Shelving vs. Cabinets: The Great Garden Shed Storage Debate


If your gardening tools and equipment have taken over your shed, you may seek the best storage solution to get organised. Two of the most popular options for tidying up sheds are installing shelving units or cabinetry

Both can help you neatly arrange all those shovels, pruners, hoses and cans of paint taking over your space. However, shelving and cabinets have key differences in visibility, protection, flexibility and cost.

Should you go for open shelves that provide full access and adjustability? Or enclosed cabinets that keep items concealed and secure? Often, it comes down to personal preference and usage needs. 

Certain solutions may be better suited for heavy tools vs. small items. This guide examines the pros and cons of shelving vs. cabinets for decking your shed. 

Learn the different factors to consider and get tips for choosing the best system for your space and budget. You can maximise utility and tidy your garden shed with the right combination of shelves and cabinets. Let’s dive into the great debate!

Key Differences Between Shelving and Cabinets

Shelving and cabinetry each offer their own pros and cons when it comes to organising garden tools and equipment. Here are some of the key differences to consider when deciding which is best for your shed:


Shelving allows complete visibility and accessibility of stored items. You can easily scan shelves to see where everything is. Cabinetry conceals items behind doors, making visibility more difficult but also hiding clutter.


Open shelves provide full access anytime without obstruction. Cabinet doors and hardware can sometimes get in the way and obstruct the reach of stored items.

Dust or Dirt Protection 

Enclosed cabinets provide more protection from dust, dirt and moisture. Tool surfaces are more exposed to the elements on shelves. However, shelves are easier to clean than inside cabinetry.

Style Options 

Shelving comes in a huge range of sizes and configurations to customise. Cabinet sizes are more standardised, limiting arrangement flexibility. But cabinets allow for extra organisational features like drawers.



Cabinetry tends to be sturdier and longer-lasting, especially for heavy-duty use, high-quality wood cabinets with durable doors and hardware. Particle board shelves are prone to sagging over time.


Basic ready-to-assemble cabinets cost more than basic shelving units. Custom built-in cabinetry can get very expensive. Shelves are likely the more budget-friendly DIY solution.

Shelving vs Cabinets for Shed Storage

Shelving Pros and Cons


  • Highly versatile and adjustable, great for odd-shaped sheds
  • More affordable DIY solution
  • Easy to install and reconfigure as needed
  • Great visibility of all tools


  • Less protection from dust and dirt
  • Not as durable for heavy items
  • Prone to sagging over time
  • No ability to conceal clutter

Cabinet Pros and Cons


  • Very durable construction for heavy-duty use
  • Doors enclose and conceal contents
  • More protection from elements
  • Can incorporate drawers, hooks, dividers


  • Fixed sizes limit adjustability
  • Obstructed access with doors
  • Higher cost, especially custom built-ins
  • Difficult to retrofit in old sheds


Storage Solution Tips

When designing your shed storage systems, consider using a combination of open shelving and enclosed cabinetry to get the best of both worlds. Shelving is great for lighter items like hand tools, gloves, and cans that don't need total protection. 

While you could try maximising your existing space, wouldn't simply having more space work better? Reserve the lower cabinets for heavier gear like power tools, chemicals or sharp objects. 

Install shelving units first as the backbone, then add cabinets for specialised storage needs. Customise cabinet interiors with removable bins, trays and hooks to maximise shed space.

Free-standing shelving, garage cabinets and storage boxes are just a few shed storage ideas that are extremely popular, allowing you to keep your garage space neat and tidy. Label shelves and cabinets clearly so everything has a designated spot. 

Bolt taller or deeper, shelving securely to studs to prevent tipping accidents. Install shelves and overhead cabinets vertically on the walls for maximum floor space while maintaining easy reach. 

Consider flow and organise the items you use most frequently in the most accessible central locations in the shed. A heavy-duty shelving system can help you get your garage organised. You can create a clutter-free, organised shed with the right open and enclosed overhead storage cabinet blend.


What types of items are best to store on shelves vs. in cabinets?

Lighter items like hand tools, gloves, and gardening accessories are often best suited for open shelving, while heavier power tools, chemicals, or equipment are better stored in enclosed cabinets. Adjustable shelves allow full visibility and access to frequently used tools.

How can I maximise storage space with shelves or cabinets?

Use adjustable shelving to customise units to your space fully. Incorporate extra organisational features like bins, baskets and dividers. Install storage vertically on walls for more floor space. Use racks or hooks between shelves or cabinets. Label everything clearly.

Is it better to have all shelves and cabinets or a combination?

Often, the best approach is a combination of shelving units and cabinetry. Use shelves for the bulk of regular access storage, then add lockable cabinets for valuables or dangerous items requiring more security.

What are cost-effective shelving and cabinet options for sheds?

Affordable DIY solutions include basic wood boards on brackets for shelving. For cabinets, modular systems like IKEA's SEKTION are customisable and budget-friendly. Sturdy metal utility shelves and cabinets are also economical shed options.

How can I install shelving or cabinets in my shed? 

Follow manufacturer instructions for safe assembly and load capacities. For a built-in look, you can directly attach shelves or cabinets to shed walls by screwing them into wall studs. Consider hiring a contractor if you need electrical or plumbing modifications.

Shelving or Cabinets: Find the Best Fit for Your Shed

Organising your garden shed comes down to deciding between open shelving or enclosed cabinetry for storage. When evaluating your needs, be sure to compare the visibility, accessibility, durability, cost and style options. 

Shelves tend to provide adjustable, budget-friendly storage, while cabinets offer sturdy protection. Often, incorporating both provides the greatest utility.

No matter which solution you choose, the team at Garden Depot can help you design and build the ideal storage system. Our experts can recommend the best racks, units and cabinets to tackle your unique shed's needs. We offer a range of affordable storage solutions to keep your tools tidy while you utilise wall space.

Contact Garden Depot today to get started optimising your shed! Our experienced staff can provide tips for installation and shed organisation to take your storage capabilities to the next level. You can finally enjoy a clutter-free, functional garden shed with the right combination of shelves, cabinets and customised extras.

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