I've learned another lesson in the 'buy cheap, pay dear' category recently.
As I've mentioned before, I've been building up our reserve supplies of food and related items - not in the expectation of TEOTWAWKI, but to have a fall-back supply if inflation takes off and we can't afford to buy food too regularly, or if disruptions to the supply chain make it difficult to get certain items now and again. To store our reserves, I'd bought a few low-cost shelving units from suppliers such as Lowes, Walmart, etc. over the past year or so. Some are plastic snap-together units, others are wire units fitted with castors.
I've learned a few important lessons along the way.
- The individual shelves may have a particular rating (e.g. '150 pounds per shelf, evenly distributed'), but that doesn't mean the overall structure will stand up to every shelf being loaded at or near to capacity.
- The castors on which the shelves are supposed to move around don't work very well when the unit's heavily loaded - they pull out of the uprights, depositing the contents of the shelves in all directions (very loudly - almost as loud as my language when that happens).
- The shelf unit may look nice and compact in the store, but when your supplies expand to need several of them, they take up more and more floor space.
I've accordingly decided to replace a couple of small shelf units (36"x18"x72") with one larger, heavier-duty unit (48"x24"x72"). The five shelves on the bigger unit will offer almost as much space as the ten shelves of the smaller ones, but use less floor space in doing so; and they're rated for much heavier weights than the smaller units, so I should be able to put more on them without worrying about whether they'll collapse. The bigger unit doesn't come with castors, but I've learned the hard way those are more trouble than they're worth!
However, I recall a lesson learned by a friend of mine some years ago. He had a very nice steel outbuilding serving as a home workshop and storage unit, with several similar heavy-duty shelving units lining two walls. Each had five shelves made of particle board, and each shelf was heavily loaded. They worked fine . . . until, one evening, the sprinkler system malfunctioned. It rapidly demonstrated that when particle board shelves get wet, they have all the strength and rigidity of soaked cardboard! He came in the next morning to find all his goods on the floor, having fallen through their shelves. He had to invest in plywood shelves to replace the particle board units, and replace a large number of damaged items as well. There's no sprinkler system in our basement, but even so, if water ever penetrates it in significant amounts, particle board will be a liability rather than an asset. I'm going to replace the manufacturers' particle board shelves with cut-to-size pieces of ¾"- or 1"-thick plywood. I'll feel safer that way!
He also learned the hard way that items stored in cardboard boxes don't fare very well when the boxes become soaked. He invested in plastic storage containers to hold smaller items, and used plastic garbage bags or sheets to protect larger items. It made it a bit of a pain to find things in a hurry, but he reckoned the greater protection was worth it. It also offered better security against insects and rodents. I think I'm going to follow his example.
EDITED TO ADD: I've posted a follow-up article about how replacing particle board shelves with plywood has improved my storage. See it for more information.