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Project Guide

DIY Built-In Shelves

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Measure Height and Width of Area
A person measuring for a built-in 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
A diagram of the panels needed to construct a  built-in 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-inch frame supports that also are 1½-inches shorter than the unit’s width.
Drill Holes Inside Each Panel
Drilling holes for a built-in 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
Painting the wood of a built-in shelving unit prior to installation
  • 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
A person attaching the top-rear frame support for a built-in 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
Attaching the bottom and top pieces of a built-in 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 built-in shelves. 
  • 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.

Don't worry if you don't own all of the tools needed to complete this DIY project. Rent tools and trucks for any project at The Home Depot.