I’m back with the second part of my DIY Built In Bookshelf Wall posts! To catch you up on this project, check out yesterday’s post. To see the rest of how this room came together, make sure you don’t miss the rest of the Craft Room Series of posts!
Once the painting was done, it was time to assemble!
The first day, we assembled both side towers. We used our circular saw to cut down one of the painted 15″ strips to be the tops, and also cut down the 4 side pieces to the correct length, then secured them to the tops of the side boards with 1.5″ wood screws. We added a 1×3 cleat, made from a piece of white wood I had in my scrap bin, in the back of the top to keep it square, and also so we’d have something to attach to the studs. We built these frames to be about 1/4 lower than the ceiling.
There are no fancy joints here. I just drilled pilot holes through the tops and into the sides, then screwed 3 screws to secure them. I did the same for the cleat with 2 screws on each side. No one will see this. It will all be covered up. It didn’t need to be fancy, it just needed to get the job done.
Once the 3-sided boxes were built, Doug got up on top of the cabinets, and we lifted the frames into place on top of the counters. He screwed three 3″ wood screws through the cleats into studs. We didn’t drive any screws into the side or ceiling, just the cleat.
The next day, we built our middle box. This one was a little tougher because we had to figure out where to put the 2 middle pieces that would divide the box into even thirds. Our space here was about 78″, WAY too long for a single shelf. This time, we built a 4 sided box, because we didn’t have enough side pieces to make them go all the way to the ceiling like the other boxes. It doesn’t really matter because the top would be covered by molding.
This shelf is only 12″ deep. I thought that would look better across the middle than the full 15″ like the sides. I’m just going to put paperbacks and other decorative items up there.
We marked where we wanted the bottom of this shelf to hang, and installed a 1×2 into studs to help support the box when we lifted it to install, and it also made sure it was level. This was the hardest part of the entire project. That box was HEAVY. We worked as a team to get the box up on the 1×2 cleat & centered, and then Doug drove in some 3″ wood screws into 5 studs.
With the three frames up, it was time to start constructing the tower shelves, which meant I had to finalize my shelf spacing. I also needed to figure out how thick each shelf would be so that I could figure out how tall I could make each shelf opening.
The shelves would be made from a piece of 3/4″ MDF for the tops, and 6 pieces of 1×2 for the supports. To hide all of that mess, I was going to cover the bottoms of each shelf with 1/4″ plywood. That meant I needed something that was at least 2.5″ to cover the fronts. I knew I wanted to use Poplar, because it’s cut with crisp corners, its cheap, and it’s easily paintable. A 1×3 is actually 2.5″ thick, a little thicker than I wanted to use, but it was the only thing that would work. It actually worked out really well, because the shaker doors on the cabinets have 1×3 poplar frames, so the trim on the shelves match the doors.
The shelf spacing I ended up with, from top to bottom, was 11″, 11″, 13″, 14″ & 16.5.
After the 5 hours I spent figuring out my shelf spacing, I measured where I wanted the 1×2 cleats for the shelves to be. I installed all of the back cleats first, checking for level, and sinking 2 3″ wood screws into studs for each shelf. I then installed the side 1×2 pieces with my brad nail gun, making sure they were level with the backs.
Once all of those pieces were installed, it was time to cut more 15″ strips of MDF for the shelf tops. I just used my brad nailer to secure these to the tops of the cleats.
I love quality time with the nail gun. This project was LOTS of quality time with the nail gun.
After reading how Thrifty Decor Chick‘s contractor added front and middle supports to her library shelves that she built, I decided to do something similar.
~Sidenote: I love Thrifty Decor Chick! She totally inspired me into thinking I could do this on my own. I used her method of shelf constructing, and customized it to my plans. Check out her awesome library here. Thanks Sarah!
I secured 3 more 1×2 pieces (2 on the front side of the shelf, and one down the middle) to each shelf. These will help keep the shelves from sagging. I made sure the front pieces were flush with the front edge of the tops. When that was done, I cut down the painted 15″ strips of 1/4″ plywood, and used my pin nailer to attach them to the bottom sides of the cleats for each shelf, except the 5 shelves across the top. It’s a shelf sandwich, and its not going anywhere!
We did the same thing with the bottom of the middle shelf. The original 1×2 cleat that we installed to hold the shelf while we were securing it to the studs acted as our back cleat.
We also cut down 2 8″ strips of painted MDF to act as the headers for all of the shelves. This would act as a place to install all of our crown & decorative molding, a way to keep the shelves square, and also a crisp board for the gap between our two moldings.
Once all of that was in place, I could add the poplar 1×3 trim. I like poplar because it bends a bit. So even if the piece is a little curved, you can pull on it as you go and nail it into place straight. Plus, it finishes everything off really nice.
I measured and cut my 4 side pieces first, and installed those level. My walls aren’t square, so I could fill in any curved gaps with caulk later. I made sure to install the exposed-side pieces flush with the sides of the shelves for a crisp finish. With the sides installed, I could measure the lengths & cut the shelf fronts to hide all of my shelf sandwiches. I just used the brad nailer again to attach these to the front cleats & the front of the shelf board.
For the top trim piece under the header, I had to add a strip of the same 1×3 I used for the cleat when building the boxes, so that I’d have something to attach my trim to. I wanted it to butt up against the header. In order to install the tops of the top shelves, I installed pieces of 1×2 cleats about 1/4-1/3″ above the bottom of the top trim piece (you still with me?) so that I’d have something to attach the 1/4″ cover to. Got that? Good!
It’s starting to look like a real built in project! At this point, I felt like the hard part was over. The vision that I saw in my head was taking shape, and that’s the best part!
So what do you think? You think you could tackle something like this? Have you tackled something like this? Tell us about it in the comments! If I can do it, you can do it. It really wasn’t that hard!
Check out all of the Stacy’s Savings Total Home Makeover posts here!