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My garage isn't finished; there's bare studs. I want to set up a french cleat system to store my tools. Can I do it directly against the studs? Or do I need to hang drywall or a sheet of plywood first?

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  • @Graphus I envisioned a long board spanning 2 studs, just like it would if there were drywall, not a 1.5" wide piece on each of 2 studs... – FreeMan Nov 7 '20 at 13:01
  • @FreeMan, yes I realised that was a possibility. And upon later reflection I realised it makes no difference if the plan either way was to fasten exclusively to studs anyway! The holding power is in the screws, not the length of the cleat (assuming no possibility for the material itself to break, which is exceedingly unlikely). – Graphus Nov 8 '20 at 8:49
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I think this will work fine.

Make sure you use a spacer, of the same material as the cleats, on the bottom of any storage units so they sit flat on the wall (studs) so the bottom does not teeter in.

One issue is; For any storage unit that is narrower then the stud bays, the bottom of the unit will not have studs,"wall", to rest against. You will need to have a spacer on the unit wide enough to bridge the studs or add a furring strip in between the studs for a smaller bottom spacer to rest against.

There are many YouTube videos on French Cleat Tool Storage.

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    Would a spacer not be required for the bottom of the cabinet whether there was drywall/plywood/OSB sheathing or not? I would think that any French cleat system would require that to ensure that the cabinet hung square, but I have never seen mention of it in the (admittedly very limited) reading I've done. – FreeMan Nov 7 '20 at 15:03
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A french cleat relies on the cleat itself- placing a furring strip to further support is a belt and suspenders approach, at which point your cabinets could be screwed to those studs that are exposed and supported by the support strip. I prefer cleats as I tend to work by myself, and they make it easy to hang a cabinet solo. Your cleat will work fine on open stud framing.french cleat side profile

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A French cleat relies on two points of contact - the rail at the top and the cabinet's bottom resting on the wall (otherwise it would be prone to rocking in and out on the cleat). If the cabinet (or whatever you're planning on hanging) is wider than the stud spacing, it would be able to lean on the studs in the same way as it does on the wall.

I would suggest reinforcing the bottom of the cabinet in this case, to make sure that the bottom that spans the studs is rigid enough to support the weight (perhaps by adding a 1x4). This will also make it easy to use a non-flush French cleat which would simplify installation.

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    Are you recommending reinforcing the cabinet because all the weight would be on just the contact points with the studs instead of spread all along the drywall? Even if that's the case, I'm not sure I'd be worried about that. – FreeMan Nov 6 '20 at 16:33
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    @FreeMan, yes, exactly. If it was me I'd reinforce it, but to each his own – Eli Iser Nov 7 '20 at 13:51

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