How To Build Built In Shelves

These days, builders are installing shelves with industrial-strength braces to hold huge collections of books. But if you’re looking for a more classical or timeless look, or simply don’t want your shelves to be visible from across the room, try building recessed shelving into the walls. Not only is this method more aesthetically appealing than even the sleekest floating shelf system, it’s also more versatile and durable. In fact, many homeowners find that building their own recessed shelving allows them to customize their storage system based on how much space they have and what they want to store there. With a little planning and a few hours’ worth of work, you can create shelves that fit your space perfectly.

Measure your space.

  • Measure the space where you want to install shelves and then measure the length, width and height of your unit.
  • If there are any obstructions, such as windows or doors, measure those as well so that you can factor them into your design.

Cut the shelves to size.

  • Cut the shelves to size. Use a tape measure to measure the length and width of each shelf. You’ll want to cut them all about an inch or two longer than you need for two reasons: one, it’s easier to trim down a long piece than it is to lengthen one that’s too short; and two, if your wood swells in water or humidity (and it can happen), you want some extra space there so your shelves will hold their shape well over time.
  • Attach brackets to walls with screws. Screw the brackets into studs with an electric drill on each side of your built-ins so they’re secure in place—a level is handy here because you can use it as a guide when attaching bracket hardware evenly across both sides of your shelving unit. It helps if there are already studs behind where you’re planning on putting up shelves; otherwise, use a stud finder tool first before drilling holes into drywall or plaster walls (which may crack).

Assemble the shelves on the ground.

Once you’ve cut your pieces to length, assemble the shelves on the ground. This step is crucial—you want to make sure that your shelves are square and level before you put them up. Using a level, check that each shelf is straight along its lengthwise grain; if it’s not, use a square to align it with one of the edges in turn until it’s perfectly vertical. Check that the whole unit is square by measuring diagonal measurements from corner to corner across both faces (they should match). Next, measure down from each end along each face; if these distances don’t match as well, use some scrap wood as shims at one end or another until it does. It’s also important that all four sides of your frame remain square during assembly; otherwise any slanted sides will throw off everything else when you’re trying to determine whether something is level or not later on.

Once everything checks out okay visually (and using other tools if necessary), secure each joint with glue and screws or nails—it doesn’t matter which type here since they’re going into solid wood anyway!

Mark where you will place the brackets on the wall.

Use your level and a tape measure to mark where you will place the brackets. The brackets should be placed 2 inches from the top, middle and bottom of each side of the shelf.

In order to make sure that your built-in bookshelf is straight, use a plumb bob and framing square or rafter square to mark where they should be installed on each wall (the studs). The plumb bob can be used as a guide for determining if something is vertical or horizontal. The framing square will ensure that objects are at right angles while using it; the rafter square simply ensures that objects are level with one another—it is commonly used when building roofs.

Attach the horizontal and vertical supports to the wall.

  • Using a pencil and a level, mark the wall where you want your supports to be placed.
  • Use the 1-5/8″ screws to attach the horizontal support boards (or shelf brackets) to the wall. Space them evenly apart, about 16″ apart for 24″ shelves and 12″ for 18″ shelves (or whatever size you are using).
  • Attach vertical supports in between each horizontal board using 3/4” screws and make sure they are level with one another as well as aligned with your marks on the wall.

Place your first shelf on top of the brackets.

Now you can begin building your built-in shelves. Start by placing the first shelf on top of the brackets, making sure that it’s level with a level, and marking where holes will go using a pencil (or something similar). Use a drill to make holes where you marked and use screws to secure it in place.

Next, use a stud finder to locate nearby wall studs so that you can secure your second shelf more securely by screwing through the bracket into one or more studs. Then, if needed for additional stability or support, continue attaching additional brackets until all of them are secured onto studs.

Secure each shelf with screws.

Use a drill with a screwdriver bit to secure each shelf to the wall. Make sure that you use screws long enough to go through the shelf and into the wall, since this is how you will keep it in place.

Use a level to make sure both shelves are level and level with one another. If your shelves aren’t perfectly vertical, they may slip off of each other more easily, which means they’ll be more likely to fall when something bumps up against them or moves too much while they’re occupied by heavy items. Also, if you’re planning on plugging in lights as additional storage space for books or similarly sized things (like tools), attach these after positioning them along your top brackets for maximum stability.

The most important thing about building custom built-in shelves is making sure everything is secure so nothing falls out of place or gets damaged during normal use by family members who aren’t paying attention—and especially not during an earthquake! So make sure all screws are covered so nothing can get caught on them when taking items off or putting them back on again later down the line.”

Add decorative moulding or trim, and paint or stain to finish your project

  • Use decorative moulding or trim to cover the gap between your built-in shelves and the wall. You may also want to add a piece of moulding around each shelf, especially if you plan on using books as decoration.
  • Paint or stain your build in shelves to match or contrast with the rest of your room’s color scheme. You could paint them all one color, but I prefer to use some fun colors here and there (like red), so that my books pop off the shelf!
  • To add texture and pattern:
  • Spray paint can be used on its own or mixed with other paints/stains (or even colored chalk) for an even more textured look! Spray painting is great because it leaves no brush strokes behind like regular brushes do when applied directly onto cardboard boxes like this one would have been made from originally; plus there are no fumes – meaning no smell either! It also becomes clear pretty quickly once dry so you don’t need any special ventilation equipment when working outdoors either; just wear goggles though because those tiny particles can still sting if they hit eyes.”

With a little planning, you can create shelves that fit your space perfectly

When building shelves, it is important to take into account the space in which you plan on placing them. This is because built in shelves will only work well if they fit properly into the area that they are supposed to be placed. If there are too many or too few inches between two pieces of furniture, then this can not only make the room look strange but also cause problems when trying to move through different areas of your home.

It is important before you start building any type of shelf that you first measure out where exactly it will go and how high or low it needs to be based on what type of design style has been chosen by yourself or others who will be living within this same house. You should also consider whether or not there might be other obstacles such as electricity outlets running through where walls meet floors since these could interfere with construction plans later down line when installing pipes/fixtures etcetera throughout those same spaces which would otherwise hold up progress during construction timeframes (such as waiting for weeks/months etcetera).


You’re almost done with our guide to building your own built-in shelves! Before you get started planning your project, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Don’t be afraid to ask for help while measuring and cutting.

Make sure that you have the right tools before starting any project.

Keep safety in mind when using power tools or climbing ladders.

Have fun and enjoy the process! You can do it

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