How to Make Custom DIY Built-in Shelves
We have been very busy at our house creating a new living room. The first step was custom built in shelves next to the fireplace. We had shelving before, but it was not the right color and they looked less custom. Here is a BEFORE picture:
I re-designed the space with the dominant color being white. Before, the walls in the room before were tan and you can see there was a lot of brown. We put the old sofa and the chair on the curb for the garbage truck, moved the TV stand to the middle of the room and the coat stand to the garage. I had to move all the books and decor upstairs so I could sort and decide what to keep. Lots of work.
This all actually started one day before Cody got home from work. I was sitting on my brown sofa hating my fireplace, as usual, and I thought to myself, “I’m done.” I went downstairs and got the heavy duty primer and started painting the fireplace. Once I was started, there was no going back. Cody came home and he knew that another project had been born. Thankfully, it did not take him long to get on board with the project. We are nearing completion, and I want to share the process and the tools we used with you.
Here are some pictures and video to see the process visually as I explain what we did.
The first step was actually planning, which is hard to depict through pictures. We talked about the kind of look we wanted and did some research online. We ended up getting the idea for the built-ins through two video tutorials: one was about installing store bought shelves to look custom and the other was a video about the process and materials needed for building built-in shelves.
Because we had a really deep space for the original shelving, we knew we wanted to build shelves that would be closer to the front of our fireplace, so we drew up rough sketches and measurements of the shelves we wanted. Cody decided to build the shelving unit before installing it into the spot.
Once the shelves were made and placed, we added the finishing trim and and caulked so that everything looked finished. After the caulking, we painted the shelves with our spray painter.
The next step was to add decor and enjoy the shelves!
Here is the step by step process for building the shelves:
- Take everything off and measure the dimensions of the space you want to build in.
- Based on the dimension of the empty space draw a rough sketch of the book shelf. You want to make sure that you have enough clearance on all sides because you will be building on the ground and lifting it into place fully assembled. The spaces that are left on the top and sides will get covered up by trim. Here is the rough sketch with a cut list at the bottom.
- Making a cut list will help when you go to the lumber store so you can figure out how much material you are going to need. In our case, Cody figured we could get all our cuts out of two sheets of 3/4″ MDF. Now if you don’t have a big shop with a sliding table saw, don’t worry; Home Depot can make the cuts for you. They have a nice vertical saw that makes pretty accurate and repeatable cuts. We also got a sheet of 1/4″ medium density fiber board for backing, and had Home Depot cut it to the outside dimensions of the book cases. If you’re nervous about your calculations, wait until the case is built and take your dimensions from the finished case.
- Nail, screw and glue all the pieces together.
- Place the shelving units into the spaces next to the fireplace.
- Add trim for the sides, top and bottom of shelves.
- Caulk the the crevices and prep for painting.
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Materials for shelves:
(3)3/4 2X4 MDF board
3/4 2X4 Medium Density Fiberboard
Fast Dry Acrylic Latex Caulk Plus Silicone
1X3X8 Finished Elegance Board (trim)
1X4X8 Finished Elegance Board (trim)
1X2X8 Finished Elegance Board (trim)
1 lb. 8X1-1/2″ construction screws
Tools for building shelves:
Process: Planning, Building, Installing, Finishing
Here is a more visual look at the process with explanations: (There is also a video at the end with clips from the entire process.)
Cody laid the MDF boards on a flat, even surface so that the shelf unit would be square. We decided to make the unit before placing it in the correct spot for ease. This requires careful measuring of the space before getting the boards cut at the right lengths and widths. (See the quick sketch and cut list we created above.)
Cody used wood glue to place the re-enforcement boards between shelves. This just made the shelf more sturdy and kept it in place for him to be able to nail the boards together.
The backing was then nailed into place.
Next we took the previous countertop that was on the cabinet off. We had scrape the glue off so the surface was flat.
Cody then put a thicker MDF board on top so that we could place the shelving unit on top.
Here is the shelves placed inside the spot. We had some empty space behind the shelves, but we wanted it that way so the area on the sides of the fireplace were not so deep and more light would hit the area.
Here are both of the shelves placed…and my daughter chilling. =)
Next, we added the trim to the outside and fronts of the shelf and then prep the room for painting.
The finished results of the new built-in shelves.