4 and More Ways to Build Shelves

Suede furniture, wooden floating shelves and the fireplace centerpiece.

If you’re looking for a way to create more storage space in your interior, consider building shelves, which are one of the most popular furnishing elements in a house. These are an elegant way of displaying collectibles, travel mementos, family photos, books and much more.

Not to mention that shelves can really help you with organizing, clearing away and categorizing your belongings. There are multiple ways to create a shelf, and here you can find a few ideas to start.

Prepare all the things needed

When thinking of building shelves, you must first prepare wood or shelving boards and cut tools. You can also ask your timber merchant to cut boards or wood to size. Don’t forget to gather nails, screws and wall plugs. You should also have a spirit level, backing wood, cross braces, and bricks.

How to start

Suede furniture, wooden floating shelves and the fireplace centerpiece.
Suede furniture, wooden floating shelves and the fireplace centerpiece.

You should start by choosing a shelving board basing on your personal style and preferences. Also, consider your budget and the way in which the shelving complements your home interior design. There are many options available when it comes to choosing boards to use:

  • Pre-made and pre-sized shelving boards are usually part of a kit and are traditionally made for adjustable shelves. You will also get instructions for putting these together.
  • Softwood boards are one of the easiest to have cut to the desired length. Plus, these can hold many heavy items!
  • Plywood boards are made up of layered flat boards and the surface is usually made to imitate a wood finish. You can also find laminated plywoods.
  • Particleboard/chipboard shelves are made from wood chips glued together under pressure. These are most popular shelving boards that are affordable, lightweight and easy to find. However, it’s recommended to get these boards cut by a professional.
  • Blackboard shelves are stronger than previous one and more suitable for heavy items, which makes it a perfect choice for garage shelves.

Once you’ve decided on the board you want to use to build you shelving, you should choose the support according to the style of it. There are 3 general types of support in terms of shelving:

  1. Wood strips are simple and effective. These can be used to keep your shelves in place, but you can also use blocks, too. In order to create a clean support consider using a strip of wood at both ends of your shelving. To hide the side cleats, try nailing a piece of wood across the front shelf.
  2. Metal strips can be found at hardware stores. It’s advisable to use these as shelf supports for hardware storage in the garage or cupboards, as these are not the most beautiful thing in the world.
  3. Brackets are usually L-shaped and can be plain or stylish. These are easy to use and are good for most types of shelving. If you want to enhance your home interior design, you can find a very decorative and stylish bracket, but keep in mind these are more expensive than plainer ones.

Simple brick and wood floor shelf

Industrial apartment with brick wall and wooden open shelving.
Industrial apartment with brick wall and wooden open shelving.

This basic shelf arrangement can be easily put together anytime by anybody. Also, it’s perfect if you’re on a budget, as it doesn’t require many materials. Keep in mind it must be built very low, because it’s unstable, in order to provide it from toppling. It’s not recommended for homes with pets or small children, too.

Start by gathering bricks and shelf boards, which should be all the same length. Another option is to use cinder blocks, but remember that you will only have to place one on each side rather than two bricks. Once you’ve collected bricks and boards, you must find a good place for your new shelf. Keep in mind it has little support, so you should put it against a wall or create some kind of flat backing.

Now you should place the two bricks together on the floor in the place of your choice. Then place another two together on the opposite side to form the base of your new shelving. When it comes to the distance between the bricks, consider the plank length, keeping in mind to create a small amount of plank overhanging at each side, preferably about 2 inches. Don’t forget to have two bricks on each side of your shelf to achieve proper support. In order to create your shelving, put the first shelf board on your base and then take two bricks and put them side by side on the shelf in the same position as the base ones. You must add two sets more bricks on top to create a pillar, doing the same for the other side.

To complete your brick and wood floor shelf, add the last shelf board. You can now enjoy your new, simple and easy to build shelves to store your belongings such as DVDs, CDs or books. If you want to make this structure more strength and stable, consider adding a cross-brace to the back of the shelf unit. Keep in mind to screw it into the shelf boards, too.

Basic wall shelf

Simple wall shelves in the modern home office
Simple wall shelves in the modern home office

If you want to go traditional, consider the standard style of shelf, which should be drilled into the wall. It’s a great solution if you want to create multiple storage units throughout your home, as this shelf can be placed in most areas of the house.

Start by choosing a pair of brackets, preferably plain, but you can also get more stylish and fancy, if desirable. Next, find a shelf board and cut it to the length you need or as a professional to cut it for you. Take a bracket and hold it against the wall where you want to place your new wall shelf. You must mark the placement of the brackets on each side using a pencil or tape measure. Before you start drilling, you should check for electrical wiring or plumbing and place a drop sheet on the floor in order to collect the drill dust easier. Now drill the holes into the wall over the marks you’ve made using a masonry drill bit. Keep in mind to drill to the depth that the screw requires for penetrating the wall sufficiently. Don’t forget to insert a wall plug, too!

