Project Guide

DIY Built-In Shelves

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.