How to Construct a Built-In Shelving Unit


Add shelves onto a wall and get both additional storage and a custom look

Built-In Shelving Unit

You can tuck a built-in shelving unit between two windows or between a wall and a window or door to transform an empty space into a useful focal point of your home.

This guide will show you how to complete your DIY custom-shelf project.


Measure height and width of area
Measure height width area - Construct a Shelving Unit

• Build the basic unit 1 inch shorter than the height of your ceiling.
• Measure the height and width of the area where you plan to add the shelving.
• Remove the baseboards.

Cut two side panels
Cut two side panels - Construct a Shelving Unit

• Cut the shelving unit top, bottom and shelves 1 ½ inches shorter than the unit’s overall width.
• Measure and cut four 2 x 2 frame supports that also are 1 ½ inches shorter than the unit’s width.

Drill holes inside each panel
Paint wood attach side panels - Construct a Shelving Unit

• Use scrap pegboard as a guide to drill pairs of ¼-inch holes along the inside of each side panel.
• Space pairs of holes about 9 inches apart horizontally and every 2 inches vertically.
• Drill the holes 3/8 inches deep and use a depth-stop bit attachment or a scrap block of wood as a guide to make sure you don’t drill all the way through.

Paint wood and attach side panels

• Paint or finish wood before you assemble the unit.
• Attach the side panels to the ends of the frame supports.
• Drive 6d finishing nails through the sides and into the end grain of the frame supports.

Attach top rear frame support
Attach top rear frame support - Construct a Shelving Unit

• Tilt the unit into position and flush against the wall.
• Use 3-inch wallboard screws and a screw gun to screw through the top rear frame support into the wall studs.
• Screw through the bottom frame supports into the floor.

Attach bottom and top pieces
Attach bottom top pieces - Construct a Shelving Unit

• Attach the bottom and top pieces by driving 6d finishing nails through the side panels into the end grain of the top and bottom.
• Replace the baseboards around the bottom of the shelving unit.
• Cut the pieces to size and miter the ends as necessary.
• Cut and fit the trim moulding around the top of the unit.
• Use a nail set to recess all nail heads.
• Install the shelf pins in the desired holes.
• Fit the shelves into place.