Hold your bracket in place by attaching the screws. You should screw them in as far as they will go. To place the shelf board onto your brackets, hold it in place with one hand and then hold the board across to the other mark you have with a spirit level. You should always check that the board will be sitting evenly in order to make all the required adjustments before drilling the second bracket holes, following the same steps as for the first bracket.

Now you have to attach your shelf board to the brackets by laying it across the brackets and screwed it to them from the underside. It’s advisable to use screws that will not penetrate through to the other side of the board. Keep in mind that the screws should remain wholly inside your shelf board. Pick up the drop sheet and discard the drilling dust and press on the shelf to make sure it’s firmly attached to your wall. Last, but not least, you should consider adding ornaments, books or other personal belongings to your new shelf. Keep in mind to check if your shelf can bear the weight of more heavy items.

Freestanding shelves

White-and-yellow living room with freestanding wooden shelf, large rug, modern chairs and leather sofa.
White-and-yellow living room with freestanding wooden shelf, large rug, modern chairs and leather sofa.

When it comes to building shelves, freestanding ones are great if you like to redecorate your interior from time to time. You can easily pack up and move your freestanding shelves to another room or area. You should start by gathering all the items required for this project, such as shelf boards, which should be at least ¾ inch thick. Keep in mind to provide supports for the shelf boards. Consider cleats, as these strips of wood, are easy to use and great for this unit. Don’t forget to prepare two vertical support panels to create the sides of your shelf unit, as well as a top piece, which should be a bit wider than your shelf boards. It will be easier to glue or hammer on top of the unit. Last, but not least, you must have a piece of hardboard to build the back of your shelf unit. You can ask your timber merchant to cut to the size you want.

Now you must get all the measurements, such as height and width of the shelving unit. Once you’ve decided on dimensions, cut your shelf boards to desired width as well as vertical support panels to the proper height. In order to nail or glue a cleat to the first vertical support at your base, keep in mind it should be put on the side that you want to face inwards. Repeat this step for your second vertical piece in order to form your shelf support.

Take your vertical support panels and put them on the ground in order to determine where you want the rest of your shelf boards to be. Place all the way up the first support and measure the exact placement of the cleat across to the opposite vertical support panel using a shelf board, then mark it. Repeat marking and measuring for each shelf level you want to add.

Now you should glue or nail your next cleat into the area on the first vertical support panel. Don’t forget to check if your opposite side is level. In order to do that, place the shelf board on the attached cleat, then bring over to the mark on the opposite vertical support panel. To check for evenness, it’s advisable to use a spirit level, preferably before nailing or gluing the opposite side’s cleat in place. Whether you nail or screw into place, you have to make sure you use glues or nails that will not penetrate through your vertical support panels. Instead, choose ones that will remain wholly within your new panels. You should repeat this step for each level you want to build.

Now you have to add the top shelf, which should be a bit wider than the shelf boards, so you can nail, screw or glue it to the top of your two vertical support panels. If you want to dismantle your shelf and move it in the future, it’s recommended not to glue the top piece, but screw it. Screws can be easily undone and re-fixed after you reassemble your shelving. In order to prevent your shelf from falling over, you must add the hardboard back. You will also avoid leaning sideways, so glue or nail to the back of the shelf unit. Another idea is to take a cross-brace instead of one piece of board.

Finally, you can add your personal items, books, and other elements to your new shelf unit, which you can build anywhere you want, making sure it is placed against a flat surface.

Creative ideas for shelving

If you want to build something that looks more stylish and extraordinary, you can create a fun shelving. Here I have some inspirations for you:

  • Choosing a corner shelf solution for your corner spaces is a great way to enhance the room. Also, it’s a great solution for a bathroom shelf unit!
  • Consider invisible shelves, which look as if the books are simply hanging in the air on your wall. It’s more fun than useful, but definitely, creates a wow effect.
  • Use wooden pallets to create bookshelves. This is not only an eco-friendly option but also very fashionable these days.
  • Make use of your old drawer and turn it into a shelf. You can use wallpaper to give it desired look.
  • Go industrial and use pipes as your shelving, which is a great and creative way to enhance the overall home interior design.
  • Another idea is to build shelves using wine crate. Consider this option for your kitchen to store kitchen appliances or recipe books.
  • If you have a magazine holder you don’t need anymore, you can easily convert it into a bookshelf, and it’s a great solution for your kid’s room, too.
  • Should you have a child that loves skateboarding, consider turning one skateboard into a shelf to add your kid’s personal touch to his or her room.
  • I bet you’ve always dreamed about having a hidden space in your home. You should try building a hidden door bookshelf, which is a great option for hiding your valuable belongings.

Shelving is a must in any home, whether you need something for storage of you simply want to add a bit to your interior decor. Shelves are always a great solution. Take a few minutes and consider what type of shelves you want in a particular room and then take a couple of hours in order to create your own shelves. You will be proud to display your handmade shelves and you will appreciate the extra storage they provide. Have fun!

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