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The Fundamental Guide to Vinyl Record Storage

We all know how fun vinyl records are. They sound great, the packaging is great to hold and admire… but they sure can take up space! So what are the best ways to keep your collection safe and accessible? Whether you’ve got 10 albums or 1,000, this guide will help you get a handle on vinyl record storage.

The Basics: Healthy and Happy Vinyl

Plastic outer sleeves

Let’s start with the basics: caring for your albums. Regardless of where you put them, vinyl record storage is about keeping your LP’s and singles in a safe, easy-to-access spaces. Keep in mind that vinyl jackets are basically fine pieces of cardboard, subject to wear-and-tear from both handling and the elements. It’s highly advisable that you invest in some polyvinyl outer sleeves. These keep your album jackets dust-free, and also minimize the effects of rubbing the albums against hard surfaces and each other.

Next, what kind of room will you keep your records in? Take a minute to consider things like temperature, humidity and sunlight. Exposure to all of these things can make or break your collection. If possible, pick a space with a cool temperature, roughly 20°C (70°F – go a bit cooler for long-term storage). Stay away from humid conditions: high humidity can gunk up your vinyl’s inner grooves, and create mold in your jackets. Also keep your vinyl out of direct sunlight – the sun’s rays can both warp the wax and bleach the jackets. These are all important things to think about before you start building your vinyl record storage setup!

The Numbers Don’t Lie: Considering Space

Simple record storage
Speaking of which, let’s crunch some numbers: How many albums do you have? This will tell you if you need anything from a crate to a full-on shelving unit. Let’s suppose you’re just starting out with a dozen records or so. An easy enough start, and they can go most anywhere (as long as you stand them upright – see below). Wherever you put them, remember that the average vinyl LP jacket is roughly 12” X 12” (30.5cm x 30.5cm). Try to pick storage space that allows a little headroom, rather than having the records lean to the side.

Milk crate record storage

A staple of simple record storage is the old milk crate. You can probably picture a hip-hop DJ hauling his goods around in one of these, and understandably so: milk crates hold records almost perfectly, they have handles, and you can fit 40-50 albums per crate. Make sure you find the old milk crates or the oversized ones. As one of our readers pointed out, modern milk crates (from dairy companies) are too small. There are also some more stylish, less-handled-by-dairy-farmer units that you can invest in. Made with plastic, wood, and even fabric, these crates are great for smaller, more manageable vinyl collections.

From here you want to consider how big your vinyl room is, and how many more albums you plan to acquire…

The More the Merrier – and the Heavier!

Now let’s go bigger – say, 100 records and growing. Of course you can still use the crate method, and there are shelving systems and ideas for keeping crates manageable and stylish. But once your collection starts hitting the hundreds, it’s best to consider how big your listening room is in terms of how much storage unit space you’ll need. And if you’ve got the space, you’ve got a wide range of vinyl record storage possibilities…

DIY plywood record storage bins

• Bins
When you go shopping for new records, you’re likely flipping through bins. This is the preferred method for a lot of shoppers, and understandably so: you get to see the front artwork, rather than reading the spine text. Guess what? This is possible for your own home storage, too! Better yet, Funky Moose has its own guide to building your own highly affordable, DIY record storage bins.

Cloth record storage shelves

• Shelves
Of course, sometimes it’s easier to pick up something mostly pre-built. And stacking your vinyl sideways is much more economical, the more vinyl you have. But can any old bookshelf do the trick? Keep in mind that vinyl weighs quite a bit in bulk, and this can play one of the most important factors in storage. Sturdy shelving is vital with bigger collections, so seek out a unit that props up it shelves evenly and with solid materials.

IKEA KALLAX record storage unit

• Ikea Cube Storage
One of the most popular methods of vinyl record storage has been Ikea’s Kallax series of cube shelving units. This is the perfect example of what we just mentioned about sturdy, balanced design. Each cube pocket allows for both headroom and rear space for albums, and the grid design allows for evenly distributed weight. Ikea’s cube storage units come in a variety of sizes as well, giving a collector options for anywhere from a hundred-or-so LP’s to 1,000+.

Adding Style to Storage

Stylish record storage

Of course, every collector is different. Some go for efficiency, while others enjoy a bit of style and visibility. If this is you, there are plenty of display methods to invest in… or develop yourself! A simple image search for “vinyl record displays” will unveil a wide variety of slick and sleek methods for both storage and display. Vintage wire racks abound, and all sorts of old wood boxes and crates can be repurposed (and refinished, we recommend). Wall-mounted bins and clips can help you display single albums, with bins or shelves below for bulk storage. Browse the web for affordable new storage tools; scrounge a thrift store for reusable equipment; get in touch with a local carpenter… the possibilities are limitless!

In Conclusion: Safety First

Vinyl records spines

At the end of the day, even if you only own a dozen or so records (for now), remember that vinyl is still vinyl, and even just a few albums need proper care and safe storage. No matter how many LP’s you have, do not stack them flat on top of each other. Vinyl is heavier than you think, and a pile of even 20 or so can cause what’s called compression warping. The records on the bottom start to look like dinner plates, warped up at the edges. Not fun for future listening!

Whether it’s three albums or 30, whether on a shelf or in a box, always stand them up like books. Always care for your records, and always have fun with the music!

Looking for ways to organize your collection? Check out our handy guide here.

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Andrew Hall is a contributing writer and music freak. If he’s not too busy sweating his own vinyl storage limits he can be contacted via his Journo Writing Portfolio.

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