Seedling racks – Part 2

I made very good progress yesterday. If you want to build a seedling rack of your own, feel free to ask me questions; I would be pleased to provide any answers I can. I will drop a few details and a few tips into this post just in case anyone feels like taking on a mini construction project.

I started by cutting all the lumber and plywood for all four racks. I made 16 five foot lengths with 2×4’s for the vertical posts, 24 two foot lengths with 2×4’s for the top and bottom beams and 24 four foot lengths with 2×3’s for the shelf support beams. I also cut three 4’x8′ plywood sheets of 1/2′ thickness into 12 2’x4′ shelves.

Finished cutting the lumber

Finished cutting the lumber

Finished cutting the plywood into 12 2'x4' shelves

Finished cutting the plywood into 12 2'x4' shelves

Tip:  Make sure you wear eye protection while operating any power tools!

Finished assembling the end frames - Notice the "C" shape

Finished assembling the end frames - Notice the "C" shape

I  assembled all eight end frames, each using two 5′ vertical posts and two 2′ top/bottom beams using a pair of 2.5″ wood screws (#10) per joint to create a “C” shape.

Tip:  Always drill a hole before you put a screw.  If you don’t drill holes, the wood will crack.

I attached two end frames using six 4′ shelf support beams starting from the bottom.  This assembly step requires an extra pair of hands or a lot of creativity and flexibility 😉

Attaching the two end frames starting from the bottom while adding an extra 2' beam for the casters -  Notice the two "C" are facing each other

Attaching the two end frames starting from the bottom while adding an extra 2' beam for the casters - Notice the two "C" are facing each other

Since certain vegetable seedlings get taller than others, I located the shelf support beams at different heights. The middle support beams are located 22.5″ above the bottom support beams. The top support beams are located 20″ above the middle support beams. This way, the taller seedlings will be placed on the bottom shelf, and the smaller plants will be placed on the top shelf. I don’t know if this configuration is going to fit our needs, but it’s always possible to modify the height later.

Afterward, I flipped the rack on one side to install the four casters at each corners, and I added a second  2′ beam beside each bottom cross-beam to create more surface on each corner for the casters.

Closer view of a caster with the second 2' beam

Closer view of a caster with the second 2' beam

Note that two of the four casters have built-in brakes to prevent the racks from rolling away. After the casters were installed, I performed some “rack surfing” within the limited space of our basement to test the caster’s performance – that was fun!  😉

I put on the plywood shelves onto the support beams. They fit nicely, but I didn’t bother securing them on the support beams because I want to have the flexibility to grow taller plants. Taking the top shelf out to give plants on the middle shelf more room could be very useful, because tomato and eggplant starts can get quite tall before it’s hot enough outside for them to be transplanted.

Once the racks were built, it was time to get started on hanging the lamps. Using an angular grinder with a regular cutting wheel, I cut the chain and secured two lengths on each end of the rack with screws. The ideal tool for this task would have been a bolt cutter but I don’t have one. Determination and imaginative substitution can work wonders!

Chain secured with a screw

Chain secured with a screw

Tip: If you are using a grinder or any handheld high-speed rotary tool (e.g. Dremel) to cut a link of a chain, make sure you sweep the floor before cutting the chain.  Metal sparks can ignite the saw dust under your feet!

I hammered 3″ flat head nails on each end of three 3/4″ dowels measuring 4′ long, and attached three 48″ T8 lamp fixtures on each dowel. I finally hung the three dowel/lamp combos on the rack with the nail heads through chain links.

Hanging lamp on chain

Hanging lamp on chain

Power Bar with built-in timer

Power Bar with built-in timer

I installed a power bar with a built-in timer  on the outside of one of the vertical posts. Half of the outlets on the power bar use the timer so we can turn the lamps on and off for ten or eight our periods. We can use the non-timed outlets for heating mats because the continuous heat will help our seeds germinate.

So far, I almost completely finished one rack.  It only needs more light bulbs (we only had one set of T8s that we bought to test our setup).

Finished rack 1 of 4

Finished rack 1 of 4

Stay tuned! At this rate, it won’t be long before we’ve got peppers and onions and lots more germinating with the help of this awesome mini-construction project! 😉

Posted in Building Projects, Seedling racks by with 2 comments.


  • Brandy garcia says:

    i would like to know how much did this cost you?And how cost effeciant you think it is?Also do you have to cover it untill put them out?How did your seedlings do?what did you plant?how did they do?any other pictures

    • Mathieu-Andre says:

      Hi Brandy,

      Thank you very much for your interest in the seedling racks. I’m going to provide a break down of the cost. Please note that the prices are in CAD and everything was purchased in Canada. Prices may vary in your area.

      2x4x8′ lumber @ $1.99 ea.
      Purchased 18 : Total $35.82 ea.

      2x3x3 lumber @ $1.59 ea.
      Purchased 12 : Total $18.96

      100pk 2-1/2 #10 Wood screws @ $6.99 ea.
      Purchased 3 : Total $20.97

      plywood 4x8x1/2 @ $14.98 ea.
      Purchased 3 : Total $44.94

      Casters @ $10.99 ea.
      Purchased 8 : total $87.92

      Casters with brakes @ $12.99 ea.
      Purchased 8 : total $103.92

      Dowels 3/4×4 @ $3.69 ea.
      Purchased 12 : total $44.28

      Shop light 48″ T8 Twin @ $19.99 ea.
      Purchased 12 : Total $239.88

      32 Watt 48″ T8 Cool White Fluorescent Bulb 2 Pack @ 6.99 ea.
      Purchased 12 : total $83.88

      Power Bar W/digital Timer @ $19.99 ea.
      Purchased 4 : total $79.96

      Heat mats @ $39.95 ea.
      Purchased 12 : total $479.40

      Grand Total for four racks: $1239.93 (tax not included)

      In other word: $310/rack or $103/shelf or $13/sq.ft.

      I’m not exactly sure how to answer the cost efficiency question, but I have found a similar product made by Island Wire Products. We found them for sale at Home Hardware (Canadian owned hardware store) for $599 each, but they do not include timers and heat mats. Compared to this product, our seedling racks appear to be approximately 245% more cost efficient.

      We only cover our seedlings with a plastic dome to conserve moisture until the seeds germinate.

      Please note that we haven’t used our seedling racks yet. I just finished building them 2 weeks ago. We will be posting our progress with our very first seedlings very soon.

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