How to DIY a bookshelf that completely transformed our space.
This room was the slowest to come together and has now become my favorite space in the entire house. A large part of why I love it so much is in the bookshelf/built-in. The added warmth between the hardwood floors and bookshelves is day and night from where it started.
It is an item that not only looks cute but also has functionality. For example, I needed ample space for records, books, and small decorations (even an organizing basket). I also needed closed storage for things I didn’t want to display.
Click through to see the actual budget breakdown for this project, how to build your own, and a few mistakes I made along the way…
How to make a built-in bookshelf
First, I’d like to mention that this tutorial is a little more obscure than my typical DIY. This is because there are many moving parts in this project…and so many different ways to work with wood. This project is not cut and dry when it comes to direction. It also depends on how big your bookshelf/built-in is. So I’ll share as many details as I can think of here. If I’ve omitted anything or have specific questions, please leave a comment. I will definitely answer. Having said that, well…
Jeff took the lead on this project and I was an extra hand that could handle things like dyeing and assembly. Made of white oak plies (sheets of plywood with white oak veneers on top and bottom). This method was far more cost-effective than solid white oak. If you want to know about costs, there is a budget breakdown at the end of this post.
Know the basic measurements of your build. depth, length and height.
And then you can draw your design on paper or use something like Shaper3D model it. Jeff used his Shapr3D. I haven’t learned how to use it yet, so I let him do it. That’s what he’s good at. After that, I used the site. cut list optimizer to plan the required cuts. This helped me a lot in figuring out how many pieces of plywood to order.
*One thing we didn’t think about when we were in this phase was the orientation of the particles. If you want your grains to all look the same, you’ll need to be more careful with how you place these cuts.
make your cut
Make all cuts with a circular saw and ruler (or you can use a track saw or table saw). In practice, I’ve used a combination of all three of these for various reasons. But if you don’t have all of these tools, just one can get the job done. We also recommend renting tools if needed. I’ll talk about it at the end.
next edge bandingTo be honest, I didn’t like it.
But I think one way we could have done better was to be strategic about where we got the edge banding cuts from. Some areas were more consistent in granularity than others. And I didn’t realize it until I got too far to turn back. It’s a good idea to pay attention to these details before cutting the edge banding.
For iron-on edge banding, cut off edge banding, attach with iron cap, press down with a hard flat surface, and trim off excess with cutter. Dedicated trimming tool.
*If some edges come together to form a mitered cut at the corner, you can save some of the edge banding for later in the assembly stage.
Now it’s time to start assembling. If you’re building something on the bigger side, it’s a good idea to have a second person around to help with this.
Here’s the basics of assembly… I used pocket holes for shelves with backs and screwed in from below where pocket holes wouldn’t work.with Creg Jig Pocket holes make things a lot easier.
there are a lot of triangle / carpenter’s square and the level involved in this process. And lots of tweaks. Throughout the assembly process, you will frequently reference drawings or Shapr3D models.
Add Feet + Toe Kick
Added adjustable feet At the bottom of the bookshelf and cabinet area. And when it was all attached, I covered it with long white oak toe kicks made from scrap pieces of white oak ply.
*This was also the stage of bringing everything into the room so that it would fit. Then I went back to sand and stain…
sanding + staining all
One last thing to note before setting everything up in the room is that after sanding everything (120 grit) I added a stain that makes the white oak warmer. *You may want to dye the pieces early in the process (before final assembly if you can dry and fit them quickly first). More on that in the “Mistakes we made” section.
- rubio monocote I also used the one I used (the color I used was Pure) and the Accelerator (which came together as a set and I’m linking the one I used) to speed up the drying time.
Installation of bookshelves
Open shelves were made at the same time, but separately (not connected) to cabinets with doors. Same material, same everything, it wasn’t connected until you entered the room. Easy to install because it’s big. The two pieces were then attached to each other during installation in the room.
Once everything fits in the room (don’t forget to adjust the adjustable legs before adding wood toe kicks), attach the two pieces to each other. And, if necessary, mount it on the wall for added security.
Add a toe kick as a finishing touch. And that’s pretty much it. If you have any questions, please contact Lmk.
What mistakes did you make along the way?
A handful…or maybe more than a handful. smile.
- But one of the biggest mistakes I made was failing to visualize what the height of the taller sections would look like with the windows. The original design had a taller cabinet and Jeff based all the cuts on that design. Once I had the space ready to connect the two pieces, I realized my mistake.The cabinet was too high and it ruined everything. So! I started over with the cabinet. And it cost us. But it’s worth it in the end.
- Pay special attention to the grain direction when planning your wood cuts. This is something that has been overlooked in some instances, and it’s not the end of the world, but it would have been even better if the grain direction was consistent across all the pieces in the open bookshelf area.
- For this particular project we recommend staining all the wood Before Assemble if possible. We didn’t do this and I kind of regretted it. It wasn’t fun trying to dye this piece after it was all put together. If the piece is already built, you can dye it, but it’s a lot more troublesome.
- If you are unsure about the cut for a particular piece of wood and you have excess wood, it is recommended that you cut it slightly oversized. Otherwise, you’ll have to scrap all the parts, which can be costly. And that was a mistake we made.Some of the cuts were just a tad too small and had to be recut.
The total cost of this built-in bookshelf is $985Here’s how it all breaks down…
- White oak veneer plywood sheets $200 each x 4 = $800
- White oak edge banding $70
- stain and accelerator $60
- Adjustable bookshelf legs $30
- screws and other $25
I didn’t include the cost of the tools I use. These are the tools I already own and use on many projects. Obviously that’s a lot more if you also have to buy the tools you need for this project.However, you can also rent the tools home depot and Lowesif you don’t already have what you need, this is a big savings. We’ve linked to each store’s tool rental page above to make it easy for you to find what you need.
Can you reproduce this project for a small fee?
yes! Simply put, just use a different kind of wood.
discoverable plywood At a low price of $22 per seat (for 4×8), the cost is greatly reduced. For example, if you only changed that one ingredient for him, the total budget breakdown would total less than $300. Also, further tweaks to other supplies (edge banding and stains/accelerators) can bring the cost down even further. So it can be done!