Storage Ideas

DIY Bookcase

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 186 Projects

Few furnishings add prestige to a space like a formal floor-to-ceiling bookcase. Typically built from clear hardwood, the classically-designed bookcase delivers a refined, Old World feel. The bookcase shown here is made from red oak plywood and red oak 1× stock and moldings finished with a high gloss urethane. What’s also nice about this piece is that it incorporates the wall behind it to balance all that clear hardwood with a splash of color and depth. This is a fixed-shelf design that enables you to build shelves anywhere you like to match your needs. And, because the shelf bays are built in a modular fashion, you can design it to any dimensions you wish. The formal bookcase shown here is 8 ft. long, 8 ft. high, and installed on a 12-ft. long wall. Because it’s centered in the space, the moldings and sides return to the wall, creating niches on the left and right that are great for decoration. However, this bookcase can be built wall-to-wall if desired. it’s a flexible design. Finally, the exact same style shelf can be built to take paint. instead of using red oak, though, poplar is a great choice for a painted finish.

Bookcase Diagram

Bookcase Cutting List

How to Build a Bookcase

  1. Bookcase 01

    This bookcase is designed to be stick-built at your installation site. The best place to begin is by drawing layout lines on the wall. The most important lines mark the locations of the four uprights, which need to be vertical and parallel, and the shelf cleats, which must be horizontal and parallel. Start by locating the centerline for the bookcase installation and marking it on the baseboard and on the wall. Measure out 4-ft. on each side of the centerline and make marks for the outside edges of the bookcase. These lines represent the outer faces of the left and right  uprights. Using a pull saw, cut and remove the baseboard between the left and right marks. Make your cuts as square as possible.

  2. Bookcase 02

    Measure and make a mark at 15½ and 16¼" on each side of the centerline, dividing the project area into three equal bays and establishing locations of the ¾"-thick uprights. Measuring up from the floor, mark horizontal shelf cleat locations on the walls at the back of each bay. The cleats should stop at the upright locations so the ¾"-thick uprights can fit snugly in between the cleat ends. In the drawing, there is one bottom shelf, set 6 ½" off the floor in all three bays. The left and right bays have shelves 24", 48", and 72" up from the floor. The center bay has a single center shelf set at 36" off the top of the bottom shelf ledger and a top shelf at 72". Using a 4-ft. level, mark horizontal reference lines for the shelf cleats in all three bays. Draw a small “X” below each line as a reminder of which side of the line to fasten the cleat. Then, use the 4-ft. level to extend the outlines for the uprights all the way up from the floor to the ceiling . These sets of parallel lines should be ¾" apart and plumb.

  3. Bookcase 03

    At the ceiling, lay out the location for the 2 × 2 frame that creates nailing surfaces for the outer uprights and the 1 × 6 upright backers that are centered on the front edges of the uprights. The 2 × 2 frame should span from the inside faces of the outer uprights and extend 11½" out from the wall.

  4. Bookcase 04

    For ease of installation, assemble the 2 × 2 nailing frame on the ground. Use 2½" pneumatic finish nails or drywall screws to join the 2 × 2 frame components. Test to make sure the assembly is square. Attach the frame to the ceiling by screwing up through the members at ceiling joist locations. Attach the frame to the wall’s top plate at the wall/ceiling joint.

  5. Bookcase 05

    A pneumatic or cordless finish nailer loaded with 2" nails is ideal for attaching the shelf cleats to the wall. Cut and install the cleats at the layout lines. A few dabs of construction adhesive applied to the wall behind the cleats will add even more strength to the connection. Fasten the cleats so the upright returns can be installed around them.

  6. Bookcase 06

    Cut the outer uprights 11 ½" wide to full room height in length. Rest the bottoms on the floor and nail the top ends to the ends of the 2 × 2 nailing frame. Also drive 8d finish nails through the uprights and into the ends of the shelf cleats in the outer bays.

  7. Bookcase 07

    Rout a roundover, bead, or chamfer onto each edge of the upright backer if desired. Cut the inner uprights (11 ½ ×" wide) to length.

  8. Bookcase 08

    Position the inner uprights between the ends of the shelf cleats that are attached to the wall in each bay. At the ceiling, use a framing square to make sure the inner uprights are perpendicular to the wall and then  position a 1 × 6 upright backer over the upright edge. Center the backer on the upright edge and nail it to the 2 × 2 nailing frame. Drill pilot holes and drive 8d finish nails (or pneumatic nails) through the backer and into the edge of the upright at 12" intervals.

  9. Bookcase 09

    The shelves and shelf cleats help stabilize the structure, so install them next. Start by nailing a shelf to the 2 × 2 ceiling frame at the top of each bay.

  10. Bookcase 10

    Attach the short shelf cleats to the sides of the uprights so each shelf is supported on three sides. Use a level to make sure the cleats are level and attach them with 1 ¼" finish nails and adhesive.

  11. Bookcase 11

    Cut the remaining shelves to length and set them on the cleats. Cut the 1 × 2 shelf nosing and attach it to the front edges of the exposed shelves, making sure the shelves are flush with the top edge of the nosing. Use 4d finish nails driven through pilot holes or pneumatic finish nails to attach the nosing.

  12. Bookcase 12

    Cut the 1 × 10 red oak fascia board the full width of the bookcase and nail it to the top so the ends are flush with the outer faces of the outer uprights. Make sure the fascia board is level before attaching it with nails driven into the tops of the upright backers. Once the fascia board is in place, cut, fit and attach the crown molding and molding return at the top.

  13. Bookcase 13

    Install the plinth blocks at the bottom of each upright backer, resting on the floor and centered side to side. Then, attach the rosettes at the top of each upright backer, centered side to side. measure from the bottom of the rosette to the top of the plinth block and cut fluted case molding to fit. Install with adhesive and nails.