Want to add DIY built-in bookshelves as functional and stylish home storage? With a good DIY built-in bookcase plan, you can. Not only will it refresh your living area, but it will also give you additional storage space for your home decor items, books, or even indoor plants.

Keep in mind that DIY built-in bookshelves go beyond just book storage. Your DIY built-in bookshelf design should perfectly utilize any space while showcasing your favorite items. And of course, enhance the look and visual appeal of any room.

Although DIY built-in bookshelves might look complicated, they are not so much. Generally, they are built on base cabinets as anchors, and then the crown molding or headers are added for a beautiful finish. Of course, a standalone, custom-built shelving unit can also be easily created with some skills.  

The cost to make a DIY built-in bookshelf may vary widely, depending on the size of the home improvement project and the material. A small-scale bookshelf may cost you less than $100, while a more elaborate DIY project with fine hardwood or other premium materials might cost you hundreds of dollars. 

If you’re looking to know how to DIY a small built-in bookshelf, this step-by-step guide will help you create the most beautiful storage unit for your home.

Decide on your storage needs

DIY built-in bookshelves

The first step is to decide whether you want open shelves or cabinets with doors and drawers. Open shelving is a cheaper and easier DIY project while doors and drawers can add considerable expense. This is also the point when you decide on the size of your bookshelf and what needs to go in it. 

Take precise measurements

You need to measure the height, depth, and length of the empty wall you want to build your bookshelves next to. The best way is to use a standard tape measure. Or, a laser tape measure for more precise results. Keep the following points in mind when measuring the area. 

  • Make sure the height of your DIY built-in bookcase is 1 inch short of your ceiling.  
  • When measuring the shelf height, measure from the floor away from the baseboard, crown moldings, or any architectural elements. 
  • Trim and remove any baseboards or crown molding along the length of the area you want to build the bookshelves. 

Chalk out your DIY built-in bookshelf plan

building a bookshelf myself

Once you have decided what type of shelving you want, the next step is to draw out its design. You either use graph paper and a pencil or a more elaborate floor planning tool. Make sure the shelf cabinet fits exactly into the available space. It can be less but not more. You can always fill up any extra inches with trim or crown molding

Choose the material for your bookshelf

The material or type of wood you choose is one of the most important parts of your DIY built-in bookshelves project. Make sure that the shelves are made using quality lumber or composites. They should be sturdy and long-lasting. You do not want your shelves bending or warping over time.

Carve out the support frame, side panels, and shelves

For a small-scale shelf, you may use sawhorses and a circular saw to cut out the support frame with four 2 x 2-inch studs of pressure-treated lumber. Remember to cut the studs 1 ½ inches less than the shelving unit’s width. 

Now, cut the boards for the side panels – keeping the length the same as the measurement from the floor to 1 inch short of the ceiling.

Cut out the top and bottom shelves as well as the display shelves at least ¾ inch wide and 1 ½ inch shorter than the shelving unit’s total width.   

Drill holes into the wooden panels

Make sure the shelves are level and properly attached. Take the help of a shelf pin jig or a pegboard to mark holes for the nails. Now, use a power drill and create pairs of ¼ inch holes along the inside of the side panels.  

The holes should be ⅜ inches deep. It’s a good idea to space out the pairs of holes about 9 inches apart horizontally and 2 inches apart vertically.

Paint the wood and attach the side panels as well as the top shelf

Before you assemble the bookshelves, you’ll need to paint or finish the pieces of wood. Use sandpaper on the wood surface to smooth out any rough spots. Now, apply a coat of paint or wood stain and finish with a coat of polyurethane wood finish. This will help protect the shelves. 

Next, attach the side panels to the ends of the frame supports with 6d finishing nails. Attach the top shelf to the support frame in the same manner.  

Attach the frame support to the wall

building a bookshelf

It’s time to raise the shelving unit into position and attach it to the wall. Use a stud finder to locate the wall studs and tilt the shelf so that it’s flush against the wall. With the help of a screw gun, drive 3-inch wallboard screws through the frame support into the wall studs. 

Attach the bottom shelf and the baseboard

Securely install the DIY built-in bookcase to the wall. Use 6d finishing nails to attach the bottom shelf too. You may need to cut the baseboard to size if necessary.  

With the help of wood glue, bind the baseboard to the bottom of the shelf and use the finishing nails to attach the baseboard into place. Lastly, install the shelf pins in the holes and slide the bookshelf into place.  

Show off your books or decor items

Once your DIY built-in bookshelf is ready, you can dress it up the way you want. You get to create a special space for your books or antique collection.  

Last thoughts

With the right bookshelf design plan, you can be creative with your room’s vision as well as storage organization. Whether you want a small nook to hold your books or turn a complete living room wall into a library, such shelving solutions will meet all your needs beautifully. We hope this beginner’s guide will make your DIY built-in bookshelves project seamless and satisfying.

Easy steps to create DIY built-in bookshelves at home was last modified: November 14th, 2022 by Ramona Sinha
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