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Editor’s Note: Today I want to welcome Kayla & Justin from Home Coming. He’s a carpenter by trade and she has impeccable style. I have asked them to write a series called “Carpenter’s Secrets” and this first post is full of great tips! When I saw the pictures of the finished project my jaw-dropped, and then I awkwardly and half-jokingly asked Kayla when I could come over to borrow her shoes. Turns out we wear the same size and she is local…so tempting. But, maybe borrowing Justin to build some built ins for my shoe collection would be even better!
Hello new Teal & Lime friends! We’re so happy to be here as part of the new contributor team. We’re a husband and wife duo currently remodeling our house in Minneapolis. We’re wrapping up a few projects in our newly renovated master bedroom and today’s project is part of our home’s transformation.
Our new bedroom layout has this wonderful little corner nook with two windows that seemed the perfect fit for a built-in. So our latest project is building a built-in bookshelf in that corner, which I (Kayla) will likely use as more of a shoe shelf, because I LOVE my shoes.
We’re going to give you a few tips and tricks, as well as a general overview of how to build a built-in bookshelf (or shoe shelf!) with adjustable shelves. If you want an excellent and in-depth tutorial, we’d recommend this tutorial from The DIY network.
Carpenter’s Tip #1:
Build yourself to save money! There are a lot of Ikea Hack “built in” bookshelves out there that look great and take minimal work to build, but they typically cost around $250+. While building yourself does take more time (it took us around 25 hours), it only cost $120!
We chose to use 3/4″ MDF for the side panels of the bookcase because it was a cheaper option than wood. It’s still good quality and pretty easy to work with. Measuring the space, Justin built the frame of the bookcase. Our sides were 11-1/4″ x 95″
Next step is to glue and nail the top or bottom of the bookcase frame with the sides using wood glue and 1-1/4″ brad nails. These nails are to hold the pieces together until you put the actual screws in place.
Carpenter’s Tip #2:
Building the frame of a bookshelf isn’t as easy as just screwing the pieces together. To prevent the material from splitting, you need to pre-drill holes using a countersink drill bit (this can be used on a regular drill). Then after the holes have been pre-drilled, screw the pieces together using 2″ coarse thread drywall screws.
Carpenter’s Tip #3:
Instead of using wood filler, use Bondo body filler + cream hardener. This is a little trade secret because it fills the holes and gaps nicely and does not shrink or crack like wood filler does. But move quickly, because this stuff dries fast!
While we let the Bondo filler dry, we went onto building the shelves using MDF for the shelves and select pine for the facing on the front edge of the shelf. Secure the pieces using wood glue, then nail together using 2″ finish nails (and your finish nailer). Then apply the Bondo + Cream mixed filler, just like you did on the frame’s facing, and let dry.
After the filler has dried, sand with 100 grit sandpaper using your orbital sander.
After sanding we put on two coats of white primer using our paint sprayer. Rolling the paint on with a smooth roller would work fine too.
The next step is drilling all the little holes in the sides of the bookcase, so the shelves are adjustable. Since Justin knew I wanted this bookcase for my shoes, we wanted adjustable shelves to fit anything from my flats to my boots.
Carpenter’s Tip #4:
To easily achieve perfectly spaced holes, Justin made a “guide” using a spare piece of plywood, measuring out the exact spacing for each hole at 1 inch. He was then able to tape the guide to the bookshelf (2 inches in from the front edge) and put in all the holes very quickly using an Adjustable Shelf Bit for his drill which we found at Rockler (Home Depot did not carry this bit).
Next up is attaching the back of the shelf. Because our Home Depot didn’t carry 1/4″ MDF, we used 1/4″ plywood for the back of our bookcase. the MDF is a little better because it doesn’t warp, but because this will be pretty well secured (using a staple gun), we weren’t too concerned.
Carpenter’s Tip #5:
For the true “built-in” look, it looks best to have a back on your bookshelf vs. leaving it open to the wall. Having a back on your bookshelf also helps to hold everything together and makes a sturdier piece.
Last but not least, it was time to put the bookcase in place and secure it to the wall. We put three 3″ screws along the top of the piece into wall studs. We inserted shelf pins (available at any home improvement store) and set the shelves on top of the pins.
Carpenter’s Tip #6:
To make the piece look like it was a part of the original house, add baseboard to the bottom of your shelf (matching the room) and add crown molding to the top to give it a more finished look.
We absolutely love how it looks and can’t WAIT until our remodel is done so we can actually use it. We’ve got one more coat of paint to put on it, but we’re waiting until the remodel is done so it doesn’t get all dirty in the meantime.