Modular Storage Box Project Plan

If you need a place to stash photo albums in the living room, towels in the bathroom or toys in the kids' rooms, this modular storage box system is suited for the job.

It's composed of eight modular boxes that can stack in a variety of configurations, so you can create the right shape for your needs. A simple construction plan makes the project accessible to DIYers of all skill levels.

To simplify cutting and assembly, I chose to use 3/4-in.-thick 2x4-ft. panels of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which you can buy at most home centers and lumberyards. Because MDF is sturdy and takes paint well, you'll be able to change colors and rearrange the boxes for many years to come. Each box consists of four equal-size square sides and one smaller inset back square, so you can easily mark and cut the pieces in a grid with minimal waste.

To make eight boxes, you'll need five panels of MDF. Of course, you can make fewer or more boxes depending on your storage intensions.

Hip to be square
Begin by gathering your tools and materials. Use a tape measure and a straightedge to measure and mark the cut lines on the panels, making sure to include the kerf (photo 1). All side squares are 11-3/4 in., and all back squares are 11 in. Each panel will produce eight side squares or eight back squares (see illustrations). You will need 32 side squares and eight back squares.

Adjust your work surface for cutting, set up a fence and use a circular saw to carefully cut along each line (photo 2). To ensure an accurate fence for multiple cuts with the same measurements, create a spacer that is matched with your saw and blade (photo 2 inset). After cutting all of the squares, organize them into two piles, one for side pieces and one for back pieces, and you're ready to assemble them.

General assembly
To build each box, position one 11-in. back square and two 11-3/4-in. side squares together. (You'll add sides after securing the first two.) Bore two pilot holes into the adjoining edges of the top square; then countersink for the screwheads (photo 3). Notice that the back square rests inside the side pieces to form a flush surface.

Next, remove the top square and apply a bead of glue to the adjoining edges, replace the square and drive screws into the holes. I used 1-5/8-in. wood screws; another option is to use a nail gun and 1-1/2-in. brad nails (photo 3 inset). Using a pneumatic nailer speeds the box-assembly process because you don't have to drill holes. However, if you choose nails, use at least three in each joint to achieve a strong hold.

Continue assembling the remaining two sides of the box. Notice that you must alternate the joint location on each side (see box illustration). Repeat the assembly steps until you've completed all of the boxes.

Cover the fasteners and other blemishes with wood putty or Bondo body filler. Let the filler partially harden; then remove the excess using a cheese grater-type rasp.

Finish strong
Another important factor to consider when buying tile is whether you want whole tiles in the corners and along edges. If so, you'll need to select tiles that fit into these spaces. If you don't mind burying your cuts in the corners and under cabinets, you'll have more leeway in choosing tile size.

Ease hard edges and corners by hand using a piece of sandpaper or a sanding block; then wipe all surfaces clean for painting. Apply one coat of primer. A small foam roller works well for this step, though you'll need a small paintbrush to reach the boxes' inside corners. If you have one available, an HVLP paint sprayer would be ideal. After the primer dries, add one or two coats of paint in any color you choose. Be sure to allow adequate drying time between coats.

Once the paint is completely dry, installation is simple: Cart the boxes to your location of choice; then stack 'em and pack 'em until you've conquered your clutter conundrum.