
- Pegboard hooks have a tendency to fall out when you're reaching for a specific tool.
- Pegboards can get cluttered and messy.
- When left unpainted, pegboards can make a room appear darker and smaller.
- Pegboards don't protect your tools from sawdust. If anything, they make tools harder to clean.
French Cleat Pros:
- Can be made from scrap lumber or plywood ripped down to desired width.
- Minimal screws and accessories needed since the system relies on gravity and friction to hold items in place.
- Tools can be easily picked up and moved around without worrying about hooks.
- Provides a more organized, streamlined appearance.
French Cleats Cons:
- Time intensive. Each set of tools requires a custom holder to be made.
- Cleats need to be sealed with polycrylic since items are movable and may damage the finished product.
After weighing my options, I decided on french cleats. I'm so happy I did! In fact, I'll be using the french cleat system to store my lumber in the near future.
What is the best spacing for french cleats?
This is a matter of personal choice. To get the most bang for your buck, though, you'll want to space your cleats 2.5" to 3.5" apart.
To maintain consistency, use a spacer block made from 2x4 or scrap material ripped to the gap you choose.
How much weight can a french cleat hold?
Weight limits vary depending on the material and fasteners used. For maximum load bearing capacity (i.e. several hundred pounds), use 3” construction screws and wood that is ¾” thickness. Make sure your cleats are attached to at least two wall studs. Do not rely solely on wall anchors for support.
Lag screws are a reliable way to secure your french cleat system to studs. A single lag screw can support 80-100 pounds, so the more studs you can attach to a long cleat, the better.
Building your own french cleat system
Have I talked you into french cleats yet?
Let's talk about the construction process.
- 3/4" plywood
- 3" construction screws
- Wood filler
- Liquid Nails
- Latex paint. Here's what I used from the top down: White Dove (Benjamin Moore), Ella Rose (Magnolia Paint by BM), Mellow Coral (Sherwin Williams), Captured Heart (Clark + Kensington), Daring Red (CK), Acanthus Leaf (CK), Basil Leaf (CK), Olive Tree (CK)
- water-based polycrylic
Additionally, you'll need to following to make your tool holders:
- Scrap wood
- Nail gun
- Brad nails (1 1/4")
- Clamps (assorted sizes)
- Kreg jig + pocket hole screws
Use a stud finder to mark the location of your studs. Do a quick sketch of your spacing to determine how many cleats you'll need.
Set your table saw to 45 degrees and rip your boards. I made my cleats from 1x4 boards ripped to 2.5" on the table saw. Once mitered, I was left with a second cleat 1" wide.
Related: Building this Miter Saw Stand from Ana White Plans
I repeated this process until I had 9 cleats ripped.
Some of my scrap pieces weren't long enough so I had to join two pieces together on the wall. In this case, I didn't always have a second stud available so I used a wall anchor for my screws. Each cleat had at least one stud support, with most of them having 3+ stud supports.
Hold your cleat up to the wall and mark your stud locations. Pre-drill your holes at these spots.
Run a bead of construction adhesive along the back of your cleat. Secure your cleats to the wall studs using 3" screws. Check for level as you go. Make sure your mitered edge is facing up and toward the wall!
Fill in any nail holes or seams with wood filler. Sand. Paint in a color of your choosing. Once dry, seal with water-based polycrylic.
I changed the paint scheme for these cleats at least 5 times. The great thing about paint is that it's an easy fix if you hate it. Which I did.
The last step in the process is to create custom holders for all of your tools! Hang on to the remaining beveled pieces as you'll attach these to the back of your bins like so.
There's an endless array of options for creating holders from simple plywood, PVC pipes, dowels, and hinges. This topic deserves its own post, so I won't go into too much depth here.
Stay tuned for next week, wherein I share the tool holders I've made thus far! I've got six made and at least 3-4 more in the works.
...well I didnt realize I needed french clear storage system in my garage and basement until now! Looks fantastic!
Erin Devine, RN BSN
Thanks Jen! It's definitely a game changer!